Summer events: Cazeneuve and Nénuphars

Nigel has written to members (who should see his email for booking details):

In July, we shall be visiting the Collection nationale de nénuphars, established by Claude Monet’s botanist friend Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac at Le Temple-sur-Lot, near Ste-Livrade (for more see <https://www.latour-marliac.com/fr/>).

But our next outing will be on Wednesday 21 June, with lunch in Villandraut and a tour of the Château royale de Cazeneuve, near Préchac .

The following account of the château comes courtesy of Marion.

The river Ciron winds nonchalantly for nearly all of its 96 km, from the Landes wetlands to the Garonne near Langon. Flowing mainly under a thick canopy of woodland, its waters remain cool and in autumn are shrouded in the mist which encourages the formation of the fungus known as ‘pourriture noble’, essential for the production of Sauternes wine. But part of its course is steeped in history.

Near Préchac, on a site which was once that of neolithic hunters, the Dukes of Albret built a fortified manor house, a convenient stop-over for Edward I of England, Louis XIII and Louis XIV. After the death of Jeanne d’Albret in 1572, it was inherited by her son Henry of Navarre, much loved King of France, and his then wife Marguerite de Valois, better known as the ‘Reine Margot’, whose deeds and alleged misbehaviour are described in Alexander Dumas’ eponymous novel. Used as a favourite hunting lodge, they extended and remodelled it in the Renaissance style.

Margot not being able to produce an heir, Henry imprisoned her here while negotiating a divorce. Legend makes her (probably unfairly) something of a nymphomaniac, and she is said to have conducted her amours in a riverside grotto reached by an underground passage.

The château has been lived in ever since by descendants of the Albret family, the Dukes of Sabran-Pontevès, who have renovated and furnished it to a high standard, in styles ranging from the 16th to 18th century. It retains the atmosphere of a loved country seat rather than that of a fortified castle. In the 19th century, the surrounding parkland of 40 hectares was laid out in what the French call the ‘English style’, with grassland, specimen trees, a remarkable bamboo plantation, and walks down to the river and Margot’s grotto. The area is now a wildlife reserve.

The guided visit is in French, but written English translations are available. The visit will follow a moderately priced lunch on the riverside terrace of a nearby country bistrot.

Château de Fénelon, 24, 17 mai

Nigel has written to members with details of our next visit, in summary below.

“As advertised, our next outing will be Wednesday 17 May to the Château de Fénelon, 24370 Sainte-Mondane. On this fortress, prominent during the 100 Years’ War and the Wars of Religion and birthplace of the writer, bishop, and royal chaplain (1651–1715), there is an unusually informative website (in both French and English): <https://chateau-fenelon.fr/>&#8230;.

The château has been closed all spring for the filming of Christopher Thompson’s adaptation of Robert Merle’s 13-vol. Fortune de France….

Lunch at the Restaurant/Hôtel Le Rouffillac at Carlux (<https://www.hotelrouffillacdordogne.com/les-restaurants/&gt;)

Our third 2023 event will be an afternoon visit on Wednesday 21 June to the Château Royale de Cazeneuve, 33730 Préchac, with lunch at l’Escale du Ciron in Villandraut.

When the Committee last met, it asked that all members be reminded that the terms of office of the entire committee and all the officers of the Association will expire at the AGM we shall hold in Moissac on Wednesday 13 September. As indicated in a previous message about the Castelsarrasin/Belleperche event last month, we would be very grateful if members would consider helping us by being willing to stand for election then.

Castelsarrasin, 81, 13 April

Our first visit of the season allowed a group of eighteen alumni, family and friends to enjoy two museums and partake in an agreeable lunch in between. Both museum visits had excellent guides who brought to life for us fin-de-siècle French culture and the art of the table from mediaeval times onwards.

The Espace Fermin Bouisset museum evokes the magical period when new forms of art – including Bouisset’s advertising art – flourished. We saw how effectively he advertised each brand through the eyes and therefore the back of a child, often with just the brand name as the message – a technique which lasted successfully for many decades. Our guide expertly highlighted the cultural and social changes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Our guide at the Abbey of Belleperche dramatised the culinary pleasures and habits of the mediaeval aristocracy, with many insights into the evolution of table protocol, manners (see below) and tableware. The seigneur consumed food which came from as close to God as possible – the unfortunate high-flyers of their day. Forks were banned for their devilish connection, but soon practicality won the day.

Our thanks are due to both Marion and Nigel for organising the visit, and to Nigel for coping with late arrivals caused by the dreadful weather, market and road-works at the Bouisset Museum door.

Springing into action

Our secretary Nigel has emailed members with details of our spring events. Members should contact him nigelhgriffin@gmail.com if they have not received an email and wish to attend.

The first event will be on Thursday 13 April with a guided tour of the Espace Firmin Bouisset in the Maison d’Espagne in Castelsarrasin (81) and its collection of iconic posters and designs. Lunch will be at the Auberge du Moulin on the outskirts of Castelsarrasin followed by a guided visit of the rich collections of the Musée des arts de la table housed in the nearby Cistercian Abbaye de Belleperche on the banks of the Garonne.

Our second event will be a visit on Wednesday 17 May to the Château de Fénelon (Ste-Mondane, 20km SE of Sarlat), a prominent fortress during the 100 Years’ War and the Wars of Religion and the birthplace of the writer, bishop, and royal chaplain, who lived 1651–1715.

Tarn travelling for the AGM

Nigel writes:

Our 2022 AGM was held at the end of September at Gaillac (Tarn), in the pleasant surroundings of the Hôtel Restaurant La Verrerie and was followed by an enjoyable lunch. Committee member Christopher Boddington, who made the arrangements for us, took us that morning to the splendid 12th-century Château de Mayragues (enlarged in the 17th), a monument historique close by the bastide of Castelnau-de-Montmiral and complete with chemin de ronde en encorbellement. Once a ruin and now lovingly restored, it was in 1998 awarded the Grand prix des vieilles maisons françaises. There we were treated by Alan Geddes to a relaxed and informative tasting of the family’s biodynamic wines and several members who bought a case or two on the day have since reported favourably on their quality

The Association being in decent financial shape and with all office-holders in post until the 2023 AGM, the business side of the meeting was dispatched briskly. It was agreed to maintain the annual subscription at €10 and details of how this might be paid were included in the Minutes emailed to members. Outline arrangements for our 2023 programme will be discussed in November/December and members will then be canvassed for opinions/suggestions via the website and an email circular.

Château Feely and Le Bistro de Malfourat

On September 20th, a group of members and friends numbering about 20 ventured into the Bergerac vineyards for a tour of the Château Feely biodynamic vineyard and a wine tasting conducted by the knowledgable student of viticulture and author, Caro, of the same name.

OUS visits normally conclude with a lunch and the group was delighted to enjoy both the magnificent view of Bergerac and its surrounding countryside and an excellent menu du jour provided by the Bistrot de Malfourat which adjoins the Michelin-star Tour des Vents. As usual old acquaintances were renewed and new ones formed in this congenial environment. Our thanks to John Perry, who arranged both visit and lunch with characteristically unobtrusive finesse.

Monteton Book Fair this weekend!

Marion writes:

This coming Saturday and Sunday, 22nd and 23rd October, there is the annual English book sale in Monteton (47),  with hundreds of books for all tastes at 1€ each. Tea, coffee and home-made cakes. Monteton is a charming village with a fine church and chateau (Anglican sung matins at 10h30 on Sunday). It is also near Duras with its castle and Allemans-sur-Dropt with its mediaeval frescoes.

Bergerac Wine, Bergerac Lunch

The final OUS SW France visit for 2022 will be on 20 October to Château Feely, Saussignac followed by lunch at the Bistrot de Malfourat, Monbazillac. Members are invited to reply to Nigel’s invitation.

Chateau Feely (https://chateaufeely.com/) is renowned for its organic biodynamic wines. Caro Feely will be delighted to welcome us for the taster tour a one hour exploration of their vineyard.


The Bistrot de Malfourat adjoins the Michelin-starred Tour des Vents. It offers an agreeable menu with fine views towards Bergerac and the Monbazillac vineyard in its large salon. https://lebistrotdemalfourat.wixsite.com/lebistrotdemalfourat.