Touring the Loire Valley in northern France is a delightful experience. Known as the Garden of France a driving holiday in this region is a succession of charming towns, historic architecture and magnificent chÃ¢teaux. Never far from the river bank, you often have the whole winding road to yourself. We drove the route in December with the sun roof open and the heater on full blast, and it was a memorable trip interspersed with breakfasts at the boulangerie, coffee, pÃ¢tisseries and delicious French cuisine in small auberges or quiet local restaurants. All this and wine too!
At the end of a particularly happy trip, we were returning to catch the morning ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth and needed a place to stay for the night. Searching the area around Gizeux there seemed to be only one option “ a night at the local chÃ¢teau. We drove through the gates feeling like millionaires and knocked on several doors to no avail. Finally we stood with a group of tourists who were waiting to be taken on a guided tour of the castle by the owner. Finally the lady of the big house appeared, baby under one arm and without any affected airs welcomed us to her home. We were invited to tag along for the tour, which we gladly did. The chÃ¢teau, like so many along this fabulous route, was absolutely huge with hunting rooms full of trophy heads and rooms lined with antique paintings. The hand painted fireplaces, and decorative raftered ceilings were literally works of art. The enterprising owner around 1680 invited a whole school of art to come and practice painting at the chÃ¢teau. The painters created the Grand Gallery of Castles which covers 400 meters of wall space with huge murals of royal castles including Versailles and Fontainebleau as they were 350 years ago. We gazed in awe at the incredible workmanship and saw some tiny patches which had been cleaned and restored bringing further brightness to these wonderful artworks.
At the end of the tour our rooms were behind the cordoned roped off area and we climbed the turret on well worn stone steps to a delightful room. With heavy shutters, antique furniture and thankfully a 21st century bathroom with hand painted tiles, we settled snugly down for a night in a French chateau. Breakfast was served in the ancient kitchen, probably the most meager French breakfast I have ever encountered and ironically in the most expensive accommodation I have ever experienced, but the experience was certainly a memorable one.
By Gillian Birch
Gillian | Jul 6, 2009 | Category: General