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          La Rentrée des Classes  . . .  September / October 2004


School has begun -- time to travel!

August is past and by the time you read this children everywhere will have returned to their studies.  For those of you who are not teachers or don't have to plan vacations around the school year, now may be the perfect time to visit France!

We have always recommended September (and often October) for many reasons, but the two most important are that when classes are in session, there are fewer and, sometimes, no waiting lines at any of the most popular attractions.  The second reason is that the weather is wonderful -- do any of you remember September of 1999 in France?  From Strasbourg to Brittany and at all the stops in between, our days were filled with blue skies and temperatures hovering at 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius).   We hear that, although this August was quite a rainy month, September this year is just beautiful!

October may be a bit cooler and crisper, but is usually quite nice as well.  Last October had some rain, but it was much needed in France, so even we visitors didn't object.

Of course, France is lovely in all seasons.  Perhaps you are currently planning an autumn or winter visit.    Do check the châteaus and manor houses on our web site for those accepting guests now or for Christmas and the New Year.  Although many properties close on La Toussaint (All Saints Day, November 1) and reopen just after Lundi de Pâques (Easter Monday), many of our members keep their homes open all year long to welcome guests.  This information is on each property's web page.

Remember, we are here to help:  contact us at with any of your questions or concerns at any time or if you are having any difficulty communicating with or reaching a proprietor on our web site.

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The Black Prince and other visitors . . .

Général Marquis de LafayetteAre you a history buff?  Do you find it fascinating when you visit a place and hear that  "George Washington slept here" ?    Although George Washington never slept at any of our member properties, you will find trees he sent from Virginia growing at Château de Boucéel in Normandy and read more about his connection to Général Marquis de Lafayette, the ancestor of Château de Vollore's owner.   We have properties on au Château with bragging rights to many an historical guest.  Let's find out who some of them were.

We  can begin with recent history and General Dwight D. Eisenhower:  he slept at Château Les Hauts in what is now called the Eisenhower Guest Room in the canopied bed.  It was near the end of World War II in 1944 when he visited the château, strolling along the gentle garden slopes and seeing that extraordinary view of Le Mont Saint Michel across the bay.

Owned  in the 1920s by Elisina Tyler,  the American great-great granddaughter of Napoléon's brother, Louis, King of Holland, (although neither brother slept there),  Antigny-le-Château has another claim to fame: Elisina's dear friend, American writer Edith Wharton, was a regular guest whose chauffeur came to live there following her death and stayed until 1978!

The absolutely wonderful Château de la Ballue high on a hill in Brittany hosted such world-famous personages as Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac -- and more recently inspired artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Monory.  Authors were frequent guests at châteaux in France, such as Charles Perrault,  who created his story Puss in Boots after being inspired by Château de Crazannes.Colette  He modeled the count in his story after Jules Gouffier, the château's owner at the time.  We'll return later to Crazannes to tell of some of its other visitors!   

But what about the Black Prince?  Well, he made his mark on many fortresses and châteaux in France in the 14th century and, in many cases, by burning them down.  And, just who was the Black Prince?  Born in 1330, he was son of King Edward III of England.  He died at the age of 46, and,  because his father outlived him, he never became the King of England. Edward, the Black Prince from Cassell's History of England  Also known as Edward Prince of Wales, he was considered a hero by the British for winning the battles of Crécy and Poitiers.  He may best be remembered by the French, however, for the slaughter of 3,000 townspeople in Limoges in 1370 in his attempt to put down a rebellion.  Prince Edward was the father of King Richard II,  later deposed by Edward's nephew, King Henry IV.

So, where did the Black Prince sleep?  He stayed at the Keep at Château de Saint-Loup and imprisoned the King of France, Jean le Bon, there following the battle of Poitiers in 1356.  In fact, the château was built in the shape of an 'H' to later honor the Black Prince's nephew, King Henry IV.  And, although he didn't sleep there, the Black Prince had his army set Château du Fraisse afire that same year.  In 1362 he stayed a short time at Château de Crazannes, and, thankfully, didn't burn it down!  He also had a more remote connection with Manoir de Bellauney in that this fine medieval manoir was built on the site of a monastery burned to the ground by his father, Edward III. 

King François IKing François I also had connections to several of our member properties, but first a little background.  The King had huge military failures, primarily in Italy, but on the domestic front he was enormously successful in developing the French Renaissance.  Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini and others of distinction worked in his court.  He founded the College of France and his achievements remain evident in the grand châteaux of the Loire such as Chambord and the royal residence at Fontainebleau. 

But, what of his connection to au Château members?  It was King François I who paid a visit to Château de Crazannes in 1519 during his travels to the region.

We have, no doubt, overlooked some notable people in this summary, but when you visit a property's pages on our site, do read the history we provide.  Perhaps you will find someone interesting, and when you tuck yourself in for the night at one of the châteaux, you can remember that someone of historical, literary or otherwise significant importance 'slept here'.

Wine Tours ~ Le Prieuré au Château de Biron

Our member, Le Prieuré au Château de Biron in the Dordogne, is offering a special Wine Tour package for guests in September, October and November. 

Experience the flavor of the region and its wines with a guided wine tour!  Imagine traveling through the beautiful, rolling countryside in the southwest of France - the area where the love of wine intermingles with history - visiting châteaux, ancient bastide towns and medieval villages. Wine at Le PrieuréThe beginnings of mankind were recorded through paintings on the walls of caves and in the restored villages nestled close to the many rivers that wander through this land of tranquil, outstanding natural beauty. 

Autumn in southwest France's wine country is sublime - an experience to be treasured forever. 

For details about this package or to find out about the many offers from our other members, visit our Special Offers page with just a click!

French Quiz 41

How much do you know about Normandy?  Answer the following True or False.

1.   Normandy is known for its cheese, cider and horses. 
2.   The people of Normandy are a blend of Viking Norsemen and Gaulish tribes.
3.   Upper Normandy was occupied during the Franco-Prussian War.
4.   Normandy became part of France in 1402.
5.   The Romans established the capital of Rouen in 56 BC, calling it Rotomagus.
6.   The French reprocess nuclear waste in Normandy.
7.   Yellow fields of rapeseed can be found in Normandy.
8.   Le Mont Saint-Michel has always been officially in Normandy.


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

Member News . . .

From time to time we have to say good-bye to a member of our web site.  In recent years Château de Belcaire in the foothills of the Pyrénées was sold to become a private residence, and Château de Castelpers, a personal favorite in the Aveyron, closed its doors to guests. 

It is with regret that we bring you the news that Château de La Crée, one of our original members, has been sold.  As a wine domaine in the same family for generations, it must have been a difficult decision for the family to sell the château and vineyards.  Although the wine production will continue with the new owner, guest rooms will no longer be offered.

But, despite changes in ownership, there is some good news as well.  Over a year ago, we sadly removed the beautiful Château de Montgouverne in the Loire from our web site as it, too, was being sold.  We have recently heard from the new owners and they will be rejoining au Château toward the end of 2005.  We couldn't be more pleased!

Château du Bas du Gast in Laval has also undergone some changes.  Under current ownership, it will only be accepting guests until the end of September.  Then its doors will close until the Spring when the new owners will reopen once again as a refined bed and breakfast.   It will remain on our web site with contact information so that you can make reservations in advance for mid-2005 and later.

Recently, Château de Chauvac became the property of Mary LaPiana and Jim Thompson, and is continuing to accept guests as it has in the past with its two previous owners.  We have visited Chauvac ourselves on two occasions, and we know you will find it as charming and welcoming as we did.  Their new phone and fax number when dialing from outside France is

Lastly, Château du Breuil in western France is changing ownership and no longer accepting guests.  It is with great sadness that we have deleted their pages from au Château, as our own visit there last year was a most pleasant and memorable one. 

So, if you are looking for a particular property and can no longer find it on our site, we hope this explanation has helped.  Don't hesitate to contact us about any property if you are having difficulty locating it or communicating with the owners -- or if you are having trouble making contact by fax or email.  We'll be more than happy to assist.  You can reach us at

Village View:  Èze, Côte d'Azur

Maison d'Èze - copyright 2001

If you enjoy the charm of cobblestoned streets and winding alleyways, 
then the Provençal village of Èze is the perfect destination. 
Perched high on a hill offering spine-tingling views of the Mediterranean far 
below, this village with its sights and fragrances will remain in your heart forever.
 The painting above depicts one home's hidden doorway -- a residence tucked
away among lush gardens and enveloped in ancient honey-colored stone walls.

[Watercolor "Maison d'Èze" 2001 copyright D. Ohanian]

Château Coulon Laurensac:  Amid Bordeaux's vineyards

At the eastern edge of the city of Bordeaux you will find the inviting Château Coulon Laurensac offering guests almost any variety of accommodation they could want from nightly or weekly bed and breakfast to self-catering holiday gîtes.  All rooms are non-smoking and have spacious interiors, en suite bathrooms -- and some have Jacuzzi tubs!

Château Coulon Laurensac

Your host and hostess, Ronald and Margaret Rens, will greet you in French, English, Dutch or German, so you are sure to feel right at home.  They love to share their knowledge of wines, and both Madame and Monsieur are certified by the Dutch Wine Academy.  They've owned the château since 2002 and have refurbished it to a very high standard.  Guest accommodations have all modern amenities without sacrificing comfort and good design.  Ancient stone walls and old tile floors add to the ambiance and authenticity of many of the rooms.
Coulon Garden Room
Gourmet dinners are served at the château for guests where wines from their superb cellar can be sampled.  And, the Rens now offer special wine tours of the region which you can learn more about on their new web site at

Breakfast should not be overlooked, of course, as it is a delightful start to the day at the château. Your host and hostess will assist you with your plans for outings in the region and answer your questions about what to do and see and how to get there.

Very near the famed village of St-Emilion and the Médoc Peninsula, Château Coulon Laurensac offers a centralized base from which to see the region, visit vineyards and take days trips into the wonderful city of Bordeaux with all it has to offer.  And, for those who want some outdoor physical activity to take advantage to the fine climate in the region, there is tennis, golf,
horseback riding, sailing, surfing, fishing, and bicycling -- virtually something for everyone!

Bordeaux is a fine destination for visitors to France  -- a cultured city only a 3-hour high speed train trip from Paris.  With museums and fine restaurants, historic monuments and beautiful parks, it is the centerpiece to any visit to the wine region surrounding it.  Do consider a stay at Château Coulon Laurensac on your next trip to southwestern France.  Visit them soon on our web site.

[Photos copyrighted property of M/M Rens, Château Coulon Laurensac]

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French Quiz 42

    Match the person in the Loire Region with the fact in the second column:

             (1) Jules Verne                      (a) met Joan of Arc in Chinon
                (2) Henri IV                           (b) marries Charles VIII at Château de Langeais
                   (3) Anne de Beaujeu                (c) signed Edict of Nantes 
                      (4) Charles VIII                        (d) lived in the château at Gien
                         (5) Charles VII                          (e) born in Nantes
                            (6) Talleyrand                           (f) died at Amboise
                               (7) Anne of Brittany                   (g) lived at Château de Valençay
                                  (8) Leonardo da Vinci                 (h) died at Château d'Amboise


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

 Easy Recipe:   Moules à La Crème

Mussels in Cream, a recipe coming to us from Normandie,  is a delicious dish and so simple to make.

This recipe requires 8 pounds (4 kgs) of mussels, 2 cups (500 ml) of dry cider, 4 shallots (chopped), 3/4 cup (185g) heavy cream or crème fraîche, 3 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Clean the mussels first by scraping them and removing the beards with a small knife.  Wash in several changes of water and drain completely.

In a pot large enough to hold all the mussels, add the cider and turn the heat on high.  Add the chopped shallots and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add the mussels and stir gently.  Immediately after they open, remove them with a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl covered to keep them warm.  Important:  discard any mussels that do not open!

Cream sauce: pour half the cream into the pot and cook on high until the sauce begins to thicken and is smooth.  Strain into a smaller saucepan, season with salt and pepper and keep warm by covering. 

Beat the remaining cream and egg yolks together in a bowl, and pour this into the small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until thick and very creamy. Do not let it boil!  Stir in the parsley.

This recipe serves 4, so divide the mussels equally onto four warmed plates or into bowls and cover with the sauce.  Serve immediately with fresh,  crisp French baguettes.  Bon appétit!

[Recipe adapted from France the Beautiful Cookbook
 published  by Collins Publishers 1988, 1989, 1990
copyrighted 1989 Weldon Owen Pty Ltd ]

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[The answer to Quiz 41: all True except 4 & 8.  Quiz 42 is 1e,2c,3d,4h,5a,6g,7b,8f]

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