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                     A Happier New Year . . .   January / February  2004


Are You Traveling in 2004?

The start of a New Year always seems more than just a change of date on the calendar.   It feels like a new beginning in many ways.  We would all have to agree that the year 2003 was not the best on record.  But it is a new year and, hopefully, we can be optimistic that 2004 will be better for everyone.

Let's go to France this year!   Whether you haven't visited France in years or if you were there in 2003, France offers so much to visitors.  The government at the national level as well the local and regional governments have helpful tourist offices brimming with information on everything from national parks, museums, family campgrounds, theme parks, and beach resorts, to historic monuments and villages, fêtes and spectacles, sports and leisure activities, and more.  The list is endless!   Every visit opens doors to new experiences, adventures and places. 

France's excellent highway system makes getting around easy and pleasurable.  Its rail network is an invaluable resource for getting from city to city or region to region in a matter of hours.  And, flying within France, although not an inexpensive proposition, can be a good way to decrease travel time and increase the hours of vacation enjoyment at your destination. 

Remember,  we will help you find the perfect château accommodations for your stay in France.  Our newest member, Château de Breil, invites everyone, especially golfers,  to be their guests...they look forward to joining you on the golf course!

au Château in 2003 . . .

Despite a downturn in travel this past year, we happily welcomed fourteen new members to au Château in 2003, bringing our end-of-the-year total to 45 lovely properties on line with another in the wings expected to appear on our site in January.  Sadly, we lost Château de Belcaire near the Pyrénées,  as the property was sold to become a private residence.

Our new member properties include one in Versailles just a few minutes from Paris to another in the Var of Provence, several in both Normandy and Brittany to two in the the popular Dordogne and two more inland in the beautiful Vienne.  We will be adding a château in Burgundy that dominates a small medieval village -- visit us soon to see it for yourself!

We are pleased to say that our members are throughout France, so travelers will have little problem finding a place in the right location at the right price.  We also want to brag a bit:  we believe we are the only web site on the Internet specializing in luxurious and historic chambres  d'hôtes and châteaux for rent in France that provides its visitors with personalized attention and service. We are here to answer your questions, assist in finding accommodations, suggest itineraries, do advance work to secure reservations --  all at no charge to the guests.  And, unlike several of the other web sites, we do not receive commissions from our members for booking reservations. 

Our goal is to bring travelers together with the friendly hosts and hostesses at some of France's most beautiful guest accommodations -- those places that make up the Ultimate Lodging Experience in France.  So, do contact us by email at any time with your questions  -- and, if you have been a guest at one of au Château's member properties, we'd love to hear about your stay!

This Month's Newsletter Sponsor . . .

Guisabel Chocolats

Each issue of our newsletter has a special sponsor ... someone who offers you information of interest relating to France.  Please take a moment to click on the banner above to learn more about an exciting 6 day / 6 night tour of Paris and the Sarthe offering ten lucky people two nights in a Paris boutique hotel, four nights in two exquisite châteaux and visits to chocolate museums, shops and artisanal fabricators, as well as many other daily activities to create long-lasting memories of France.

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

Travel Notes for Americans . . . 

Airport security, from our own most recent experience,  is much improved in the U. S. -- the personnel are clearly more professional and courteous than in years past.   Patience is needed, of course, especially when you are asked to remove shoes (steel shanks cause a lot of delays) or open bags. Here are some bits of information you might find useful: 

  • Don't lock bags being checked in until they have been screened.  At that time you may be allowed to lock them as we were (ask if you can), only if they are not subject to further customs inspection until reaching their final destination. 
  • When you are returning to the U.S. from France, you will be permitted to lock your  luggage only after clearing U. S. Customs.  If you are flying on within the U. S. from that point, you may lock your luggage.
  • Carry on luggage should be kept unlocked for inspections. 
  • Use common sense about packing items listed as banned by the TSA,  and allow plenty of time at the airports to ensure that you reach your destination with a minimum of stress.   
Bon voyage!

 Château de Talhouët  . . .

Welcome to Ch‚teau de TalhouŽt

Even  two nights at Château de Talhouët didn't seem long enough.  Our large room and huge modern bath were so pleasant and comfortable, we just wanted to stay forever.  We truly appreciated the strong, hot shower each morning -- enhanced by delightfully fragranced Martin de Candre olive oil soaps.  In fact, a little beribboned gift of two soaps was on the bathroom vanity for us to take home. 

Greeted upon arrival by Talhouët's delightful Russian wolfhound, Phineas,  we found ourselves among a full house of guests.  It was a lively group and the atmosphere was quite pleasant indeed.  Known throughout the region for the superb cuisine of his dining room, host Jean-Pol Soulaine is a dedicated châtelain.  He has made the success of Château de Talhouët as a chambres et tables d'hôtes his "life's work" while never losing sight of the fact that this is his beloved home.
Dining Pleasure at TalhouŽt
Dinner  in the beautiful château dining room went very smoothly despite the full house.  Service was subtle but efficient, and,  as with all dining experiences in France, our table was ours for the evening allowing for a leisurely dining experience.  We learned later that several of the diners were not château guests but people from the nearby communities who find Talhouët's fare among the best.  We certainly wish we could have met the young chef !

Our meal was perfect.  We began with a salad of greens and skate cut into thin strips (it was flaky and moist) covered in a green herb sauce and a light vinaigrette.  The main course was dorade over spinach with a golden cream sauce that defied description --  it was so delicious!  We then were offered our selection of cheeses  followed by coffee and desserts:  a hot chocolate soufflé for one of us and a crêpe filled with custard in a raspberry coulis for the other.   The wine accompanying our meal was a departure for us -- we opted for a light, sweet Beaumes de Venise which resulted in a happy accident as it complimented our meal perfectly.  After dinner, we enjoyed a quiet walk in the garden under a starry Breton sky.  Perfect!

As with many château properties, guests find they have their 'own'  table in the dining room, so in the mornings we had breakfast at the same corner table where dinner was enjoyed the evening before.  Breakfast is always a pleasure for us in France as we so enjoy fresh baked goods, yogurt and strong French coffee.  This was certainly no exception.

Beautiful Rochefort-en-TerreRochefort CrÍperie

Talhouët is located in the Morbihan département of southern Brittany, convenient to seaside villages, the Parc Naturel Régional de Brière, the coastal resort of La Baule, lovely river front la Roche-Bernard, historic Ville Fleurie Josselin, but most delightfully (in our opinion) it is just outside of the village of Rochefort-en-Terre -- one of the Petites Cités de Caractère de Bretagne and our long-time favorite.  Rochefort-en-Terre is a pretty, pleasant village filled with crêperies, the shops of artisans and wonderful stone houses, each lovingly maintained.  We return time after time -- Rochefort has that effect on people!!

If you decide to make Château de Talhouët your vacation retreat, you will soon discover that you have made exactly the right decision.  A former guest wrote, "Perfect! I could stay there the rest of my life.  Beautiful structure and setting, beautiful rooms, impeccable tile baths, fine service, delicious food.  His cook is a treasure.  M. Soulaine is a prince  -  by worth and nature, if not by birth  - gracious, imperturbable, great good taste...Don't miss this one.  Even Phineas, the dog, is a charmer.  Rochefort-en-Terre is worth an afternoon." 

Do pay Château de Talhouët a visit on our web pages...and then experience it for yourself.

[Photos:  Cold Spring Press copyright  2003]

French Quiz 33

Shopping in France:  specialties such as Pétanque balls, olive wood bowls, pastis,
ceramics signed by Picasso, fruits confits, rosewater, orange marmalade 
and other delights are most likely found in which region of France?

Southern Brittany
Côte d'Azur
The Southwest
Lyons (Rhône)


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

A visit to the Morbihan . . .

Look at a map of France,  and you will find Brittany is a large part of the northwest, reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean and bordered on three sides by water.  This is a land of seafood, fisherman, lighthouses, rugged islands and dramatic coastlines.  Its inland is often equally as rugged with stretches of moorlands and wild regional parks, not least among them the Parc Naturel Régional d'Armorique in the westernmost département of Finistère.

However, we would like to introduce the southern region of Brittany with its south-facing beaches and resorts along the Côte d'Amour .  It is here that Château de Talhouët is located,  and this département (56) is the Morbihan.  It is a green land of walled towns such as Guérande, of megaliths (some can even been found on the grounds of Château de Talhouët) and medieval towns such as Josselin with its château (no photography allowed inside) dating from 1407, privately owned, with a museum housing an extensive doll collection.

Most delightful is the Golfe du Morbihan near the city of Vannes along whose western edge is the town of Carnac -- a must see for those interested in the prehistoric megaliths and menhirs found there.  Ferries are abundant in the gulf to take passengers to the islands of Belle-Ile and Ile d'Houat from Port-Navalo at the tip of Presqu'ile Rhuys or from Quiberon on Presqu'ile de Quiberon.  The gulf itself is sheltered and dotted with islands, making it a vacationer's paradise.

The cities of Vannes and Lorient are easily accessible along the N165,  and inland north of Lorient are many scenic country drives on such roads as the D2 toward Pontivy or the D25 north of Hennebont.  Visitors will find this part of Brittany quite charming with its small rivers, lakes, little forests and quiet villages.  Consider including the Morbihan on your next visit to France.

Village View:  Angles sur l'Anglin

Angles sur l'Anglin

Angles sur l'Anglin, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France, 
can be found along the River Anglin east of the city of Poitiers, 
and it is worth a detour if it doesn't happen to be on 
the way to your ultimate destination.   It is convenient to
Château de La Motte in Usseau, so if you are a guest there
be sure to take the short scenic drive to Angles. 
Ruins dominate the old town, and pleasant winding streets 
take you past delightful old homes.   It is a tourist attraction 
but does not seem to be overrun with visitors. Instead, it is one of 
those little places that only some people know about, 
allowing it to maintain its quiet ambiance as just 
a few of us come to appreciate its charms.

[Photo:  Cold Spring Press copyright 2003]

French Quiz 34

Shopping:  Which are true or false?

A coat in French is a manteaux 
Men's shirt sizes are the same in Britain as the US but different in France.
Shoes in France are called chaussures
A woman's size 40 blouse in France would be a US size 12
If you are buying a jupe in France, you are buying a vest
Some items such as shirts and sweaters will be marked S, M, L and XL in France.


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

Our New Feature . . .

Our web site has introduced something new:  Château of the Month.  Just click on the grape cluster at the top of our Welcome page to visit the current selection.  And, look for the next Château of the Month on February 1st followed by new choices the first of each month thereafter. 

In future issues . . .

Read about Château du Breuil in the enchanting Vendée, 
Château du Fraisse,  a fascinating family home open to guests, and
look for a January Special Edition to introduce two new members.
  Our next regular au Château News will be the March / April issue.

 Easy Winter Recipe:  Tarte à l'Oignon

An onion pie or tart is a good vegetable side dish or can be served as a main course. To keep this recipe simple, we suggest you use prepared pie crust that you roll out to fill a well-buttered 8-inch quiche baking dish.  The crust should come up the sides and be trimmed off along the top edge.  Set aside.

The  ingredients for the filling are a half pound of Spanish onions (sliced), a cup of Gruyère cheese (grated), 3 eggs, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup butter, freshly ground nutmeg and black pepper, salt.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit).

In a large skillet heat the butter and the oil and carefully sauté the onions for about 7 minutes or until they are translucent but not brown.  Set aside.

Beat the eggs and add them to them to the cheese, cream and seasonings in a mixing bowl.  Gently mix together until well blended.  Combine this with the onions and pour the mixture into the crust.  Bake on the center oven rack for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Serves 8. Bon appétit!

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 33 is Côte d'Azur and to Quiz 34 is T, T, T, F, F, T]

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