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CHATEAU DE DETILLY

NOTE: The Coach House may be rented in addition to the château at extra cost, and in low season may be available for rental separate from the château; please inquire. Generally the Coach House is not available for separate rental when the château is rented.

Large groups contemplating a wedding, family reunion, corporate retreat or a general get-together with college friends should put high on their list this splendidly renovated 15th-century château in the Loire Valley near Chinon, a wine-producing town on the banks of the Vienne River. After all, once upon a time the château was good enough for the nobility, which explains why in 1789 the local populace, incited by the revolutionary fervor then sweeping the country, stormed the grounds and chiseled off the escutcheons from the regal 12 m (40')-high arch that still marks the entrance to the courtyard. (The French government has officially designated this arch a monument historique.) Happily the château itself was spared, a benefit that now accrues guests of the new owners, who have brought the property to a level of grandeur that quite possibly it did not enjoy with its one-time aristocratic owners.

Château de Détilly is comprised of four structures: the eight-bedroom château, which includes 1,115 m2 (12,000 sq. ft.) of living space on three levels; L'Orangerie, a sprawling pool house with a fully equipped summer kitchen; the Coach House, a separate and handsomely furnished three-bedroom residence where up to seven guests can dwell in modern luxury; and the beautifully restored 11th-century Chapel, which can accommodate a medium-sized wedding in an intimate ecclesiastical environment that would photograph well in any New York society magazine. All of the buildings, including the Chapel, have modern central heating systems.

The grounds

This complex of buildings is set on an enclosed and totally private estate 50 km west of Tours, which has direct TGV and air service from Paris. Chinon is a drive of five minutes, and it is only a few more minutes to Saumur, which like Chinon is known for its fine red and white wines.

The walled château grounds, entered through a pair of remote-controlled wrought-iron gates, includes sweeping lawns, fruit orchards, stands of chestnut, poplar, linden and pine trees, flower gardens, enormous hedges that separate different parts of the property. Discreetly integrated into this vernal landscape is a perfectly maintained hard-surface tennis court with deep backcourts. The court surface is specially treated so that it dries within minutes after a rain.

While the grounds are a paradise for anyone who simply likes to stroll through pretty gardens and lawns dappled with shade from century-old trees, a feature that makes Château de Détilly especially appealing for social events is its extraordinary rose garden. An elaborate arrangement of arches, benches, shallow canals and fountains covers a huge area with more than 6,000 roses between the pool and the tall hedge that borders the front of the property. The garden can be illuminated at night. Numerous top-quality caterers in the area can provide the necessaries for any occasion. A pretty bride, a proud groom, a sunny day, ladies in wide-brimmed summer hats and a champagne reception among the roses after an exchange of vows in the little chapel - this is the very stuff of dreams, and of movie directors.

A fountain and lampposts reminiscent of 19th-century Paris add to the old-world ambiance at Château Détilly. The fountain, in a flower garden that surrounds a gracious terrace where guests may dine outdoors, creates the sound of softly running water in the courtyard and gardens. The terrace is reached by French doors from the Breakfast Room, which is described below.

L'Orangerie

L'Orangerie, oriented south so that it receives light all day long, is a 93 m2 (1,000 sq. ft.) structure with high ceilings, limestone floors and exposed stone walls that lies along one side of the flagstone deck surrounding the 7 m x 15 m (23' X 49') pool. Four arched glass doors open onto the pool deck, allowing guests to enjoy meals her while taking in the outside breezes. There are many lounge chairs, hammocks and large parasols for relaxing around the pool.

The concept underlying L'Orangerie, consistent with the theme of unbridled pleasure and princely comfort at Château de Détilly, is to provide every amenity one might need to spend an entire day poolside without having to return to the château, which is about a minute away. Amenities include a shower and WC, an exercise machine, and a kitchen with granite counters and a two-burner stove, microwave oven, dishwasher and under-counter refrigerator. For barbecuing there are two large gas grills that can be wheeled onto the pool deck. In a separate part of L'Orangerie there is a large laundry room with two heavy-duty American-style washing machine and two separate tumble dryers. (There is an additional set of machines in the kitchen of the château, and in the Coach House.) Also in the laundry room is a large two-door refrigerator with in-door icemaker, and an additional refrigerator for cool drinks.

The Coach House

The spacious Coach House is a multi-purpose structure - a place for overflow guests, for a family that wants its own separate living quarters, or a very comfortable residence for staff members who accompany the group. The decor is simple and clean, the furnishings attractive and comfortable, and the overall ambiance refreshingly contemporary. Beamed ceilings and white tile floors add a country feeling to the house.

The ground floor includes a living and dining room area and, opening from the living room, a solarium with windows on all sides. The living room has three comfortable sofas, one of which can be made into a single bed. The solarium also has a sitting area with a sofa and armchairs. The kitchen is modern and beautifully appointed, with ash cabinets, recessed lighting and a full array of appliances. Other amenities in the Coach House are a television with satellite reception (including CNN) and a VCR that plays British, American and European-formatted tapes, full stereo system, telephone (with an intercom to the château), and a washing machine and separate tumble dryer.

On the upper level are three bedrooms, two with twin beds and the third with a 140 cm (55" across) double bed. A modern bathroom, tiled in white, has a tub and overhead shower. Note that the Coach House has one WC, which is at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor.

Château: Common rooms

Not surprisingly, the interior design scheme at this noble property has been to recreate the ambiance of pre-Revolutionary splendor that must have existed before Château de Détilly fell on hard times in 1789.

To this end, the elaborately decorated common rooms are furnished with striking period pieces from the 18th and 19th-century, some of them antiques and some well-executed reproductions. The floors are limestone or, as in the reception room, a remarkably beautiful interweaving of limestone and oak lathing. Every common room has a large fireplace, each one impressive in some regard. The three to four-meter (12-13') ceilings, walnut paneling, chandeliers, solid wood doors and the many oil paintings, mostly 19th-century portraits and scenes of genteel country life, all contribute to an aura of grandeur.

It is not uncommon in the Loire to come upon a sumptuously furnished château where the rooms are dark, or the building itself is in a deplorable state of disrepair. Not so at Château de Détilly. All buildings at this property are luminous and in flawless condition inside and out, and have been fitted with brand-new mechanical systems. This solid infrastructure, coupled with the tasteful decor, makes for a property that is not only stunning but where guests are assured they will not be without electricity or hot water.

The entry hall, with its antique tapestries, elegant white stone staircase and crystal chandelier suspended from three stories above, is a preview of the classic decor that prevails throughout the common rooms.

To the left of the entry hall, entered from the foyer through wood-and-glass doors, is the spacious reception room, which is decorated in the style of a 19th-century formal French drawing room. The main sitting area has sofas and armchairs positioned before the fireplace. This room receives abundant light from windows that face east and west and overlook both the courtyard and the front garden.

On either side of the living room fireplace are two doors, artfully concealed in the walnut wood paneling, that reveal yet two more suites of rooms. One door leads to a combination game room and library that has French doors opening onto the front terrace and garden. The other opens to a cozy room with bookshelves, a fireplace and a long sofa where guests may watch television (satellite reception brings in CNN) or a movie on the VCR, which all formats of tapes. Adjacent to this room is a sunny and comfortable office with a large desk, fax machine, printer, answering machine and dedicated Internet line. The office has a single sofa bed, and steps away there is a white-tile bath with a shower and separate WC. This suite of rooms is convenient for a guest who prefers not to take the stairs to an upstairs bedroom.

To the right of the entry hall is the elegantly appointed dining room. The long mahogany table and upholstered chairs, illuminated by a brass chandelier, can seat up to 12 guests. An enormous gilded mirror hangs above an exquisitely carved fireplace mantle of blue Belgian marble. In summer the French doors can be opened to bring in fresh breezes from the courtyard.

While the dining room is the perfect venue for a dinner party, the directly adjacent space, dubbed the Breakfast Room, is the place for informal meals with friends and family. With glass doors opening onto a pretty terrace, illuminated cabinets and a massive stone fireplace, this room has a bright, contemporary feel that is a refreshing change from the serious decor of the other common rooms. The aged-pine farm table can seat up to 14. The Breakfast Room is also a good place for younger children to gather when parents are entertaining in the dining room.

The kitchen, next to the Breakfast Room, is what one would expect in a property of this caliber - a large, charmingly decorated and luminous room with top-quality appliances and cookware. A 120 cm X 240 cm (4' X 8') granite slab, which can be used as a workspace or breakfast table, dominates the center of the room. For barbecuing there is an open fireplace with a rotating spit, and next to it a professional-level La Cornue stove with five gas burners, a griddle and two ovens, one of them electric. Other appliances are twin dishwashers, a microwave oven, and a refrigerator. In the pantry are two more refrigerators - a side-by-side unit with icemaker, and a second one for wine - as well as an additional sink with granite counter top for prep work. There are also a washing machine and dryer to supplement the laundry room in the L'Orangerie. Just off the kitchen is a WC.

The château: Bedrooms

The château has eight bedrooms - five luxuriously appointed rooms on the middle level, and three smaller and charmingly decorated bedrooms on the upper level. The middle level bedrooms may be reached by the staircase in the entry hall (the owners request that young children do not use this staircase), or by a sturdy wood staircase with wide steps and a railing, that rises from near the kitchen to both upper levels. On a landing half way up the stairs is an attractive guest WC.

The middle-level bedrooms. The five middle-level bedrooms, each with its own decorative scheme, are all designed for occupancy by a couple, and thus generally have the same luxury amenities and features, as deliberately planned by the architect so that no couple will feel it has inferior quarters. Each room is exceptionally spacious, has high ceilings, a fireplace with a marble mantle, thick wall-to-wall carpeting, and lovely views of the garden or courtyard. Each bedroom has its own decorative scheme, and is handsomely furnished with substantial pieces that include an armoire or sitting area. All bedrooms have their own commodious ensuite bath with tub or marble stall shower, and WC. Specifically:

The first bedroom has a canopied king-sized bed, and ensuite bath with twin basins and bathtub.

The second bedroom has a king-sized bed, separate dressing room, and a striking slate bath with twin basins and oversized bathtub.

The third bedroom has a queen-sized bed and ensuite bath with fireplace, dressing room and marble shower room.

The fourth bedroom has a canopied king-sized bed, carved marble fireplace and ensuite bath with tub and overhead shower.

The fifth bedroom, situated between the middle and upper levels, has a canopied king-sized bed and, up six steps, an ensuite bath with tub and overhead shower.

The fourth and fifth bedrooms overlook the garden surrounding the terrace and fountain. Because the fourth bedroom is a separate suite of rooms at the end of a hallway, and the fifth bedroom is located between the middle and upper levels, these two rooms are especially private.

The upper-level bedrooms and Game Room. The three upper-level bedrooms open off a central hallway reached by the wooden staircase. These rooms, all with twin beds, are cheerfully decorated with floral-pattern wallpaper, colorful area rugs and pretty bedspreads. While designed primarily for younger members of the group, any one of these rooms would qualify as a graciously appointed guest bedroom in many rental properties.

At one end of the hallway is a large and well-illuminated bathroom with a walk-in shower and a WC. At the other end is the mammoth (94 m2, 1,000 sq. ft.) Game Room, carpeted and almost large enough for an indoor soccer match, that has Ping Pong and table football, darts and a selection of board games. A long sofa and armchairs face a large-screen television with VCR. The Game Room also has a stereo system, telephone, and - to keep guests fed and watered without having to descend two flights for sustenance - a small but fully equipped kitchen. The long beams of the vaulted ceiling were once the ribs of a sailing ship.

The chapel

The chapel, an impeccably renovated little jewel of Gothic architecture with a vaulted wood ceiling and whitewashed stone walls, all skillfully illuminated by floodlights installed in the stone floor, is situated some 40 meters (a meter is about a yard) from the château. About 50 people can be seated on rows of wooden pews that face the altar. On the one hand the chapel has a solemn character, a place where one may retreat for a moment of quiet reflection; on the other hand, it seems almost to cry out for brides festooned with flowers and grooms in cutaway coats to come here and marry. With the possibility of lodging a wedding party of up to 24 guests, and a rose garden that is the perfect setting for a reception, Château de Détilly could be ideal venue for a memorable wedding in France.

The region

As every French school child knows, the Loire Valley is château country, before the Revolution the playground of the nobility, and in previous centuries a bloody battleground where French and English armies waged war for control of the region. Almost all of the France's most renowned châteaux - Chenonceaux, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord, Amboise, Villandry - are within a one-hour drive or less from Château de Détilly. Those whose who remember their medieval history will recall that it was at Chinon that Joan of Arc first met Charles VII and told him of her vision that she would lead the Dauphin's beleaguered armies against the English at Orléans. Charles was convinced, and from this meeting in humble Chinon the course of European history was changed.

Also of interest is the well-manicured little town of Fontevraud-L'Abbayé, about a 10-minute drive. Fontevraud was home to the house of Plantagenet, the line of medieval English kings, who shone their light on the town and showered it with wealth. The noble bones interred in the abbey include those of Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard the Lionhearted.

For oenophiles, the Loire is also wine country, the home of vineyards producing light, fruity wines that marry well with the cuisine of the region. Chinon is well known for its well-structured reds and whites, as is nearby Saumur. The commune of St.-Nicholas-de-Bourgeuil, which some wine connoisseurs believe produces the Loire's most distinguished red wines, is a short drive to the north. All of the vineyards welcome visitors for dégustations. A local English-speaking guide is available to escort guests to small wineries off the tourist routes.

Cyclists should note that the land adjoining the estate toward the Vienne River, part of the Loire-Anjoiu-Touraine National Park, is almost perfectly flat and thus suitable for easygoing bike rides (there is a small selection of bicycles at the Château). On a pleasant afternoon it is enjoyable to stock up at a local charcuterie and, armed with folding chairs and tables available to guests, have a family picnic on the banks of the Vienne.

Transportation

Château de Détilly is easily accessible from the United States, United Kingdom and all parts of western Europe. There are direct flights from Paris and the UK (Stanstead) to Tours, and frequent TGV service to Paris (55 minutes) as well as direct to Paris-Charles- de Gaulle Airport (from the station at St.-Pierre-des-Corps, 1 hour 50 minutes). Nantes Airport, with service between Paris and the UK, is a drive of less than two hours to the west. There are car rental offices at all of these airports and train stations. By car Beaumont-en-Véron is three hours from Paris via the Autoroute system, which connects the château region with all parts of France.

Off-season availability

Château de Détilly is available for rental year-round, including Christmas, when its spacious common rooms and many fireplaces make it ideal for a large family reunion. The rental price includes housecleaning twice weekly and a change of linens once weekly, with additional service available at extra cost. A full or part-time cook can also be provided with sufficient notice.