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Planning your wedding catering

Planning your wedding catering, like planning the rest of your wedding should be done as a couple and should be fun and reflective of your personalities. Make sure that you understand the different choices available to you before you book anything!

The first step of planning your wedding food is to discuss with your partner your ideal wedding. Not necessarily exactly which dishes you want (although that always helps) but what kind of vibe you are after for your big day. Are you looking for a formal seated meal, with silver service, or are you looking for a relaxed boho day with grazing platters and casual dining? Maybe you're after something in the middle, and want a grazing starter and a seated main course?

Pretty much anything is possible, if your budget allows it, so think about what really matters to you. What's actually going to make your day even more special without adding layers of stress?

Seated wedding breakfast

A seated wedding breakfast is the traditional choice and is picked by many couples for good reason. A seated breakfast is a great way to make sure that everyone gets to taste everything, that there is very little food waste and it's also fantastic for helping guests to get to know those that they are sat by in greater depth. It's a sure fire way to introduce a level of elegance and sophistication to a meal. The downside is that guests who don't like something will have no choice in their meals, that seated menus tend to be more expensive per head and that you will need more waiting on staff than in more casual layouts.

Buffet style wedding breakfast or grazing tables

A buffet style wedding breakfast is a great way of keeping things moving and allow guests to mingle and meet new people. You don't have the stress of table plans or worrying about who you seat next to whom. It's a great way of ensuring that guests only have to eat food that they like, because they pick what's on their plates. It's equally wonderful for children who can have a tendency to be fussy when presented with a plate of beautifully presented food! It's great for a casual feel to the wedding, and for ensuring that guests feel unhurried. The downside is that there is more food wastage, and that guests can sometimes end up queueing for a long time for their food, so you need to make sure that there are enough serving stations for the number of guests that you have.

BBQ, hog roast or bring your own

More commonly associated with the evening meal or with a next day meal, there is always the option of a really relaxed BBQ or hog roast. You could even ask all the guests to bring a dish with them, and have a potluck supper. This saves a lot of the costs involved with catering for a wedding, but does of course mean that you won't have control over what food is served at the wedding, or over whether or not there are 15 different potato salads brought out but no proteins! A barbecue can be run by professionals still, to ensure that you have none of the work of running it on the day, but all of the fun of a BBQ wedding.

A spatchcocked roast chicken, cooked by Le Cochon Pendu

Once you've chosen the style of your wedding food, it's time to find the right wedding caterer. You can usually get a great initial idea of caterers from their Instagram and social media pages, or their websites, but not always! Some caterers (especially those in France!) are rather behind when it comes to social media and websites and their online presence can be a little lacking.
The best bet it to contact them directly and ask for their sample menus, which should give you a good idea of whether or not they're going to fit the style you're after. It also gives you the chance to see the budget of a variety of different options so that you know that the prices you have been quoted are reasonable.

At this stage, it's sensible to find out what is included in your package; including waiting on staff and drinks, your price per head suddenly looks expensive compared with a caterer that has a whole list of add on options that you need to make your big day a big success.

Sit down with a raft of menus and work out the actual cost per head, with them all including everything you need. You might need to go back to caterers and ask for additional quotes for any missing items.

Once you've worked out the style of food and the budget, the caterers should start to sort themselves by their menus that they say they can do, but don't be afraid to ask if they can do something different if you like their style but their menus don't suit your day. Some caterers are known widely for one thing, but will happily cook other things just as well, so do check.The worst that can happen is they say no, and you're no worse off than if you didn't ask.

Remember that you need to factor in the cost of feeding your vendors on the big day too, as your band or waiting on staff will need food!

Slow cooked pulled pork by Le Cochon Pendu

So you know your rough budget per head, you know the style of food that you want, and you now know which caterers are going to fit with those requirements. It's time for the fun part; tasting and working out your menu.
Some caterers will offer tastings of their menus so that you can try the food for yourselves, but not all will do so free of charge. Be aware that there might be charges of up to and even beyond the full menu cost per head to try it out. Some caterers may not even offer tastings.
If you are having a tasting, it's a good idea to have hashed out a rough menu first, to make sure that you try food that you're actually planning to have. There's no point tasting slow cooked pulled pork if you're wanting a totally vegetarian menu!

If your caterer doesn't do tastings, ask for client details of people that you would get a recommendation from, and follow them up.

The caterers is one of the first things that you book after booking a wedding venue and can either be a really scary or a really exciting step towards your big day. Just remember to pay your deposits on time and to secure your caterer early as the best ones book up months or even years in advance in some cases.

All photos in the article are from Le Cochon Pendu.

A behind the scenes glance at Chateau Fengari

Welcome to the Chateau Fengari wedding photoshoot, three days of fun and fashion in the grounds of Chateau Fengari.

Two grooms peering through the doors of chateau Fengari

Beautiful menswear by designer Gresham Blake

Inspired by the beautiful dresses created by Jo Fleming, the photoshoot at Chateau Fengari took place over three wonderful, crazy days.

With the romantic dresses capturing the bohemian, luxury feel of the chateau, the choice of dress designer for our styled shoot was a no-brainer. But Jo wasn't the only artisan to make the day special. Summer suits in linen and summer weight wool by designer Gresham Blake complimented the wedding dresses, with their vibrant colours and attention to detail in pockets and buttonholes.

The flowers stunned the whole team - little did people realise that silk flowers could be so realistic and beautiful. The stunning pieces were provided by Silk Flowers France, who created masterpieces for various rooms of the chateau, as well as bouquets, posies and chair decorations.

The other huge benefit of the silk flowers is that even with the 35 degree heat, the displays looked as fresh and bright on day three as they did on day one! The final huge benefit of silk flowers is the carbon footprint - by hiring reusable flowers for the day, couples can be safe in the knowledge that they are having a minimal impact on the environment with their displays.


Hair and Make up were provided by Claire Jones, make up artist extraordinaire. She took inspiration from the dresses to create a natural look that complimented the outfits worn, rather than fighting for attention.

The photographer for the day was Bruce Smith, and he is a true master of light, eschewing Photoshop, and ensuring that the photos are perfect straight off the camera. His second photographer was Muriel Meynard, who captured the behind the scenes shots that you see today.

The day would not have been possible without the planning services of Julia at Chatelaine events, who kept us running to time and made sure that sets were created in the most beautiful fashion, using the vintage tableware and chairs of Rose and Frog.


For the full credits list, and all those wonderful people including the models that I haven't spoken about today, please see below:


Jo Fleming Design - women's fashion

Gresham Blake - menswear

Coast and Koi - shoes

Agnes Walker Jewellery - hair accessories and jewellery

Silk Flowers France - floral arrangements

Chatelaine Events – wedding planner

Château Fengari - the venue

Claire Jones Make Up Artist-hair and makeup

Bruce Smith Photography – main photographer

Le Cochon Pendu - catering

French Wedding Music – cellist

Chloe Jasmine – modelling

Abigail Taralilly – modelling

Charlotte Godfrey – modelling

Mika Boudot– modelling

Jordan Jot – modelling

Alyssia Joy – photographer's assistant

Muriel Meynard – second photographer

Derek Rose Videographer – Videographer

Signed By Floret - Stationery

Rose and Frog – Tableware and décor



More things to do this summer near Chateau Fengari

This week we head slightly further afield than the immediate area by chateau Fengari, to some of the bigger local towns for exciting events and destinations this summer.

Pons has a 12th century donjon to visit, which makes for a fascinating day for young and old alike. You can find out more at: http://www.pons-tourisme.com/

Whilst you’re in Pons, history lovers can also visit the medieval restored hospital of Pelerins. Part of the pilgrimage route of St Jean de Compostela, the hospital is home to some amazing medieval graffiti and a number of sculptures from the period. A listed UNESCO world heritage site, you can find out more here: http://www.pons-tourisme.com/

For families with children of 4 years and upwards, the Château des Enigmes at Pons will provide a 3 hour long guided tour of the chateau through a pirate adventure, complete with scrambling nets and an escape game. An ideal way of discovering a beautiful historical chateau for those with a little less patience! Find out more on their website: https://www.chateau-enigmes.com

Pons has markets on Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays.

The Charente Maritime also plays host to a huge number of concerts this summer throughout the region, as part of the Eurochestres tours. With concerts ranging in price and location, including a free concert in Montguyon church, there’s sure to be a concert for everyone this summer. Check out the timetable here: https://www.eurochestries.org/

Heading slightly further afield, up towards Cognac, most famous of course for its alcohol production, we can tour distilleries and taste the Cognac made. Two of the best are actually outside of the city itself and are based near Jarnac. Courvoisier offers a range of tours for all budgets, including the opportunity to sample Cognac and then bottle your own blend. Check out their tour details here: https://www.courvoisier.com/fr

Thomas Hine and Co. are also famous Cognac makers offering a tour of their chateau. Visits are by reservation only and start from free tastings up to 70€ a tasting, depending on what you’d like to try. Find out more here: http://www.hinecognac.com/visits

Whilst in the Cognac area, why not head to the river Charente for a cruise on a traditional gabare? Cognac plays host to a new gabare restaurant, where you can cruise the river whilst enjoying some wonderful local fare. Head to http://www.charentecroisieres.fr to find out more or to book your place.

Cognac has markets on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the town centre.

Heading north, we get to the seaside town of Royan, most famous of course for its seafront and beaches, especially ‘La Grande Conche’. Here you can even hire traditional striped beach huts, chairs and parasols. There is also good disabled access to the sea and there are disabled friendly dune buggies available. https://www.royanatlantique.fr

If the beach isn’t your thing, or you’re just fed up of the sand getting everywhere, Royan has a number of different destinations that you can visit. The Eglise Notre Dame, built during the postwar period from an immense amount of concrete is said to have a nave that is higher than Notre Dame in Paris. The original church was destroyed by war time bombing in January 1945, and the church that stands in its place is testament to post war architecture. To find out more, check out: https://www.patrimoine-histoire.fr

For animal lovers, Royan has two amazing destinations to visit – the Zoo la Palmyre, home to 110 different species and part of a variety of conservation projects, is a pleasure to visit for young and old alike. With a variety of shows during the day as well as the animal feeding times, the zoo provides enough entertainment to fill a whole day (https://www.zoo-palmyre.fr/en)

The second animal related attraction at Royan is Planet Exotica - home to exotic flora and fauna from around the world, including a wide variety of reptiles and of course, dinosaurs! Children can even work as an archaeologist and unearth their very own dinosaur skeleton. Find out more here: https://www.planet-exotica.com

Royan also hosts a number of concerts on the 20th, 23rd and 26th July. For more details, check out https://www.violonsurlesable.com

Finally, we head north again towards La Rochelle, another famous seaside town. Here, historical buffs can visit the 2nd world war bunker and step back in time to discover a rich and varied past for La Rochelle and the U-boat supervisors that lived there. For ticket prices, check out: https://www.bunkerlarochelle.com

For those interested in maritime history, the Musée maritime provides a great day out. With a variety of boats to visit, from lifeboats and sailing boats to fishing frigates, there is a type of boat for everyone. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month too. http://www.museemaritimelarochelle.fr

Continuing the marine exploration, the aquarium in La Rochelle is packed with fish and marine creatures to explore to your hearts content. Their turtle related conservation work is also well known. To learn more about the aquarium and its inhabitants, head to their website: http://www.aquarium-larochelle.com

La Rochelle also has concerts this summer, from the 10th- 14th July. To find out more, check: https://francofolies.fr

La Rochelle also has a whopping 17 different markets! To find out times and locations, check https://www.jours-de-marche.fr

Things to do this summer near Château Fengari

The Charente-Maritime and in particular the Saintonge region of France are home to some of the most beautiful natural areas of the country. With activities for adults and families alike, there is sure to be something for everyone visiting this summer.

We’ve taken a look at some of our favourite places to visit and some of our best events to attend and sorted them by proximity to the chateau, with the closest sites being the first ones we look at.

The Maison de la forêt

Saintonge area

Firstly, within Clérac itself, we find intense blue lakes - these lakes get their colour from their white clay banks which then allow the water to reflect the brilliant blue skies! There are several wonderful walks around the lakes and beyond that are listed here: https://www.ville-clerac.fr/en/the-hikes/

The village also houses a small museum, dedicated to recording rural life as it was. The museum was started by a local tool collector, and is open during the summer months. You can find out more on the museum website: http://www.musee-clerac.fr

If we hop into a car, we can visit the town of Montlieu-la-garde, where we find the Maison de la Fôret. An amazing watch tower that you can climb to get a view of the surrounding countryside, the Maison de la Fôret also has several acres of woodland to explore, including picnic space. There are also often activities going on, such as massage oil making classes, a night market and a concert. To find out more about the Maison de la Fôret and its activities, check out their website:

http://www.maisondelaforet.org

Montlieu-la-garde also hosts a weekly market on a Sunday morning.

Les Antilles de Jonzac

A short drive away, we get to Jonzac, where we find some a castle dating back in part to 1073. The castle was a key part in the local defences and during the hundred years war, suffered an almost total destruction.

Also in Jonzac are the famous mills, both water and wind powered. A great windmill in Jonzac is Le moulin à vent du Cluzelet whilst the moulin à eau de Chez Bret is a fantastic example of a working water mill, where you can even take along your own shelled walnuts to have them pressed into oil! Find out more here: http://www.jonzac-tourisme.com

If you’d prefer to swim or relax in the hot tubs, the Antilles de Jonzac is the place for you. A complex of pools and wellbeing areas, this tropical dome is open to the public all year around, whatever the weather. To learn more abou the Antilles, head to their website: http://www.lesantillesdejonzac.com

Jonzac has markets on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

The Pole Nature de Vitrezay

Heading across towards the Gironde river, we find the port of Vitrezay, from where you can take a 1-, 2- or 3-hour long cruise along the river, exploring the local flora and fauna. You can choose to head towards the city of Blaye or out towards the mouth of the estuary. On the 3-hour long cruises, there is even the option of a buffet lunch! http://www.portvitrezay.com

For those of a more energetic nature, Vitrezay is also the starting point of a variety of walks and cycle rides, many of which take in the river banks.

Supplier Spotlight - Chatelaine Events - French wedding planner

Today we meet one of our favourite suppliers - Julia, the wedding planner from Chatelaine Events.

Based in Nouvelle- Aquitaine, France, 45 minutes from both Cognac and the UNESCO World Heritage site, Bordeaux, Julia offers a bespoke approach to her clients. This means that every event ensures your celebration reflects what is important to you, whilst their experience will provide an endless source of inspiration, ideas, and advice.

Julia and her team are here to troubleshoot so that you don’t have to, meaning you can spend precious extra time with loved ones enjoying your day instead of worrying about the details. They offer a range of services which include, but are not limited to, Full Wedding Planning and Styling, A La Carte and on the day co-ordination. Chatelaine Events also offers event planning for your celebratory occasion.

A beautiful set up table ready for a wedding

Julia ensures the quality and high standards of every aspect of your big day so you don't have to.

We had a chat with Julia about what sets her apart from other wedding planners, what her style is like and her experience. Here's what she had to say to us!

"We offer full service destination event planning. I love planning and designing weddings that feel authentic and are a true reflection of my clients.

My love affair with event management started many years ago as Event manager for a large Cosmetics company in Australia. Organising dinner with the dolphins on the Gold Coast or an intimate gathering on the steps of the Opera house, my events were sometimes wild, sometimes restrained but never standard! The transition to Destination Weddings during my last 10 years in France was seamless and has been fun. Whilst in France I have created everything from relaxed dinner parties to elaborate destination weddings and unforgettable coorporate experiences.One memorable wedding included a serviced breakfast at 6am!

My signature style is in the details and application. I take pride in the fact that my events reflect the best version of my clients vision and each one is unique. No matter the style, the result is impeccable!

My advice to clients is always to take the time to soak up the details and feel of the day, it passes so quickly, the benefit of having the perfect match with a wedding planner is that someone else makes sure you have time to enjoy your day. "


Contacting Julia at Chatelaine Events


If you wish to contact Julia at Chatelaine Events there are a couple of easy ways to do so. Either pop us a message directly and we will pass it on to Julia, or contact her on her email address chatelaineevents@gmail.com. For a telephone contact number, please drop us a message and we will pass her number on.

www.weddingsandeventsplanner.com

Wedding trends for 2019 and 2020 weddings

Every year we see more and more innovative trends appearing at weddings, whether in the shape of a naked wedding cake, or beautiful dress details, these trends can help give your wedding a special identity and help it feel like it's a totally different place to your sister's wedding a year ago!

Beautiful lace detail on the back of a wedding dress

Beautiful backs

Beautiful dress details

Ok, so maybe the dress being beautiful is nothing new, brides have always worn the most gorgeous dresses, but the level of detail coming out in lace work is quite astounding. Dress details are now designed to be viewed up close with powerful cameras catching every loose thread!

The back of this dress has a beautiful lace and button combination that makes it interesting for the people sitting behind the bride, staring at her back for the ceremony. Other details like free standing lace flowers, intricate beading and tiny crystals that just catch the light are all designed to be subtle rather than overtly in your face bling. Lace is spread throughout the dress, rather than just the bodice area, creating an ethereal feeling.

The biggest and most exciting trend though is arguably the most important. Pockets. That's right, probably for the first time in your life, you'll actually be able to find a dress with pockets big enough to hold what needs holding. Your wedding day might be the one day when you don't have to tuck it all down inside your top!

Stunning wedding bouquet made of muted coloured flowers

Stunning muted pastel tones

The dusky, antique tones are back!

A combination of antique, dusky tones such as these antique blues and pinks, combined with the freshness of greenery such as eucalyptus and even pampas grass sees the colour schemes moving away from bright, vivid colours towards a more natural feel.

Neo Mint green is making its debut amongst new pantones and is set to be one of the most popular colours for weddings, particularly when combined with other colours. One of the great things about Neo Mint green is that it is such a gender neutral colour that any member of the wedding party will feel happy wearing it.

Cantaloupe also compliments Neo Mint green perfectly, and gives a warmth to floral arrangements and table layouts, without being too bright an orange.

Why not check out our Pinterest board to see more of these colour schemes together?

Champagne glasses filled with fruits

Personalised cocktails

Personalised cocktails

Wedding drinks are getting a fun makeover. Whilst you can still have the classic champagne (or crémant if you are going for the budget friendly version), the wedding cocktail is in big time.

Now's the time to plan your perfect signature cocktail and to have some fun at the same time. This year sees couples turning towards their favourite ingredients and combining them with an interesting twist on old classics.

Rhubarb, watermelon and elderflower are all key flavours that are making an appearance in wedding cocktails as couples hunt out local, seasonal ingredients that they can use to make their special day even more special.

If you want to have some inspiration to create your very own cocktail, why not check out our cocktails board for some more ideas?

A naked wedding cake with flowers

The naked cake

The naked cake

Although it has been around for a few years, it it still fiercely on-trend. The naked cake sees cakes pared back to their basic beauty, with no heavy marzipan or icing. Some cakes are completely bare of icing, whilst others have a wisp of buttercream around the outside to show off the delicate layers of sponge.

Naked cakes are also perfect for high summer weddings as there is less icing to melt! Instead, you can use a meringue or fresh cream filling to provide a nice contrast to the cake.

Decoration is often simple, with the flowers being used to tie in the wedding scheme and colours.

The single most important trend in my opinion is that weddings in 2019 and 2020 are geared towards fun, family and generally having a good time. There's less emphasis on tradition and more on a bohemian level of pleasure. There's less pressure for everything to be perfect and bought in, and more on DIY, having a go and enjoyment.

Whichever way you choose to go with your wedding, none of the trends really matter. All that matters is that you make the right choices for you and your partner, and that you enjoy yourselves on your big day.

Victoria x

How to choose your wedding music

Are you feeling overwhelmed when trying to pick your music for your upcoming wedding? Not sure who to turn to and whether to go for a DJ, a disco, live musicians, a Spotify playlist or something else?
This blog post is aimed at you and aimed at helping you make the decisions you need to make to have the best possible music for your wedding.

Firstly make a list of when you are going to want music. Is it during the wedding breakfast, just during the ceremony or do you want music playing all day and all night long? Which parts matter most to you? What are your non-compromise places?

Next think about where you are getting married. If you are going for a castle wedding with large high ceilings, your average iPod with speakers isn't going to be the best option as the sound is going to be lost in the big space. Likewise if you're having an intimate gathering in a small room, a DJ with lights and huge speakers is likely to drown out your guests.

So, we've worked out the when and the where, now we need to work out the who. A DJ will be able to provide a wide variety of music throughout the day from classical music during the ceremony to rock and roll for the evening time. A band or individual performer is likely to be more restricted to the type of music that they play. Some very talented performers will be able to work in more than one style, and will give you the flexibility of a DJ with the style of a live performance. You'll probably be leaning towards one or another type of performer by now, but if you're not sure, think about the type of music that you want at each of those points that are non compromise. Who's going to be able to make you happiest during that time?

Next comes the fun part. You need to get listening. Listen to anything you can find that your musician or performer of choice has produced. Many performers create youtube videos with their hit songs and most popular sets on for you to listen to. If you can't find them, ask for them. They're sure to be happy to show you what they do.

If it's a DJ, see if you can attend any of the events that they are playing for (no, we're not suggesting gate-crashing a wedding, but visiting a village fete or a local event where they are playing). If they aren't playing live where you can go, ask them if they have a demo tape of their sets so that you can get a better idea of transitions and their style.

Each time you come across a song you like, make a note of it - even if it's not something that your chosen performer can play on the day, it gives them a better idea of your overall style and preferences.

Start with the big ticket items. The first dance. Walking down the aisle. Signing the register. The big events that are your non-negotiables. Pick your favourite songs to fill the night with meaning.

Now focus on how you want the event to feel; do you want it to be a smooth, sophisticated evening? Were you after a relaxed, boho wedding? Maybe you want something fun and silly, filled with your favourite childhood favourite songs? You can think about your venue here too; if you've chosen a barn venue, maybe you want to throw in some country music or a bit of a ceilidh? If you've opted for a castle wedding, what about having some classical string music playing whilst you sweep down the staircase on your way to the ceremony?

Now that you've planned your style and the non-negotiable tracks, here comes the big bit. You've got to trust your musicians.

Trust that they know how to turn your wishes into a cohesive evening. Trust that they want it to be as much of a success as you want it to be. Trust that you've passed your brief on properly and that you've chosen a professional.

Relax. Know that you have chosen well, you've done your research and that your musical evening is going to be the best that you could have had.



A few of our favourite performers

I'd like to introduce you to a few of our favourite performers who are local enough to travel to the château for weddings and events.

Samantha Bramley - Cellista

If you dream of walking down the aisle to your favourite song, you are in the right place! Be it a show-stopping musical number, a timeless classical piece or the theme from your favourite movie, Samantha can play all the music you love, arranged especially for you.

For your cocktail or reception, hand-pick your very own playlist from over 14 hours of unbelievably varied repertoire from Bach to Beyoncé, from Brahms to Bruno Mars, choose a theme (Lounge, Classical & Opera, Pop, Showbiz, Film…) or entertain & delight your guests with a wide selection of the best music from across the last 500 years!

Samantha's playing is outstanding and her professionalism is second to none. We highly recommend her.

Find out more about her and listen to her sets here

The Candies

If you love Motown and disco or you’re a retro or vintage fan, then you will love The Candies! Sassy and talented, the girls have performed across France and internationally at hundreds of weddings and events have a residency on one of the 5* Bordeaux cruises.

Originally inspired by vintage harmony groups, they have taken classic and contemporary hits, added tight harmonies and a little bit of glitz and glamour to create fabulous entertainment for weddings and events.

Check out their website for more information and demos


Outlaw

If you're in to all things Country and Western, then Outlaw is the performer for you. Whether you're looking for a single singer in the corner with his guitar, or a full stage presence with smoke and lighting, Outlaw can cater for it all. They're just as strong playing a vin d'honneur set, with a laid back vibe as they are playing a full post breakfast party with first dance and then crowd pleasing evening.

Find out more about them here

Ensemble Obbligato

For the couple who loves quality music from highly trained musicians, Ensemble Obbligato may be just what you're looking for. They are a group of professional string players living in Southwest France with many years of experience playing in orchestras, chamber music, and all kinds of special events. You can choose based on your preference and budget between solo, duo, trio, or string quartet. While classical music is their area of expertise, they play all sorts of arrangements of popular music including rock, pop, show tunes, and traditional folk music, too.

Learn more here about the ensemble, organised by lead violinist Laura Springham. https://www.lauraspringham.com/

Blaye - Places to visit near Chateau Fengari

If the lure of the pool, the lake and the tennis courts aren't enough to keep you firmly planted in the grounds of the château during your stay, we thought we would introduce you to some of our favourite local haunts.

Blaye - A UNESCO World Heritage Citadelle

One of our favourite places to visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Citadelle of Blaye, just 45 minutes from Château Fengari and on the banks of the estuary, Blaye has the most wonderful views, a lovely old château ruins to explore, city walls and during the summer, the most wonderful fireworks for miles around on Bastille Day (14th July).

The citadelle of Blaye also plays host to a number of small artisanal shops and restaurants. Whether you're looking for a casual meal out with family, a smart meal with special guests or even to do a spot of antiques and souvenir shopping, Blaye will have a shop for it! Our favourite of all, especially during the summer months, is Lily à la Vanille, an artisanal ice cream parlour which has the most wonderful flavour combinations (salted caramel ice cream with a scoop of tiramisu ice cream for me please!).

Beyond the citadelle is a modern city, which really comes alive in the summer months. The port is also the perfect place to hitch a ride with the local ferry and explore the estuary a little more. The banks of the river are renowned for their estuary lamb, as well as for the vineyards that make up much of the Blaye region.

Top Team Building Activities

So you have decided that your team is in need of a little boost?

Maybe morale is at an all time low, or maybe you just want to reward your team after a well done project?

Well, now is the time for a team building course.

At Chateau Fengari, we love to host team building courses and corporate retreats and see disparate teams leave us energised and raring to go. Team building isn’t all about doing trust falls and listing things you like about each other!

To help you plan your best ever team building exercise, we have rounded up some of the best ways of helping build confidence and cooperation between the different members of your group.

  1. Learn a new skill

A new skill could be either physical or intellectual, and could range from a new language to learning how to cook the perfect souffle. The key here is to find a skill that no-one in your team is already skilled at. Put all of your team on the same level and get them to work together to help each other to improve.

We find learning a new language to be a very popular new skill!

2. Escape from the room!

Turn your team into budding Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and lock them in a room. Not literally, of course! Give them a challenge or series of challenges to solve in order to ‘escape’. This could take the form of a treasure hunt around the chateau and its grounds, it could be all based in one room; the choice is yours depending on how likely your team are to run around like Challenge Anika.

3. Play silly games

Our favourites are hands-on activities, like the egg drop!

4. Teach each other something new

Ask each member of your team to prepare something that they do well that they can teach the others. This doesn’t have to be work related and is a great way to get the quieter members of your team to shine and show their best sides.

5. Just let them be

Give them a new space, reduced work load and just let them be. You’ll find co-workers find new ways to work, talk to each other differently and are more productive than you can imagine, just by being somewhere new and with less pressure on them. Find the perfect venue where your team can relax and work at the same time (hint: Chateau Fengari hosts wifi throughout the chateau and onto the terrace, has a swimming pool, swimming lake, trampoline and tennis courts and is in the area declared ‘sunniest in France’).

Whatever you choose for helping your team, be sure to pop us a message and see how we can help you make it run smoothly and luxuriously!

Victoria x

St Valentine's Day in France

Valentine's day is perhaps the best day of the year to tell that someone special ‘je t’aime’ - I love you...

Maybe you’re thinking about a last-minute trip to la belle France to celebrate you love or even to propose, well, here’s a little round-up of some of our favourite facts about Valentine’s day in France.

First a little fact. It’s not LE St Valentin, but LA St Valentin. Why is that? Well, it’s la fete de St Valentin we’re celebrating and not Monsieur Valentin himself...

Valentine’s day in France is very different to in some English-speaking countries (I’m looking at you, USA). We don’t give cards to everyone in our class, only to the person we truly love with all of our heart, which as a parent makes my life much easier!

A recent poll showed that a whopping 71% of the French population took part in Valentine’s day last year, so don’t fret, there is hope!

As with most other countries, Valentine’s day in France has become somewhat commercialized, with shops displaying great swathes of hearts and offering ‘romantic’ wares for the big day. Florists are very busy in the run up to the big day with 70% of flower sales being red roses.

So, if you’re planning on popping the big question on Valentine’s day, make sure you get in touch to book your wedding as soon as possible because you will be in good company; in 2013 an astonishing 14 million proposals were made in the USA alone!

Whatever you choose to do with your loved ones on Valentine's day, we hope it's a special day to remember surrounded by people that love you.


Victoria x

Getting Married Overseas

So, you’ve settled on getting married in France, you’ve even found the château venue of your dreams, and now you’re back home and wondering what next?

So, you’ve settled on getting married in France, you’ve even found the château venue of your dreams, and now you’re back home and wondering what next?

Well, I’m not going to hide it but planning a wedding is hard work. That’s nothing you don’t already know. Planning an overseas wedding is intimidating but there are a few simple steps that you can take to help make sure that your big date goes without a hitch.

1. Hire a planner

I know, it’s obvious and it seems really expensive but a good planner will make all of the difference and will take the strain off you, leaving you free to concentrate on the really important stuff, like where Great Uncle Bernard is going to sit.

A great wedding planner is like a conductor in a great orchestra – everyone takes their lead from them, everyone knows their role, when to do it and when to pause. Everyone works together as a great team, and a wedding planner will be the one to bring that team together. Your wedding planner will have a good knowledge of the local area, will know which suppliers to work with for the wedding style that you want (and more importantly, which ones to avoid!)

Some of our favourite planners (in no particular order!):

Julia Hatton – Chatelaine Events

Samantha Bottomley – The Best Events Co.

2. Plan a visit

Plan to come back over to France wherever possible – it gives you a chance to try the caterer’s food, to check the venue nearer the right season, to take the photographer to see a few areas that you know you want photographed. If however your wonderful planner has already sorted all of that, a weekend away à deux will do you both no end of good.

3. Speak the Lingo

If you’re trying to track down suppliers you either need to find English speaking suppliers, which limits your choices slightly, or you need to speak the language and be able to communicate directly with suppliers. Put everything in writing and you can use google translate to double check meanings.

4. Stay organised

Now is the time to whip out that wedding themed bullet journal you saw on Pinterest. Have a section for each supplier, have a section for due dates and payment dates and make sure that they are filled in and followed up. Make a list of the parts of the wedding that are important to you both, and what you need to do to make them happen. Double check that your wedding insurance covers you for an overseas celebration.

5. Check the details

You need to double check flights, passports and visas (where needed). Make sure that you double check the expiration dates for any passports to be sure that there are no nasty surprises for those trying to get a last-minute identity document. Make sure that any guests coming have checked theirs too, especially the important ones!

Consider whether you might need pet-sitting or house sitting for whilst you are away too.

Be sure that you understand the legalities of the country where you are getting married – for example in France, your church service would have no legal standing, and getting married in the local Mairie requires residency, so you’re best getting legally married in a registry office at home and then having a ceremonial service at your French venue.

6. Enjoy the ride

Getting married overseas is different to getting married in your home country. You might find that some of your friends and family cannot join you for your big day, but the ones that can will help make it an occasion that you will never forget. The day will pass quickly, so make the most of any extra days that your property offers to get to see friends and family properly!

Local area Clérac

Today sees us visit the village in which Château Fengari is situated; Clérac. Home to around 1000 inhabitants, Clérac village is within walking distance of the château and has a small supermarket, a party shop, post office and small restaurant / bar...

The village Mairie is centrally located, next to the village primary school. The school itself hosts children from 3 to 10 years, split amongst 4 mixed age classes.

Although Clérac is situated in the south of Charente-Maritime, its enviable position means it is close to Charente, Gironde and the Dordogne, and easily accessed from all. Almost 75% of the territory of Clérac is covered by trees, making it a beautiful area for walking, bike and horse riding.

The centre of Clérac is also renowned for its blue lakes - an intense blue colour, these lakes get their colour from their white clay banks which then allow the water to reflect the brilliant blue skies and lend their name to the local restaurant! There are several wonderful walks around the lakes that are listed here: https://www.ville-clerac.fr/en/the-hikes/

The village also houses a small museum, dedicated to recording rural life as it was. The museum off jobs and popular traditions was started by a local tool collector, and is open during the summer months. A visit can be prepared by visiting the museum’s website: http://www.musee-clerac.fr

Visitors with a car might like to visit other local towns, including Montguyon. The maison de la forêt at the Montendre / N10 junction is also well worth a visit (http://www.maisondelaforet.org/accueil-mdlf)

A Shaky Past

Château Fengari was built in the early 19th century for the Nau family. Jules Nau and his wife Marthe Delhuile. Jules was mayor of Clérac between 1884 and 1919...

He decided to help the town become more prosperous and created a dairy, a distillery and of course, a wine shop at the château! As the house gained popularity around 1880, the two side wings were built and a large kitchen created. In 1911, he asked Georges and Marie-Therese Nau to live at the château, and due to a lack of cooling water for the stills, the distillery was transferred to Teurlay du Lary.

In 1925, the wine business was closed with the death of Jules. Later during the second world war, Château Fengari played host to refugees from the “Depreux filatures du Nord” factories. German troops had other ideas and the refugees abandoned Château Fengari for five years. Suzanne Nau had inherited the castle, and left Clérac after her wedding, but came back with her three sons after the death of her husband Jean Roi in 1976.

At this stage, the château was still named Château de l'Espie. The Nau family sold the property in 2002, and in the years that followed, it fell into disrepair.

The Houstoun-Boswall family purchased the château in 2014 and set to work lovingly restoring it. Their hopes are to continue the work of restoring the chateau and protecting it for future generations. Symbolic of their wishes for the château, the name was changed to Château Fengari.

One of the biggest goals for the Houstoun-Boswall family is to make the château self-sustaining, thereby protecting it for future generations. In order to do this, a retreat centre was first created. 2019 marks the first summer of the château hosting weddings and events as well.

If you want to help support the château and protect it for the future, book your retreat place or event venue now.

Meet the Team

Welcome to Château Fengari, a beautiful Napoleonic era château in sunny Charente-Maritime, just 40 minutes from Bordeaux...

Built in the nineteenth century for Jules Nau and his wife Marthe Delhuile, Château Fengari has a varied and interesting history; it was run as a distillery, wine shop and dairy. These days, Fengari makes a sanctuary for retreats, corporate breaks, weddings and events, as well as for those looking for a peaceful property for a holiday.

The Houstoun-Boswall family purchased the property in 2015 and work began in earnest to turn the derelict building into a beautiful château, complete with period paintwork and wallpaper. Ensuring that all work done reflected the original château was an important goal of the renovation and all work has been carried out in a sympathetic manner.

About the team

Alex - Alex is the owner of Château Fengari and is the vision behind the overall venture. He is also the owner of Hampton Court House School, and the Fengari Events group. He has an amazing artistic eye, and knows exactly which tone of paint to mix to complement the antique wallpaper. In his spare time, Alex loves music and art, and has two children.

Victoria - Victoria manages Château Fengari. You are most likely to be in contact with her, whether you are booking a wedding, a retreat or a holiday! Victoria keeps the team organized and is a whizz with list making. Victoria manages the marketing side of things too, and has her fingers tapping away on a variety of social media sites. In her spare time, Victoria bakes and knits, and has two children.

Anne - Anne is the cleaning demon of the château. She is our housekeeper and does an amazing job at keeping us on the straight and narrow. She can clean a room and change beds faster than you can say ‘dirty’! She works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep everything ticking over. In her spare time, she loves animals and trying out local restaurants.

Jon - works part time with the château, stepping in when we have retreats or guests that need catering. He is a registered private chef, and is fantastic at catering for dietary requirements, especially gluten free, vegan and vegetarian. Jon is married to Victoria, has two children, and in his spare time likes to cook!