Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Nights in white satin

During our many travels in France, we mainly stayed in hotels … until 2007 when I won first prize in an internet quiz on the website of the Touraine tourist board. You can read all about it here. The prize included an overnight stay in a ‘Chambre d’hôtes’ called ‘le Château de Pintray’ in the village of Lussault-sur-Loire, some 10 km from Amboise.

Although the idea of staying at a ‘Chambre d’hôtes’ didn’t appeal to us at first, we decided to give it a try, just for the one night. We spent the remaining four nights at our usual hotel: Le Château de Belmont. The reason why I haven’t mentioned this before in a post is that I don’t want you to think that we are snobs! Ever since we discovered the ‘Relais et Châteaux’ hotel chain in 1985 we have been big fans of these hotels. I admit that they can be outrageously expensive. But given that we only take one full week of vacation per year – besides our little weekend and mid-week trips – more or less justifies the expense. Moreover, we always book the smallest and less expensive rooms.

Over the years we’ve stayed at many RC hotels and have been disappointed only once. All the other times were just sheer magic.

2005: the terrace of the 'Château de Belmont' by night.
The huge dog in the photo belongs to the owner and his called Hugo.

The Château de Belmont is situated in the Northern district of Tours. In fact I should say ‘was situated’ as the owners retired in February 2008, selling the property to a real estate development company that is turning the place into a residence for affluent senior citizens.

Our first stay at Belmont coincided with our first stay in the Loire Valley in 1999. That year we visited almost every other RC hotel in the region, with the intention of trying them all one day. But by the end of our stay at Belmont we were so smitten with the place, that we almost immediately decided to go back there the next year, and the next and the next … till June 2007. When leaving the hotel after a four-night stay (for the ninth consecutive year), we didn’t realize that it was the last time we would see the place.

In November 2007 we had booked our regular room for our next stay in 2008. In January, however, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine who lives near Chenonceau. Her message sounded ominous: ‘This may interest you!’ Worried, I opened the attached PDF file. It turned out to be a scan of a newspaper article announcing the closure of Belmont for the end of February 2008. Having received a confirmation of our reservation I thought the article was a hoax. However, three weeks later I received another e-mail, from the hotel this time … confirming our worst fears. It also recommended some other RC hotels in the area, but we knew that in spite of all the splendour and charm, we would miss the welcoming feeling we had experienced at Belmont, where we felt especially at home and were known and recognized by the owners and staff.

So we made a daring decision … we booked at room at a Bed and Breakfast in Vouvray … After our short and yet pleasant experience in June 2007 at Pintray, we had stayed at several B and B’s in the Alsace and the Somme Bay. Those were all short stays, though, of maximum two nights. This would be our first full week at a Chambre d’hôtes and we were very curious and slightly nervous about what it would be like.

And just to put things straight … the beds at the hotel didn’t have satin sheets, but it makes such a nice title!



Carolyn said...

Once you become an affluent senior citizen, you can move into the Belmont permanently!

ladybird said...

Carolyn, LOL! I'll never be an affluent senior citizen! Senior ... defenitely ... but affluent! Not with my monthly salary :))

Jean said...

Martine - I believe this is the same hotel chain as the one we often used year after year ourselves. We stayed in several, in various parts of France and they were fantastic, apart from one. I wonder if our disappointing experience was in the same hotel as yours.

ladybird said...

Jean, The one we didn't like, although it was a very lovely place, is the hotel I wrote about in a recent Brittany post. The staff, except for one waiter, was very unpleasant ... probably because we had booked one of the less expensive rooms.