Stylist’s art director Natasha Tomalin-Hall pretends she’s queen of her very own castle in the Loire Valley
Oh, there’s nothing more decadent than staying in a French chateau, especially when you can waltz around pretending you own the gaff, which is exactly what we do at Chateau de Jalesnes, near the bijou village of Vernantes in the Loire Valley.
As we pull into the driveway of the 17th century castle, it’s exactly what a French chateau should be: gothic, intimidating and utterly breathtaking. Fully renovated in 2016 and with 13 self-catering studios and suites, it’s the ideal base for a sloshed jaunt around this world-renowned wine region. We stay in the first-floor suite that sits directly above the entrance to the chateau and has its very own flock-wallpapered living room, kitchenette and humongous shower built into the turret – although do remember to bring your own shower gel, shampoo et al. It may be grand, but it’s still self-catering.
The chateau’s arresting presence is almost undermined by an iconic, bright green Citroen 2CV parked outside the imposing double front doors, but it belongs to the chateau’s English owners Michael and Jonathan, who kindly let us take it out for a spin. You definitely need a car during your stay because, as tempting as it might be to swan around the extensive grounds, laze by the pool and explore the (now waterless) moat with its hidden caves while pretending you’re one of King Louis XIV’s courtiers, there is so much to see in the surrounding towns, you’d be daft not to explore further.
It would also be a crime not to go wine tasting while here. The wine of this region is outstanding, particularly the Crémant de Loire. It’s everything you want from a sparkling white – crisp and fresh with a hint of sweetness and is excellent paired with a tangy goat’s cheese (of which there is plenty). The tasting at Langlois Chateau (£9 per person; langlois-chateau.fr) includes a trip to the wine cellars and a chance to buy a bottle (or case, depending on how much you intend to pickle your liver) to consume back in the comfort of the chateau, a 20-minute drive away.
A trip to nearby Saumur is a must. We rent kayaks from Canoes d’Anjou (canoes.fr) and paddle down the actual Loire from here, which was magical, if a little tiring. Trust me when I say I am not someone who frequently partakes in outdoor pursuits, but it’s a great way to see the grand architecture of the historic town centre and to work up an appetite. If you’re not tempted to take advantage of the kitchenette facilities at the chateau, then the 25-minute drive to L’Aubergade (restaurantaubergade. fr) is well worth it for their lobster three ways. After a day of wine tasting, kayaking, sightseeing and feasting, it was sweet relief to get back to ‘our’ chateau and collapse into one of the squishy leather armchairs dotted around the huge entrance hall. But not before popping the cork on yet another bottle of Crémant de Loire…
Prices start from €170 (£150) per night. To book, visit chateaudejalesnes.com