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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Exquisite sleeps in Loire chateaux

Chateau Chissay is one of several chateaus in France's Loire Valley to offer overnight accommodations to visitors.

Chateau Chissay's dining room awaits with fine china, crystal and starched tablecloths.

Both Johnny Depp and Mick Jagger keep chateaux in the Loire Valley, known as the garden of France for its mild climate, wildflower strewn roadsides, and solid place in French history. But except for a glimpse of Jagger’s manse from a hot air balloon, we writers didn’t see their places on my fall press trip. We amply contented ourselves instead with explorations of the chateaux where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years, where the 16th century rivalry between Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers played out and where the Renaissance bloomed.   Many of the 300 chateaux in the Loire Valley have been reinvented to showcase the past for modern visitors and it’s the experience of a lifetime to see them.
This part of France is just a little more than two hours by high speed train from the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris so is an easy-to-arrange destination for Americans.
A hillside strewn with wildflowers frames the chateau's swimming pool as seen from a stone patio where wine and cheese is served before dinner.

Quite a number of the still privately owned chateaux have been reconfigured to provide overnight lodging to visitors and it’s an experience quite unlike any other. We enjoyed two nights at chateaux - nights that went by all too quickly. It was dark when we arrived Chateau de Pray and bedtime for me at 10:30 when we’d finished a lovely meal there.

Departure was shortly after dawn so I didn’t even get the photos I’d wanted.
We arrived in late afternoon at Chateau de Chissay, which isn’t far from Chenonceau Chateau, the subject of the final story in my Loire series, which runs on Jan. 8. It was a charming finish for my last night in France, but I desperately wished for a longer stay. It's so often the downside for travel writers that so much must be covered that its impossible to spend time enough to soak in the ambiance at wonderful places. The photos here were taken at Chateau Chissay and you can see how delightful it is.
Much to my surprise, ancient  fabrics still are in place, antiques fill public areas and some guest rooms have working fireplaces. I fell in love with Chissay, which predates Christopher Columbus, and in modern times has hosted Charles de Gaulle and other notables meeting for strategizing during World War 2.
It’s likely that I had the very suite where deGaulle may have stayed, or at least I like to imagine that. But the chateau was completely renovated in 1986, so perhaps not.

Silk wallcoverings and a comfortable canopied bed with high thread-count linens characterize guest rooms at Chateau Chissay.

My room had silk wallcoverings, grandly vaulted ceilings and a huge canopy bed the equal of those we’d seen in royal chateaux. My bathtub had claw feet and handpainted tiles showing chapters in French history adorned the bathroom walls.
Tall stone framed windows looked out on the gardens and swimming pool below with frothy bathroom curtains catching the breezes from a forested area beyond. Fine linens draped the bed for my silky sleeping comfort .
A deep claw-foot tub allows a full submersion bath

It was no surprise to discover that rates in euros ranged from 135 to about 350 a night ($175 to $475 with meals) But   those lucky enough to stay there say it's   worth every penny.
Many of the chateaux offering overnight lodging are members of Bienvenue au Chateau, an organization designed to protect and enhance private chateaux, manors and historic houses in France with standards that guarantee a personal touch to paying guests. Click on the English flag at its website, to view the accommodations by region and find out about them.
Each listing also indicates whether or not English is spoken.
Both of the chateaux where I stayed are closed for a time during winter but reopen in the spring when the Loire valley is arguably at its loveliest. I cannot imagine a more pleasant thing than using one of these places as headquarters for a meander among the villages and chateaux of the surrounding countryside.
  Learn about them at and

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