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                    Happy New Year . . . start planning your visit to France!

                                               January  /  February 2002


Welcome to the Euro and to the Vendée


The euro is here!  Everyone traveling from now on to Europe's twelve "euro-zone" countries will make payments for goods and services with this currency.  The euro entered French society quietly and without much fanfare despite the fact that, of all the countries accepting it as their form of monetary exchange, France's franc was the oldest and most established currency.   Now visitors and natives alike will have to get used to new bank notes (billets) and coins each time a purchase is made.  The  money was designed by the winner of a competition held in 1996, Robert Kalina of Vienna.  The colorful bills have interesting bridges, windows and gateways, similar to real places but all fictitious, so no one in any country can be offended that their most famous bridge was not depicted on the new currency while their neighbor's was!  The coins, all the same on the front, are unique on the back  -- each country was permitted to design the obverse of any coins minted in their country.   The launch of the euro is the largest  monetary conversion in history, affecting 300 million people!

In order to provide travelers with the most up-to-date information on this web site, almost all of our properties main pages now provide their room rates and other pricing information in either US dollars or euros. We hope to make that 100% very soon.  Although the franc will still be accepted in France until midnight,  February 17th,  many of our web site visitors are making reservations for beyond that date, so we believe it is important to be sure the currency in use is represented.

We  feature one or two château properties in each issue, focusing on the region where they are located and what it has to offer the visitor to France.  Most Americans head for Paris and then venture out to, perhaps, Normandy or the Loire Valley.  Others head directly for Provence.  But how many make the Vendée their destination?  Not as many, we venture to guess.  So, in this issue we want to show you what the Vendée offers to the visitor to western France.  You may be surprised! 

Islands of  some significance abound off the coast.  The photo below (courtesy of Eyewitness Travel Guides France, photographer unknown) is of the harbor at Île de Noirmoutier in the Vendée, département 85 in the Pays de la Loire region of western France.   For people who love the Atlantic beaches of France, the Vendée is the place to be.  Bordering the Atlantic coast, the Vendée is located south of the city of Nantes and a short drive north of the enchanting port town of La Rochelle.   The Vendée offers lovely, untouristed seaside villages such as St Jean de Monts, St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, and Port Bourgenay, larger Atlantic towns such as Les Sables d'Olonne and islands such as Île de Ré, Noirmoutier and Île d'Yeu, all accessible by ferry, as well as interesting inland towns including La Roche-sur-Yon and  Fontenay-le-Comte

The Vendée possesses the incredible Marais, a vast network of canals crisscrossing verdant wildlife marshes.   The Marais Breton extends southward from the département of the Loire-Atlantique to St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, and is indicated on some maps as the Marais de Machecoul in the north and the Marais de Challans farther south.  Along the Vendée's southern rim, and shared with the Poitou-Charentes,  is the more famous Marais Poitevin.  In addition to the lush, green beauty of these marshes, the fascinating villages and people who live among them, and the wildlife that exists there, the Marais offers visitors the opportunity to take boats out into the canals for a nominal charge in order to get a closer look at this spectacular place.  The tiny bird pictured below [Photo courtesy of the Marais Poitevin  web site] is typical of the beautiful and unusual wildlife found in this coastal region.

Harbor at Île de NoirmoutierMartin-pêcheur [Alcedo atthis]

                         Île de Noirmoutier                                      Martin-pêcheur (Martin Fisher)

So,  if you like beaches and sea breezes, if you want to see birds and other small vestiges of wildlife in their native habitat, or if you are looking for a tranquil atmosphere in an unusual landscape, then a visit to the Vendée may be the perfect destination.  While providing visitors with all of the above, it still offers lovely towns, great accommodations, fine restaurants with excellent cuisine, activities such as golf, boating and entertainment parks, with just the right amount of history thrown in.  It is one of our destinations on our upcoming trip to France.  Why not make it yours?

French Quiz 9

Which French President initiated the construction of the Louvre Pyramid, 
the Grand Arch at La Défense, and the Bastille Opéra?

Jacques Chirac
Charles de Gaulle
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
François Mitterand
Georges Pompidou


You will find the correct answer at the end of this newsletter.

Château de Berne's Upcoming Activities

Logo - Château de Berne

Although the Auberge at Château de Berne will not reopen for guests until the end of February, the château continues to provide activities for locals and tourists alike.  If you plan to be in the Var of Provence in the next month or so, do try to take advantage of some fun activities at the château.

Jazz  returns to Berne beginning on February 1st.  The Ian Anderson Trio and "surprise" guests are there to entertain you -- music and wine bring warmth to winter evenings.  A second event will take place on March 1st.  Cabaret jazz begins at 8 PM in the Salle du Monastere and the charge for adults is € 12.20 and € 4.57 for children.

Don't miss the Truffle Fair!  Discover all the secrets of the truffle and taste all the different ways to use it.  This takes place in the château's caves from 10 AM to 6 PM on February 10th, and admission is free.  Light meals will be available by reservation.

English Sunday Lunch by reservation will be served in the Salle de Bacchus on February 24th at 1 PM.  This traditional meal is enjoyed by the many British expatriates living in the Var, but all are welcome.  The cost for adults is € 21 and for children € 12.20.

Town View:  Villeneuve-sur-Yonne


Porte de Joigny, rebuilt in the 16th century,  is one of two gateways into the 
 beautiful Burgundian village of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.  The other, Porte de Sens, pre-dates
it by three hundred years and is similar in appearance.  Porte de Joigny houses a museum of 
local history and art of the past two centuries, and both gates stand guard over this lovely
town.  Villeneuve, on the east bank of the peaceful River Yonne, boasts magnificent
half-timbered houses, the Renaissance and Gothic Church of Notre Dame, 
and an extraordinarily beautiful 13th century Gothic bridge spanning the river. 
On its banks is the tiny hotel (four guest rooms) and fine restaurant of 
actress Leslie Caron, "La Lucarne aux Chouettes" [The Owl's Nest].

[Photo Cold Spring Press © 1999-2002] 

Art Classes au Château

Château de Chauvac's Artists' Workshop 

You  can spend ten sun-drenched days in France's southwest countryside -- the magical Dordogne Valley -- painting this historic landscape where man first began to paint!  From the prehistoric caves at Lascaux to medieval bastide towns, warlord's castles and romantic châteaux -- this is an artist's paradise filled with light and inspiration.  Immerse yourself in a full range of springtime color and sunlit skies.  Paint in a landscape filled with rich history and unmatched beauty where daylight lasts from early morning until late in the evening.

The guest instructor, Chris Lonergan, is a graduate of the University of Arts, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art.  He has traveled and painted in England, Ireland, France and Italy, and over the past 25 years has combined careers as a painter, poet, teacher and horseman.

This  ten-day workshop is designed for artists at every level who are interested in expanding their creativity as well as their technical understanding of plein air painting and drawing.  Chris will encourage each artist to develop a personal interpretation of landscape imagery and provide instruction in the medium of his or her choice.  Morning and afternoon sessions will be augmented by day trips designed to sweep you away from the tourists and into the Dordogne countryside renown for its scenery, cuisine and hospitality.  Lively discussions and visits with local artists, sculptors, musicians and historians will enrich participants' experiences in the region.

Château de Chauvac is very pleased to host this event from June 4th through 14th, 2002.  As the workshop is limited to 15 participants, early registration is recommended.  The workshop is open to artists and accompanying non-artists alike.  There will be numerous activities to entertain the non-artist, including wine tastings, château tours, antique hunts, cooking classes, golf, fishing and sightseeing excursions.  The cost of workshop and accommodation range from $1300 to $1950.

Finally, a farewell gathering and a local French exhibition will be held, and all participating artists will be invited to exhibit their work in a Maryland, USA show featuring the work done in France!  Please contact Château de Chauvac for more specific information, to reserve your spot, ask questions or obtain details on possible shuttle service from Paris to Brive-la-Gaillarde.

Le Petit Manoir des Bruyères

A dream vacation in romantic Burgundy

There is a unique and wonderful little manoir near the Chablis and Burgundy vineyards and the lovely city of Auxerre on the River Yonne.  It is Le Petit Manoir des Bruyères and you might want to include it in your plans when you next visit this part of France.  On the exterior the most distinctive feature of this well-loved family home is the patterned roof so reminiscent of the Hôtel Dieu in Beaune.  And the interior is a world of romance and luxury beyond your imagination!

Flower-filled gardensElegant Dining

Le Petit Manoir & its gardens                A Beautiful Setting for Dinner

As you can see by the above photos, the gardens are enchanting and they overflow indoors with fresh-cut flower centerpieces, making dining at your hosts' table an even more elegant and memorable event.  The château owners, Pierre and Monique Joullié, are eager to welcome guests to the home in which they take such pride.  Their careful and loving restoration of this 400 year old manor house is evident throughout, and they will be more than happy to share its long history with you.  Here are photos of several rooms that do not appear on their pages of our web site:

Guest roomGuest roomGreat thought and care have gone into the planning of each room at Bruyères offering guests comfortable and private rooms as well as a games room and library to read, enjoy a quiet conversation or just pass the time.    The region of the département of the Yonne is quite special, and Le Petit Manoir des Bruyères is located conveniently to the  many places you will want to visit.

SuiteBurgundy is a beautiful part of France with rolling green hills and charming villages.  The département of the Yonne is even more special with its majestic namesake river coursing through its valleys, forests, vineyards and meadow lands.     Burgundy is know for its canals, and this département has its fair share. The Yonne offers visitors the opportunity to see some outstanding religious architecture such as the basilica of Sainte-Madeleine in Vézelay or Avallon's 12th century church of Saint-Lazare; to visit the village of Chablis and its vineyards, to partake of the local white and red wines -- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chablis and Bourgogne-Irancy; to venture out into the national parks of the region where the forests and lakes are home to wild boar, deer, wild sheep, swans and birds of prey;  and last, but not least, to enjoy the rich and bountiful Burgundian cuisine in fine restaurants and at Le Petit Manoir des Bruyères.  Driving the country roads in this region of France is pure pleasure with delightful vistas and charming villages always around the next bend.

We encourage you to consider a visit to the Yonne, not very far from Paris but very near the marvelous riverside city of Auxerre, [say osserre] where you will find delightful museums, churches, great restaurants and promenades along the river for relaxing walks.  Contact Le Petit Manoir des Bruyères through our web site for more details about their accommodations and prices -- and from that page you can send them an email to book your reservation.  We know you will be very pleased with the manoir and your considerate, helpful and charming hosts, the Joullié's Please remember to tell them you found them on au Château!

French Quiz 10

Which of these literary giants received the Nobel Prize?

Anatole France
Albert Camus
Frédéric Mistral


You will find the correct answer at the end of this newsletter.

 Recipe: Coquilles St. Jacques Provençale

This is one of those recipes from long ago that is a favorite for quick hors d'oeuvres that are easy to prepare and delicious!

First, you will need a pound of scallops, ¼ cup of all-purpose flour, 1 ½ tablespoons of butter, 2 medium tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped), 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, ¼ teaspoon of salt,  and freshly ground black pepper.  Cleaned scallop shells make a nice presentation for this recipe.

Coat the scallops very lightly in the flour, melt the butter in a frying pan and lightly brown the scallops for about three minutes over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes, garlic and parsley to the pan, add salt and pepper, and stir very carefully to blend all ingredients.  Simmer on a low heat for 8 - 10 minutes.  Fill four large scallop shells or small individual serving dishes, and serve hot.  Serves four people. Bon appétit!

[Credit  to 'La Bonne Cuisine', Paris, France,  and Meijer Pers B.V., Amsterdam]

We hope you have enjoyed au Château News.  If you have,  please forward it to friends and encourage them to subscribe.  It's FREE!

(The answer to Quiz 9 is François Mitterand and to Quiz 10 is all of the above.)

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