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Strange quirks of history


While I was writing my book on Russian Imperial Palaces, we dined, my editor and I, in Saint Petersburg with a handful of curators from the Hermitage. As always, a Russian-style diner, very joyful with lots of drinking, and, also in Russian-style, the conversation soon fell onto one of their favourite subject: ghosts. And so…

A Shadowy Affair ( final part)

I found the Marquis and the Marquise, cheerful and welcoming, in an 18th century living room on the ground floor in which were hung beautiful, family portraits. I hastened to accept the port and the cheese sticks that were offered me. It seemed, at least, that the ghost had not managed to leave his mark…

A Shadowy Affair (part 2)

I felt the cloud thicken. I felt that I had fallen victim to a disease – at the time there so many about which we knew nothing. So the conviction was born inside me that I was to die young. All this is an image, you understand, but I imagined finding myself in the middle…

“A Shadowy Affair” ( Part 1)

Castle Beaumont La Ronce “This is my best friend’s parents’ castle,” my lovely little niece, Adelaide, told me, “It is haunted by a great lady who was murdered over questions of money. Those who were arrested and executed for the crime were, however, innocent and the true assassins were allowed to escape for they had…


A secret scandal: Zaraus part II

« In an old and lost time a great sage lived here, a man of knowledge and kindness. Seduced by the beauty and serenity of the place he came to settle here. He built a hermitage and every day through his prayer spread his blessing on this deserted site. After his death a few monks…

Palacio de Narros

A secret scandal : Zaraus

The seaside resort of Zaraus hardly seems the place to conjure up visions of the supernatural. Of course ghosts can settle anywhere but I hardly feared that they would be inspired by these modest, mundane seaside constructions dolefully aligned along rectilinear avenues or by the recent villas which have sprung up and that clashed with…

white house united states of america


We had been invited to the White House by the Clintons for a dinner in honour of my cousins, the kings of Spain. Before supper we entered a vast hall. A lady who was accompanying us said: “It is in this very room that I saw the coffin of President Kennedy” “And before that,” added…

William Randolph Hearst


Randolph Hearst was the most formidable press tycoon. As illustrated by Orson Wells in “Citizen Kane”, he was a killer, a ruthless businessman, a conqueror that backed down for nothing. North of Los Angeles, he built a most extravagant castle in San Simeon, amongst the green hills. The façade was that of a Mexican cathedral,…

Fechin Mabel Dodge Luhan


Mabel Dodge was the wealthy wife of the automobile manufacturer of the same name. In the 1930s, she had an extraordinary villa built in New Mexico on the High Plateaux in the city of Taos. This paradise attracted a great many eccentric artists and characters. Mabel Dodge received all who thought and created, notably D….

Beresford New york


The Beresford is one of the most magnificent buildings in New York City on Central Park West. That is where we settled when we arrived from Europe: in a large apartment with spacious, high-ceilinged rooms. It was light-filled, with a splendid view of the park. Marina, myself, and our two daughters were very happy there….