The Loire Valley has long been known for its incredible splendour. Steeped in history and heritage, the area is often referred to as the “Garden of France” due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards and vegetable fields that line the banks of the river.
A once sought-after holiday destination for noblemen, it’s no surprise you’ll feel exactly like this at the impossibly romantic, statuesque, neo-classical structure that is Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, only an hour from Paris. This is unapologetic luxury.
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Enter through the private enclave to meet eighty acres of grounds and a 45,000-square-foot château, steeped in rich history, as is evident from over 300 years worth of art and artefacts strewn across the property. These include several statues commissioned by King Louis XV (exact replicas of statues at Versailles) placed on the grounds as a gift to the original owner Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay. Picture this: the château is built from creamy white tuffeau (a French limestone quarried in the village of Le Grand-Lucé), with several areas featuring murals depicting a fanciful life in Asia in the chinoiserie style, painted on canvas-covered walls in the aptly named Salon Chinois, once the Baron’s private drawing room. Such painted walls by the artist Jean Baptiste Pillement (1728 – 1808) are today found only in one other place — the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s private garden palace at Versailles. Named Grand-Lucé (great light) as a tribute to the Age of Enlightenment, the château hosted many of the period’s great thinkers including Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot (even Mozart had a sleepover), and is one of only a few buildings to have survived the French Revolution wholly intact.
The vibe? Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé has all the magic of a fairytale castle, yet you wouldn’t be the only one who may mistakenly walk out of your room and down to the dining room in your slippers, given you can feel as comfortable as a Queen in your own home.
Legend has it that when the Baron de Viennay came to view his finally finished château, he stood in front of it and promptly dropped down dead. I would assume in utter astonishment of its beauty, at least I would hope that to be the case.
With a nearly religious reverence for all things French and the awe-inspiring history of the château, the design team embraced the opulent-chic standard set by the original owner in 1764. Each of the nineteen sumptuous rooms and suites are crafted individually, all featuring crystal chandeliers and sconces; fine art and furnishings sourced from several centuries; Persian rugs; and custom fabrics by traditional and innovative French design masters alike, from Pierre Frey and Nobilis to Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Corner King Room Garden View may be one of my favourites, with clear views of the gardens. Walls are covered in a classic French blue toile, and the floors are original oak in a historical point de Hongrie pattern. The king-sized bed sits underneath a fabulous canopy crown draped in striking French fabrics, also in shades of blue. The bathroom is incredibly grand in itself, with a view of its own, claw-foot tub, marble-clad shower, and plenty of Maison Caulières bath and beauty products.
The Food + Drink
Breakfast is served à la carte in the main dining room and includes croissants from the local boulangerie, yoghurt from a farm just down the road, jam made from fruit growing in the potager (kitchen garden), plus continental and American options; crepes, pain perdu, scrambled eggs and savoury tartines.
Lunch and dinner are served in the main restaurant, Le Lucé, which faces the gardens with an elegant summer terrace. A three-course menu showcases modern French food based on classic principles. And you’d expect nothing but the best from the wine list given its location in the Loire, resulting in a superb list comprising local wines, with a few from further afield in France.
Adjoining Le Lucé is a bar built in the former private chapel of the Baron de Lucé. Cheekily named Jack Pine’s (the English translation of the Baron’s name – Jacques Pineau de Viennay), try some house cocktails infused with herbs from the gardens, and casual dining from Executive Chef Thomas’ elevated bistro menu. It’s, incidentally, the only place in the hotel with a TV.
A mid-morning coffee or afternoon snack takes place in the Tea Salon and the Grand Salon located in the centre of the Château with views over the formal gardens, or perhaps poolside on a chaise under the Loire Valley sunshine.
If the weather is nice, the chef will make up a picnic hamper and bring it to you by the pool or in the garden, or for you to take on the back of one of the hotel bikes if you’re exploring further.
The Little Extras
Buly 1803 products and the wicker basket crammed with local goodies – to snack on in your room – are welcome additions. And as far as ‘not so little’, an afternoon dip in the pool in the summer months, a ride on the pedal and electric bikes, time in the spa and fitness salon, or a walk to the geese-filled lake are lovely extras to fit into your getaway.
The To-Do List
The village just outside the gates of Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé’ is quintessentially French; untouched and rural in its aesthetic and feel. On a Wednesday, there’s a lovely farmer’s market filled with fresh produce, and the village has two boulangeries, a florist, the historic City Hall, an 11th century church, cobblestone lanes and centuries-old stone homes. While just outside the gates there is not a whole lot to do, stay inside and you can find plenty to while away the time from the heated swimming pool in the garden and the electric bikes, to hot-air balloon rides picking you up from the meadow beyond the lake. You can explore nearby villages with day trips to surrounding châteaux, or visit vineyards of the Loire Valley accompanied by a picnic basket. And adjacency to the city of Le Mans, famous for its 24-hour race, is a draw for visitors inclined toward motorsports. For a spot of shopping? Take a trip to nearby Le Chartre-sur-le-Loir for some antiques, and perhaps some ornaments to add a little château life to your own home.
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