Art in France. . .
November / December 2003
Enjoy the French Masters
The focus of this edition of au Château News is art and artists.
When visiting France, especially Paris, travelers often head for the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay or to another city's Beaux Arts museum, which is, of course, something we always recommend. But, it is important not to overlook the myriad exhibits at less familiar venues. Some larger towns have museums, and in Paris there are dozens of smaller museums that are well known to and frequented by Parisians. Tourists would do well to discover them as well. Here is a link to a web site listing the museums of Paris by category, arrondissement, and even by métro station. Browse through this extensive directory, and we're sure you'll find something unique that interests you.
Further on in this newsletter, we will tell you about two art exhibits we enjoyed on our recent trip to France.
France for the Holidays . . .
Have you dreamed of spending the Christmas or New Year holidays in Europe...France in particular? Every European country has its treasured Christmas traditions which are still very much celebrated today.
We have all seen photos of or perhaps have had the pleasure of enjoying a wonderful Bûche de Noël , that luscious French Yule Log covered in chocolate bark, or many of the other delights particular to Christmas in France. (See the bottom of this newsletter for a recipe.) Well, traditional French Christmas dinners will be offered at many of our member properties this year -- in fact many of those that are open year 'round will be happy to welcome guests at Christmas and New Year's. You might want to contact Château de La Barre in the Sarthe, Château de Seillans in the Var of Provence, or Château de Talhouët in Brittany, Pavillon de la Maye in Versailles -- check our web site for many properties open during the holidays to see if they can accommodate you.
Two of our members, Château de Chauvac (Corrèze) and Le Prieuré au Château de Biron (Dordogne) have special holiday packages with very attractive pricing that may interest you. Please visit our Special Offers page to read all about their Holiday offers.
This Month's Newsletter Sponsor . . .
Each issue of our newsletter has a special sponsor ... someone whose business might offer you information of interest relating to France. Please take a moment to click on the banner above and enjoy a visit to the web site of this edition's sponsor, Paris Studio.com, which offers you the choice of three beautifully furnished, fully-equipped Paris apartments to call home during your next visit to the exciting and wonderful City of Light.
[For information about sponsoring a future newsletter, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Good Things Come in Smaller Museums
We were very fortunate in October not to have to wait on line for the post-Impressionist Édouard Vuillard (1868 - 1940) exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris, which is drawing substantial crowds. Born in Cuiseaux in the Saône-et-Loire, Vuillard and his family moved to Paris in 1877; ten years later he was accepted at Paris' l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts . This unique and talented artist was quite prolific, and this exhibit offers 230 of his paintings hung against the backdrop of walls painted to compliment the exquisite colors of his unique palette.
Vuillard's focus was interior spaces where he would depict people at domestic tasks in various rooms of their homes or at their workplaces -- women sewing or arranging flowers, businessmen in their offices and even doctors in the operating theater. The interior spaces were never incidental to the work. As we walked through the exhibit, we became aware of the artist's fascination with the décor of the rooms -- almost devoting more effort to the wallpaper design, fabric textures and patterns, or the clutter on a desk than to the person in the room.
The phases of his artistic career were very clearly presented, from his early paintings where color seemed to be more important than detail to his later portraits created with astounding detail. His art was influenced by theater and interior design, and just as his use of color was what we most admired about his early work -- subtle tones, out of the ordinary combinations of color -- we noted that light, reflections in mirrors and more depth and perspective were hallmarks of these later paintings. They were no longer candid interpretations but each person faced the artist, and their features were clear and detailed. Yet none were posed stiffly as if sitting for a portrait; they appeared in their own natural interior surroundings -- and both the subject and the background were given great importance by Vuillard.
The exhibit, concluding with his photographs -- small photos of the people in his life -- is sharing the Grand Palais with a Gauguin exhibit, an artist who indeed influenced Vuillard. But don't attend only the Gauguin exhibit and forego Vuillard...you will find it captivating as it introduces you to this talented and creative artist.
Nationales du Grand Palais, Clemenceau entrance, 8th arrondissement.
Brittany and the seaside towns further down the Atlantic Coast were familiar to Xavier Josso, born in Nantes the 16th of October, 1894, to a family rich in artists, portrait painters and architects.
We discovered Musée de Pont-Aven tucked away at the end of a little street in this town famous as an artist's haven, and in so doing we discovered Josso. The museum is known for its Gauguin collection, as Gauguin painted in Pont-Aven for many years drawing it to the attention of other artists. However, that collection is currently in Paris at the Grand Palais. In its place are the amazing watercolors and oils of Xavier Josso which captured the seacoast villages and windswept shores of Brittany to perfection.
Josso's family moved to Paris's 6th arrondissement when he was three years old, and in 1910, after years of art study, he passed his entrance exams to l'Ecole des Beaux Arts, with three years at l'Ecole des Arts Décoratifs. It was 1912 when he returned to Brittany for a vacation and created numerous watercolors, even winning a second prize for his cover of the Bulletin Officiel du Yacht Club de France. Unfortunately, World War I began, and he spent 8 months in the Argonne, was decorated in 1915 with the Croix de Guerre, and evacuated to a hospital in Grenoble where he spent three months.
The following years found Josso in many battles, winning more medals and recognition and becoming wounded again. During his five years in the trenches, between attacks, he never stopped sketching his comrades. Named a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in June of 1920, this much-decorated war hero's career as an advertising illustrator was soon established. But it was in 1921 and afterward that he spent more and more time in coastal Brittany and the Loire-Atlantique creating many of the paintings in this exciting exhibit.
In sharp contrast to Vuillard, Josso painted landscapes, and people were incidental to the scene, although we did see one or two self portraits. His fascination was with nature, activities along the shore, village architecture, boats representing the fishermen they carried to sea, and windswept lonely stretches of Brittany that still can be found today.
Josso died in Paris in 1983, just months before his 89th birthday. He has left a legacy of illustrations, studies and paintings of his beloved Brittany, and if you visit Pont-Aven before the 4th of January, 2004, you will have an opportunity to enjoy them as we did.
Magnificent Château de Lezhildry
We had the great pleasure to stay at the medieval Château de Lezhildry in early October, and it was perfection from the moment we arrived. Our warm welcome from Monsieur Thomin-O'Laughlin was just the beginning of a very pleasant visit. His charming wife and son also made us feel right at home -- and we were especially entranced by their Irish Wolfhound -- the first of three we would meet at châteaux during our tour of Brittany. We were reminded that the past sixteen years have been devoted to restoring Lezhildry and that it has only been occupied for the past ten of those years by the Thomin-O'Laughlins. A great deal of love, work and heart have gone into the château to make it the warm family home that it is today.
suite, Dame Emily, overlooked the front of the château and
couldn't have been more perfect. The large canopied bed was comfortable
in an accommodation that included a writing desk, a settee, and an en suite
bathroom which was actually two rooms - one with a lovely bath and
the other with a modern shower and double sinks. With large mirrors,
fragrant Marseille soaps, plush terry robes and fluffy towels, we found
ourselves spoiled by our luxurious surroundings.
The landscape is hilly with coastal cliffs where waves crash over large rocks, calmer stretches of beach and off shore islands accessible by private boats or ferries. The surrounding green countryside, a result of ample rain, is very lush and a pleasant contrast to the gray and white buildings. Don't let the weather discourage a visit, because for nearly any day that has some rainfall, there are beautifully sunny days to remind us of the very changeable weather Brittany enjoys. Remember, much of Brittany benefits from the Gulf Stream which creates a unique micro climate where even tropical plants flourish. As you drive through much of Brittany you will see that signs displaying the names of places are in French above and in Breton Gaelic below, something that you get quite used to and only notice it by its absence as you depart the region.
A delicious seafood dinner with the family was very enjoyable, and the conversation was lively and interesting. The dining room, as all the other rooms in the château, is tastefully decorated and inviting. Antiques fill the home -- and it is the family's home before all else -- as Monsieur Thomin-O'Laughlin is very much an expert on antiques appropriate to the period when the château was constructed - the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Furniture is arranged carefully to ensure that each piece is properly displayed, yet everything is there to be used and enjoyed. There is no clutter -- one senses that a great deal of time and thought went into the design and décor of each room.
We enjoyed a tour of the château and were surprised to learn that it had very unique and clever early plumbing -- when such things were not indoors -- which thankfully is no longer in use and is in stark contrast to Lezhildry's very modern conveniences. We visited the consecrated chapel, ironically situated above the guard room where holes had been made in the stone walls to permit a gun to be fired at an enemy outside. A garden stroll led to the stream that runs through the property at the bottom of a gentle slope -- a good place for trout fishing. The château's secluded position allows for peace, quiet and very restful sleep, yet it is easy to find off a good road, the D8, just north of the village of Plouguiel. Nearby towns such as Binic, Tréguier, Paimpol and Perros-Guirec are all worthy of visits, as are almost any of the places along the beautiful channel coast, the Baie de Saint-Brieuc or the Baie de Lannion.
There was truly nothing about Lezhildry that we did not like. Monsieur's many years in the tourism industry and his affable nature have made him an excellent host very well aware of how to ensure the comfort of his guests. Madame is exceedingly charming and friendly. The love they have for their beautiful château is evident in every room and in every detail. Nothing is left to chance, and nothing is overlooked.
In addition to the wonderful dinner we enjoyed, breakfast was excellent as well, once again served in the elegant dining room. The saddest moment followed breakfast when we had to load our luggage into our car and bid this good family and Château de Lezhildry adieu. We will definitely return again soon for a longer stay, and we can do nothing less than encourage you to visit this region of France and include no fewer than two nights at Lezhildry. You will experience a medieval château offering every comfort you could hope for without sacrificing any of the history (do ask your hosts about Lezhildry's interesting past) and ambiance of this Breton landmark.
[Photos: Cold Spring Press copyright 2003]
French Quiz 31
The world of art: Match the events with the dates.
Death of Paul Gauguin
You will find the correct answer at the end of this newsletter.
au Revoir to Château de Belcaire
We regret to report that the beautiful Château de Belcaire, in the Aude of Languedoc-Roussillon, has been sold, and the new owners will use it as a private residence. It has, therefore, been removed from our web site. In our short association with Monsieur and Madame Avoine-Caux, we have found them to be charming and enthusiastic hosts, and their guests have written to tell us of the personal attention and fine accommodations they have enjoyed.
the bright side, however, Monsieur and Madame Avoine-Caux are purchasing
another property which will join our site in the next several months, so
please look for our announcement. Until then, we hope you are able
to find just the right château in the part of France you want to
visit -- on au Château.
Town View: Pont-Aven
the artist's haven in Brittany's Finistère, is in a delightful position
[Photo: Cold Spring Press copyright 2003]
Rain Needed for France's Rivers
It was painfully clear to us as we drove through Brittany, the Vendée and the Poitou-Charentes that the lack of rainfall and this past summer's heat have taken their toll on many of France's rivers. Some we crossed were so low that the muddy bottoms could be seen; other small rivers and streams were nearly dry. Because of the absence of a normal current, mosquitoes were finding still water for breeding. The Loire, we understand, was extremely low during our time in France, but, as we crossed it in heavy fog, we were unable to see it for ourselves.
Happily, the River Vienne seemed healthier than others we had seen, and the Creuse was also at higher levels than many, although this may not be the case along their entire course. We hope that France receives at least an average rainfall and snowfall this winter to restore the rivers to healthier levels. The livelihoods of many people depend upon France's rivers -- they are important to those living and working on them, they are vital to the tourism industry, and, of course, the rivers of France are invaluable to the beauty and diversity of the country's landscape.
French Quiz 32
Which statements are true or false about the Dada art movement?
name is derived from baby talk.
You will find the correct answer at the end of this newsletter.
In future issues . . .
about the châteaux we visited in October, including Château
Until then, Happy Holidays!
Holiday Recipe: Bûche de Noël
This traditional French dessert for Christmas is by no means quick, but this recipe is simple to follow and you will be very pleased with the results. It comes to us from Chef Jean-Pierre Brehier who has cooking schools in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, Florida and a wonderful web site that you can visit at http://www.chefJP.com. See more information about contacting him or visiting his web site at the end of this recipe.
For the Cake Batter you will need: 4 eggs, separated, 1/2 cup sugar, divided, 1/4 cup cake flour, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. . For the Butter Cream: 4 oz. good quality white chocolate, melted, 1 pound sweet butter, softened out of refrigerator for 1 hour, 1 pound sifted 10X powdered sugar, 4 egg whites, 2 tablespoons B&B liqueur, 1 tablespoon orange zest, grated, 1 teaspoon orange extract, 4 oz. good quality dark chocolate, melted.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In your CLEAN mixer, beat 4 egg whites and 1/4 cup of sugar until soft peaks form (do not over-beat). Transfer to a glass or stainless steel bowl. In a separate glass bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
In your cleaned mixer bowl, combine 4 egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisk for approximately 5 minutes until the eggs are pale yellow and thickened. Remove bowl from the mixer and fold in the beaten egg whites GENTLY, DO NOT OVER-MIX. Add the flour mixture and mix for one minute until well blended - DO NOT OVER-MIX.
Line a 11" x 17" jelly roll pan with buttered waxed paper. Spread the mixture in the pan and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to touch or it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Take immediately out of the jelly roll pan and let cool.
In the meantime, make the butter cream. In a double melt the white chocolate or place in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. In a mixing bowl, place the softened butter (not melted, just out of the refrigerator for about 1 hour). Add the 10X sifted powder sugar, mix until well blended. With machine on low speed, slowly add the egg whites, B&B liqueur, orange zest and orange extract. With machine on medium speed, mix until light and fluffy then fold in the white chocolate.
Place a piece of plastic wrap on your table and invert the genoise cake top side down. Carefully remove the wax paper. Cover the entire surface of the cake with an even layer of the butter cream (save some for the outside). Using the plastic wrap as an aid, roll the cake on the long side, tight as a log.
Using a sharp knife, even both ends of the cake with a clean cut. Then cut 2 end pieces approximately 2" at a 45-degree angle. Transfer the rolled cake onto a platter, seam side down. Place the 2" end pieces on the cake to resemble branch stumps. You may use some of the butter cream to make them stick better.
Add the melted dark chocolate to the remaining butter cream. Using a spatula spread the now dark butter cream to cover the entire surface. Using a fork, run lines thoughout the entire cake to simulate tree bark. Garnish with some meringue mushrooms and fresh holly. Serves 8 - 10. Bon appétit!
Don't Miss . . .
CHÂTEAUX and CHOCOLAT: Deluxe ~ Delicious
a Paris Dream Tour - June 21 to 26, 2004
Is chocolate your passion? Are you interested in learning about all the little corners of Paris where chocolate is the center of attention? Would you just love to visit a family artisanal chocolate factory in the French countryside to see each piece created by hand and to learn all about chocolate from the time the bean is picked?
the above were possible -- but add to that the absolute delight of staying
in a wonderful Paris boutique hotel followed by several nights at two exquisite
French châteaux? Does that make it even more appealing?
We encourage you to sign up today! This marvelous Châteaux and Chocolat tour is scheduled for June 21-26, 2004, but is only able to accommodate 10 lucky people. Priced at $1885 per person, double occupancy, each guest will enjoy elegant accommodations, all with private baths, breakfasts each morning and the opportunity at the châteaux to learn some of the history, stroll the grounds and enjoy the good life. (Airfare and airport transfers are not included.) There is plenty of free time to relax -- this is not a harried tour but one with your comfort and enjoyment in mind. Evening meals will be in fine restaurants or at one of the châteaux -- mid-day meals will be picnic style enjoying French breads, cheeses, charcuterie and wines or simple but delightful meals in village establishments.
Admissions to special events are included as well, so there is little for you to do but enjoy the six days and six nights of Châteaux and Chocolat . You will be in the safe and capable hands of American guides with years of experience in France. Your two guides will be able to give you the personal attention that can't be provided in larger groups. Your transportation will be by small van and car and the drives are short and pleasant. Château accommodations will be at Château de La Barre and Château de Vaulogé - each pictured above.
To learn more or to reserve your space on this very special tour, just click here to email us. All your questions will be answered and a schedule of daily events can be provided for those who reserve their space.
tour is a presentation of Paris Dream Tours and au Château]
hope you have enjoyed
au Château News.
answer to Quiz 31 is 1903,1919,1924,1877,1888 and to Quiz 32
T,F,T,F,F (Dali was not)