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Hautefort Perigueux: The White Perigord

by

Professor Arnie Greenberg


Full view 


Side entrance

When I thought of the Perigord and the 1001 chateaus, I was drawn to this special area.  It was the perfect setting for a mystery and since a Hollywood movie starring Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston (”Every After”) was set here and mention was made of DaVinci having a tentative connection with Hautefort, I set a novel I wrote here. Now I would visit the chateau of my dreams for the first time. It was everything I thought it would be and more.

I approached from the Dorgogne in the south and there it was, high on a hilltop as if floating like a dream. The cluster of houses jutting from the walls seemed peaceful and filled with history. I drove around the chateau and admired, not only its position commanding a view of the verdant valley but its solidity, its magnificence and style. I am not new to French Chateaus but this was different. I could see why it would have been established as a defense location by the Romans.

 In the 12th century it was the subject of dispute concerning the succession of Henry II, the Plantaganet King of England.

 By the 16th century the fortress underwent modifications during the religious wars and then in the 17th century, the Marquis de Hautefort commissioned the construction of a stately home in honor of his sister Marie along the lines of the chateaus being built along the Loire. But Hautefort became the epitome of chateaus. The furniture, the design and surroundings with terraced gardens, made it one of the finest in France.

Over the years it has been added to, altered and beautified. Between two main towers, a terrace was set up with a view to the south. Below, the French gardens offer a feast for the eye with beds and box trees sculptured in geometrical forms. Shaped by sheep-shearing scissors called ‘forces’ (strength) in French, these shears became part of the coat of arms of the Hautefort family.

Within there’s an impressive corridor and a huge stairway. The chimney room is from the original building and the apartments and entrance hall display blue and gold canopied beds and well appointed rooms with wonderful views. There are 16th century polychrome enameled plaques, portraying Catherine de Medicis and Henry III, There are also his and hers bedrooms in teal blue or red, a drawing room, study and additional lady’s boudoir Beyond the tearoom there is a hidden passage that allows you to visit rooms on the ground floor. There you will see a magnificent dining room fit for royalty with an enormous fireplace at one end. There is a guest room, beautifully furnished and a tapestry room where Queen Marie-Therese’s portrait hangs.  Here too there are 17th century tapestries from Brussels depicting Antony and Cleopatra.

Across the courtyard you enter the round chapel with a beautiful copula painted in trompe l’oeil that appears like a coffered dome. The center is crowned with a trinity symbol against a gold background. The altar is 19th century and the mosaic floor is typically Perigordian. Here the style is called “pise”.

The chateau was reborn after a fire and nobody would have believed that this once great residence-fortress could be rebuilt after it had been reduced to nothing more than the image of a ruin from the village below. This was the second time it had to be restored. In 1929 it was purchased by the Baron and Baroness de Bastard.  They had intended to restore it but the depression in 1930 put a stop to their plans. But in 1968, Hautefort was reduced to a blackened ruin. It was then that it started its new life. What you see now was rebuilt after a fundraising campaign that collected over 2 million francs. A national symbol would be rebuilt. Hautefort became a symbol of the shift of opinion in France to rebuild her treasures.

The interior was refurbished by the baroness who died in 1999. the chateau was given to a foundation established to preserve it.  The foundation now employs a group of people who maintain the chateau and the grounds. Now, Hautefort is a welcoming magnet with almost 75,000 visitors a year. The country’s heritage has been passed down to the people.

In a vaulted cellar there is a boutique where visitors can purchase souvenirs related to the chateau’s history and gardens.

I was encouraged by the staff to photograph the interior, the magnificent gardens and Baroness de Bastard’s gushing fountain that is her symbol of a dream.

I wandered around the chateau totally alone with my wife.

“Enter at will,” the administrator Monique Folio, said. “Take any pictures you like.” I did.

I felt honored. Hopefully my article and book will bring more visitors to this wonderful dream-like place. They are not open at all in December and January but will greet you at different times during the year. Call ahead for exact times. Or consult their web cite.

You may select Hautefort as a place to hold a wedding. The chapel is perfect, the dining room sumptuous and the courtyard perfect for a banquet under the stars. Visiting here  is a reward.

Phone: 05 53 50 51 23  or 06 75 63 38 14
Web:  http://www.best-of-perigord.tm.fr and http://www.chateau-hautefort.com

Other places to visit in the area:

  • Pompidour chateau and horse installations
  • Jumilhac chateau and village
  • Brantome and neighborhood Bourdeilles are magical
  • Perigueux (capital)
  • Sarlat … wonderful village especially on market day
  • Montignac…near Lascaux II

For questions and comments feel free to contact me at ultours@gmail.com  


Sculptured gardens    


Dining room


Entrance from moat

The town below the castle wall
 

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 
 

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