Discovering Courances
Discovering CourancesDiscovering Courances

Discovering Courances

A French Chateau in constant evolution

May 10, 2017
May 10, 2017
The Chateau de Courances, located in the region of Ile de France, was built in the early 16th Century. Over time, the estate and buildings have undergone several transformations, and both the park and the Chateau never cease to evolve, making it the unique and magical place it is today. The property was bought by a Parisian family after the Hundred Year War, when the nearby Chateau de Fontainebleau was flourishing. Slowly but steadily, the owners started building different facilities until the current chateau came to life, between 1622 and 1630. 

Surrounded by hectares of vast fields filled with yellow rape-seed, the Chateau has been standing for five centuries. But every owner has added something that has made it what it is today. The Gallard family embellished the estate and gave life to Le Jardin Remarquable, the classical park where visitors can discover 14 natural springs, 17 ornamental pools, and a river. The water of Courances was so pure, that even King Louis XIII,  who requested that his table water to be brought from the Fontaine du Roi located within the Park, used to say "Bois de Cély, Prés de Fleury, Eau de Courances - the three marvels of France."

After a period of neglect, the estate was bought by Baron Samuel de Haber in 1872, ancestor of the current owners, the Ganay family. His ownership influenced the history of the Chateau once again; he hired experts to look after his property and bring it back to life. It was much in need of a breath of fresh air, which would turn into the foundations of the latest renovations. 

The Ganay family has owned the Chateau for four generations. This remarkable family has not only worked tirelessly on improving the facilities, but also brought the Chateau into the 21st century. The Marquis de Ganay took on the property after the second World War and spent 55 years tirelessly tending and caring for it. 

Towards the end of his life, the Ganay family asked Serge de Ganay to administer the estate, and with the help of Patrick Deedes, the Chateau has undergone its latest transformation. Driven by the primary objective of making it sustainable for the next generation, by balancing the financial, environmental and social, with the support of the family, he chose to concentrate on developing the buildings on the estate. 

Amongst the many projects undertaken, Courances developed in collaboration with Pierres d’Histoire, a cluster of holiday cottages. This new French venture specializes on refurbishing and renewing historical buildings, adapting them to contemporary ways of life while maintaining their heritage and historical background. The company restored the mill, the former hydropower pump, and the carpentry workshop, and turned them into delightful and sophisticated houses for Chateau guests. The cottages overlook the beautiful Japanese garden. The premises are also home to a Farm shop, with delicious organic produce from the walled garden, and conference rooms. The produce from the Jardins de Courances is 100% organic, as is the maintenance of the park and its pools. Even the carp in the pools are herbivore and make sure the water is kept clean. 

"We had to integrate what we are doing here in preserving Courances for the future generations and making it sustainable. So one of the things that we had to do was develop the properties within the estate. Many buildings were reaching the end of their life, but had great potential. The key was to make sure that what we were developing by renovating these buildings was coherent with the general image of Courances. These buildings were abandoned in the early 20th Century. We renovated them 18 months ago, to turn them into holiday cottages. We did it based on a wonderful British organization called the Landmark Trust: in England, the Landmark Trust saves historical buildings and turns them into holiday rentals, while preserving their style and essential characteristics, thereby preserving the soul of the building. We were able to collaborate with Pierres d’Histoire, a similar organization to the Landmark Trust in France who were happy to take on Courances as their first project. We took on the renovation and design of the buildings and consulted for Pierres d’Histoire on developing the concept. They now have several wonderful locations in France." - Patrick Deedes 

Overlooking the Japanese garden, is the Foulerie, a charming tea house that doubles as the clubhouse for the polo. The Foulerie, also hosts dinners arranged by Michelin-starred chefs, that use the local produce from the Jardins de Courances to offer an otherworldly gourmet experience combined with history and the ambiance of the French countryside. 

Due to their strong ties to polo, and to the fact that the family has a very special affection and connection with Argentina; they decided to team up with the FFP (Federation Francaise de Polo) and turn some of the land into polo fields. There is a stick and ball in front of the chateau and a full-sized field next to the park. The facilities were officially inaugurated last September, but the renowned FIP Ambassadors’ Cup is the first important tournament hosted by Courances. The Ganays wish to contribute to the sport of polo, by integrating the sport into the life of the estate and supporting the growth of polo in the region of Ile-de-France. Instead of competing with the other existing clubs, their wish is to make available their facilities to host tournaments, and have already established a close relationship with the FFP and the Polo de Paris, as well as the Polo Club du Domaine de Chantilly, two of the most prominent clubs in the Country. The communion between the different organizations became noticeable during the gala dinner when some of the players taking part of the FIP Ladies’ Tournament in Chantilly drove all the way to Courances to be present. A number of high profile personalities were present throughout the weekend in support of this new venture, such as Patrick Guerrand-Hermés, possibly the greatest promoter of French Polo; and the well-known Argentinian player Topo Braun, among many others. The spirit of camaraderie that is the foundation of the sport was more present than ever, and the Ganay family went out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable. The message was clear: at Courances there is a convivial atmosphere where everyone is made to feel at home, and a beautiful context where polo can flourish.