Fine food, fresh heir
Cusp of the Loire
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of pommeau – a Norman apple liqueur
Rates from (inc tax)$147.88 If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (21EUR), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (21EUR), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Fine food, fresh heir
Cusp of the Loire
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of pommeau – a Norman apple liqueur
11, including six suites.
12 noon, but flexible according to availability. Earliest check-in, 2.30pm.
Double rooms from $147.90 (€132), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.70 per person per night on check-out.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR145.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR145.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Rates exclude breakfast (€14 a person).
In-room massages can be arranged on request, and there are bicycles to borrow.
From 21 December to 10 March 2015.
Tennis courts, gardens with playground and trampoline, CD, DVD and book libraries, in-room massage, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD, iPod dock, Casanera products.
L’Orangerie is set apart from the château, a huge, self-contained suite with an open bathroom, vast wooden bed and one wall made from a 19th-century backdrop found in a Barcelona theatre. The château’s most modern room is the Chambre des Mystères, romantically secluded up two narrow flights of winding stairs. It’s chocolate-coloured, with bold red accents. For a stay that’s steeped in history, go for the Chambre d’Henri IV, where France’s first Bourbon king kipped.
There's a heated outdoor pool in the grounds, open May–September.
Riding boots and hats, and a hearty appetite for cider and cheese.
Pets can stay for €10 a night.
Pets can stay for €10 a night; the owners have dogs of their own and are happy to make meal arrangements for yours too. See more pet-friendly hotels in Normandy.
Extra beds can be added to all rooms, except Maréchal and Henry IV, for €20 a person, each night. Cots for babies cost nothing. Baby monitors can be borrowed. Children’s dinner is served at 6.30pm.
Extra beds can be added to all rooms, except Maréchal and Henri IV, for €20 a person, each night (free if you book a family room). Cots for babies cost nothing. Baby monitors can be borrowed. Children’s dinner is served at 6.30pm.
Clad in 18th-century wood paneling, the Canard suite has an imposing four-poster bed, a roll-top bath and an adjoining room with bunk beds for two children. Smaller double Classic Rooms Marechal and Terrasse can be joined together to sleep up to four .
The owners’ three little boys have grown up in this family château, so there’s plenty here to keep children of all ages busy. Let yours roam free in the 2.5 acre park, a halo of lush Normandy greenery and manicured lawns surrounding the castle, with a heated outdoor pool, playground, ping-pong, badminton and huge trampoline for active little Smiths. A tennis court lies in quiet seclusion an 150-metre stroll away from the main house. If relaxation is more your thing try your hand at croquet, or simply flop with a good book in the dappled shade of an old tree.
Sitting by a paved terrace, the heated pool in the grounds is open from May to September. It’s not supervised, but the sunloungers set out on the surrounding grass are great for keeping an eye on little ones, who can pick from the hotel’s floats.
Rates exclude breakfast (€14 a person).
Children gather for dinner at 6.30pm to enjoy a special menu together. French kids’ staples of steak haché, ham or pasta are served in the dining room (highchairs are available); parents are then free to enjoy a peaceful dinner once everyone’s tucked up in bed. The hotel can heat up milk or prepare purées – just ask.
The hotel has local babysitters on hand to step in when required (€9 an hour). Book a day in advance.
Extra beds can be added to every room except Classic Rooms for €20 a person, each night. Cots are free.
Owner Charles-Henry de Valbray is a self-taught chef who prepares a terrific set dinner, served around 8pm each evening. Typical dishes include beetroot and caper gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, veal tagine with dried fruits, and apricot puffs with rosemary ice-cream.
There’s an honesty bar in the salon, a grand space in which to nurse a nightcap and pretend you own the château, to the sounds of jazz, lounge and classical.
Breakfast is available from 8.30am until 11am. Dinner is served at 8pm.
None, though breakfast can be served in-room.
Easyjet (www.easyjet.co.uk) flies from London to Tours, an hour’s drive away. You can also fly to Paris, which is a two-hour drive from the hotel.
Alençon station is a five-minute drive from Château de Saint Paterne. The station serves Paris via Le Mans
From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, take the A1 towards Paris, then follow the 'Paris Ouest' signs to Porte de la Chapelle. Once you're on the 'périphérique ouest', head for the A11 to Chartres. Go towards Le Mans, then change on to the A28 towards Rouen Alençon. Take exit 19 to south Alençon, and follow the signs for the centre of Saint Paterne. The hotel will be immediately to your right. The drive takes two hours and 30 minutes. From Tours, the A28 goes directly to Alençon (about an hour and a half). Hire a car at either of the airports, or at the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord.
Green fields, apple orchards, mottled horses and endless supplies of Camembert… Château de Saint Paterne sits near the border between Normandy and the Pays de la Loire, a stone's throw from the lively town of Alençon. In town you’ll find flea markets, attractive cobbled streets, mediaeval quarters and a flamboyant Gothic basilica as exquisite as the precious lace they’ve been making here since the 17th century. But it’s the glorious countryside – all heavy blossoms, verdant rolling hills and placid waters – that seduces. There's a tennis court (set 150 metres from the main houe) in the vast gardens. A 20-minute drive from Saint Paterne, the Ecurie des As-Taquins riding school on the Rue de Bretagne in Alençon offers lessons for beginners to pros, and there's golf, kayaking, zip-lining and light aircraft flying for the intrepid, too.
The château’s owners have a gastronomic side project: Rive Droite, a collection of dining rooms set in the town’s 18th-century former lace museum on Rue du Pont Neuf in Alençon, where you can enjoy seasonal food either indoors or on a pretty riverside terrace. Saint-Céneri le Gérei is often voted as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and its other boast is painters’ school turned rustic bistro L’Auberge des Peintres (+33 (0)2 33 26 49 18), where dishes such as seafood cassoulet and a very good black pudding exemplify simple French food done well. In La Perrière, La Maison d’Horbée on the Grande Place (+33 (0)2 33 73 18 41) is a tearoom, gallery and antique shop in one, for browsing brocante with your coffee and brioche. In Neufchâtel-en-Saosnois, Le Relais des Etangs de Guibert (+33 (0)2 43 97 15 38), overlooking a woodland-fringed lake, serves specialities such as carpaccio of foie gras and lobster.
This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
Outside it’s raining hard, and all we can see of northern France are autoroute reflectors glowing green under the glare of our headlights as we speed towards Le Mans. We’re tired, crotchety, cursing this country’s passion for rail strikes, and fantasising wildly about the bread, cheese and carafe of wine we’ve been promised on arrival. I’m confident it won’t consist of a plastic-wrapped slice of supermarket cheddar. ‘Do you think there’ll be Pont L’Eveque?’ I ask Mr Smith. ‘And gooey Camembert?’ he counters. ‘And something radioactively whiffy, with proper French bread to squash it on...’
By the time we reach the village of Saint-Paterne in the Perche region, we’re almost delirious with hunger. We pass the church and peer into inky blackness through sprays of water to make out the bulk of a small turreted cha?teau dating back to the 15th century, and take a sharp right turn into its rewardingly crunchy gravel driveway.
It’s 10.30pm and we haven’t so much as packed up the SatNav when the front door swings open and proprietor Ségolène de Valbray appears to greet us. She shows us into a series of communal salons furnished with parquet floors, faded rugs and antiques, promising us not just cheese, but a tray in our room with a plate of something warm. ‘We haven’t really put away dinner yet,’ she says.
This is the beauty of Château de Saint Paterne. There are 10 rooms and suites, each spacious and with its own distinctive character. Yet, though guests’ privacy is never compromised, this maison d’hôte retains the sense of being a grand family home (which it is: the de Valbrays have lived here for centuries) to which you’re invited for a long weekend of sumptuous meals and good hosting.
A reassuring smell of wood smoke emanates from the open fire in the drawing-room grate, and we’re tempted to curl up in a salon – perhaps the one with velvety, wine-coloured walls, comfortable armchairs and bold display of tall church candles. But Ségolène is already throwing open a back door and marching us outside, over more gravel, past a wet lawn, towards a high-ceilinged garden building whose high windows are illuminated by the warm light glowing inside.
This is the Orangerie, an airy space that must be suffused with sunshine in summer yet is still, at the less sympathetic end of October, surprisingly cosy. It feels like an extension of the outdoors: a painted garden picture hangs like wallpaper along one entire, long wall; the enormous bed is built out of great big hunks and chunks of naked wood; and the semi-open-plan bathroom is painted a sprightly lime green. Even the chandelier seems to be made of branches. My ragged senses are still being soothed by decadent details – a pair of champagne flutes beside the bath, the oversized sink piled with L’Occitane toiletries, terracotta tiles with underfloor heating – when there’s a knock at the door.
The tray – no, two trays – arrive, crammed with dishes. This is a four-course feast, not a supper. We feel regally pampered. Spiced mussel soup might not have been my first choice so late (it’s now 11pm) but it’s so good I finish it. Next comes a meltingly tender lamb tagine studded with medjool dates, made by the Moroccan housekeeper. I’m too tired to tackle the plump, glistening strawberry tart, or make a hole in the cheese, which comes on a plate of dressed lettuce leaves – and I start to wonder how much this might all be costing. (€30 each, it turns out, which is extraordinary considering the quality.) No fan of clever-clever foams wrung out of a daringly unappetising set of ingredients, or over-worked edible sculptures on ridiculously shaped plates, I’m relieved to find the food at Château de Saint Paterne is pitched at the level of home cooking, if you could actually cook that well.
As we discover the following night, the way dinner usually goes is that guests gather for a convivial fireside aperitif at 8pm (in my case, an unholily strong G&T). Then, at about 8.30pm, everyone moves on to the dining room to eat a set menu by candelight at their own tables. In the kitchen in his pinny most evenings is Charles-Henry de Valbray himself. Where did he learn such skills, I ask, sighing over a beautifully light asparagus mousseline, and magret de canard cooked with honey and crispy little potatoes. Charles-Henry shrugs. ‘Just at home, in the family kitchen.’
The wine list is short, just a handful of reds and whites. Like the British aristocracy, it takes refuge in well-bred clarets. It’d be nice to see a few more exciting bottles, though what’s here is good. I love that it’s sold by the bottle, but when we ask for a glass of Pouilly-Fumé each, Ségolène says that’s fine – she will drink the rest herself.
Much of our time is spent dreaming of whiling away a few days here in warmer weather; the outdoor pool is open until the end of September, and we’d have the run of the 25-acre grounds. The lawn is dotted with chairs and tables begging for you to sit with a book, sipping a local drop. As for its Smith credentials, there’s a fairy-tale quality, and it’s romantic, too. King Henry IV apparently stole away here for trysts with his lovers. More prosaically, the motoring museum at nearby Le Mans is said to be excellent. I am drawn to the glittering Loire, about an hour and a half’s drive away, where there are wine producers galore, so you can drop in for a tasting without making an appointment.
Our greatest temptation? To keep coming back, staying in a different room each time: we love Chambre Henri IV, whose antique wardrobe is carved with faces that Charles-Henry admits terrified him as a child; and Chambre du Parc with its attic bathroom. A secret door in a room downstairs opens onto a stone spiral staircase that takes you to another suite, the more modern Mystères. Consider them all earmarked.
The warm welcome, classic French ambience, the feeling that we were honoured guests in a family home, the wonderful decor, the beautiful rooms, the peace of the terrace, the gardens and the park, and the superb food. Evenings with drinks on the terrace followed by a superb meal are sheer perfection. A sublime experience. Try the hotel's sister restaurant, Rive Droit, in Alencon.
Privacy in the Orangerie bathroom!
The chateau is beautiful and you are made to feel as if you are part of the family. The facilities are there to be enjoyed. The food was amazing, the staff were all charming and the owners we lovely. It was such a relaxing stopover for us, next time we are staying longer! We didn't venture outside the chateau - it was so hard to leave!
Noise, mod cons
The beautiful old building, but with modern features; the lovely grounds; the friendly relaxed atmosphere.
5 star pampering. This is DIY luxury, the puzzle pieces are there for you to assemble!
The room - Chambre du Parc - with its amazing views over the garden and sunken bath tub. The pool - wonderful place to relax and cool down. The dinners - great 3 course meals in the lovely dining room. The acceptance of kids in such a beautiful house - loads of games for them to play in the gardens. Only trip out was for a lovely lunch in a beautiful little village about 15mins away: Saint Ceneri-le-Gerei.
Late night parties
Staying in a chateau, the park, the pre-dinner drinks, the food, the way children are accommodated for, accepting dogs. Recommend visiting Saint Ceneri Le Gerei. Picturesque village stuck in time.
No kids especially in summer as location is perfect for a stay-over on the way south.
We loved the experience, a great Hotel, with attentive staff, lovely surroundings, a great chef and superb ambiance. Visit the local Ville de fluerie, staff will direct you
Accommodation. Room was lovely and food was excellent. 9/10
If you are over 6ft avoid the Tower Room as the beams are low and the door for both room and bathroom could be a problem . We were in that room last year but room this year in same block was lovely
To be disappointed
Open - make yourself at home chateau experience - mingling with other guests and open honesty bar. Plus the funky rooms
We stayed in the Orangeries room and it was incredibly beautiful, just stunning. The entire place is blissful and the staff are kind and helpful. A perfect first wedding anniversary!
My husband wished there was a shower as well as a bath in our room. However, they are installing one this year!
The huge rooms, the gardens and the food as well as the warmth of the hosts and the general quirkiness.
The room (Chambre des Mysteries), but particularly the owners and staff - really lovely.
To be a long way into the countryside.
The friendly, country-house atmosphere, characterful bedrooms with comfy beds, walking in the park, the fantastic cuisine and carefully selected local wines.
Just about everything. The setting, the hostess, the staff, the food. I was travelling with a dog, who was made very welcome.
Super deluxe. Its more cozy and comfortable.
The combination of traditional and modern contemporary styling and outstanding cuisine. The service was outstanding without being intrusive.
Everything about this place is perfect. The owners are so welcoming and the house is stunning.. there is so much room for the children to play with swings, trampolines, tree house, pool , badminton, table tennis all outside. We stayed in the Chambre du Parc which was perfect for a small family of 4. Beautiful view from our huge window and the bathroom had a sunken bath.
Lots of places nearby for dinner or entertaining.. its remote but thats ok if you just want to stay for a day or two.
The children's separate dinner on a communal table. Ten out of 10.
Our one criticism is that there is only one sun shade by the pool which wasn't ideal for those with very small children who can't be in hot sunshine.
Beautiful Chateau. Heated pool. Fantastic food. A charming host and staff. Lovely homemade jams and handmade soaps, so good we bought some to bring home. Our 11 year old is an adventurous eater and was welcome at the grown up evening meal. A kids meal is served separately for the younger ones.
Bright lights and nightlife!
Everything! The pool, the dinner, the breakfast, the genial and chic hostess and host, and the other guests!
How good the food and how beautiful the dining room and living room was.
The ambience of the old Chateau. Dinner was a spectacular affair of home cooked delights. The vines framing the window made you feel like you were in an Edwardian novel. Staff couldn't do enough for us. Our 9 month year old was provided with a cot and baby monitor. They kept my wife's dinner warm while she put our little girl to bed.
To go hungry.
Beautifully decorated and renovated. Lovely grounds and pool. A perfect long weekend escape or stop off on the way down or back up through France. Really lovely. Owners delightful. Pre-dinner drinks 'on the house'. Don't be alarmed at the rather ugly village you drive through on the way to the Chateau - once in the place you are in heaven. They were extremely accommodating with my 2 small dogs (and other guests with dogs).
A choice of menu - you eat what they prepare. I think there is some accommodation for allergies etc, but otherwise you go with the flow. Delicious food however.