Friday Fun: Castles in the snow, that is what we are…

In summer we might be islands in the stream, but in winter, I feel more like a castle in the snow, don’t you? And, since it’s escapist Friday, we won’t even worry about the heating bills!

Some day I will get to see this enormous monument (and hotel, I believe) in Quebec City, from
I’ve featured the beautiful Chateau de Gudanes before, but here it is in its winter coat. From (they do an advent calendar as well, good to know for next year)
Almost as stunning as Versailles, the frozen grounds of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which is open for wedding bookings if you are thus inclined! From Sumptuous Events.
The most famous German castle, Neuschwanstein, looks like a dream in winter. From
But there are other dreamy German castles too, such as the Hohenzollern one, which makes me wonder why they bothered to leave it in order to become kings of Romania (a country they had no connection with) in 1881. From
A more modest castle, which I visited many a time with my young children, Chateau de Chillon in Switzerland, in whose dungeons lurked a prisoner whose sorry fate inspired Byron. From
A rather charming poster of Chateau de Chillon, from Swiss flag is indispensable, of course!

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating, and a happy end of the calendar year to everyone! Hope you get a chance to rest and recharge your batteries!

Friday Fun: Back to What I Do Best…

When things go against you and the entire family collapses with something that could be flu or bronchitis or tonsillitis or all three rolled into one, one should stick to what one knows and likes best, namely my beloved chateaux or manor houses, which is how Friday Fun got started.

In previous years, I might have been tempted to do a World Cup of stately homes from the countries participating in the FIFA World Cup, but this year it has been so problematic (not that I was any happier about 2018) that I will just stick to a few sturdy favourites. Oh, and they all are (or were until recently) for sale, so better hurry!

Chateau Pezenac in France, from Sotheby’s Real Estate.
Chateau in Provence, from Knight Frank.

Wonder if the sheep come with the property? Chateau de Marsan, from The Glam Pad.
Chateau Marsan is available for sale with all its interior decorations, which, as you can see, are very chateau-like indeed.
Not just France, Italy also provides stunning locations for villas, this one is popular as a wedding location. From Luxury Architecture.
The Italians never stint on their external decorations, unlike the more austere French exteriors. From Mansion Global.
This Chateau Hauteville in Switzerland was put on sale by the family for auction with all its contents and was purchased by Pepperdine University for its European campus.
The Neo-Gothic splendour of Miclauseni Castle in Romania, from Tripadvisor.

Friday Fun: For Lovers of Old Stones

There was an expression much used by estate agents in France while I was living there ‘for lovers of old stones’. This typically was used when advertising dilapidated old chateaux or farmhouses for sale, with a lot of exposed rustic stone walls. I have to admit, I am a hopeless romantic and love those old stones – although I could not embark upon some of those overly ambitious renovations. Here are some that are more or less finished.

Converted coach house, from

Mexican style villa and porch, from CN Traveller.

Converted barn or stable, from Pinterest.
Chateau de Moissac, main staircase (I believe the chateau is for sale, if you are interested), from The Paper Mulberry.

I may have mentioned Chateau de Gudanes a few times before, which is being painstakingly renovated to its original glory. From Harpers Bazaar.

Chateau des Arpentis is a guest house in Touraine, Loire. Photo credit: Lucie Damiens.

Here is a modern American interpretation of the French chateau, from

Friday Fun: How to Furnish a Manor House

Now that we’ve acquired the perfect manor house, how do we furnish it? The preference seems to be for traditional 16-19th century furnishings (matching the exterior of the building), but occasionally you get the more adventurous owner (or designer).

Empire style at the Vezelay chateau, from Belles Demeures.
Baroque fresco at this rather un-English country house in Cambridge, available as a filming location, from
A mix of faux old and new at this hotel in the Cotswolds, from The Manor House.
More traditional decor for this Spanish mansion, from Quinta Casa da Branca.
The rather surprising interior of the chateau in Lisieux from last week, from Belles Demeures.
If in doubt, books always form the best decor! From Belles Demeures.

Friday Fun: Manor Houses for Sale

They are officially listed under ‘chateaux’ on the exclusive property site Belles Demeures, but they range from medieval castles to 19th century extravaganzas for the lord of the manor, and the prices are far more reasonable than in England (the scenery often far more beautiful too). My conclusion after closely examining every single property on the site is that not enough people make use of all the space they have to create wonderful libraries…

[Apologies for the watermarks on the pictures, since Belles Demeures is an aggregate site for a collective of estate agents in France].

How I love the symmetry of this French chateau near Nantes.
Turrets and a massive park make even the plainest of houses more interesting, as in this example from Pontchateau.
This 19th century building in Nouan is being used as a hotel.
I just love this peaceful terrace at this manor house in Vannes.
Italian influence in this courtyard in Provence.
This castle in Chambery has the perfect demonstration of what a turret staircase might look like.
The more recent manor houses have wider staircases in wood, of course, like this example in Lisieux.

Friday Fun: Chateaux in the Snow

I gather there is a film currently on one of the streaming services featuring a popular novelist who can afford to buy a Scottish castle just in time for Christmas, so I couldn’t resist combining two of my favourite topics: castles/palaces/manor houses and snow. Of course, not all of these are ‘chateaux’ strictly speaking, but ‘palaces in the chalices’ or ‘castles for the passels’ just don’t quite have the same rhyming resonance, do they?

This is of course the castle everyone thinks of when they imagine winter, mountains, snow and overly-romantic situations. Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, from Travel Triangle.
But I raise you the Winter Palace in St Petersburg with a colour that really pops out amidst the white, photo credit Minigaleeva Elena.
The Russian Czars really did know how to get palaces built that would fit in well in a snowy landscape. Alexander Palace and Park, from Nicholas II site.
More modest, in a land more given to rain than snow, Drimnagh Castle in Ireland still looks beautiful. From the castle’s restoration page on Facebook.
Ah, now we’re coming to the chateaux, in this case Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, from My French Country Home Magazine.
Chateau Amboise is equally breathtaking in winter, with its terrace overlooking the Loire. From the castle website – don’t forget to visit the tomb of Leonardo Da Vinci while you are there.
Peleș Castle in Sinaia, Romania, may look medieval, but it was built in the late 19th century and had all the mod cons, as well as a beautiful location in the Carpathian Mountains. From
More of a fortress than a chateau, Rasnov Castle in Romania is a popular post-Christmas dinner walk away for the locals (or maybe that was just my family?) From

Friday Fun: Mansions with Musical Links

Not that we need any excuse to show beautiful mansions or palaces, but, following the Canadian novel about musicians that I read earlier this week, I was inspired to find a bit of a musical theme to the following gorgeous pictures.

Chateau Vendeuvre in Normandy, still privately owned, does not really have any famous composer living here, but does have a rather annoying musical theme tune when you go the website.
The Sarkozy-Bruni household lives in this mansion. Carla Bruni of course was a model and singer before she became Madame Sarkozy.
The Chopin Museum in Warsaw is considerably grander than Chopin’s birthplace in the country manor house, where his father was a tutor. From
Leith Hill Place in Surrey was a place where Vaughan Williams spent most of his childhood. It is currently being restored as a National Trust property. From
The house of Robert and Clara Schumann in Leipzig, where they moved right after they married. The couple met in Leipzig too. From
The grandest privately-owned mansion in the United States, the Biltmore Estate, hosts annual summer music festivals. Still home to the descendents of the Vanderbilt family, from

Friday Fun: Josephine Baker and Her Rainbow Tribe

Something a little bit different for this Friday Fun post. Josephine Baker achieved her greatest success outside her country of birth, the United States. She moved to Paris when she was still very young, and it was there that she became idolised as the Black Venus of cabaret performance in the 1920s and 30s. She was also active in the French Resistance during the war and in the civil rights movement in the US in the 1950s and 60s. Part of her activism was her well-intentioned but rather misguided ambition to raise a Rainbow Tribe. Unable to have any children of her own, she adopted a total of 12 children of different ethnicities to prove they could grow up together in harmony. She also deliberately raised them with different religions. At her magnificent estate in the Dordogne Chateau de Milandes she created something of a theme park, including a hotel, a farm, rides, and the children singing and dancing for visitors, included in the price of admission.  That sounds to me horrendously like a zoo, and she certainly was not beyond typecasting the children to ‘represent’ their ethnic group, but she no doubt meant well. She later had to sell the chateau as she got into massive debt, and was taken in by her friend Grace Kelly, by then Princess of Monaco. The chateau is now open once more to visitors.

The rainbow tribe in the mid 1950s.

Chateau de Milandes in the present-day, from its own website.

Josephine Baker with her fourth husband and her children. From YouTube.

The front aspect of Chateau de Milandes, a genuine 15th century French chateau in the Dordogne.

Josephine at the chateau with the children in the 1960s.

The dining room at Chateau des Milandes. From TripAdvisor

Finally, another of Josephine Baker’s houses, in Le Vesinet, Paris, bought when she first achieved fame in the 1920s. The house is privately owned and not available for visiting, but this is where Josephine walked her pet cheetah.

Friday Fun: Back to France

Who am I kidding? English country mansions are all very nice, but my heart beats faster when I see a French chateau – or even a ‘humble’ maison de maitre. And, who knows, maybe in the region Bourgogne -Franche-Comte, it might even be affordable? My ‘retirement’ plans are to acquire one of these and organise writing, reading and thinking retreats. Any takers?

Gracious stone pile in Besancon, from
Modest little house from Mitula Immobilier.
This one is slightly more expensive, but has extensive grounds and outhouses. From
My kind of farmhouse building in the Jura, from
House in Bourgogne, close to the vineyards, from
The real dream, this 13th century renovated chateau in Oyonnax, only 9 minutes from Geneva by helicopter! From

Friday Fun: Return to the Small Chateaux

This week, a group of women writers whom I am honoured to call friends, L’Atelier Writers, are having their annual retreat in a French chateau. I joined them one year and it was magical. You bet that I am extremely envious. So I’ve found some additional chateaux to make them envious too!

Yes, a majority of them are French, but I am including a few from other countries as well. This time round, small and compact are the keywords. Well, for chateau standards at least.

Alone in Copenhagen, from Pinterest.
The comforting standard French shutters, from Architectural Digest.
The House on the Lake, in Brussels, photo credit Quentin de Briey.
Less of a chateau, more of a manor house in Gascogne (land of D’Artagnan), from Architectural Digest.
Hidden amongst flowering trees, French chateau from
Solar de Alvega in Portugal, from
In England we call them manor houses, but they are still chateaux to me, like this one for sale in Woodstock, from Country Life.