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                      Special Edition                          December 2003

                    In this issue:   Château de la Motte, France in the News

  Come to France to stay at . . .      

Château de la Motte d'Usseau

We  cannot say enough about the charm and warmth of le Château de la Motte looking down on the tiny Vienne village of Usseau -- it is a delightful place to stay for as long as you can!  Each guest room is a treasure of medieval design and 21st century comfort.  The bathrooms are all modern with newly tiled floors and walls -- the décor in all cases selected and implemented by your charming hostess, Marie-Andrée Bardin.  Her impeccable taste and skills as a craftsperson are evident throughout the château,  and guests will find themselves immersed in the place and wishing it were their own.

Château de la Motte d'Usseau

Perched above a green and rolling countryside affording commanding views in all directions, the château and its dependencies can be seen from a great distance making it one of the easiest properties on our web site to locate.  The front of the château, where guests arrive and park their cars, is very deceiving as it looks relatively small yet nonetheless perfectly inviting.  We walked up the wide stone steps adorned with gourds and pumpkins in celebration of the coming Halloween holiday to be greeted with a smile and handshake by the charming Marie-Andrée.  Immediately we were shown to her studio -- just beyond the foyer -- to see the tuffeau carvings which she was currently creating.  Her studio faces the drive so she can keep busy with her creativity while keeping an eye out for her guests.  Classes in carving are offered at the château, as are workshops in picture framing and medieval calligraphy.

Up a flight of stairs and you find yourself in the salon and next to the very appealing dining room with its roaring fire.  Another flight, this time ascending an ancient winding stone stairway, takes you to the guest rooms of which there are five.  Each is exceptional in its décor and spaciousness -- and each boasts comfortable beds and modern heating units that guests can easily regulate until they reach their notion of comfort.  Most extraordinary are the views from every window!  The château's high position affords guests sweeping views of the vast countryside of the Vienne in all directions, so you at once feel cozy in your room yet never closed in. 

Chambre Geoffroy du Bec

We were lucky enough to be allowed access to the ramparts which reminded us that medieval châteaux and fortresses had tumultuous histories -- all too often forgotten when they become 21st century luxury accommodations.  Another pleasant distraction is the raised garden behind the salon which is perfect for sitting in the sun, experiencing the country silence and calm or taking in the views.

And do have dinner au château.  Marie-Andrée is multi-talented, and not the least of her talents is  her ability in the kitchen.  The Bardins spent six years in Québec where they owned a fine restaurant,  and Marie-Andrée was the chef.  Her skills returned with her to France -- dinners are a culinary delight.  Only the freshest ingredients are used, and the best of wines accompany a meal.  If you are a guest at Château de la Motte, do not hesitate to make reservations for dinner there -- we know you will not be disappointed.  And, of course, breakfasts at Château de la Motte are complete with croissants, fresh breads, homemade preserves and jams, excellent coffee, juice and yogurt.  On a crisp morning, the fire may be crackling in the background.

Distant view of Château de la Motte
The location of Château de la Motte is almost perfect.  Just south of the hustle and bustle of the Loire Valley tourist attractions and the city of Tours, the château's nearest big neighbor is the lovely city of Châtellerault.  Market day is on Thursday and, as with all the markets in France, it is very lively and interesting.  Nearby, and certainly worth the short drive, is the village of Angles sur l'Anglin, designated one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France -- and it is!   With its ruined château, lovely River Anglin, winding hilly streets and buildings with character, time spent in Anglin is a worth an entry in your journal to be sure.  Also, you may want to enjoy a great lunchtime meal in La Roche Posay, where shops and small restaurants line the streets and there isn't a tourist to be found. 

The château is near several beautiful rivers, too, primarily the Vienne and the Gartempe -- both tranquil and lovely.  There is also the historic Roman village of Chauvigny down river from Châtellerault, a notable attraction in the region. 

Château de la Motte is a very welcome addition to our web site -- perfectly located in the eastern part of the Poitou-Charentes, not far at all from the attractions of the Loire Valley, yet a great stopover on the way to nearby Limoges or the Dordogne.  Best of all is the warm and sincere welcome you will receive when you become a guest.  Please visit their pages on our web site for details about accommodations, additional regional pastimes and historic information about this fairy tale château.

To make reservations please send an email to

 France in the News . . . not all good

If you are keeping up with news from France, you will already know what we are about to tell you.  Otherwise, you might find these updates from France of interest.

  • Tragedy strikes the Queen Mary II in Saint-Nazaire -  The French shipbuilding industry is admired around the world, thus the recent gangway accident on the nearly sea-ready Queen Mary II took everyone by surprise.  The accident, during a visit by the families of workers on the new and grand Queen Mary II, which sent victims tumbling 50 feet to the dry dock below was truly tragic.  There were 16 deaths reported.  President Chirac immediately visited the site and expressed his sorrow saying that the accident was "of particular cruelty".    This tragedy was of special interest not only to British cruise giant Cunard, the company that intends this luxury liner to be their flagship vessel, but to the American company that owns Cunard, Carnival Corporation based in Florida,  and to the French company, Chantiers de l' Atlantique,  which built the incredible ship.  The largest and most expensive passenger ship ever built, the Queen Mary II is 345 meters long (about 1035 feet long), as tall as a 23 story building and is still on schedule for a January 12th maiden voyage.
  • Rain and heavy flooding have stricken France, with the flooding primarily in the south.  By early December 4,  people were reported dead  Not only are people's homes and towns affected, but their livelihoods in many regions as well.  The wine-growing region near the River Herault was an area of concern as waters rose and there was speculation as to the possible damage to the vines.  Road, rail and air traffic was disrupted,  and because of Rhône River flooding four nuclear reactors were shut down.    President Chirac, once again, visited the regions affected and pledged over 12 million euros in disaster aid.  Of major concern was the safety of drinking water in the heavily flooded areas, so people were warned against drinking possibly polluted tap water.
  • Arles was one city hit particularly hard by the flood waters of the Rhône River.  The river, known for centuries for its unpredictable nature, submerged the ancient Roman city where more than 7,000 firefighters and rescuers are mobilized to provide aid.  In addition, some 550 military personnel, 850 police officers, 900 gendarmes and 20 helicopters were sent to take part in rescue operations and to assist in pumping water out of the city.  As of December 5th, the death toll from floods in southern France had risen to seven.  The cost of the damage to Arles alone is now estimated at $180 million to $240 million. 
  • On a much less serious note, people are being drawn to a calmer and what they perceive as a more pleasant lifestyle in the French countryside according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, December 8th.  Apparently, the residents of Paris aren't finding the city as appealing and romantic as tourists do, and when a recent advertisement appeared in Parisian newspapers inviting them to leave Paris and come to the Lot-et-Garonne in the southwest, many jumped at the opportunity.    A deal was offered: Abandon the city in the next two weeks and the Maison d'Aquitaine would assist you to establish your own business in their département, as well as to find jobs, housing and schools for the children.    Factors helping many to make the decision to accept the offer on the spot included the expensive housing in Paris, air pollution, congested traffic, frequently gray weather, crowds, crime and isolation along with one other major factor -- stress!  One person who had already found the Lot-et-Garonne a haven from all of the above was quoted as saying, "I don't miss Paris.  I am 100% satisfied." Another said, "I know that, after work when you come home in Paris, you are stuck in your apartment, whereas in the Lot-et-Garonne you can live in a house and have a drink in your garden."    The program began on November 18th and immediately received over 2000 phone calls and 400 from as far as Taiwan from a transplanted Parisian who was interested.  Not surprisingly, because of the demand, the program has been extended.

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