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                         Happy New Year!  January / February 2005


Château of the Month

We want to wish you all the very best for 2005. 

In the past year we were very happy to add sixteen new members to our web site, although we regrettably lost one property in the Vendée that was being sold and whose new owner may no longer provide accommodations to travelers; Château de La Crée in Burgundy was sold and is no longer a chambres d'hôtes; and we have just discovered that Château de Seillans in Provence is on the market, so you will  no longer find it on our web site. 

The new members who joined us this year are in very diverse regions of France from the far southwest of the Pays Basque to the rolling green hills of Burgundy, from Languedoc-Roussillon to Normandy, and from the Drôme to the Loire Valley and the Paris area.  Travelers should be able to find excellent accommodations in historic properties in almost any region of France on the au Château web site.

Although we provide a lot of photos and information about each of our member properties on their pages, we also feature one property each month to provide a more in-depth look at what is offered to its guests in the way of accommodations, things to do at the property, regional attractions and more.  Thus, one year ago we began our 'Château of the Month' feature, and we want to remind you that it is just a click away.  Visit our Welcome page and click on the 'Château of the Month' banner.

This month's selection is Château de Vaulogé in the Sarthe département, quite convenient to Paris yet far enough into the countryside for visitors to experience a complete change of scenery and an entirely different perspective of France.

Chambre CamicolChâteau dining

Vaulogé is unique in that it accents both the French and the Italian in languages spoken and in the cuisine offered at its table.  Rooms are spacious and well appointed, and all have views over the incredible landscape surrounding the château.  Several are in the large round towers, as Chambre Camicol above, creating an interesting guest room indeed!  From the moat and the Swan Garden to the ancient prison and historic chapels, guests will find themselves enthralled by all there is to see and appreciate at Château de Vaulogé.

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Hear's A Journey Provence

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Château de Bournand

A lovely retreat near the Loire Valley

Château de Bournand

Château de Bournand

One of our newest members can boast a superb location for travelers who are interested in visiting the Loire Valley.  Château de Bournand is easily reached by TGV from Paris to the Saint-Pierre des Corps railway station in Tours in one hour and rental cars are readily available.  The château's resident managers will welcome you as either bed and breakfast guests or as weekly rental occupants of the newly-refurbished Carriage House. 

Nearby you can visit the largest 'dolman' in Europe, the access to which has recently opened up to visitors.  This prehistoric site as well as the troglodyte villages lining the Loire Valley remind tourists that France lays claim to more sites of early man than any country in Europe. 

Perennial Garden at BournandThe château itself was acquired in recent years by an American couple, John and Vicki Majors, who have lovingly restored it without sacrificing any of its historic qualities and ambiance.   There are five bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms with showers and queen size beds.  Four of the five are full suites, three with private entrances from the gardens, and three have fireplaces for the enjoyment of their occupants.  Dinners at the château offer delicious regional cuisine and wines.  The grounds include a swimming pool for guests and interesting Celtic gardens. 

  The Perennial Garden

Guest Room at Bournand

Naturally, a visit to this region would not be complete without touring at least a few of the grand châteaux of the Loire in the Valley of the Kings.   Bournand is quite close to the châteaux and towns of Saumur, Chinon and Angers, and not far from Chenonceau, Amboise, Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau and others.  And, the great city of Tours is a short drive north of the château, worth seeing for its fine old town, cathedral and Musée des Beaux Arts.  Don't miss the opportunity to tour the nearby ancient Abbaye de Fontevraud,  burial place of many of the Plantagenet royals and Richard the Lionheart. 

                                                                                                                                                          Luxurious Guest Room

We invite you to visit Château de Bournand on our web pages to view more photos and read about the charm and history of this fascinating and historic home which has its origins in the 11th century. 

[Photos: courtesy of and copyrighted by John & Vicki Majors. All rights reserved.]


Detail:  Niaux Cave
Niaux Cave 

We are pleased to announce that two of our member properties, Château de Garrevaques in the Tarn and Le Prieuré au Château de Biron in the Dordogne, will provide accommodations and evening meals for the 12 participants in an April 12 - 22, 2005 Prehistoric France Tour

The group will be accompanied at all times by two experienced, bilingual guides who have been leading tours in this region of France for 15 years.  They will take travelers to prehistoric sites, bastide towns, charming villages and historic locations  ~ all at an easy and comfortable pace, and in an air-conditioned coach to get from place to place.

Château de GarrevaquesFive wonderful nights each at Château de Garrevaques and Le Prieuré will include luxury accommodations with private baths, evening meals with the group enjoying fine regional cuisine and lively discussion, and personal attention from your hosts and guides.Le Prieuré au Château de Biron

This tour begins and ends in Toulouse, and includes all accommodations, entry fees, ground transportation, breakfasts and dinners.  Lunchtime meals are left open for those who would like to be off on their own to shop, sight see or, perhaps, picnic. 

If you are interested in more details, please click on Prehistoric France Tour above, or send an email to

French Quiz 45

Test your knowledge of Provence's history . . . True or False?

 1.  Prehistoric animals such as the woolly mammoth thrived in Provence.
 2.  The name 'Provence' is from the Roman 'provincia'.
 3.  Much of the Roman construction was borrowed from Greece ~ its architecture
      and its workmen.
 4.  The Marseillaise was written by a staff soldier from Marseille during the Revolution
 5.  Although the British and other Europeans flocked to Provence, it was Americans who
     made the Riviera a tourist mecca.
  6. The bikini bathing suit was first worn in Provence in 1956 by Brigitte Bardot at the Cannes
      Film Festival.


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


Win 2 Nights in a French Château !

If you are planning a visit to France in the new year, you may be able to win 2 nights in one of the châteaus on our web site. Aerial View of Château du Fraisse

How to enter:  Anyone booking a two-night reservation for a stay between March 15 and October 15, 2005 at any property on our web site is eligible to win.  Simply book and confirm your reservations with a deposit, and then let us know about it.  Tell us where you will stay and the dates of your stay.  Your name will then be placed in our drawing!  There will be only one winner whose entry will be selected in a random drawing on February 14, 2005. [If your visit to France includes multiple 2-night bookings at any other of our member properties, you may enter the contest once for each booking.]

Second, your prize:  two nights for two (one room, double occupancy including breakfast each morning) at Château du Fraisse, a magnificent thirteenth century château in the tranquil Haute-Vienne of France's Limousin region -- not far from Limoges famous for its porcelain, the Monts de Blond scenic area, the River Vienne, the Aubusson and Felletin tapestry centers and the memorial village of Oradour-sur-Glane,  among other attractions.

Your host and hostess, Count and Countess des Monstiers Mérinville, are warm, welcoming and very charming.  They will ensure that you are comfortable and relaxed in their historic family home, and they will give you recommendations for and assistance with activities to occupy your days in their part of France.  And, you'll love the dog!!

That's all there is to it!  So, if you are planning to visit France during that eight-month period next year, do enter our contest!  If you have any questions, please contact us by email at with the word 'Contest' in the subject line.

Domaine le Vallon 

Set in the vineyards of Provence

Joining our web site on New Year's Eve day, Domaine le Vallon is really our newest member! This exquisite residence, owned by Fred and Michèle Vogt, is ready to accept guests in its beautiful rooms. 

Domaine le Vallon


One's  arrival down the long driveway lined by plane trees is the beginning of a truly Provençal experience  ~ whether dining en plein air, wandering among the grapevines or enjoying the delightful salt-water pool, the park of Domaine le Vallon will provide a tranquil vacation.  Your hosts will share a glass of 'coups de coeur le Vallon' when you arrive at the Domaine, just one example of their friendliness and their desire to make your stay with them perfect from beginning to end.

Chambre Les Dentelles
Accommodations are offered in three wonderful guest rooms, all tastefully decorated and all en suite.  Large beds, and fine fabrics and furniture fill rooms that have ancient tile floors, beamed ceilings and unique windows looking out on the landscape.  This room, Chambre Les Dentelles, also has an adjoining sitting room with views of the park. The dining room and salon are inviting and comfortable, decorated in warm and cheerful Provençal style and colors.  And, all rooms are non-smoking.

      Chambre les Dentelles with classic Provençal canopy bed

Breakfasts, taken either in the dining room or under the plane trees in the garden, is included in the price of the room.  Dinner, with advance reservation, is served in the elegant dining room on those balmy Provençal evenings.

Nearby is the lively market town of Carpentras  ~ don't miss the market!  You will find almost anything you could possibly want there, from an amazing selection of Provençal fabrics to fine food including olives of all kinds, cheese, charcuterie, local produce, art work, ceramics and even musical entertainment!   It's a great place to stock up for a picnic lunch!   Wine aficionados will revel in the area vineyards including the towns and appellations of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise and Châteauneuf du Pape.  And, the nearby Rhône River is a focal point of the region, a region which is perfect for outdoor activities such as cycling, canoeing, mountain climbing, hiking, and golfing.  The Camargue, Fontaines de Vaucluse, Plateau de Sault, and Gorges de la Nesque are also within easy reach.  There is so much to do and see in the area, we could not possibly mention it all.

Dining en plein air
Dining en plein air under the plane trees

Provence has always been a favorite destination of travelers, and it is places such as Domaine le Vallon that increase its appeal.  The Domaine makes a perfect home base from which to set out each morning to explore the region, and it is a tranquil and relaxing place to return to at the close of each day to unwind, take a swim or simply enjoy a bit of the Provençal lifestyle.  We hope you will visit their pages on au Château soon.

[Photos courtesy and copyrighted by M. et Mme Vogt.  All rights reserved]

An Amazing View:  Viaduc de Millau 

Le Viaduc de Millau

On December 17, 2004, the world's tallest bridge opened in France ~ one month
ahead of schedule.  In conjunction with connecting two parts of the
A75 autoroute (a 40 kilometer stretch), this bridge, financed completely
by private funds and future tolls, spans the Tarn River between two plateaus. 
It is now part of  the most expedient automobile route from north to south,
not only in France but in Europe.  This amazing engineering feat was the work of 
an English architect, French engineers and Spanish/American hydraulic technology. 
 So, the next time you visit the Tarn département of the Midi-Pyrénées,
you can experience driving 891 feet above the Tarn River valley floor 
on the exciting and exceptional Viaduc de Millau ~ certainly one of a kind!

[Photo credits:  Associated Press 2004]

A Sponsor of Our Newsletter. . .

From the Eiffel Tower to the Pont du Gard:  FRANCE On Your Own

Planning your own trip to France? Want to learn more about the
different regions of the country or cultural events taking place in France,
or are you eager to read insider articles about France? Then click 
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French Quiz 46

    What do you know about France's wines?   Match the following:

             (1) Varietals                                (a) Rhône reds
                (2) Minervois & Corbières              (b) Drink within 6 months of harvest
                   (3) Muscadet & Pouilly-Fumé        (c) Reds from Burgundy
                      (4) Hermitage & Gigondas           (d) Wines of the Loire
                         (5) Barsac & Coteaux du Layon  (e) Alsace
                            (6) Pinot Noir                        (f) Wines of Languedoc-Roussillon
                               (7) Beaujolais                      (g) Bordeaux wines
                                  (8) Mostly Whites               (h) Sweet wines


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

 Easy Recipe:   Pavé de Turbot

We're off to the Pays Basque in the spring, so we thought we'd offer a recipe from the region.  This is a specialty of l'Auberge Kaïku in the outstanding port city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. 

You will need one turbot cut into fillets, 2 eggplants, olive oil, an onion, a red bell pepper, a tomato, salt and fresh ground pepper, 5 garlic cloves and fish stock.

Bake the eggplant in the oven until the skins turn brown and begin to blister.  Halve them and remove the flesh with a wooden spoon.   Peel the onion and cut into thin slices.  Wash the bell pepper and cut into thin slices.  Drop the tomato into boiling water until the skin comes loose, peel it and remove the seeds. Dice. 

In olive oil, braise the vegetables, adding the cooked eggplant.  Simmer slowly for 5 minutes, stirring all the time.  Season.  Simmer the garlic cloves in a small pan in olive oil.  Remove them, but reserve the oil. 

Grill the fish fillets on each side until crispy.  Season.  Bring fish stock to a boil.  Place two tablespoons of vegetable mix on a plate and place the fish fillet on top.  Beat the garlic oil into the fish stock and drizzle over the fillets.

Garnish with leeks that have been julienned and then fried and a salsa made from red and green peppers. Bon appétit!

[The Kaïku is a well-known restaurant  in an old stone building at the harbor. 
This recipe courtesy of Culinaria France, published by Könemann, Germany, 2004.]

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 45 - 1 (landscape too barren for prehistoric creatures to survive), 4 (soldier was Alsatian), and 6 (it was 1947 and the lady was Martine Carol) are false;  Quiz 46 1g, 2f, 3d, 4a, 5h, 6c, 7b, 8e]

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