Chateau de Saint Paterne

Near Alencon, Loire Valley, France Book from

A gorgeous 15th-century chateau on the Normandy-Loire border, where history has been given a stylish and stately twist, warmed by a family's welcome
This beautifully restored Renaissance chateau, in the Alençon satellite village of Saint Paterne, was once home to a mistress of the French King Henry IV. Since today's owner Charles-Henry de Valbray inherited it in 1989, as a 30-years-abandoned shell, he and his wife Ségolène have spent 2 decades restoring it with many an authentic period flourish and lashings of eclectic charm. Both speak excellent English and live in the 18th-century-added wing with their 3 young sons, so they'll usually join you in the Dangerous-Liaisons-style Grand Salon for pre-dinner aperitifs and ensure you feel right at home.

Each of the chateau bedrooms has been elegantly and distinctly designed (many furnished with swagged 4-posters and free-standing tubs), and couples will love the romantic L’Orangerie in the garden and Datcha larch chalet hidden in the woods. The 25-acre garden has lots of outdoor games, play areas and a swimming pool so it's also a great place for families, especially in summer. Food served up in-chateau, and at their nearby riverside restaurant (Rive Droite), is thoroughly delicious and good value, too.

Highs

  • Its location - 100 miles west of Paris and 10 minutes from the motorway - is great for stopovers, or stays to explore the Loire Valley, Chartres, Le Mans and the Perche region
  • All the beautiful bedroom choices, design touches and historical features
  • The warm intelligence and enthusiasm of Charles-Henry and Ségolène, and the feel of staying in a historic family home
  • The delicious food - and the trouble taken to record menus by date to make sure you won't have the same one when you come back!
  • The romantic bathrooms, some with tub-mounted candles and champagne flutes; help yourself to fizz from the honesty bar

Lows

  • Lunch is not served at the chateau so you'll need to find this elsewhere, but Rive Droite (5 minutes' drive away) does a fine daytime menu
  • Dinners are a set menu, though this changes daily
  • There's no room service as such, but private breakfasts can be organised by special request
  • There's no supervision at the pool so you'll need to keep an eye on any swimming children yourself, and it's worth climbing the Datcha's and Chambre du Parc's fun loft ladders with care
  • It's not always easy to locate assistance during the day

Best time to go

The chateau is normally open from mid-March to mid-December. All the seasons have their own garden and weather pleasures. Summers are obviously lovely and August is the busiest period, when most families come to stay. The wood-burning stove, outdoor Jacuzzi and sauna in the Datcha mean we'd love to stay there when it's snowing.

Our top tips

  • Do have a chat with Charles-Henry and Ségolène to learn about the restoration of their much-loved home and be inspired by their passion for design, art, the magic play of light, and the joys of fine foods and wines. It really enriched our understanding of the place and the enjoyment of our (all-too-brief) stopover stays
  • Cheese lovers! Make a round-trip to the 1791 birthplace and home of Camembert, an hour's drive north, and enjoy its cheese-shaped museum's homage to the gooey treat (and of course stock up at the local market...)
  • Great for...

    Family
    Foodie
    Honeymoon
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 11
    • Breakfast (+ dinners on request)
    • All ages welcome
    • Closed: 1 Jan 2017 - 10 Mar 2017
    • Heated Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Tennis Court
    • Bicycles Available
    • Trampoline
    • Badminton court
    Room:

    Rooms

    All 11 rooms and suites have such distinctive charm that lots of guests have declared their intention to come back again and again to try out each one in turn! The 9 in the chateau range from cosy Classics up to spacious Luxury Suites. Their swagged chintz, velvets and silks, four-posters and beams, wood panelling and painted wall fabrics, writing desks and antique fireplaces are balanced by the modern comforts of fluffy duvets, DVD TVs, stereos and minibars.

    The dining room, Grand Salon, wood-panelled library and 1 Luxury Suite (Chambre de la Roseraie, which is great for a family) take up the ground floor, and a wide wooden staircase polished by centuries of footsteps sweeps you up to the 5 guest rooms on the first floor. These include Chambre d'Henry IV (a Superior) with its original ceiling beams colourfully painted with the entwined crests of the king and his mistress, Chambre de la Canard (the Superior Junior Suite) with its panelled bathroom, and the super-chic Chambre de Madame (another Luxury Suite), graced with bold black and white stripes and Christian Lacroix wingback chairs, as well as the 2 Classic rooms.

    We also loved the slant-beamed, attic character of the top-floor suites, particularly Chambre du Parc (the Junior Suite) with its raised loft bathroom and sunken tub, and Chambre des Mystères (a Luxury Suite) with its massive bathroom and own 'secret' spiral staircase entrance. The 2 Superior rooms are up here too.

    Out in the garden, Luxury Suite L'Orangerie is made for honeymooners - a light-flooded space of warmed terracotta tiles, theatrical-backdrop-draped stone walls and a Jacuzzi bathtub. Or if you'd prefer a log cabin hidden in a forest, the 2-level Datcha, complete with an outdoor hot tub and indoor sauna, offers a toasty slice of sensual seventh heaven.

    Features include:

    • Bathrobes
    • Cd player
    • Central heating
    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Cots Available
    • Dvd player
    • Extra beds
    • Hairdryer
    • Honesty bar
    • Iron
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Phone
    • Radio
    • Safe box
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • Tv
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Your comprehensive continental breakfast buffet and table d’hôte dinner are eaten at individual tables in the chateau's wine-coloured dining room. This opens off the Grand Salon and features hand-painted wallpaper, multiple candles, and Ségolène's ever-growing collection of asparagus porcelain.

    Charles-Henry has published 2 cookery books to date, so he really knows his onions, and either he or their expert chef Christophe (who trained in a Michelin 3-star restaurant) will conjure up your 5-course set dinner using fresh, local and seasonal produce, some of it from their own kitchen garden. If you're vegetarian, or have any other special dietary needs, you just need to give them advance warning.

    On our first stopover we dined au château and loved our wonderfully zingy salmon tartare (a signature dish), succulent slow-cooked veal à la provençal, and delicious fish tagine. The superbly feisty and gooey cheeses and yummy chocolate fondant were the perfect end notes.

    On our second, we took a 5-minute taxi ride to Rive Droite, the owners' restaurant, and had aperitifs out on the terrace beside the Sarthe river. We then dined in the old-print-and-book-filled 'Bibliothèque', one of their 4 themed eating areas.

    The food here was just as delicious as at the chateau, but presented in a more artful, nouvelle cuisine style. We particularly enjoyed our crab salad-cake starter with its inspired topping of cauliflower mousse, and the scallops and crevettes, swordfish and fillet steaks, and chocolate fondant with basil ice cream were all excellent too. Chicken nuggets and home-cooked chips went down a storm with the kids.

    If you want a change of scene, Charles-Henry can advise on great local restaurants and book taxis for you.

    Features include:

    • Children meals
    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Dinner by arrangement
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Just relax in the 25-acre park garden, swim in and lounge by the pool, play badminton, ping-pong or croquet on the huge lawns, or explore the dappled wood (great for hide and seek)

    • Have an essential oil or shiatsu massage in the peace and luxury of your own room

    • Play tennis at one of the village's 2 (and usually available) courts, borrow bikes from the chateau, go on a group horse ride through the nearby forests, or paddle canoes down the local Sarthe river

    • Pop into the pretty town of Alençon and learn about the exquisite lacemaking which made its name in the C17th at the Museum of Fine Arts

    • Drive over to see the Bayeux Tapestries, some stunning Loire chateaux or the amazing Chartres Cathedral - all within 2 hours’ drive of Alençon, as are the coastal delights of Mont St Michel, Caen, Deauville and (Impressionist art-inspiring) Honfleur

    • Visit the old town of Le Mans, 30-45 minutes away (depending how fast you like to drive!), and go for a spin on the famous Bugatti race circuit there

    • Explore the antique shops, public gardens and charming auberges of the Perche region (10km away), and visit the riverside Saint Ceneri le Gerei - famous for being one of the most beautiful villages in France

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Badminton
    • Croquet
    • Cycling
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Kayaking
    • Museums / galleries
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Shopping / markets
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Well being

    Kids

    The chateau is extremely child-friendly as Charles-Henry and Ségolène have 3 young sons themselves. Most families come in August, and your hosts try to ensure all younger children eat together earlier so that the adults can enjoy a peaceful dinner.

    Best for:

    All ages

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Most rooms can either fit an extra bed (and/or baby cot) or have a sofabed. The Luxury Suites Chambre de la Roseraie and Superior Junior Suite Chambre des Canards are best suited to families thanks to their little side rooms with single and bunk beds respectively. The former also has its own side entrance and a tiny private terrace as it's at one end of the ground floor.

    Babysitting:

    Available on request

    Baby equipment:

    • Baby cots

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Children's meals:

    On request, a kids' high tea can be served in the early evening, and Rive Droite has some child-friendly choices

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Floats for the swimming pool
    • Play areas in the garden
    • Bikes to borrow
    • Badminton court
    • Trampoline

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Tennis courts
    • Horse riding

    Families Should Know:

    You'll need to watch your kids by the pool

    Distances:

    • Airport: 1-2 hours
    • Hospital: 5 minutes
    • Shop: 10 minutes' walk
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    9/
    Rooms
    9/
    Food
    9/
    Service
    9/
    Value
    9/
    Overall

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