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                      Travel Season's in Full Swing  . . .  May / June 2004


Châteaux open for the season . . .

All of our members (there are now 50!) are open for the 2004 travel season, including those who had their homes closed to guests from November 1 through Easter.  After a winter of family time, redecorating, upgrading or sprucing up the grounds, all au Château members are anticipating your visit.

As always, we are here to help you secure reservations or to check on room availability.  Most of our members can be reached by email and are able to accept messages in French, English and, often, several other languages.  For the very few who do not have email, they do have fax machines, so don't hesitate to print a fax from our web site, fill in the blanks and send it off to your dream château!

Or, you could telephone . . .

Of course, there is always the telephone.  Remember that the phone and fax numbers provided on our pages begin with the country code for France  - 33.    You must add the dialing code from your location preceding the numbers we provide to dial France.  Example:  a property's number is  From the US you would add 011 to make the entire number Et, voila!  You're connected!  If you call from within France, replace the 011.33 with zero and dial your number:

A bit of telephone trivia:  We have always found the French extremely logical, organized and practical, and it is evident in their phone numbering system.  The country is divided into 5 regions and each region has a number:  01 (Paris), 02 (Northwest), 03 (Northeast), 04 (Southeast), 05 (Southwest) and 06 (Mobile phones).   Remember to omit the zero when dialing from outside the country.   Then there is an 08 which appears, as best we can determine, to be numbers (phone or fax) dialable only from within France. 

So, if you haven't booked your château accommodations for this vacation season, now is the time.  No excuses!  You can reach the owners by email, fax, phone or we will help you contact them!  What could be easier?  If the last option is your choice,  please contact us at any time at  -- we will respond immediately.

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What's special at the châteaux? 

If you've ever visited those castles and châteaux open to the public, you are well aware of the massive stone walls, winding and worn stone stairs, towers whose windows look down into a river or moat, and an endless series of enormous connecting rooms.  The members on our web site have homes with many of these attributes, perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale than Chambord or Chenonceau, but equally as interesting!

Vaulogé's prison at left of photoFor example,  were you aware that one of our members has a prison on the grounds or that another has a dungeon?  Yes, it's true!  Château de Vaulogé, a magnificent château in the Sarthe, has a prison dating back to the 1400s.  Guests are welcome to enter to see what medieval confinement was like.  And, what about that dungeon?  Well, travel to Provence and stay at Château de SeillansLook for arrow slits in Seillan's Winter SalonTheir dungeon was connected to a sanctuary in the valley chapel by a secret passage!  And, what's more, from the Winter Salon and hallway guests can still see the arrow slits for firing at the enemy and openings used to pour boiling oil down upon them!  Truly a medieval experience!  And don't forget the hidden tunnel from the garden of Le Vieux Manoir to the Château d'Amboise!

Then there are moats -- filled with water or dry and sporting a well-tended lawn.  If you are traveling with children, we seriously suggest you monitor them closely around these.  Several of our members have moats surrounding their homes:  Château Le Plessis, Château de Chorey, Château de Crazannes, Château du Fraisse, Château de Saint-Loup, Château de Vaulogé and others. Many have their own ponds and streams while others are on the banks of a river!  Château des Monthairons in Lorraine, for example, borders on the tranquil and lovely River Meuse where guests can go boating if they would like.  Naturally, travelers frequently inquire about swimming pools -- about 27 of our members have swimming pools for their guests' use or indicate the availability of a public pool nearby. 

A refreshing pool at Château RhodesPool with a View at Château Le RoureThe pools at Château de Rouffillac
       Inviting Swimming Pools are in Abundance 

Looking for a wine estate?  au Château is happy to provide that for you as well.  You can visit Burgundy and stay at Château de la Crée or Château de Chorey -- both domaines renowned for their exceptional labels found in fine restaurants throughout France and on your table at dinner!  In Provence Château Talaud proudly produces and serves an excellent selection of Côtes de Ventoux wines.  Château du Breil in the Pays de la Loire, soon to reinstate their own label after many years, leases its vineyards to a local grower and guests can ride bicycles in the vineyards and visit the vintner.   And, Château du Foulon, although not a producer of wine, is situated at the heart of Bordeaux's Médoc wine country.  Perhaps you would be interested in the wineries tour organized by the proprietors of Le Prieuré au Château de Biron in the Dordogne.   Do visit our Wine Châteaux page for details and the history behind many of these domaines and member properties.

Ancient stairway at AlognyCentures of wear at Prieuré de BironVaulted cellars at Alogny
Ancient Stone Stairways & Vaulted Cellars

Naturally, châteaux and manoirs on our web site do have those marvelous stone walls, curved stone stairways worn by hundreds of years of use, ancient cellars, grand salons and the fabulous French architecture of those open-to-the-public castles -- but they also have something else:  guest accommodations.   You will feel like a part of history when you stay at our member estates while vacationing in one of the world's most beautiful and fascinating countries. 

[Photos:  Courtesy of the château owners]

 Current Offers  . . .

The Special Offers page of our web site lists many discounts, welcome trays, and other things to add to your enjoyment and encourage you to book at stay at a particular property.  We won't list them all here, but wanted to remind you of some of those unique opportunities.

From a welcoming bottle of wine at Château de Labessière or an apéritif to be shared with your hosts when you first arrive at Château Les Hauts, to a rate discount for mentioning au Château when you book your reservation, do visit our Special Offers page to see what's available to you.  Keep in mind that the proprietors are also very helpful in securing childcare for their guests, making reservations at area restaurants, pointing out the worthwhile attractions in their vicinity and, in general, providing a level of personal service and attention you won't find at even the smallest hotel. 

You may be interested in the romantic getaway package at Château de la Ballue in Brittany, playing a unique golf game at Château du Breuil in the Vendée or the variety of demi-pension offers at La Tour du Roy in Picardie.  And, there are many more similar offers on our Special Offers page.

Current room rate discounts include those at Château de Vaulogé, Château de l'Isle-Marie, Château de Canisy and Château de Rouffillac.  Guest packages are offered at Le Prieuré au Château de Biron and at Château de Chauvac, among others.  Please visit all their pages to learn more.

French Quiz 37

Test your knowledge of France's geography without using a map!
Match the watery place with the département/region.

               1. la source de la Seine             A  Allier, Auvergne
                 2. Evian-les-Bains                    B  Côte d'Or, Burgundy 
                   3. Lourdes                             C  Drôme, Rhône-Alpes
                     4. Vichy                               D  Hautes-Pyrénées, Midi-Pyrénées 
                      5. la source de la Loire            E   Vosges, Lorraine 
                        6. Vittel                               F   Haut-Savoie, Rhône-Alpes 


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

Looking for luxury? 

If luxury and a romantic atmosphere are what you are seeking -- perhaps for a honeymoon, to celebrate a significant anniversary or for some other special occasion where memories must include an elegant touch -- we would like you to consider some of our members.  Please know that we have many members with equally fine accommodations, but we are only mentioning a few here due to space constraints.  Do visit our web pages to discover the others on your own.

Superb fabrics and elegance are hallmarks of Château de l'Isle-MarieThere is Château de l'Isle-Marie in Normandy, selected as one of the 50 Most Romantic Hideaways in the World in 2003.  This photo gives but one example of the exquisite guest rooms designed with amazing good taste.

If you wish to spend some time on the romantic north coast of Brittany, you could not do better than to stay at the delightful Château de Lezhildry.  The picture below illustrates the ambiance created with an impressive antique bed dressed in elegant bed linens surrounded by  medieval Breton granite walls.  Sleep comes easily on lavender scented pillows in this very intimate space.
Lavender scented linens at Château de Lezhildry
Or, perhaps you are headed for the southwest -- we have just the luxury spot you are seeking.  In the heart of the Dordogne, looking down upon the river below, is Château de Rouffillac.  Rented in its entirety, the château offers luxurious guest rooms and is the perfect venue for a wedding in France.   Filled with incredible antique furniture and excellent portraits, this château will enthrall your group of family or friends for that very special occasion.  When you visit their pages on our web site, you will see that the location is right out of a fairy tale!  Imagine your vacation there!Luxury guest room at Château de Rouffillac

Whatever region of France compels you to visit, you are sure to find that there are members of au Château who can provide just the accommodations you will enjoy most.  If you have plans for a group celebration and want to experience it in France, just contact us at,  and we will be happy to assist in finding just the right location for your event. 

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In our next Special Edition . . .

Madame et Monsieur Pariset
. . . we will introduce the lovely Domaine Saint-Pierre de Trapel, the newest member of our web site.  It is located in the popular Aude region of southwestern France -- near Carcassonne and the Cathar castles, the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean -- and Monsieur and Madame Pariset  extend guests a warm welcome and provide fine accommodations. A former wine estate, today it is a charming chambres d'hôtes with beautifully-decorated accommodations and a gîte for four!  Guests will enjoy the swimming pool and seven and a half acres of landscaped grounds in an area of France that offers something new to see and do every day. 

Our newsletter should reach you in mid May.  In the meantime, please visit them on our web pages. 

Village View:  Josselin

Château de Josselin, Brittany

A passing cloud darkens the Oust River creating a dramatic contrast to the
sunlight washing over the walls of Château de Josselin in southern 
Brittany's Morbihan.  A fortification belonging to the Rohan family dynasty,
Olivier de Clisson came into possession of the castle in 1370 when he married 
Marguerite de Rohan.  He added nine towers, four of which are still standing. 
Guided tours of the ground floor take place April through October. 
Visitors will see neo-Gothic and 18th century furnishings, elaborately
 carved chimney pieces, grand portraits and a library remodeled in the 19th
century and holding some 3,000 books.  The  medieval village of Josselin is charming
for walks, visits to the Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Roncier,  the unique Musée 
des Poupées (the Doll Museum), or simply sitting at sidewalk cafés.
For details on château tours, telephone from within France.

[Photo:  Cold Spring Press copyright 2003-2004]

French Quiz 38

    Which of these statements is True?

                 The French invented

(a) the hot air balloon
(b) the photographic process
(c) margarine
(d) the gyroscope
(e) the internal combustion engine
(f) Velcro
(g) the submarine
(h) the stethoscope


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

The Passing of an Icon . . .

A much-admired and innovative member of the world of wine has died -- Claus Josef Riedel -- of a heart attack on March 17th at the age of 79.  Riedel was the trendsetter who discovered that the shape of a wine glass determines how particular wines flow into the mouth -- how they ultimately taste! 

Claus Josef Riedel
The Riedel family had been in the glassmaking business since 1756, but father Walter and son Claus were both imprisoned during World War II, the elder by the Soviets and the younger in Italy by the Americans.  It wasn't until January of 1946 that Claus, the 9th generation glassmaker, went to work at an Austrian glassworks.  When his father was released from prison in 1955 the two joined forces and purchased a bankrupt glassmaking business in Austria to make it their own.

Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Claus was determined to not only continue his family's centuries-old craft, but to contribute more.  His goal was to create stemware that enhanced the flavors of wine.  He understood that different areas of the tongue tasted different qualities in the wine, thus the shape of the glass was paramount.  In 1959 the Corning Museum of Glass gave Riedel's Exquisit Bordeaux glass the designation of 'the most beautiful glass in the world'.  In fact, New York City's  Museum of Modern Art exhibits 128 Riedel glasses as decorative art.

His son, Georg, in charge of the company since 1994, will carry on the family's tradition.  He is already credited with bringing Riedel Crystal to the attention of the world, but he says that his father, Claus, was the true genius in the family.

 Dessert Recipe:   Lavender Flower Crème Brulée

We are extremely fortunate to be permitted to present this recipe with you, thanks to Debbie Puente who published it in her exquisite little book, Elegantly Easy Crème Brulée & Other Custard Desserts.  Debbie is a feature chef on Food TV and has been a guest chef on various TV shows, published Foodstuff Newsletter for several years, and created a special crème brulée for 'her hero', Julia Child.   Her new book, Your Shirt is Not an Oven Mitt:  a Kitchen Survival Manual with 150+ Foolproof Recipes is due out in July.

This recipe is a creation of Florence and Serge Bonnet, French natives, this recipe is popular at the Café Provençal in Thousand Oaks, California.  We thank them all for sharing it with us!  Not difficult to prepare, you will amaze your guests with its unique and delightful fragrance -- and, of course, it is delicious as well!

You will need 4 cups of heavy cream, 1/2 ounce of dried lavender flowers, 8 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and an additional 1/4 cup of granulated sugar for the caramelized top.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  In a large, heavy saucepan bring the cream and the lavender to a gentle boil.  Remove from heat to permit infusion of the lavender with the cream -- for about 4 minutes.  In the interim, whisk the egg yolks with the 1/2 cup sugar until light and creamy.  Remove the lavender from the saucepan...discard it.  Carefully pour the cream into the egg and sugar mixture, blending well.  Strain into a large bowl and skim off any foam or bubbles.

Divide the mixture into six ramekins or custard cups.  Place all into a pan of water that reaches about half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake until the custard is set around the edges but loose in the center -- probably about 40 - 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave in the water until cooled.  Finally, remove each ramekin and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours, or as long as two days.  Be sure to cover each with plastic wrap to prevent the transference of odors or flavors from other foods in the refrigerator.

To serve, lightly sprinkle granulated sugar evenly on each custard. With a small hand-held torch, melt the sugar until evenly browned.  If you don't have a torch, place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler, monitoring them carefully until caramelization is just right.  Chill the custards again for about 10 - 15 minutes before serving. Bon appétit!

[Recipe courtesy 'Elegantly Easy Crème Brulée & Other Custard Desserts'
copyrighted by Debbie Puente and published  by St Martin's Press. 
It is available nationally and internationally on
or in the US at, Debbie's web site. 
Do pay her site a visit. ]

In future issues . . .

We will continue to bring you interesting news about our members, introduce you to those  newly added to our site, and test your knowledge of France with our Quizzes.  Of course, there will be more tempting recipes for you to try in your own kitchen.

Our July / August edition will focus on the numerous chapels found on our members' estates...from the tiniest family chapel to those large enough for a guest's wedding.  We may even fit in an article on the notorious people in history who had connections to the châteaux and manoirs appearing on au Château  --  remember the Black Prince?

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 37 is B,F,D,A,C,E and to Quiz 38 is All.]

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