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                    Summer is time to celebrate . . .      July / August 2002


Fourth of July and Bastille Day


Summer  is here, and people are welcoming the arrival of warm weather and the opportunity to spend a lot
of time with friends and family outdoors . . . many will be cooking on a back yard barbecue in the United    States, and making good use of their summer kitchen in France.  July is the month both countries celebrate
their national holiday --   "Independence Day" in the US and  " Fête Nationale"  in France -- more commonly 
known as the Fourth of July and Bastille Day (July 14th). 

In 1776 on the 4th of July the United States'  Declaration of Independence was signed.  But long before that
day, prompted by economic issues and a desire for self-rule, conflicts between the Colonists and the British
had taken place and trouble was brewing -- all beginning with the accession to the throne of King George III. 
The American War of Independence (the Revolutionary War) began in earnest in July of 1775 and lasted six
long years, ending, in part because of the aid of French allies,  in 1781.  [See our article on Château de
Vollore and General Marquis de LaFayette below.] The new nation was recognized with the Treaty of Versailles signed September 3, 1783.   In the years that followed, George Washington was instrumental in stabilizing the new government by spearheading the establishment of a Constitutional Convention which took place in Philadelphia in 1787.  On April 30, 1789 he became the first President of the United States. 

France was to see a revolution of its own begin just months following Washington's inauguration, and for 
similar reasons --   the people against King  Louis XVI and the monarchy's excesses.  For years the
philosophers of the Enlightenment in France had been writing of the common man's right to a place in society,
challenging the existing order.  Voltaire himself was often forced into exile for his essays.   Mounting state
debt and social turmoil led to the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the declaration of the Rights of
Man.    It was not, however, over and done with.  Not until 1792 was Louis overthrown and the First Republic
established.  And, two years later, in 1794, the execution of Robespierre brought the Terror to an end.  In 1795 the French Revolution was finally over, reforms began, the metric system was introduced, and public education was established. 

Granted, the above is very simplistic, but is only meant to illustrate the birth of democracy in our two
nations  -- shaky as those early governments were --  both in July, both in the late 18th century, and
celebrated each year ten days apart with fireworks and family gatherings.  So as you celebrate this July,
remember how much the United States owes to the French soldiers and seamen who aided the Colonists for
five years in their fight for freedom, a fight which helped to inspire the French people to seek their own

If you plan to be in Paris for Bastille Day this year, you'll  no doubt see the military parade down the Champs
Elysées beginning at 10 AM.  In the United States, Bastille Day celebrations will be taking place in many
locales, the majority of which are organized by local chapters of Alliance Française.   From New York City
(FIAF presents Bastille Day - Sunday, July 14 from Fifth to Lexington, Noon - 6 PM) to Nashville (a three day
celebration beginning on July 12) the Franco-American communities will be both celebrating in the streets and
attending parties at private homes.   For details and admission costs (some are free) visit the Alliance
Française web sites in some of the cities where events are planned:  Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Buffalo,
Detroit, Cincinnati, Fort Lauderdale, Honolulu, Jackson (Mississippi), Las Vegas, Long Beach, Los Angeles,
Louisville, Madison (Wisconsin), Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Naples (Florida), Philadelphia, San Francisco,
Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Raphael, and Washington DC. 

May in France with au Château

We had the great good fortune last month to spend time at many of the properties you will find on our web site, au Château.  Despite the frequent rain on and off during May, the warmth and kindness of the château owners overshadowed any temporary gloom outside.  The châteaux themselves were delightful, of course, with fireplaces crackling and comfortable guest rooms to be enjoyed.

Let's recap some of our visits -- hopefully, you will be inspired to make reservations at one of more of these Poolside, Château de Chauvacinviting and unique places for your next vacation in France. Please remember that the courtesy and attention we receive from our web site members is no different from that received by their other guests -- we are all treated with kindness and our hosts are there to see to the comfort of those sharing their homes.   At Château de Chauvac on the Dordogne River in the département of the Corrèze we had a lovely room adjoining the tower suite.  Decorated in soft hues with a hydrangea theme, we were quite cozy as the rains came pouring down during the night.  In the morning we shared pleasant conversation with other guests around the breakfast table.

Don't miss an opportunity to be a guest at Château de Crazannes, just north of the city of Saintes, in the Salon in the Keep, Château de CrazannesCharente-Maritime.  Although operated as a bed and breakfast, the château, keep and four-bedroom cottage are offered for week-long stays as well.  Families and groups of friends would be well advised to consider Crazannes as a base for a week or two in order to visit this region of France rich in history and abundant with activities for everyone to enjoy. 

The long, shaded drive through the woods ended with a sunlight-filled view of Brittany's Château de Talhouët, magnificently situated on a vast park of lawns and manicured gardens.  Exquisite is the best adjective to describe this grand Château de Talhouëtchâteau.  Simplicity, style, and good taste combine to create a delightful atmosphere for a stay in the Morbihan département of southern Brittany.  And do spend some time in  Rochefort-en-Terre, a story-book village with cobblestone streets and lovely little shops and restaurants.  It will enchant you!

Laval is a lovely city in the département of the Mayenne, with the River Mayenne running through it in a Lush and peaceful gardens at Château du Bas du Gastmanner similar to the way the Seine courses through Paris.  Shops, restaurants and apartments line the roads on either side of the river, and, also like Paris,  it is a pleasant city to visit on foot.  In the southern half of the city, very near to the river and well-located18th Century Box Garden Château du Bas du Gast for shopping or dining without taking the car, is Château du Bas du Gast, owned by the truly delightful M. Charles Williot. This wonderful man was our host for two nights, and we will long remember our lively conversations with him.   Château du Bas du Gast is in a tranquil world of its own, shutting out the city sounds with only the chirping of birds and the wind rustling the trees to break the silence. 

Château de la Ballue's Theatrical GardensPictures, worth thousands of words, best describe the next two châteaux -- both enhanced by their unique gardens. Château de la Ballue with its theatrical gardens and sculptured formal classical Ballue's Classical Garden and viewgarden -- looking over the vast Breton countryside spread out below -- is spectacular.  While exploring the gardens, we didn't get lost in the Labyrinth and found refuge from the windy day in the Temple de Diane.  Adding to the beauty and interest of Ballue's gardens is the placement throughout of modern sculptures collected and displayed by M. Schrotter and Mme Barrère. 

Château de Foltière/ le Parc Floral de Haute Bretagne, is the personal pride and joy of the delightful Monsieur Alain Jouno, who welcomes you to his fifteen Pondside at Château de la Foltièregardens  including a maze, a Japanese garden, a poet's garden, le Parc Floral de Haute Bretagneseveral lovely bridges and ponds, and a wonderful little waterfall.  You can wander through the parc for hours, and in May you'll always come upon colorful bursts of hydrangea or irises or a bridge overgrown in Lily of the Valley.  The bookstore is heaven on earth for anyone interested in gardens and cooking  -- it offers an excellent selection as well as small potpourri gifts and post cards of le Parc Floral de Haute Bretagne.

Last,  but hardly least, at the end of May time was spent at Château de CanisyChâteau de Canisy in Normandy in Normandy. It is a place where incredible luxury can be found in the en suite guest rooms.  Marble, faux painting, copper bath tubs, and mirrors create sparkling and sumptuous bathrooms.  Although antiques and excellent works of art fill the rooms of the château, each guest room is a world unto itself  -- and there are many rooms to choose from, as well as several rooms in the restored farm house on the property. 

Each and every one of the above properties affords guests beautifully-appointed guest rooms, modern baths, delicious breakfasts (and dinners, where offered) at a wide range of prices -- most include breakfast in the room rate.  We paid no additional taxes and never felt we received less than we paid for.  We hope you will visit these and other properties on our web site for more information about their accommodations, special features and pricing.  Once you become a guest at an au Château member's home, you will not only find the accommodations ideal but will discover each set in indescribably beautiful landscapes  -- perfect for peaceful strolls, and certainly a distinct advantage over a stay in an ordinary hotel. 

French Quiz 15

Translate this famous work of art, "La Jaconde", into English: 

Monet's "The Magpie" 
da Vinci's "The Mona Lisa"
Rodin's "The Thinker" 
Bartholdi's "The Statue of Liberty"


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

International Piano Festival of la Roque d'Anthéron

Under the ancient plane trees of the Parc de Florans in the Provençal town of la Roque d'Anthéron, just northwest of Aix-en-Provence, the magic of the 22nd International Piano Festival will fill the air this summer.  From July 20th until August 22nd  a range of young talent from the four corners of the globe will assemble alongside those whose fame places them at the top of their profession.  With its ninety concerts, classical and jazz, la Roque d'Anthéron is becoming the only place to experience the true essence of the piano at the dawn of the third millennium. 

In 2001 more than 65,000 spectators eagerly shared their love of the piano by attending concerts during the Festival. 

For further information and to obtain a 2002 Program, contact La Roque d'Anthéron International Piano Festival, Parc du Château de Florans,  13640 La Roque d'Anthéron,   Phone (33) 4 42 50 51 15  or FAX. (33) 4 42 50 46 95.

Travel Tip:  Protecting Your Film

If you are concerned about airport x-rays and the potential damage they can do to your undeveloped rolls of film -- especially in light of increased security and stronger x-ray equipment at airports today -- here are a few tips.  First, keep in mind that carry-on bags will be exposed to a lower dose of x-rays than checked luggage.  Second, buy a good lead lined film bag to hold un-used and exposed film.  These are available at most film developers and camera shops.   Carry this with you through airport security.  Third, ask that your film be hand inspected  -- the FAA allows hand inspections in the United States ('e', Sec. 108-17 on their web site at ) -- but you still  may face resistance, even if you are carrying a printout of the rule with you.  And in foreign countries, you won't have the same right to request a hand inspection -- although it won't hurt to try!    Fourth, carry your camera empty, just in case a inspector decides to open it!  And fifth, keep in mind that most film under ISO 1000 is fairly safe from damage from airport security equipment.  Remember that nothing is 100% safe -- even in a lead lined bag, but every little precaution helps. [Partial credit to the Los Angeles Times Travel Section, 6.23.02]

Château de Vollore

Château de Vollore

The département of the Puy-de-Dôme in the Auvergne is picturesque, tranquil and a land of dramatic scenery, and Château de Vollore, perched at the crest of a hill can be seen from miles away.  We arrived in mid afternoon and for nearly a half hour before reaching the château,  it was in view -- a distinctive wide form with a prominent tower at each end.  Winding roads brought us closer and closer, signage was excellent, and finally we were in the tiny village of Vollore-Ville and at the left turn in the road that would take us to the château gate. 
The gatehouse and gate at Château de VolloreAs we drove through the gate we were immediately struck by grandeur of the château and its commanding view of the vast countryside below.  The main door opened,  and we were greeted by Monsieur Michel Aubert La Fayette, a warm and distinguished gentleman who made us feel instantly welcome.   He gave us a brief tour of the principal rooms available to guests and then took us into the tower to our enormous suite.  It not only had a shower room with sink (and a window overlooking the forest), but a second large sitting room with a grand bathtub and an adjoining WC and basin.  The bedroom was large and tastefully decorated.  A beautifully framed mirror was over the mantel, and there was a large round table with chairs, a roomy closet, a writing desk with a view out to the front of the château, and a very comfortable queen-sized bed.   A welcome tray with candies, chocolates and bottled water was on the table, and a new supply appeared the next afternoon.

Suite at Château de VolloreWe were so comfortable after settling in that we knew that two days and nights here would not be nearly long enough.  Château de Vollore is definitely a place to return to time and time again.  The views from our windows (and there were many windows) were nothing less than spectacular.  From our largest bedroom window we could see sheep grazing just below the château lawn (a little wall separating them did not keep our ovine friend from jumping over it to graze alongside the pool -- the grass is always greener), further down the hill were small farmhouses and clusters of buildings, and in the distance the rolling green countryside of the Puy-de-Dôme. A guest who came over the wall at Château de Vollore

Although we could go on about the elegance and comfort we experienced at Château de Vollore, of more importance is the family who owns it.  Monsieur and Madame Aubert La Fayette proudly exhibit their family portraits, antiques and collectibles throughout the house.  But two rooms are special for they house letters, papers and collected objects belonging to their illustrious ancestor, Marie-Jean Paul Joseph Roche Yves Gilbert du Motier, the General Marquis de La Fayette -- the French hero of the American Revolutionary War.  We had the honor to walk through these rooms with M. Aubert La Fayette as he described items to us and gave us information about how they came into the possession of the General.  He also kindly told us of the line of descendants from the 18th century to the present day and his wife, Genevieve.

General La Fayette had two daughters and one son whom he named George Washington de La Fayette after his lifelong friend, General Washington.  George Washington de La Fayette married and had two sons who were unable to pass the family name down through sons of their own.  Subsequently, the female descendants of the General Marquis de La Fayette have taken the name. 

Vollore's history and ownership are well documented and the château dates back to the mid-thirteenth century.  It was in 1900 that Gilbert de Pusy La Fayette, the  grandson of George Washington de La Fayette (the only son of the Marquis de La Fayette) took ownership of the château.  The central and northern portions of the château had been restored at the end of the 19th century, and under Gilbert's supervision the south portion of the château was judiciously restored from 1900 until 1914.    His son, Jean de Pusy La Fayette, born in 1903, died for France on the 7th of February, 1945, at Chauve near Saint-Nazaire.  He had been married three years to Ghislaine de Montalivet and they had a daughter, Genevieve; she and Michel Aubert La Fayette are the current owners and your charming hostess and host! 

Madame Aubert La Fayette is not only a descendant of  the  Marquis de La Fayette but also of Rochambeau, put in command of a French army of 6,000 to join the Continental Army in the American Revolution (1780).   He joined forces with General. Washington in 1781 and they marched to Yorktown, where they besieged British forces and forced their surrender. He returned to France in 1783, where he commanded the Army of the North in the French Revolution and was made a marshal of France. 

There is also a La Fayette Museum in the castle of the General's birth, Chavagnac, which we were not able to visit on this trip.  Although we could not find an "official" web site about the General, we did find one that went into great detail about his life and his friendship with Washington and other Americans, and his subsequent return to France including political problems he faced there. 

In 1824-25, General Marquis de La Fayette was invited to return to the United States for a long visit.  He traveled extensively to each State (there were 24 at the time) and upon his return to France he took with him large amounts of American soil.  He was buried at Le Jardin de Picpus cemetery in Paris next to his wife, Adrienne de Noailles, and the soil he brought home from America surrounds his casket

If you have the opportunity to visit Château de Vollore and experience for yourself the fine accommodations and pride of family history you will find there, please don't miss the opportunity.   The family offers escorted tours of the château during July and August for those who are not guests of the chambres d'hôtes.   For subscribers to the print newsletterFRANCE On Your Own, there will be a feature in the upcoming Summer edition about the Auvergne and the Puy-de-Dôme. 

[Footnote:  The spelling of the family name appears in reference materials as Lafayette and,
more frequently,  LaFayette, and as written by the family today with a space,  La Fayette.]

Summer Calendar  -  the Var of Provence

VAR VILLAGE VOICE, the monthly English language newsletter circulating to hundreds of English speaking expatriates now residing in the département of the Var,  is again producing its Special Events Summer Calendar for the benefit of all the English speaking tourists about to visit this lovely part of Provence. 

The Var stretches from the sunny resorts of St. Cyr, Le Lavandou, Cavalaire, through St. Tropez to Ste. Maxime and St. Raphael on the coast, up through the wonderful wine valleys of the Côtes de Provence, Côteaux D’Aix, Bandol and Cassis appellations, to the gateway of  the Alpes de Haute Provence – Lac St. Croix and the incredible Gorges du Verdon – France’s answer to the Grand Canyon. 

Summer events in the region range from all the traditional village festivities, the Aioli and Soupe à Pistou Fêtes taking place in the village square  with everyone feasting on the local dishes and wines and dancing under the plane trees, to sophisticated music festivals attracting top quality musicians from all over Europe. 

There will be jazz, pop and rock concerts, chamber music quartets, baroque and medieval music festivals, jazz concerts in the vineyards, wind quartets and opera recitals in many châteaux of the region, plus all the fun of the artisan markets, antique fairs, brocante and flea markets. 

The VAR VILLAGE VOICE SPECIAL EVENTS SUMMER CALENDAR, listing all these and more, is circulated for the four months of the season – June to September -- to several hundred rental villas up and down the region.   In addition,  the Calendar provides helpful information on market days, vineyards, and  the fixtures of the only cricket club in the Var at Entrecasteaux, which boasts one of the loveliest, and possibly the only full sized pitches in the South of France. 

If readers  would like to obtain copies of the Events Listing, just contact the Editor,  Anita Rieu-Sicart, by email at

City View:  Vichy

The magnificent casino at Vichy

Famed for its spa and Vichy water and infamous for its association
with the occupation government in France during World War II,
the small city of Vichy today is a pleasure to visit.    We found ourselves among those
people who had the day off from work because it was a holiday.  They were 
walking in the park and near the casino, having leisurely lunches at the city's 
many brasseries and restaurants, taking in the interesting architecture, 
and window shopping on several streets lined with up-scale
stores.  We were advised by our host at Château de Vollore to visit
the Notre Dame church -- and we happened upon mid-day Mass
in celebration of Ascension Day.  Organ music filled the air,  and this 
unique church was standing-room-only with worshippers.

[Photo Cold Spring Press ©-2002]

What's New on our Web Site? 

Since our May / June issue, three new properties have joined au Château: Château du Guilguiffin and Château de Talhouët in April, and just last week Château de Lezhildry came aboard -- all three in the popular destination of Brittany.    But each is in as diverse a département as one could imagine! Château du Guilguiffin is farthest west in the dramatic and sea-faring département of Finistère. Château de Talhouët is in the southern département of Morbihan, rich in waterways and parks and famous for its abundance of megaliths.  And, Château de Lezhildry, elegant and authentically medieval, is not far from the Pink Granite Coast of the English Channel in the département of the Côtes d'Armor.

We hope you will pay each of them a virtual visit on our web site and then, perhaps, make reservations to stay at one or all  -- they would each make excellent bases for a thorough exploration of beautiful Brittany!  And watch our web site regularly as we will be adding more and more properties to help you find just the right château or manoir in the perfect region of France for your next vacation!

French Quiz 16

Which one of these countries does not border France?



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

 Quick and Easy Recipe: Brandade de Morue

Probably not a dish on the tip of everyone's tongue, Brandade de Morue is actually quite nice with simple ingredients and a short preparation time  --  it's codfish mousse! 

You  will need one pound of peeled and cubed potatoes, one pound of fresh cod fillets, 2 large garlic cloves that have been crushed, 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and salt and white pepper to taste.  Put the potatoes in a large (4 qt) saucepan and lay fish on top.  Add water to cover fish completely.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are cooked.  Drain (reserve liquid) and push fish and potatoes through a food mill -- do not use a food processor.  Add only enough of the reserved liquid to slightly moisten during this process.   End result should firm and not soupy.   Cover and chill.

Combine the garlic and mayonnaise in a small bowl, and then blend into the chilled mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Best served following several hours of refrigeration (covered) as the flavor will become more intense.  Very nice presented a bed of butter lettuce.  Bon appétit!

[Credit  to "Cooking with Bon Appétit  - Seafood" ] 

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 15 is  The Mona Lisa and to Quiz 16 is the Netherlands.)

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