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Winter 2011

In this issue - 

  September in the Southwest

  This issue's Featured Bed & Breakfast

  Our featured Château Rental

  Congratulations to Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart!

 and  more!


 September in the Southwest
~  fine cuisine, elegant châteaux & great people  ~

It can be difficult to choose places to stay when planning a trip, but we can say that our travels to France rarely include hotels (with the exception of Paris), as we are totally spoiled by all the wonderful times we've had in country manoirs and châteaux.  This year's visit was no exception - and perhaps our mini reviews of where we stayed will help to make decisions about your own future visits.  We recommend each and every one of the following manor houses and châteaus to you if you plan to visit the country's southwest.  They are all members of au Château.

Le Clos de la Garenne.  Photo copyright M/Mme François.  All rights reserved.Le Clos de la Garenne is in the tiny town of Puyravault in the Charente-Maritime département along the Atlantic Coast of France.  Brigitte and Patrick François welcome you to their family home, settle you comfortably in your room (or apartment or the cottage, as the case may be), and are happy to answer all your questions about their estate, the surrounding villages and regional attractions.  Nearby is the medieval town of Surgères, the popular port of La Rochelle, and the ancient port of Rochefort where you can visit the site of the reconstruction of L'Hermione, the ship of General Marquis de La Fayette.   There is much to do and see in this peaceful part of France, and a stay at la Garenne is comfortable with lovely breakfasts and dinner by advance arrangement.  It can be a good introduction to visiting the southwest.

Château Meyre - Photo  © 2011 au Château - Cold Spring Press.  All Rights Reserved
Château Meyre

The beautiful Château Meyre, a wine-producing estate that offers luxurious bed and breakfast accommodations, is just north of the city of Bordeaux.  Lovely guest rooms are in both the château and the attached annex - all are en suite.  You can be introduced to the fine wines produced on the estate in the interesting tasting room, and its vineyard views make it a most pleasant place to stay.  From your lodging at Château Meyre, it is an easy drive to the famous wine châteaux of the Médoc peninsula and the city of Bordeaux.

Château Soussac.  Photo copyright M/Mme Beattie.  All rights reserved.Château Soussac in Gironde wine country is a fine base for visits to the vineyards of Bordeaux, Sauternes, St Emilion and Bergerac - and the villages and cities associated with them.  Nell and Joe Beattie provide spacious en suite guest rooms, delightful breakfasts, and superb dinners in their lovely dining room. Nell is a fine chef who obviously enjoys preparing delectable meals for her guests. Wine producers themselves, the Beatties might show you around their chai to explain the process used in making their fine wines.  Views over the vineyards will make the experience of a stay at Château Soussac complete. 

Villa Vauréal.  Photo copyright C. Rannou-Ader.  All rights reserved.Words cannot describe the charm and ambiance found at Villa Vauréal in Biarritz.  This in-town walled retreat will make you forget you are in a lively and bustling small city, but you won't forget you are steps from the beach where surfers ride the waves well into the dark of night.  The rooms at Villa Vauréal are warm and beautifully appointed, breakfast in the garden is sunny and a great way to begin each day, and the six-car garage for guests is truly an added bonus in a city where parking is at a premium.  Your hostess, Christine Rannou-Ader could not be more delightful and helpful, making your decision to stay in her home the perfect choice.

Château d'Agel.  © Martine Ecal-Besse.  All rights reserved.Although our itinerary this year did not allow for time stay at Château d'Agel in the Hérault, we were able to spend a few hours visiting with the owners, Martine and Jean-Marie Ecal-Besse, and take a tour of the château as well as to learn about their plans for adding more guest rooms and a poolhouse.  The weather was beautiful that day, and we enjoyed sitting on the terrace with Madame Ecal-Besse to hear about the history of medieval château and of her family who have owned it for many decades.  In addition to the dramatic architecture, it is lovingly maintained and cared for and is a fine weekly rental for those who want to explore all there is to see in the Languedoc region.

La Terrasse de Lautrec.  Photo copyright D. Ducoudray.  All rights reserved.The village of Lautrec in the Tarn is delightful and where you will find the village's lovely manoir, La Terrasse de Lautrec.  A warm welcome is always given to guests by owner Dominique Ducoudray, and this was, happily, our second stay at La Terrasse.  You'll be comfortable in rooms overlooking the place or one with a view of the gardens which are spectacular. Enjoy walking all the winding village lanes up to the windmill and past the church, and don't forget that important stop at a little shop selling the region's famous l'Ail Rose - sweet, pink garlic that brings gourmands from far and near!  You'll find people from many countries are in Lautrec to experience the endless charm of this village and for the garlic! This is a 'don't miss' stop when you are in the southwest of France.

Be sure to consider either Château de la Bourgonie or Château de la Poujade, owned by Count and Countess de la Commarque, as weekly rental, self-catering accommodations in the Dordogne.  Their rooms are beautifully decorated and spacious, and each property offers a quiet estate where you can truly experience château life.  Both are in a region of the Dordogne giving easy access to Sarlat, Domme and the prehistoric sites at Les Eyzies de Tayac and Lascaux II. 

Château de la Bourgonie.  © Cold Spring Press 2011.  All rights reserved.Château de la Poujade.  © Cold Spring Press 2011.  All rights reserved.
Château de la Bourgonie                        Château de la Poujade

Le Prieuré du Château de Biron.  Photo copyright E. Védier.  All rights reserved.The memorable and unique village of Biron is home to Le Prieuré du Château de Biron.  Many of the exceptional en suite guest rooms allow you to see the phenomenal sunsets each evening.  To emphasize how much we enjoy Le Prieuré, this was our second visit and will not be our last, and the new owner of the priory, Elisabeth Védier, is most welcoming and attentive.  Guests will appreciate the quiet little village, the massive Château de Biron (open to the public), and the central location in the Dordogne not far from Monpazier, Beynac et Cazenac, Bergerac and other interesting towns in the region.

Domaine des Faures.  Photo copyright M/Mme Standen.  All rights reserved.Not far from Biron is Domaine des Faures.  This property is rented by the week, and its owners, Jacinta and Ray Standen, warmly welcomed us for a brief tour of the property.  They are very proud of their lovely domaine and their small organic cattle herd.  It is a lovely place with spacious rooms and a bright and spotless kitchen.  The photos on our web site don't do it justice.  Those who make this their base for a week or longer will find themselves a minute or two from the bastide village of Monpazier and near all the charm and attractions of the wonderful Périgord.

Château du Bois Noir. Photo copyright M/Mme Van Ampting.  All rights reserved.A delightful time was spent at the incredible bed and breakfast, Château du Bois Noir - from the spacious, elegant en suite bedroom with views in three directions to the exquisite dinners in an amazing dining room.  And dinners were truly exquisite: well-planned menus with beautifully-presented courses accompanied by fine wines and home-made unique desserts. There was nothing that wasn't perfect at Bois Noir.  Our host and hostess, Henk and Henriette Van Ampting, made us feel welcome and at home, while still treating us like very special guests.  Their happy personalities combined with the obvious love they have for this immaculate, classical château, will long be a highlight in our memories of this year in France.

Château du Fraisse © Cold Spring Press 2011.  All rights reserved.The owners of Château du Fraisse - a château in the Haute-Vienne that has been in the same family for nearly 800 years - warmly welcomed us for our third visit.  Count and Countess des Monstiers seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them.  Our room, with views over the estate, was comfortable and cozy.  Breakfast each morning begins with an offering of croissants, breads, cereal, fruit, juices, coffee or tea and, if you ask, a hard-boiled egg.  Wander around the estate to see the greenhouses of organic vegetables, watch fish jumping in their brook, and visit the local historic towns in the region - your time at Château du Fraisse will always be calm and relaxing.  Once we are there, we instantly know why we keep coming back.  This dear couple are now old friends, and we know it won't be our last visit. 

Château de la Motte d'Usseau   © M/Mme Bardin.  All rights reserved.Lastly, before returning to Paris, we drove north to the Vienne département and visited Château de la Motte d'Usseau, also a return visit after several years.  Knowing, of course, that we would be able to enjoy Madame Bardin's fine cuisine, we arranged to have dinner at the château both evenings with the other guests and Monsieur and Madame Bardin.  Our room, the medieval Geoffrey du Bec, was exceptional.  This fairytale castle offers everything and anything a guest at a French château could want or dream of ~ lovely gardens, a spectacular location and the nicest owners to greet you and make your stay memorable.  The château also hosts weddings, and in addition to B&B accommodations, there are several gîtes for self-catering week-long stays.  Don't pass it by!

As you can see, these properties in varied country settings differed in architecture and amenities, but all were hosted by kind and generous people who love welcoming guests into their homes.  Each offered very personal experiences that travelers will never have at a hotel.  Staying at bed and breakfast accommodations in châteaus and manor houses offers you an opportunity to meet other people with whom you may keep in touch over the years - people who share the same interests and enjoy the same experiences as you - after all, they made the decision to stay in a château, too!

Please visit each of these properties on our web site.  You may find that one or more of them will be along the route of your next visit to France.

[Photos are property of château owners except photo of Château Meyre
which is property of au Château / Cold Spring Press.   All rights reserved.]

French Quiz 109

Where are we? 

Give the EXACT name of the bridge and the city where it is located.
We think this one is far too easy, so act quickly to get your answer to us first!

Quiz 109 - Photo copyright Cold Spring Press 2011.  All rights reserved.

 The first person whose email is received with the correct answer
will receive our exclusive FRANCE 2012 Calendar not available anywhere else!

Send your answer by email to

See the answer to the last issue's Quiz at the end of this newsletter.
The answer to this quiz will appear in our Spring 2012 newsletter.

[Photo © 2011 Cold Spring Press.  All Rights Reserved.]

Featured Bed & Breakfast:
Château de la Ballue in Brittany

The grand Château de la Ballue

Château de la Ballue & its Incredible Gardens

We will never forget our stay at Château de la Ballue.  This elegant château perched on a hill in Brittany with never-ending views should be the destination for garden lovers and anyone seeking a rare and unique château experience.  With four en suite guest rooms and a suite - all with canopy beds - guests are assured comfort and peace in this lovely region of France.

Not far from St Malo and le Mont St-Michel, Château de la Ballue has been the destination of choice for artists, writers and other prestigious guests for well over a century - from Victor Hugo and Châteaubriand to artist Robert Rauschenberg.  We couldn't resist including this dramatic photo taken in the winter of 2010 [©Y. Monel] of the view of the snowy countryside from the château and a photo taken in a warmer season of the same view and some of the magnificent gardens.

Valley in Winter from Château de la Ballue ©Y. MonelView and gardens of Château de la Ballue

It all began in 1620 with the building of the château, but it wasn't until the 1970s that the 17th century gardens were rescued and redeveloped by two famous designers.  In 1999 they were officially declared an historical monument.  Wander through contrasting «rooms» of the garden, ever changing through the seasons of the year, and sense the beauty and serenity of this very special place.

To entice you, we are providing a link to some short videos of the gardens being tended and to give you a tour of the château and estate.  Click here.  We hope you enjoy your virtual visit and will make it a real one very soon.

Classical music and dance programs are organized at the château during many seasons of the year.  See more about the events in 'News from our Members' later in this newsletter.

Please contact the château directly at for booking information or details about their special cultural events and garden tours.

[Photos courtesy of Madame Mathiot-Mathon, Château de la Ballue, unless
otherwise indicated.   © 2012 All Rights Reserved.]

***Special Offer***
from France Magazine
just for au Château News  readers . . .

Click here to learn more.

Congratulations to
Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart

Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart sign.  Photo copyright Laurence Ployez.  All rights reserved.Wine Spectator's most recent issue recognized Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart's Champagnes once again, giving them high numbers for quality and taste.  In the December New Releases the Domaine's Champagnes scored high.  Here are the results.

Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs  2002 [91] ..."mouthwatering, citrusy finish."

Brut Liesse d'Harbonville 1996 [94]..."finely detailed texture...harmonious"

Brut  Extra Quality NV [90]..."crisp notes of Granny Smith apple...bright...lively"

Extra Brut Rosé NV [92]..."hints of brioche, hazelnut, smoke...long, mouthwatering finish"

  *NV = Non-Vintage

We are very proud to count Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart among our web site's members, and we send our congratulations to Madame Laurence Ployez whose hard work and extensive knowledge produce some of France's best quality Champagne!

And, remember this is also a lovely and welcoming bed and breakfast where guests can enjoy spacious, comfortable rooms, delicious breakfasts and perhaps have a tour of the Champagne rooms and vineyards.

  Villes et Villages de France

 . . . we hope to tempt you to visit these marvelous places
when you are roaming through the French countryside.

Beautiful Lannemezan in the Hautes-Pyrénées. © 2011 au Château - Cold Spring Press.  All Rights Reserved

                                                                                  Flower-bedecked Lannemezan

We were lucky enough to stay at Château Barbé just outside of Lannemezan, a sparkling village that encourages visitors to walk along its shop-filled streets.  There were many restaurants and brasseries in town from which to choose for lunch that day in September, and we found the perfect place where we sat to dine outside on a small raised porch on this sunny day.

Lannemezan's Memorial to its fallen heroes.  © 2011 au Château - Cold Spring Press.  All Rights ReservedThere were photos to take of the Hôtel de Ville (as shown above), the baskets and tubs of flowers everywhere, and of the fine memorial to the town's fallen heroes in past wars.  The brilliant light of a clear day near the Pyrénées kept our cameras busy. 

A visit to this part of France is highly recommended.  If you are driving on the A64 autoroute, east or west, Lannemezan is very accessible.  Like many small villages and towns in France, there is a sense of community here...of people knowing each other well.  And, as you can see in the photo, little traffic to disturb the peace and quiet.  Enjoy!

If you decide to spend some time in this region of southwest France, lovely accommodations and superb gourmet cuisine can be yours at Château Barbé - a small and charming Napoléon III château whose owner is a Michelin trained chef.  It is a few minutes drive from Lannemezan, and you will receive a warm welcome from its young proprietors.

[Photos of Lannemezan © 2011 Cold Spring Press.  All Rights Reserved.]

 Our Featured Château Rental . . .
Château de la Vernède, Languedoc 

Château de la Vernède.  Photo copyright Mme. Grassiot.  All rights reserved.

It is said (and it is true) that location is everything.  Château de la Vernède confirms that as it is in the département of the Gard (near the Pont du Gard), yet it is also only a five-minute drive from the beautiful Provençal city of Avignon with its charm, culture and attractions.

The château offers guests the opportunity to rent it on a weekly basis, and it has ten en suite guest rooms for a maximum of 20 people.  Arrangements can be made for breakfast service, a chef to prepare dinners, and it is air conditioned.  Satellite television, high-speed Internet access, a stereo system as well as the day-to-day conveniences like a dishwasher, iron, clothes washer and dryer are all part of the amenities.  Guest rooms also have hair dryers in the en suite bathrooms, a safe for valuables, and are non-smoking.

Château guest room.  Photo copyright Mme. Grassiot.  All rights reserved.The pool at Château de la Vernède.  Photo copyright Mme. Grassiot.  All rights reserved.

                                    A guest room at the château                               The pool in a lovely landscaped park 

The property has many shady terraces and other outdoor areas for relaxation including a beautiful swimming pool and a tennis court.  Guests will find themselves living equally as much outdoors as in.  But, the interior has many pleasant spaces to ensure that those who stay here lack no conveniences as there is a salon with a fireplace, a study, a fully-equipped kitchen with professional range, dishwasher and large refrigerator/freezer, and a fine dining room with a vaulted ceiling.

Please visit Château de la Vernède on our site to learn more.  [Note: as of November 2013 this property is no longer available.]

[Photo credits © 2008-2011 Madame Grassiot.  All Rights Reserved.]


Red Balloon Travel Consulting

Red Balloon Travel offers custom French holidays including culinary, countryside, historical,
or even genealogical themed adventures.  As Americans based in Southeast France, their first-hand
 knowledge and accessibility ensure an unforgettable experience exceeding your highest expectations. 
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  News from our Members . . .

  • The owners of Château de la Vigne, a magnificent Medieval château in the Cantal, will offer a bed and breakfast room in their Paris apartment in 2012 - and perhaps the ability to rent the entire apartment when you are in Paris.  More information will be coming soon on our web site on Château de la Vigne's pages.

  • The time has come for us to sadly bid adieu to three of our long-time members.  First, there is Château de Talhouët, a member of our site since 2002 that has welcomed us several times as guests.  Many people will be disappointed that they can no longer enjoy the comforts of this fine establishment.  The château is for sale and it's owner, Jean-Pol Soulaine has retired to live in a smaller home.  Next, we say good-bye to Château d'Alogny in the Vienne département and a member since 2003.  It, too, is now for sale to enable its owners to pursue other interests.  Finally, Antigny le Château, with us since 2004, is now being prepared for sale.  Owned for decades and proud of its amazing history history, the family is reluctant to let it go, but the time has come.  We wish all the owners well and hope that the new owners will decide to offer these châteaus once again as rentals or bed & breakfast accommodations for us all to enjoy. [Please see our Châteaux for Sale page for details.]

  • Domaine des Faures wants you to know that they are offering Garden Tours of the Dordogne in 2012 including Scents and Sensations in June, late summer's Mellow Fruitfulness tour (both seven-night tours),  early spring's The Land Awakens tour, and the Flowers and Festivals tour in May (limited openings) ~ the last two can be four- or seven-night tours.  Please contact for upcoming tour dates, availability and prices.  Please be sure to put Faures Gardens in the subject line. 

  • Château des Allues in the Savoie is pleased to announce that its new organic vegetable garden has won a prize from Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France.  You can see a video of this amazing kitchen garden (potager) on YouTube at:

  • Château de la Ballue in Brittany, the above-mentioned Featured Bed & Breakfast, is a magnificent garden paradise and getaway and will host classical music concerts regularly at the château. On April 3rd there will be a special dance program; on April 20 and May 1 garden tours to benefit charity; and professional demonstrations on creating topiaries in the garden will be held May 21 and 22.  Further programs are schedule for June and July to include operas and concerts.  For details and entry fee information, please contact us at and put 'Ballue' in the   subject line.  To see a video of the amazing sculptured gardens of Château de la Ballue and how  please click here

  • Château de la Barre in the Sarthe of the Pays de la Loire is now offering Chinese breakfasts for its guests from China.  Prior reservation is necessary. 

  • Remember that Château Coulon Laurensac offers self-catering gîtes (2 week minimums in July and August) as well as wine tours of Bordeaux's most prestigious château vineyards.  Contact us for more information at

Easy Recipe:  Hot Shrimp on Spinach

Jacques PépinOur favorite French chef is Jacques Pépin, author of over twenty cookbooks, so we are borrowing this delicious recipe from the one entitled Today's Gourmet, published many years ago.  But, his cooking never goes out of style.  This recipe serves four.

You will need a pound of large, shelled shrimp, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon of dried coriander, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.  You will also need 10 ounces of cleaned fresh spinach, 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper for the greens portion of this dish.

Shell the shrimp and sprinkle them with the herbs.  Place them in a single layer in a dish and sprinkle with the oil.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.  When hot, sauté the spinach for 2 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper and combine.  Divide among four plates.

Heat an aluminum or black iron skillet until very hot.  Place the oiled shrimp in one layer in the skillet and cook over high heat for 1 minute.  Turn and cook for 1-1/2 minutes on the other side.

To serve, place 4 shrimp on top of the greens on each plate.  Add 2 tablespoons of water to the juices in the pan and mix to deglaze.  Pour the juices over the shrimp and serve.

Bon appétit!

You will enjoy reading the bestseller, Jacques Pépin's autobiography, 
The Apprentice:  My Life in the Kitchen, available at 
Learn how this man, educated at Columbia University in the fields of 
philosophy and literature - and working toward a Master's degree and PhD.
in French literature - returned to the kitchen and to food, his first love.


  We hope you have enjoyed au Château News.
If you have,  please forward it to friends and 
encourage them to subscribe.  It's FREE!

Answer to Quiz 108 - Where Are We?  from our Summer issue:

The answer to last issue's quiz is Saint Julian Cathedral in Le Mans, France
(Cathédrale St-Julien du Mans).  We had several correct answers, and our
winner is a lady from Texas who travels often to France.
Congratulations to her!

Disclaimer: Cold Spring Press, au Château© and/or any persons associated with either organization do not take any responsibility for errors and/or omissions in any edition of au Château News© and no guarantees are given or implied with regard to the contents of any au Château News©.   The disclaimer on the au Château © web site at, applies in its entirety to all au Château News© editions.  Cold Spring Press and au Château ©  take no responsibility for the contents of any web sites to which links are provided on our site or in any editions of au Château News.  Subscribers receive this newsletter because they have requested to be on our Opt-In mailing list.  To have your email address removed, simply send an email with 'Unsubscribe' in the Subject line to
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