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Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com has as our special guest, Pamela L. Barrus, author of Dream Sleeps: Castle & Palace Hotels Of Europe.

Pam has traveled in over 150 -countries, and she has visited hundreds of European castles and palace hotels.

Good day Pam and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.

Thank you. It's always a pleasure to chat about one of my favorite subjects. Norm:

When did your passion for visiting European castles and palace hotels begin? What kept you going?

Pam:

I am a traveler first, and like so many others, the passion lies inexplicably in the DNA. I've always loved history and in particular accounts of other travelers across the centuries. Faded glory fires up my imagination like nothing else.

Back in the 1970s the idea of preserving historical properties such as palaces and castles by converting them into hotels really began to take off, although a number of castle hotels had existed from the turn of the century. I had always been fond of the old maharaja palaces of India, and a LA Times article about the Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur left a bug in me.

Researching the palace hotels of India led to castle and palace hotels of Europe and a few years later to the challenge of writing a book about them.

Today, there must be quadruple the number of castle and palace hotels that existed back then. Preserving history by adapting these wonderful architectural structures to a modern use benefits everyone. 





Norm:

Could you tell us a little about your book Dream Sleeps: Castle & Palace Hotels Of Europe? What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?

Pam:

Dream Sleeps: Castle and Palace Hotels of Europe, published by Carousel Press, is a completely reworked edition of a previous book, Guide to the Recommended Castle and Palace Hotels of Europe, published by Globe Pequot in 1988. I chose 130 of the most interesting castle and palace hotels, giving equal weight to the property's history and present-day life as a hotel.

 

Challenges and obstacles? I began researching the original book without any publisher, just with a vague idea of what to do. Some of the hotels I could afford to stay in, most of them not. In those cases, I hung around the parking lots in the morning, interviewing people as they got in their cars on how they liked the hotel, did they have any complaints, etc.  I would then walk in, as the maids were making up the rooms, to have a look. At some hotels I had to announce why I was there, and in every case, especially in France, the owners were more than hospitable, showing me around, giving me pictures.

 

At first I tried visiting every hotel (and there were about 200 of them) by using public transportation. Since many castles sit strategically on top of a hill, it required a long slog by foot straight up, usually in the rain. After a month of this, I broke down and hired cars on subsequent trips.

Odd obstacles would be a hotel in Austria where the family dog wouldn't let me out of the car and more than a few that just gave me the creeps, nobody around, weird clutter lying about. There's one castle hotel on the
Rhine that refuses to let any guidebook writer in the door.

Norm:

Which eight unique and romantic castles or palace hotels would you choose for a romantic getaway, and why?

Pam:

  • Hotel Schloss Dürnstein, Austria. Traveling to this baroque palace hotel by paddle-wheel steamer up the Danube from Vienna is mesmerizing. Dürnstein is one of Austria's most charming villages, and its location on the river, surrounded by the vineyard-covered hills of the Wachau region is idyllic.
 

  • Château de la Treyne, France. A fairytale medieval castle poised high above the meandering Dordogne River is surrounded by 300 acres of parkland. A charming hostess oversees every romantic touch from the bedrooms featuring carved canopy beds to a romantic outside terrace overlooking the river.
  • Château d'Esclimont, France. This towered and moated château stands in 150 acres of parkland, filled with gardens, lakes with resident swans, and rivers that guests can canoe on. Priceless antiques, handcrafted crystal chandeliers, and marble fireplaces present an elegant atmosphere.
  • Burg Hotel-Restaurant auf Schônburg, Germany. This is my favorite of all the German castle hotels on the Rhine. It's a wonderful example of an up-to-date hotel incorporated in an ancient and majestic structure. During the summer months a small outside terrace is the perfect place to watch the activity on the river below. Canopied beds are found in the turret rooms.
  • Thornbury Castle, England. The last fortified manor house built in Britain, its best guest rooms feature fireplaces, silk-lined walls, and canopied beds draped with rich brocade (obviously I'm big on canopied beds).
  • Inverlochy Castle, Scotland. Dozens of baronial mansions built in the 19th century dot the landscape of Scotland. Although not castles technically, they exhibit some of the same architectural features and atmosphere. Inverlochy is probably the most exclusive of them all. Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain rises behind it and the shores of Loch Linnhe are below.
  • Schloss Labers, Italy. An intimate castle high in a spectacular mountain setting near the Austrian border, the hotel produces its own wine from the surrounding vineyards.
  • Parador de Alarcon, Spain. For me, the first time I approached this castle it was love at first sight. Alarcon is a castle junkie's dream come true. Ramparts, arrow-slit windows, stone archways, and crenellated watchtowers preside over the valley below. 
Norm:

How expensive is it to stay overnight in one of these castles or palace hotels?

Pam:

Prices range from the affordable 70 Euros a night for a double in Germany on into the stratosphere starting at 2000 Euros a night for a suite in a doge's palace along the Grand Canal in Venice. Average price would be about 100-250 Euros, depending on the season, the view, and the plumbing.

Norm:

Is it possible to rent one of these castles for a wedding celebration and which six would you recommend and why?

Pam:

Yes, especially in Scotland and for exclusive use, too. In France there are dozens of private châteaux that one can rent, with and without catering. The following six I would choose because they are experienced in hosting weddings and can assist in the planning. I might add that those interested in a legal ceremony should research the country's requirements if not a resident.

  • Amberley Castle, England.

  • Borthwick Castle, Scotland

  • Hotel Schloss Waldeck, Germany

  • Hotel Schloss Mônchstein, Austria

  • Ashford Castle, Ireland

  • Castello della Castelluccia, Italy
Norm:

What does travel mean to you?

Pam:

It's the other half of one's education, and there's so much to learn about! My idea of utter bliss is to walk out my front door with no firm plans except to travel overland to the tip of South America or across Asia, sleeping wherever I end up by nightfall. It's the ultimate freedom.

Norm:

How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

Pam:

Well, it's certainly made it a 1000 times easier in terms of research. I can remember well going through volumes of books on medieval history at the University of California libraries trying to find historical references to some castle.  I even took a semester of German so I could decipher the German hotel brochures. The most intriguing use of the Internet for guidebook writers nowadays is in self-publishing.

Norm:

What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

Pam:

 

Do it because you love the genre and be sure to have another paying gig.

 

Norm:

 

What is next for Pamela L. Barrus and is there anything else you wish to add to our interview?

 

Pam

I'm learning to build websites and hope to have a castle and palace one up this year. My next travel adventure is to walk the 480-mile Camino de Santiago across northern Spain.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Thank you!

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