- Copertina rigida: 224 pagine
- Editore: Rizzoli Intl Pubns; 01 edizione (30 agosto 2005)
- Lingua: Inglese
- ISBN-10: 0847826821
- ISBN-13: 978-0847826827
- Peso di spedizione: 1,2 Kg
French Country Hideaways: Vacationing At Private Chateaus & Manors In Rural France (Inglese) Copertina rigida – 30 ago 2005
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Casey O’Brien Blondes moved to France from her native New York sixteen years ago with her husband. After several years in Paris, the couple moved to a restored farmhouse in the Loire Valley, where Blondes became immersed in the local culture.
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Each presentation includes many photos and a vignette of the owners/hosts and their homes. Photos include views of some rooms, the country settings, and personalizing details such as gardens, animals, foods, decor, but only in a few cases the owners themselves.
Practical information is included in a separate chapter, comprising addresses, phone numbers, and in some cases email addresses and websites. Each location is classified as moderate (70-150 euros/night) or luxury (120-300 euros/night) for double occupancy. Days and hours of operation for coups de coeur are also listed. All information is as of the publication date (2005), and a random search as of Nov 2010 indicated the same in most cases, to approximately 15% higher in some cases.
All in all, we found this to be a helpful planning guide that made us think of visiting some other areas in addition to where we planned to go. It also provides a good peek into how the exurban French live. We'll almost certainly stay at one or two of the locations, and catch an additional "coups de coeur" or two.
This would open up another avenue of staying in a chateau in a French countryside: that is when you choose to stay at either a bed and breakfast type chateaux, which abound in France, or rent a chateau or manoir (gite) of your choice for a week or longer, while you cook your own favorite dishes or seek gourmet food elsewhere in the vicinity of where you stay. And there are books that list many of those boutique chateau hotels, some written in English, but they do not go much into individual details but some key highlights only with only about 8~10 photographs each, similar to this book.
In this book, I found that many of the chateaux the author picked are just large houses (large enough to have rooms to accommodate guests for stay), but devoid of turrets, pepper-pot roofs with dormer windows, or machicolated walkways around a keep or turrets or bartizans with arrow loops (which would add to the mysticism, romanticism, nostalgia and/or grandeur to the impressions of the chateau), except for a very few chosen in this book. But so many highly popular boutique hotels with those design features (some are in hideaway locations, which make them hard to find when driving, such as the highly acclaimed Chateau de Gizeux) which meet all of my three criteria are not in this book, except for chateaux de Brissac, Ternay, Flocelliere and Puymartin. However, Brissac, Flocelliere and Puymartin are so popular and heavily trafficked that I would object to calling them "hideaways." Moreover, they are in the same league as the nationally top-ranked chateau hotels along with Artigny, Briotierres, Gizeux, Olivieres de Salettes, Prye, Reignac, Savigny-sous-Faye, Tanay, etc. (Those three are open also to people wishing only for visitation without lodging or dining, because of their status as "historic monuments.") Does the author know many of those guide book-listed boutique chateaux, I wonder? Granted that those design features are mostly for ornamental purposes after the advent of powerful cannons in late-15th century. (Yes, early cannons started appearing in the Hundred Years War in the 14th century but they were using primitive and meek charges with stone ball shots, which would disintegrate readily upon impact). Some defensive chateau features like crenellated battlements lost their usefulness much earlier, as one hit by an iron ball shot, chain shot or grape shot would destroy crenellations in an instant, as keeps became the desirable targets for early artillery squads. Thus, no-nonsense builders of chateaux did not choose to incorporate many of those features on their post-17th century chateaux except for a few carryovers from the bygone centuries. Thus most of the chateaux she selected are just post-17th century grand maison structures with emphasis on living comforts and conveniences (spaciousness, airiness, more lights with larger windows and en-suite bedrooms), but many in the book are largely unkempt-looking from the outside, with discolored walls, frayed pilasters and in some cases seemingly insect-infested ivy vines covering the structures (If you have vines, insects cannot be avoided no matter how hard you try, and the battle is to prevent them from coming inside the windows and doors), hardly stirring any feelings for romanticism, however quiet they may be. So unless you are a writer, composer, poet, seeking tranquility with some ambience, or an equine-oriented sportsperson, or just want to get immersed with things French with some trailing reverberations of Catholic or Huguenot elegies, I do not think you will see/find much utility in this book. Put another way, if you are looking for a fairy tale castle to lodge, dine and stay, I'd say this is a totally wrong book.
Because of the taxation structures in France, many chateau owners as well as even farmhouse owners choose to make their chateau or place of their abode open to public by making them into either a tourist attraction, a museum, or a hotel, regardless of the quality of their chateaux. (An interesting example is found in Chateau d'Ussé (which is not a lodge but where in many of the rooms there even are mannequins with period costumes and with appropriate postures.) (If it generates revenues, however small amount they may be, it proves that it is made open to public, which make it qualify for some significant tax exemptions.) I felt that this book included many of such "tax shelter seekers' lairs", many with little redeemable values visually or historically. (Only a handful have the "historical monument" status.) Regarding the taxation structures in France, a considerable number of boutique chateau hotels are open only during warm (a.k.a. tourism) seasons, and many are closed to public during winter (which is permitted) so as to save heating and road/trail maintenance bills (most have long private roads leading to the chateau buildings that must be plowed/shoveled) when the lodging business gets very lean in rural France, although some in or near the Alps (e.g. Chateaux de Picomtal, Commanderie, Clairemontaine) or Pyrenees (e.g. Chateaux de Sallettes, d'Aiguefonde), or in balmy Provence enjoy serious business during winter, because of their proximity to great ski resorts or balmy costal ambience for migrating birds. Hence those establishments that are open only part of the year should have been clearly noted in this book also.
When we can find fascinating boutique hotel chateaux in some publications, such as the Michelin Guide or the Brown Guide, we wonder if the author first obtained a "big picture" from which to select her 30 for this book. I'd say, she did not but chose a pedestrian or pilgrimage trek approach without a big selection plan (grand dessin). If the purpose of writing this book was to immerse the readers with things French and the French ambiance, she succeeded to an extent, but that is not what I looked for in this book. Also lamentable was the photographs used in this book (or it may be a cheap offset printing), which leaves much to be desired in terms of sharpness, lack of professional quality in their exposures (some were evidently even out of focus!). Unlike the days of silver hydride films, the photographer today can have much better control over the depth of field (even using the same old lenses) and can do much more with advanced digital cameras today to solve various problems which used to be impossible or very difficult to do in olden days. (For a case in point, Sophie did not need to be placed out of focus while the background walls were in tack sharp focus.) Granted that some photographic images given here are of eye-opening quality, but even total amateurs can occasionally create such, and what separates true professionals from amateurs is the high "batting average" in producing evocative images. And about this I would dare say that sleepy stereotype (a.k.a. postcard) images prevail in this book. They simply prove to show that decent photographic education background can only help so much if the photographer does not put her meticulous care in photo-taking and editing processes. In short, I was expecting more from the book, but after once-over, I do not know if I keep this book, although I did choose a hard cover version, thinking that I would like it for a long time. But now I feel that if I keep it, I may look at it only once in a long while looking for some other sources of this type, including the internet.
But if the author chooses to have a compendium of several additional volumes, I would be interested at least in the chateaux portion of her succeeding volumes. I think, however, that if she starts out with a rough total number of chateaux in France as many as 40,000 as she quotes, I would conjecture that such a count must include those "chateaux" with less than 7 bedrooms (because some French people, mostly "petit bourgeois class" folks, like to call their independent homes with more than 3 bedrooms "chateau" in their attempt to impress others or those of others in their expression of respect or reverence therefor), but the "chateaux of this category can hardly function as a place of accommodation unless the owner's family and staff all live outside the main building. (Many places of this category are put up for rent in near the coasts in summer, as the name "chateau" would hopefully bring in higher rentals. So if you start out with a chateaux with at least 10 bedrooms, my conjecture is that this total should wind down to about 8,000~8,600. Indeed, there are chateaux that have more than 40 bedrooms, such as Chateau de Montbrun in Haute-Vienne (not to be confused with a much smaller bed and breakfast chateau of the same name in Touraine) and another in Versailles ("Le Petit Chateau de Versailles") near the famous palace, but they are certainly too popular (heavily trafficked) and definitely not hideaway establishments.