What can I expect at a French castle hotel?
Over twenty years ago when I wrote my first book on European castle hotels, with no publisher lined up and only a vague idea of what I was doing, it was the proprietors of the French castle hotels that were the most gracious and helpful. From the outset, they told me that they loved to receive guests at their castle home.
The majority of French castle hotels are family owned and managed, and you’ll seldom find two alike. But one thing they all have in common is the gracious hospitality of these families, who give attention to every detail—decorating with exquisite furnishings, planting idyllic gardens, and serving food that satisfies the most demanding gourmet. They genuinely care that every guest enjoys his or her stay and leaves impressed.
What do I need to know about my room?
Guest rooms are always comfortable, stylish, and usually accented with decorator fabrics and occasional antiques; often a canopied bed is the centerpiece. Bathrooms are always modernized.
Additional rooms can often be installed in outlying buildings apart from the main castle, and the individual hotel listings note this. It’s usually best to spend the extra money and stay in the main building.
The feudal lords who commissioned the building of a castle didn’t take in mind potential 21st-century guests who might have problems with stairs. If your mobility is restricted or steps are a challenge for you, always ask at the time of reservation what is involved with reaching your room.
Always be very specific in the type of room you desire, get a confirmation in writing, and present this during check-in so there are no misunderstandings.
How about breakfast?
Breakfast, normally not included in the room rate, consists of croissants, bread, butter, jam, and either coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Hot breakfasts are usually available but at a higher cost. Some of the larger castle hotels offer full breakfast buffets. If you’re trying to save a euro or two and you’re near a village, the local patisserie has those delicious croissants as well.
This is what France is all about. Dining at your hotel is more important than your room; it’s more important than just about anything. Be warned that your reasonable room rate will rise significantly when you factor in a night dining in the castle restaurant; however, dining is a memorable part of the French castle hotel experience and not to be missed. Expect an elegant event of many courses—perfectly prepared and presented—accompanied by regional wine. Always make a reservation for dinner.
At some castle hotels half-board is required at all times or only during the high season. Half-board includes breakfast and your choice of lunch or dinner. Always inquire the hotel when you make reservations.