Rosie Paterson checks into Hotel Château du Grand-Luce, thirty minutes from Paris and the perfect base for Le Mans.
In an unassuming French village, on the outskirts of the Loire Valley, you’ll find an impossibly romantic building constructed out of soft tuffeau stone. So soft, in fact, you can make out the signatures and drawings carved into the stone by Second World War soldiers, who repurposed Château du Grand-Luce as a military hospital. Valuable works from the Louvre were hidden from the Nazis underneath the former stables, now transformed into a grand ballroom.
The history of Hotel Château du Grand-Luce, however, stretches back further than the 1930s. It was constructed in the mid 18th century using instructions sent by letter from owner Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay to the architect. Upon completion, de Viennay visited for the first time and promptly dropped dead of a heart attack — some say because of the château’s neo-Classical beauty.
After the painstaking restoration — inspired by de Viennay’s exacting standards — the hotel is almost overwhelming. The entrance hall boasts the original stone floor; elsewhere, the wood parquet was sourced from a forest 20 minutes away, from which timber was also sent to the Palace of Versailles.
Where possible, the furniture has been saved: some of the chairs have been reupholstered, but, on their backs, the original fabric was left exposed. The statues outside — interspersed among hydrangeas, rhododendrons and roses — were a gift to de Viennay from Louis XV.
No two bedrooms are even remotely similar. Mine — all blousy pink silk curtains, French toile-covered walls and matching stripy bed canopy — looked out onto the landscaped gardens.
Most hotels — even the best ones — still feel like hotels. At the château, I half expected to turn a corner and bump into Louis XV and his powdered wig. On a rainy afternoon, I put my feet up on the cabriole sofa and read for hours. I realised I’d become a bit too comfortable when, that evening, I skipped down the stairs to supper in a cream brocade dress (that matched the curtains), but no shoes.
Best time to go
Combine with a trip to Paris (an easy train ride away) from June through to September; 24 Hours of Le Mans typically takes place on the second weekend of June, but rooms are snapped up months in advance so book now for 2022
While you’re there
- Explore the kitchen garden, bursting with haricots verts, artichokes and stone fruits. Steal a pear, if you dare
- Ask for a picnic lunch by the circular swimming pool: its location in a sunken section of garden always feels a little warmer than everywhere else
- If you’re inclined to venture out, the nearby town of La Chatre-sur-le-Loir is famed for its antique shops and markets
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