Just a two-hour detour from Paris, the Loire was once a playground to Renaissance royals. Now its vaunted chateaux are attracting enterprising young couples and artists who have remade them into captivating – and very affordable inns.
Hotel Diderot in Chinon serves a great breakfast, a brioche with Fresh Ste Maure goat cheese , honey and walnuts for breakfast. Simply the best! exclaims Laurent Dutheil, the owner of this 23-room hotel. Also he produces dozens of fragrant artisanal jams such as apple-lavender and quince -cinnamon. The Jams are not for sale but he has a cookbook that you can buy (Jam in the cupboard). The hotel was bought and renovated eight years ago – Dutheil tackled stuctural issues ,making sure to keep the exposed oak beams and original stone walls intact. His sisters refurbished the rooms with toile bedding and cheerful wallpaper as well as 19th -century armoires. If you stay at this hotel you will see from a distance the vineyards full of The red Chinon Grapes much loved by the 16th-novelist Francois Rabelais. http://www.hoteldiderot.com
Chateau de L’Isle is very quiet, unless you can count the chorus of quacks coming from the duck pond on 35-acre grounds. The 18-century manor had been abandonned for 10 years until Denis Gandon bought it in 1986 and transformed the place into a 12-room hotel. Still the chateau still feels like a private home. A portrait of Gandon’s grandfather hangs above the large 100-year old dining room table and a very friendly Jack Russel terrier entertains guests with endless rounds of fetch. The bedrooms have exposed wood beams and the beds are draped with coverlets in shades of marigold and crimson. If you go in the summer time , breakfast is always served in an expansive glassed -in terrace overlooking the garden. A nearby potager ( Kitchen garden) supplies produce for some of the chef Fabrice Cherioux’s breakfast’s creations such as tomato confiture. http://www.chateau-de-lisle.com
Le Chateau Des Tertres, this mansion in the heart of the Loire belonged once to the mother of the novelist Marguerite Duras who mentioned the chateau in the famous novel ” The lover“. Four years ago in 2007, the chateau was purchased by Valois & his wife Christine , they redecorated the former gatekeeper’s house as a contemporary four-room cottage with sculptures that ressemble eggs. Valois tends a 12 acre-garden of roses and caematises, where guests can find a shed well stocked with complimentary bicycles for exploring the area’s 186 miles of riding paths. http://www.chateau-tertres.com – Closed October 19-Apr 1.
Auberge de Launay, Between the two owners, Francois and Helene Thevard have worked in the world’s most respected hotels such as Le Meurice in Paris and The Savoy in London. After years of helping other people’s properties, the couple and their two children packed up their bags and bought an unassuming farmhouse in the secluded hamlet of Limeray and converted it into a 15 -room inn. The decor at the house is simple , bedrooms have neutral suede sofas, blond- wood floors, and minimalist photographs. Both oversees the daily lunch and dinner service at the on-site restaurant, which serves local specialties such as chicken with mustard cream. The house dessert, a salted caramel fruit tart, baked with apples picked in the Hotel’s orchard.http://www.aubergedelaunay.com
About the Loire Valley, just a two hour drive south west of Paris, the region is known for its Cabernet francs and hundred of majestic castles. It is impossible to see them all, I recommend a visit to one chateau and this can take half a day. Focus on the worthy one such as Chenonceau, http://www.chenonceau.com.
The other twos are the Chamborg and the Cheverny, http://www.chambord.org, http://www.chateau-cheverny.com