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                Autumn leaves. . .          September  /  October 2003


. . . following Summer's heat 

Europe suffered its worst heat wave in memory in August, causing the deaths of about 19,000 people across the continent.  The numbers passed 14,800 in France alone.  The French came up with the simplest method to determine approximately how many deaths were heat-related -- they compared numbers with the same period the year before.   It seemed that other European countries had fewer deaths per capita, when in reality most countries are still using various methods to  perform the count  --  their populations (especially in Italy) are demanding to know, and Italy has decided to adopt the method being applied in France. 

But  just what went wrong?  Why did so many people, especially the old and infirm, lose their lives?   Several factors came into play.  First, the temperatures reached record highs in August --   vacation month in Europe.  Although people living in the countryside might vacation closer to home,  those in the cities tend to get away to beach resorts and other vacation destinations.   The highest death toll was in the sweltering cities.  The elderly who may have otherwise had a family member or neighbor looking in on them on a daily basis now found themselves alone and unable to cope with the heat.  Second, in Paris for example, summer temperatures usually average in the upper 70s (Fahrenheit), so the oppressive heat with temperatures reaching as high as 108 degrees one day was certainly unexpected.  Third, air conditioning is uncommon in people's homes and apartments.  The young who are able to get around easily may be able to find a public space that is air conditioned to cool down, but if you are home-bound, handicapped or elderly, that alternative is likely not possible.

As is often the case,  many people blame their government in times of this sort of tragedy saying that 
their elected officials did not do enough, that officials did not take steps to ensure that emergency services were prepared to handle problems resulting from the heat.  It is true that many circumstances came together to create this very sad event.  Because it is believed that climate changes that once seemed just vague expectations are now becoming a reality, and because it is felt that future summer months in Europe will be warmer than those of the past,  some changes will have to be considered to prevent this event from repeating itself.

The longer term losses of farmers both in crops and livestock are not yet known, but will no doubt be another blow to the struggling economies of Europe.  France's rivers dropped to record low levels, grazing lands dried up, the Alps began to crumble in huge rock slides, and forest fires took their toll.  Record high temperatures throughout June and July and the subsequent lack of rain in August caused the permafrost on Mont Blanc in the French Alps to melt at a rapid rate.  The shrinking ice released rocks it once held,  causing rock slides which resulted in some deaths until the region was closed to visitors.

Whether you believe it is a factor or you don't, let us hope that it is not too late for some serious action to  address global warming.  This summer's heat wave served as a dramatic warning of the consequences of climate change -- a warming trend that is, among other things,  melting glaciers and the Polar ice cap at alarming rates.  Many respected scientists have said that the time for all governments, not just some,  to take responsibility for their part is long overdue.  From those who will face the consequences of larger and more frequent hurricanes developing over warmer expanding oceans, to the people around the world who suffer from  dangerous flooding or devastating and longer periods of drought, we are all in this together.


This month's newsletter sponsor...

Each issue of our newsletter will have 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, Provence Dream Ltd. which focuses on Provence Living and Riviera Real Estate. 

[For information about sponsoring a future newsletter, contact us at]

CHÂTEAUX & 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?

au Château is happy to make it all possible -- and to add to the chocolate experience the delight of staying in a wonderful Paris boutique hotel and several nights at two of our members' exquisite and historic châteaux: Château de La Barre and Château de Vaulogé.    Enjoy a warm welcome from your hosts and lively conversations with your fellow travelers.  Experience the château life, explore the grounds and learn the fascinating story of each château as you take a tour.
Château de la Barre
Working  with  Paris Dream Tours,  whose guides are history experts and know France very well, we can offer this 6 day / 6 night tour of the magnificent and enchanting Sarthe for $1885 - $1985 per person,  double occupancy only.  It includes two professionally escorted chocolate tours, great accommodations, a visit to an abbey to hear world renowned chants, a son et lumière spectacle at Le Lude, stops in charming villages including a designated "Most Beautiful Village" of France, country picnics, wine tastings at Loire vineyards, elegant dinners and those delicious French breakfasts each morning.  It is a recipe for the perfect French vacation!

Château de Vaulogé

You are encouraged to sign up today!  This marvelous Châteaux and Chocolat  tour is scheduled for June 21 - 26, 2004, and can only accommodate 10 lucky people.  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 restaurants. Hand-made chocolates of Guisabel Chocolaterie

Admission fees 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 who are able to give your small group total 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.

To learn more or to reserve your space on this very special tour, just click here to email us or Paris Dream Tours.  All your questions will be answered and a schedule of daily events will be provided for those who reserve their space.  We hope to hear from you soon!

This tour is a presentation of Paris Dream Tours and au Château

[Photos:  Cold Spring Press copyright 2003] 

Planning to Drive in Provence?

Take  along a bargain ($15.95) that we have just discovered -  an audio tape called 'Hear's a Journey' that accompanies you on your drive with a dialogue between a French and American man and woman, describing the routes, the sights and the not-to-miss little corners of Provence's Vaucluse that will make your trip almost perfect!

We quote from a recent ad which says it all:  Your two guides are Ann Williams and Francis Dumaurier who will share such knowledge as the region's history, traditions and handicrafts, culinary pleasures and architectural legacies.  You will end your journey feeling truly connected to the Vaucluse in every way, and you will know that you have been shown the very best between Avignon in the west to Roussillon in the east, including the Abbey de Senanque, hilltop Gordes and the mysterious Fontaine de Vaucluse.  And, since you are listening to a tape, you can turn it off at any time for unscheduled visits along the way -- you are never restricted to seeing just what is presented by Hear's A Journey.

Accompanying the tape is an informative and invaluable booklet which includes a driving tour map, directions, maps of the towns you will visit, interesting sights, market days, festivals and very helpful  phone numbers and addresses of such places as tourist offices, museums, churches, and the all-important places to shop, among other attractions.

Guest room at Château Talaud

When you are in the Vaucluse, please don't overlook the possibility of a really enjoyable stay at Château Talaud.  This beautiful, classical château owned by friendly Dutch hosts will provide you with a very warm welcome, comfortable and elegant en suite rooms, delightful meals and will offer you the opportunity to sample their very own Côtes de Ventoux wines!   Superbe!

To place an order for your audio tape ($15.95 plus $3.95 for shipping one or more tapes) or for more information on other available tapes and plans for future offerings, visit the Hear's a Journey web site at,  phone 973-403-8989  or send a fax to 973-228-1440.  If you would like to contact them by email, the address is

[Photos:  Hear's a Journey & Château Talaud copyright  2003]

Degas in Bronze

We had the great pleasure of visiting the San Diego Museum of Art on September 24th to view the magnificent collection of Degas bronze sculptures -- studies by the famous French painter that were cast in bronze after his death.  Only one, the famous Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, was ever intended by Degas for public exhibition, but all 73 were worthy of the artist. 

Edgar Degas was entranced by ballet -- not just the dance but the entire process  -- from a dancer putting on her shoes to warm up exercises and training classes to the beauty of the ballet itself.  He spent more time backstage than most lovers of dance spent in the audience, and his studies show he understood the range of motion, the balance, and the strength possessed by the dancers he so admired.

Degas:  figure study in bronze

Degas did not, however,  understand horses well at all -- at the beginning.  But he was very interested in them and made a serious effort to sculpt them, thus many of the works in the exhibit are of racehorses.  His bronzes captured their grace and the delicacy of their slender legs, but most of all he found a way to capture them as they ran.  No one had ever quite understood the pattern of movement of a racing horse, until Degas was privy to a ground-breaking film of a racehorse, a film whose stop action allowed him to view where each leg of the horse was positioned as it ran, thus giving his sculptures and drawings accuracy.  One gets the feeling from this exhibit that precision and accuracy were both very important to Edgar Degas in his work and that he did not like leaving anything to chance or guesswork.

Following the artist's death, the famed Hébrard foundry in Paris created 22 sets of 73 of the 150 wax sculptures found in Degas' studio.   Although believed for some time to have been lost after the casting process, the original wax forms survived and eventually were in the possession of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon.   Fifty of those were donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and others to museums in France. 

This exhibit is on loan from Museu de Arte de Sâo Paolo, Brazil, and is one of only four complete ' vintage' sets of the 22 cast of Degas bronzes.  ( If you are planning to be in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay has a complete set as well.)  It will travel to the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and viewing will begin October 18th and continue until January 4, 2004. The Art Gallery of Ontario will present Degas Sculptures, 73 bronzes on loan from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen from October 11, 2003 to January 4, 2004, and it will be the sole venue of the exhibit in Canada.    For information of a Degas exhibit in your area, please visit  We hope you have an opportunity to enjoy the Degas bronzes as much as we did.

[Photos:  Pierre-Alain Ferrazini copyright 2002]

French Quiz 29

The granite rocks of which region of France are among the oldest on earth?

Massif Central
Pyrénées Orientales


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

Plein Air Painting at Château de Crazannes

School of IdeasChâteau de Crazannes in the Saintonge region of France will be the home for 2 weeks  next June of artists who gather under the auspices of artist and teacher Linda Hankin, Director of the Welland, Ontario, Canada  School of Ideas in Visual Art.  Near Saintes and Cognac, the château will provide artists and others who participate with exceptional facilities, access to beautiful painting locations and day trips to such places as Cognac, La Rochelle, Royan and perhaps Bordeaux.
Château de Crazannes
An itinerary will be presented each day at breakfast -- painters will walk with Ms Hankin to selected locations and the mornings will be spent observing, painting, exploring and finding inspiration in the landscape.  In the afternoons, participants may continue to paint or go off on their own to explore the château grounds (a sixteen-acre forested park) or the surrounding countryside.

The trip begins on June 24th and runs through July 8th.   Until the group is confirmed, the cost is estimated at $3200 per person Canadian (about $2400 US dollars) including airfare.  For details and answers to your questions, contact Linda Hankin by email at, by phone at 905.382.3450 or pay a visit to her web site

[Photos:  School of Ideas and Cold Srping Press 2002 -  2003]

October in France

October, like September, is a great time to visit France.  Autumn is so inviting! 

All the children are back in school, allowing for less crowded places to visit such as museums, parks, and other tourist attractions, and the highways are even more of a pleasure to drive than we normally find them (we love driving in France).  The châteaux we plan to stay in are winding down from the numerous guests of a few months earlier, so our hosts are likely to have more time to show us around, tell us about their home's history and share some time with us.

Our  October visit to France will begin with a week of exploration in Brittany, which we mentioned in our last newsletter.  Following that we will visit the Vendée and Charente-Maritime along the Atlantic Coast and then venture inland to the départements of the Deux-Sèvres, Vienne, Haute-Vienne and Charente.  In addition to the lovely countryside,  we will enjoy stays in some of the regions most delightful châteaux.  We look forward to experiencing Futuroscope, taking a tour of a Cognac distillery, and perhaps venturing out in a small boat on one of the regions' many canals and rivers.M. Maestre and Swingolf

Château du Breuil, just south of Nantes, will be our first stop.   The charming owner,  Monsieur Pierre Maestre,  will work with au Château to plan future tours to include his marvelous château and all that there is to see and do in his region.   Guests at Château du Breuil will not only find comfort and authenticity in the décor of his home, but they can also enjoy a special game of golf on the grounds.  Monsieur Maestre, active in the area tourism industry and his community,  is pleased to welcome guests and to do all he can to ensure that they enjoy their stay with him.Château de Saint-Loup Orangerie Courtyard

Our  next stop is the elegant and historic Château de Saint-Loup, a vast estate that accommodates many guests or large groups for family occasions, weddings and celebrations.  We are eager to settle in, tour the grounds, and have dinner in the candlelit dining pavillon.  Saint-Loup has adorned the covers and pages of many architectural magazines over the years because of its stunning décor and lovely gardens.  We know our visit will be exceptional.

Driving in a southeasterly direction several days later, we will be guests at Château du Fraisse, a stunning property on 1500 acres in the Haute-Vienne of France's Limousin region.  It is from here that we will visit Oradour-sur-Glane,  preserved as a memorial to its experience in World War II,  and perhaps take a drive into Limoges. 

Château du Fraisse building designed by Serlio

We hope our upcoming travels tempt you to plan your next visit to France.  As years go by we realize that we must not put off those things that we really want to do --  life is too short for postponements.  We will have new stories to tell, photos to share, and experiences to relate in future newsletters, so stay tuned!

If you are interested in our Three Châteaux program,  custom designed for the part of France you would like to visit,  please contact us by email at for further details.  Our service is at no charge unless a detailed driving route is requested.

[Photos:  Respective château owners  2003]

City View:  Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

The Grave of Colette (1873 - 1954) French Author

In Paris there is a place worth visitors'  time -  Père Lachaise
cemetery.  It is here that the famous and infamous are interred,  from the
flamboyant Oscar Wilde to the 'Little Sparrow' chanteuse, Edit Piaf. 
You will find that the grave of Jim Morrison is tucked away behind someone
else's -- not given the prominence one would expect from all the talk about it -- 
and the extended family of Camille Pissarro  -- one of our favorite Impressionists -- 
shares a burial place in a shady location surrounded by geraniums in bloom.  Above, the
grave of Colette was given barely any space in a densely populated area of the cemetery.
But, beyond the graves of celebrities and the not-so-well-known,  one experiences
a magnificent park of peace and tranquility -- a place of quiet walks and
little surprises around each bend.  Cimitière Père-Lachaise is well-tended and well-loved and a 
highlight of any visit to Paris. (For more about it click here.)

[Photos:  Cold Spring Press copyright 2000-2003]

 Health Care in France -- in English

If all goes well on your next visit to France, you will never need this information.  But if you come down with a mysterious ailment or need medication, this article may be something you should take along.   We have had our moments at the local pharmacie explaining that we needed a salve for an unidentified insect bite or trying to get a refill of a medication that was running out (poor planning on our part, to be sure!).  These circumstances are all made simpler if communication is available in English.

Here are some pharmacies and hospitals where English is spoken in and near Paris  (remember that the last two digits of the postal code in Paris indicate the arrondissement.)


    Anglo-American Pharmacy (Swan)
      6, rue de Castiglione
      75001 Paris

      British and American Pharmacy
      1, rue Auber
      75009 Paris

      British Pharmacy (SNC)
      62, avenue des Champs-Elysées
      75008 Paris

      Anglo-American Pharmacy (Cypel Evelyne)
      37, avenue Marceau
      75016 Paris


    American Hospital of Paris
      63, boulevard Victor Hugo
      92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine

      Hertford British Hospital
      3, rue Barbès
      92300 Levallois-Perret

      Hospital Foch (several staff members are bilingual)
      40, rue Worth
      92150 Surenes

French Quiz 30

What is the oldest eau-de-vie distilled from grapes in the world?

Napoléon brandy
vin du pays Gascon


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

 Easy Recipe:  Red Potato Gratin

This dish is a fine accompaniment to any roast meat or baked fish main course.   Although it is best to use potatoes fresh from the grocer, they can be kept in a cool, dark place for some time, preferably unwrapped.  Remember to always remove the 'eyes' or sprouts growing from any potato before using as these are toxic.

You will need 2 1/2 pounds of medium-sized red potatoes that are not peeled, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic,  1 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme, 1 can (14 ounces) of chicken broth or 2 cups of homemade stock, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and fresh ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Wash potatoes and cut into thin slices.

Coat  a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the dish with one quarter of the potato slices in a single layer.  Sprinkle with some of the garlic, pepper and thyme.  Repeat this process until there are four layers, ending with a layer of potatoes on top.  Pour broth evenly over potatoes, cover with foil and bake for one hour. 

After an hour, remove foil, drizzle with olive oil and bake uncovered about 15 or 20 minutes until potatoes are tender and the juice is reduced.   Serves 8.  . Bon appétit!

[Recipe courtesy of Jane O'Riordan's  "Rhône Appétit - Food to Serve with American Rhône Varietals " book 
Copyright 1998 and published by Toyon Hill Press  ISBN 0 9642901-3-8]

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 29 is  Brittany and to Quiz 30 is armagnac.]

Disclaimer: Cold Spring Press, au Château© and/or any persons associated with either organization do not take any responsibility for errors and/or omissions in any edition of au Château News© and no guarantees are given or implied with regard to any statements made in au Château News©.  The disclaimer on the au Château © web site at, applies in its entirety to all au Château News© editions.
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