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
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
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
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
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
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
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
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.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)