The chateaux of France, ranging from functional Medievalism of de Vincennes and de Vitre, to the later Mannerism of Fontainebleau, number among the architectural wonders of their ages. And the 18th century chateau de Rochette, sits comfortably in the same pantheon: a powerfully elegant statement, sitting half way up a hill on the Loire valley, the castle would not look out of place in a Nicholas Poussin campagna.
The home of Ducesses and Princes, and host to several famous guests including Honore de Balzac and King George IV of Britain, the chateau was once the property of the notorious Talleyrand. A man whose promiscuous career (serving several administrations) and reputation as a diplomat who was slightly too smooth for comfort, ensured the castle possessed an enviable place, away from and yet still at the heart French society, for centuries.
Three hours from Paris by car, the castle turned hotel possesses 37 rooms, 3 suites for those seeking a little more space, and finally a huge apartment, smothered in baroque charms and antique furniture. Although signs of civilization can rarely be spotted from its huge flowery, Italianate terrace, the hotel comes equipped with its fruits, such as Wifi and a restaurant that is featured by the most prestigious guides (Michelin, Champérard, Le Pudlo, Guide du Routard, Gault Millau et al).
Called the ‘Dining Room’, its ceiling is over 5 meters high, the tables are fashioned out of wooden swans, and the walls are covered in glass. The quality of the menu, which includes delights such as Millefeuille de gambas, tomates, concombre et pomme verte a l’huile de vanilla and others made by head chef Emmanuelle Pasquier, mirrors the sublime wines the estate is surrounded by. Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, Chinon, Vouvray, Montlouis, Touraine are just some of the grapes that burgeon around the property.
For more casual eating the Talleyrand lounge, bathed in light and decorated with Tours silk, is perfect. Although many visitors prefer the more intimate space of the Dino lounge that overlooks the French gardens.
Which, if you fancy a walk around, are full of statues, ornaments, ponds and all the other flourishes one might expect from a house of this stature – it even includes a lake. Surrounded by a 50 acre forest too, some of the trees are two centuries old. Follow the pathway of limetrees on your wanders if you seek the outdoor heated swimming pool.
Further afield, lovers of literature should visit some of the homes of the French geniuses scattered around the countryside, including Deviniere Rabelais and Honore Balzac. Adventurous types can stopover at the several cave sites that pock the area, or go riding, hiking, biking (bikes are available on request) – there’s even a chance to go canoeing at Chinon. To go the extra mile, perhaps to impress the family or a loved one, take a helicopter or balloon ride up and down the Loire, which is so attractive, it’s been protected by UNESCO.