It was a gloomy weekend in New York City, with more dreary, drizzly weather on tap for the week ahead. And although I'm not normally the kind of person to indulge in fairytale turret–type fantasies, I can't think of anything I'd like to do more right now than to escape to a 15th-century French chateau for the ultimate romantic retreat.
To wit: the Château de Saint Paterne
, a two-hour drive from Paris in the Le Perche region of Normandy. On 25 acres of parkland surrounded by storybook scenery, the château has a somewhat notorious past: it was a favored love nest for France's King Henri IV. It still has a distinct Dangerous Liaisons
quality—you could easily imagine the virtuous Michelle Pfeiffer running out of one of these doors, bosoms heaving, pursued by the sinister yet seductive John Malkovich in his best role ever.
Owned by the same family since the 14th century, the chateau was brought back to life by its current owners, cookbook author Charles-Henry de Valbray (the estate's heir) and his wife, Ségolène, who masterminded much of the interiors. This isn't your average old-fashioned chateau: family heirlooms and global finds are juxtaposed next to more contemporary elements. The effect is both authentically historic and utterly appealing to our 21st-century eye.
The library, above, has an opulent air—the decorative paint finish gives it the feeling of a decadent cocoon. Many of the furnishings and objets d'art were brought back from Morocco, where the de Valbrays spend their winters.
One of the showstoppers is the Chambre de Madame on the second floor—note the curved doors leading to the little sitting room and boudoir.
But I'm quite partial to this lovely little nook here with the tiniest bed ever. Not exactly the spot for a romantic tryst, but you can't beat it for atmosphere. And how can you not be charmed by the delicate paintings of the chateau on the walls of the Chambre de la Terrasse, below?(Photos courtesy of Chateau de Saint Paterne)