London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
I fell in love with chateaux hotels in France a long time ago; they bring a different dimension of enjoying life: exquisite food, world class wines, lots of serenity, privacy in pastoral settings, tones of history and charm. Spring is a glorious time to explore them and on this occasion our France road trip with kids included lower Normandy, Ile de France, Loire Valley, Aquitaine and Dordogne. And here is our take on 5 superb chateaux hotels: Chateau de Villiers Essay, Chateau La Tortiniere, Chateau du Thil at Sources de Caudalie, Chateau les Merles, Chateau du Villiers le Mahieu – a luxurious selection of family friendly castles to stay in and 5 experiences each unique in their own way. Which one should you pick?
1.Chateau les Merles for the most beautiful pied a terre in Dordogne, a challenging 9 hole golf course and the best affordable family friendly luxury. A love affair of ours it’s been 10 years – as I celebrated with few of my best friends our birthdays. A gorgeous 17th century chateau, Chateau les Merles was renovated with love and style by Dutch friends over many years. Lunches are wonderfully casual in the elegant yard and the bistro menu simple and beautiful.
The restaurant setting includes tall beamed ceilings, huge fireplace, arty pictures, huge flowers and candles; the food is equally exquisite and elegant. We returned with friends and got a beautiful 3 beds villa on 3 levels, a stunning living and well equipped sleek kitchen, a garden with lavender and sun loungers. A Mr and Mrs Smith hotel, Chateau les Merles delivers a wonderful experience to share as a family and/or with friends.
The kids were overexcited to play and be together, leaving the parents to enjoy the local goodies – wine included. The hotel has its own pool and so are the villas – the set up is superb and space is very generous. The prices start at Euro300 for the villa per night and in here’s a dedicated article.
2.Chateau de Villiers Essay – for glamping in a cabin in the woods by a 16th century chateau with vintage features and charm. The cabin is ecological, cosy, cute and fitting well a family of 4. The chateau is family run and the chalet is literally in the woods – perfect for an authentic glamping experience.
Breakfast is delivered at your time of choice in cute rattan picnic baskets. The kids loved the chalet’s mezzanine and exploring the forest, the games and little books in French as well as the hot chocolate delivered in thermos bottles – a proper adventure! Prices begin with Euro160 per night and we will dedicate an article shortly.
3.Sources de Caudalie and Chateau du Thil for a vinotherapy retreat – wine tasting and spa, an immersion into grand cru and beautiful dining, 2 Michelin stars including. Your bank account may feel weaker after few days in here, but we guarantee a lifetime experience and pampering.
The kids loved the vast vineyards to explore and observe how grapes grow, the intriguing sculptures dotted around the vineyards, the impeccable grounds with animals at Caudalie, cycling around, the beautiful and peaceful forest at Chateau du Thil with little waterfalls and bridges. A dedicated post will follow shortly.
Double rooms at Chateau du Thil start at Euro300 breakfast included. Best to book directly with Les Sources de Caudalie, as Booking.com let us down and charged up to Euro100 per night more than the hotel rate. Booking.com best price guaranteed also meant little to them; so spare your time and account and book directly with Les Sources lovely personnel.
4.Chateau La Tortiniere – for young and old, charm and convenience, foodies and design lovers on Loire Valley. Sleek and beautifully renovated, la Tortiniere has a beautiful setting overlooking the valley and for warmer weather even a pool.
We had an exquisite lunch in here, with superb wines and views. The kids have a natural swing by the trees, wonderful grounds to run around and even little cars to try driving. For wanderers like us, this may be your perfect stop from Normandy or Paris to Bordeaux.
5.Chateau du Villiers le Mahieu, Ile de France – for 30 minutes’ drive from Paris, 13th century walls and turrets surrounded by water filled moats, an ultimate spa, seasonal produce and huge park. The kids loved running around the manicured gardens and watching the boats; dinner was easy and delicious at the bar. Our only regret was not staying longer– Chateau du Villiers le Mahieu we will be back !
Our suggested France road trip with kids includes a stopover in Boulogne sur Mer (30 min drive from Eurotunnel exit at Calais); Chateau de Villiers Essay in Basse Normandy (3 hours drive from Boulogne sur Mer); Chateau Tortiniere Loire Valley (2 hours drive from Essay); Sources de Caudalie and Chateau du Thil (3 hours drive from Tours); Chateau des Merles (2 hours drive from Bordeaux) and back up to Chateau de Villiers le Mahieu (6 hours drive from Bergerac) –best castle to stay in with kids or without and a wonderful 9/10 days itinerary.
Eurotunnel crossing was very exciting for the boys – so much fun to get the car on a train and get to cross the sea under! Last year they’ve been on Eurostar to Paris and they had a taste, this year slightly older was even better.
And if you think superb chateaux hotels in France are not an obvious destination with kids, think again. Fairy-tale and stories fire children imagination and our boys loved playing kings and queens of these superb mansions. Our kids like fine food as much as we do and loved being pampered with warm croissants, chocolat chaud and exquisite dishes. Occasionally the risotto proved too milky for their taste or the soup too smooth, but there was always something that they ate happily – from cod to smoked salmon, French steaks or simply gorgeous warm baguettes or fries and vegetables. Wine tasting may not be on your kids agenda, but at Caudalie they had the most gorgeous grape juice – just like in my childhood: sweet, healthy and full of flavours. Chateau Haut Smith Lafitte had Easter goodies for kids at their tasting boutique – complimentary chocolate eggs in cute packaging or family walks in the forest – Egg hunts for the children, grand cru tasting for parents. The grounds of each of these castles to stay in are beautifully manicured and vast – ideal for running around, adventure and exploring.
The children will get to see grapes growing, hear birds tweeting, observe the local vegetables used in their meals, herbs including. There will be pets roaming freely and adoring kids and cuddles – our boys loved Nikey at Chateau les Merles, Domino and his mother at Chateau de Villiers Essay, ponneys at Chateau de Bridoire (Bergerac), swans and geese at Caudalie. There will be ladybirds and lots of insects to observe, sticks to be collected and used royally, boats to be rowed in historical moats, bikes to be ridden and so on.
Kidsclubs are not there – fair enough, but the personnel at each of these chateaux hotels in France has been graceful with us as a family with 2 cheeky energetic boys – one feels easily born to live the chateau life, guilt free and hedonistic hat on. For further inspiration for France road trip with kids and Relais and Chateaux, check our article on Marseille and Le Petit Nice Passedat – a gem by the Mediteranean with 3 stars Michelin pescatarian gastronomy. For more spring inspiration in France check our Paris article: March, April or May? and Paris with toddlers and/or kids.