Venetia van Kuffeler experiences the ultimate in French rural elegance at Chateau des Briottières in the Loire Valley
After a 4am start, we were exhausted. As we slowly ambled down the long leafy driveway almost 12 hours later, Chateau des Briottières was a sight for sore eyes. Les Briottières is a spectacular private family chateau and luxury hotel in Angers. Situated in Anjou, this eighteenth century property has been in the same family for seven generations.
We were greeted by Briottières’ youthful and friendly owner Arnaud de Valbray. He and his wife Madeleine have recently taken over the running of the property from his parents, Francois and Hedwige. He explains that his family decided to open its doors as these historic houses can only really live on if filled with people and enjoyed. The house is stuffed with period furniture, four poster beds, secret alcoves, and grand oil paintings. The result is a magnificent combination of charm and authenticity. Wondering in and out of rooms laden with French antique furniture, original parquet floors and heavy silk curtains over 10 foot windows revealing the beautiful parkland beyond, it’s clear that Les Briottières is first and foremost a home – admittedly a great historic home – to the family.
The family have designed the ten bedrooms of the château as individual elegant apartments. We were staying in the Grandmother’s Bedroom, a large suite for two adults and two children. Perfect for our family, the space had two interconnecting rooms: a grand double for us and bunk beds for the children next door. They were delighted, as were we! There were two bathrooms, one with a bath, and a second with a shower. Completing the picture were family portraits and grand shuttered windows revealing the rising sun and views of the park. We were in heaven. As we discovered the following morning, our room was above the kitchen, so we woke to the aroma of pain au chocolate seeping through the floorboards.
Depending on the time of year, in the evening guests are invited to enjoy an aperitif – perhaps the Coteaux du Layon (sweet aperitif like Sauternes) or the local ‘champagne’ Crémant de Loire – by the fire, or under the rose pergola outside to soak up the last of the day’s sunshine. Dinner is served by candlelight in the main dining room; a three course menu inspired by delicious family recipes that change each day. The hotel is keen to note: ‘we are not a gastronomic restaurant but a “table d’hôtes.”’ To complete that feeling of being part of a grand, private house party, there’s an ‘honesty’ bar both by the pool and in the main drawing room. Guests are just expected to jot their drinks in the book.
We found ourselves settling into chateau life. The quality of silence was exceptional – we slept soundly and woke to the sound of birdsong. The beauty of Briottières has been mentioned by many writers and passing guests. Anjou and Haut Anjou is famous for its sweetness of life and has been written about by several French poets. Situated at the crossroads of Brittany, Normandy and the Pays de la Loire, between Mont St Michel and the splendid Chateaux de la Loire, staying at Briottières is a unique experience. Guests can walk in the 50 acre park, explore the walled gardens and orangerie, or if feeling more active, contemplate a swim in the pool, go horse-riding or cycling, or choose from a range of ball games, from tennis to ping-pong via billiards. The children found themselves chatting about water voles by the lake with Monsieur de Valbray Snr.
Sadly, our visit was only for 24 hours, but at Briottières we were able to recharge our batteries, breathe fresh air and relax together giving us the strength for our onward journey. The charming and warm welcome from the de Valbray family adds to the magic of this place, where guests experience authentic french rural elegance without a hint of pretension.
Chateau des Briottières 49330 Champigné, FRANCE
T: +33 (0)2 41 42 00 02 +33 (0)6 60 85 00 02