Chez Castillon - A Magical Place in France
Walking through that big blue door into the long high ceilinged hallway which leads to the gorgeous courtyard garden, terrace and pool, once again I am transported into my little haven of laughter, fun and relaxation. It wasn’t by accident that I found myself at Chez Castillon for the tenth time. Every week I have spent there since 2010 has been just wonderful. A journey of discovery; learning new skills, honing current skills and meeting and making new friends in this beautiful region of France.
The Gironde in the Aquitaine region, situated in South West France has so much to offer. An area steeped in history and stunning medieval towns. Rich with wonderful local produce and traditional dishes of Fois Gras,Confit and Magret de Canard, while not forgetting some of the finest wines the world has to offer.
Chez Castillon is situated in the delightful market town of Castillon la Bataille whose biggest claim to fame is that it was the site of the last battle of The Hundred Year War, known as The Battle of Castillon fought in July 1453. This is a medieval town with many interesting buildings and bridges. On a guided tour around the town I was informed that The Mairie was designed by Architect, James Hoban who is better known for The White House; and that the iron bridge over the Dordogne was designed by the engineer Gustave Eiffel.
From the moment you arrive at Chez Castillon, you have the feeling of being transported into another world. This is more than a holiday, more than a course, it is magical and everyone I know that has been here felt the same. I believe that this is largely due to the fantastic hosts Mike and Janie Wilson, both actors and Janie is a published author. They run Chez Castillon in such a way that you feel immediately at ease and welcome in their delightful 18th Century house.
Inside Castillon - Below: the large and light Dining Room Middle: the wonderful entrance hall Right: The well stocked library
Chez Castillon is a grand Maison du Maitre in the heart of the town. The high ceilinged rooms, traditional character features and large windows with wooden shutters in each room add to this unique experience.
Janie is a wonderful cook and you will enjoy many fresh and tasty salads during the week for lunch outside on the enclosed courtyard terrace overlooking the pool. She uses fresh produce, sourced locally from her fruit and veg shop next door on one side, the fabulous Boulangerie on the other and the wonderful Monday market.
Monday Market in Castillon la Bataille
Janie also makes her own ice creams in lots of different flavours! She produces many original and delicious dishes for dinner using local ingredients such as Foie Gras and chestnut soup, which although rich is absolutely wonderful and warming, a great autumnal dish. Fois Gras is one of the specialities of this region.
Janie’s recipe for: Foie Gras and Chestnut Soup
- Tin of foie gras mousse
- Tin of chestnuts
- garlic - plenty!
- Chicken stock
- white wine
- creme fraîche
Saute the garlic and onions - add the foie gras and chestnuts .. add the stock and a large glass of white wine and Armagnac and about two large tablespoons of creme fraîche .. cook for 10/15 mins - transfer to blender - blend and then heat in saucepan with salt and pepper... add more stock depending on the consistency you want ...
Sadly I didn't get a photo of this wonderful soup - I ate it too quickly!
A few more of Janie's delicious dishes
Monday morning Market in Castillon
The Chez Castillon market, a real favorite of mine, is every Monday morning. It offers wonderful smells of fresh local foods and a myriad of colour for both photographers and painters alike. Walking beside the River Dordogne affords stunning views, you can cross over on one of the two majestic bridges which proudly straddle the river in Castillon. Down on the quay is a Chai restored to its former glory by Laithwaites. This wonderful building steeped in history houses the wines that Laithwaites blend there themselves, a laboratory where new wines are blended and a tasting room to sample and taste wines.
Restaurants in Castillon la Bataille
There is a selection of restaurants in Castillon and I’ve visited most of them! La Fontaine de Manon is a high quality traditional French restaurant on The rue Victor Hugo. They serve a good value menu choice at lunchtimes and in the evenings, including regional delicacies such as foie gras, oysters, canard and gesiers (duck and duck gizzards).
Another chilled lunchtime venue right in the market square is Le Chaudron du Pere Marches. With a light and airy modern decor, an outdoor shaded terrace and great friendly hosts serving honest home cooked french fare.
La Plage which is a great fun summer relaxed restaurant on the banks of the Dordogne serving a basic but good menu of barbecued meats, fresh fish, moules frites, and on a Sunday there is a popular tea dance on the large dance floor overlooking the river. This informal restaurant boasts the best views over the river Dordogne in Castillon. View from La Plage below
On my last trip I visited The Brasserie du Centre on Rue Victor Hugo and enjoyed their menu du jour at great value of €14.50. They have an air-conditioned restaurant and an enclosed terrace on the street. This is clearly a favourite with the locals!
Rest assured my tenth visit will not be my last. I just have to decide which new discovery I wish to make next time. The writing courses and author-led retreats are are very popular at Chez Castillon with many well known, published authors including Katie Fforde, Jane Wenham Jones, Judy Astley, Clare Macintosh and Jo Thomas offering their expertise to both beginners and seasoned writers.
Painting & Photography
Painting and photography courses are a wonderful way to relax, take in the surroundings and allow your creativity to flow. Again for beginners and established professional artists or photographers, these courses offer the opportunity to spend a week ‘away from it all’ to allow you to really focus in and further develop your knowledge with the benefit of a tutor to guide you.
Garlic Hummus Millman style ...
I managed to get another recipe for one of Janie’s great dishes :
Into the blender or food mixer throw in a tin of drained chickpeas - several large sliced garlic bulbs - how many really depends on you & your love of garlic - my love of garlic is infinite as those who have tasted my hummus will verify.
Add handfuls of cashew nuts & sesame seeds & if you fancy it - I always do - then pine nuts too - squeeze some lemon juice & season with salt and pepper.
Glug in quite a lot of good quality olive oil ..and I mean quite a lot - we are talking more than a tablespoon here .. again kind of depends on the consistency you like your hummus... and then simply switch on and blend away ... chunky or smooth depending on your taste...
You can also add fresh basil leaves - roasted peppers.. fresh spinach - cumin seeds - beetroot .. ..be bold - be brave...
Serve with Cold beer - hot pitta and crudités!
Janie Millman - The Author
Janie Millman is the author of Life’s a Drag and Sky’s The Limit published by Dome Press.
The Unesco World heritage site of Saint Emilion is only a ten minute drive or train ride away. This fascinating town offers Romanesque churches and ruins, enchanting cobbled narrow streets and breathtaking views. Saint Emilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux, it is one of the smaller regions and the primary grape varieties are Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon being used by some chateaux. Saint Emilion gained its first formal Bordeaux classification in 1955.
How To Get There
Chez Castillon is easily accessible by plane, car and train. There are regular flights from the UK to either Bergerac or Bordeaux, both airports are around 45 minutes drive and there is a regular train service from Bordeaux or Bergerac train stations directly to Castillon la Bataille. I normally fly EasyJet from Geneva directly to Bordeaux and hire a car at the airport in order to explore this beautiful area during my stays! I have driven from the Haute Savoie on a couple of occasions, taking the time to stop off along the way and visit some great places in my adopted home of France. It is such an easy drive, mainly being on the autoroute and the A89 starts just outside Lyon now right through to Bordeaux!
View from my room at Chez Castillon
On my last visit to Chez Castillon I drove and stayed for a night in Sarlat la Caneda, a beautiful medieval town in the Dordogne Perigord Noir region. It is about 2 hours from Castillon la Bataille and well worth a visit!
Get in touch
Mike and Janie Wilson
7 Rue Victor Hugo
Tel: +33 5 57 47 97 94
please mention that you saw this post when making an enquiry - thanks!