This beautifully restored Renaissance chateau was once home to a mistress of the French King Henry IV. The Valbrays have spent the past two decades restoring their family castle with many authentic period furnishings and fixtures of eclectic charm. Today Château de Saint Paterne is a luxurious, fairytale estate offering a chic retreat with enormous history. Each of the 10 bedrooms has been elegantly and distinctly designed, many with four-poster beds, free-standing tubs, family portraits, and period furnishings with both Asian and Moroccan influences. Selected as one of Tatler Guide’s 101 Best Hotels of the World 2012, and described as “incredibly friendly and wildly romantic…this is an escape that will pull on the heartstrings.” website »
You will be welcomed to France by eager and friendly staff in the early afternoon of your arrival. Your short 20 minute transfer to Château de Saint Paterne will take you through winding hills and beautiful landscape as you cross the very chic and trendy area of Perche. Arriving at the chateau in the early evening, you will be greeted by Charles-Henry and Ségolène de Valbray (your hosts for the week) with aperitifs and a candlelight dinner. Carefully selected wines will accompany your gastronomic adventure…and the fairytale begins!
While you will enjoy numerous meals at the Château during your stay, breakfast is included each day, and served in stunning abundance. Guests will find that meals are always prepared with quality, fresh ingredients sourced locally, and beautifully presented with warm smiles. You will find a variety of breads, croissants, yogurts, hazelnut cake and little Financiers, cheese, cereals and dried fruits. An early morning taste of Normandy is always a great way to start your day of exploration!
After a quiet and early breakfast, you will depart for the Normandy coast and enjoy a day to relive the Landing! Plunge into the history of a war that moved the 20th century. Visit the museum and discover the story of the Second World War from its origins to the Battle of Normandy. Then follow your guide on the D-Day Landing Beaches – discover the Beach of Arromanches where you will see wide concrete boxes at the surface of the sea. They are relics of the two artificial harbors built by the Allies to land the men, supplies and equipment necessary for battle. You will then visit the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer with its 9,387 white marble gravestones perfectly lined up on the field overlooking Omaha Beach. This 175 acre site was granted for life by France to the United States, and shelters the bodies of the American soldiers who died during the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy. Before returning from your day in history, you will make one final visit at Pointe du Hoc high up on the cliffs overlooking the sea.
Your first cooking lesson is led by cookbook author and Château owner Charles-Henry, and will be held in the hotel’s new private kitchen. With two cookbooks in circulation, Charles-Henry has earned his stripes, and will guide you through an introduction of French traditional family cooking. Only fresh, local, and seasonal produce, some of it from the Château’s own kitchen garden, are used in preparing this day’s menu…which you will all enjoy at the conclusion of your instructions. After lunch, relax at the chateau or visit nearby Alençon…famous for its lace. You’ll find this town to be rich in shopping opportunities, and the Château proprietors are happy to share their recommendations.
After an hour drive through the picturesque countryside you will arrive at the beautiful town of Saumur. The day will begin near century-old vineyards widely known for their exquisite wines, and some of the finest sparkling wines outside of Champagne. You will learn how the wine is made from the first fermentation to the labeling of bottles. The culmination of years of experience combined with modern production techniques have garnered this winemaker over 130 awards. The cellars you will visit are famed producers of the Saumur Brut sparkling wine established in 1851, but their heritage in winemaking goes back over 1,000 years. Aside from wine tasting, you will tour the extensive underground galleries that stretch nearly 5 miles long, the Sunken Cathedral and a display of underground sculptures carved from indigenous “tuffeau” limestone – excavated to produce some of the most stunning white sculptures and buildings throughout France. After your underground stroll, what better way to experience the region than with a delightful lunch featuring local specialties, and a tasting of locally-produced wines.
Château de Saint Paterne is located between the Loire river valley and rolling hills of Normandy. It’s situated in a region that is rich in culture, history, with lots of chateaux, antiques shops, museums, and charm that will captivate you. A pleasant drive through the countryside and a chance to discover small ancient villages that will take you to places like Deauville (on the coast and home of the American film festival), Honfleur (a picturesque port village), Mont Saint Michel (an island with a majestic monastery), Loire valley (with its famous chateaux), Chartres (with its famous Cathedral that rivals Notre Dame in Paris), Le Mans (the 24 hour race in Le Mans, or the Bugatti race track), or Giverny (the home of Claude Monet and his famous gardens). Charles-Henry and Ségolène de Valbray will help you with your itineraries, recommend restaurants, and have even put together some proposed itineraries. (Today breakfast will be included, lunch and dinner on your own.)
On this morning tour you will visit the local market in Alençon (pronounced A-lonn-sonn), a natural staging post with a colorful, military history in the Middle Ages. A visit to this vibrant restored town is like traveling back through time. Among its centuries-old highlights is the circular wheat market, home to exhibitions beneath its magnificent glass dome. Cobbled streets lead you from the town centre to the medieval quarter nearby, passing timbered houses along the way. During your market tour, you will select ingredients to be used in your cooking class with your Chef, who will later guide you through the creation of a multi-course dinner that you will all enjoy at the conclusion of class.
I wanted to tell you that our trip was FABULOUS! The Chateau and the owners made the trip so special. Their hospitality was beyond belief. I have traveled extensively and this trip will go down in my top three list. Thank you so much for your help in making the trip so memorable.