Three Hours or Less from Paris by Train: Loire Valley

For July, we returned to the Loire Valley by special invitation from La Grande Maison Younan Collection, a new chain of luxury chateau hotels.

Fulfilling a childhood dream to own a French chateau, American real estate entrepreneur Zaya S. Younan established La Grande Maison Younan Collection in 2015. He bought and restored four chateaus in the Poitou-Charentes and Loire areas, which are both about two-hours from Paris by train. His goal was to was to revive and sustain the French art de vivre and to make chateau living accessible to the public.

We were invited in early July to stay at Chateau de Beauvois, the first acquisition of La Grande Maison Younan Collection. The 72-minute train to Tours departed from Montparnasse station in Paris and the hotel-arranged transfer took about 20 minutes.

The stately chateau is located off a narrow country road just up a hill on 57 acres of woodland. We felt like royalty when we checked in the opulently decorated lobby and front desk area with mammoth crystal chandeliers, Louis XV chairs of royal blue velvet and gold trimming and wood beam ceilings.

Our spacious suite inside a stone Renaissance tower was furnished in a similar ornate style as the lobby. In the bedroom, a canopied bed was covered in a classic French print fabric with the same fabric covering the walls and used for the elaborate drapes. The living room was filled with French antiques, including a dark wood writing desk trimmed with gold, thick red carpeting and a mahogany armoire.

The outdoor pool is located below the chateau on a flat plot of land and, in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a refreshing swim in the large-scale pool with the hotel crest emblazoned across the bottom. Comfortable chaise lounges covered with plush white towels and a private cabana were a welcome amenity to the pool.

 

At dusk, we enjoyed a glass of local, crisp white wine on the terrace, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens with formal box hedges dressed with red summer flowers and a statuary. The view of the Loire River with the lush green landscape around it and the scarlet sky was transfixing.

King Louis XIII frequently hunted in the forest next to the chateau in the 1600s and the formal restaurant is aptly named after him. Chef Régis Guilpain prepared an exceptional seasonal meal of fresh, local oysters, a terrine of spring vegetables with green peas and purple artichokes, and pan-fried pike fish with melted leeks, mushroom and purple potatoes. The joy of ripe summer fruits came alive with the dessert of wild strawberries accompanied by a light biscuit and red currants.

The next morning we toured the impressive wine cellar, 50 feet below the chateau, with storage space of over 12,000 bottles. The cellar has been completely refitted in black and gold décor and a salon has been added, which is available for private wine tastings.

Chateau de Beauvois is a four-star property with 35 rooms and suites. Other amenities include a tennis court, tree-lined bicycle paths and an extensive collection of the finest cigars.

In a kind gesture to familiarize us with other historic and cultural sites in the area, the chateau called upon the local tourist board to organize a day tour.

Our first stop was Chateau Villandry and gardens. The last of the great Renaissance castles, Villandry was constructed in 1532 for Jean Le Breton, the finance minister under King Francois I. The true highlight of the chateau is the six magnificent gardens, covering most of the estate. Most dazzling were the meticulously, manicured formal gardens as viewed from the top floor of the chateau and the vegetable garden maze filled with summer vegetables. A walk through the water garden soothed our senses, cooling us off from the warm, humid day.

Another maze garden featured an exhibition of contemporary sculptures by Marina de Soos and in the chateau, painter Jean-Yves Bourgain displays his works inspired by the Renaissance.

During July and August, Villandry hosts Nights of a Thousand Lights, an evening where the chateau and gardens are illuminated by two thousand candle flames.

Our second outing was to Chateau De Langeais, a chateau Louis XI ordered to be constructed in 1465 to secure his rein in the Loire region. A secret marriage in 1491 of Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII in the chateau, secured her standing in the French Kingdom. Today, Chateau De Langeais is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 15 rooms on public display. Intricate tapestries from the 15th and 16th century, hand carved furniture, stone fireplaces, tiled floors, and velvet, canopied beds adorn the rooms.

Outside, in the park grounds, is a formal garden leading up to hill where a fortress from 1,000 AD still stands. Behind the fortress are faithfully reconstructed scaffolding and lifting machines from the year 1,000. The Belvedere Promenade is landscaped with cedar and sequoia trees leading to a telescope to view the Loire River. Kids can climb the six-story tree house carved inside ancient cedar tree with panoramic views of the village of Langeais.

Chateau de Beauvois

https://www.younancollection.com/fr/chateau-de-beauvois/hotel-vallee-de-la-loire.html

Chateau Villandry

https://www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/

Chateau De Langeais

http://chateau-de-langeais.com/en/

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