If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be royalty, simply book a stay at Chateau de Challain in Challain la Potherie, France. This stunning castle-like building was constructed in the 1800s, but it has been meticulously renovated by the dedicated innkeepers. Besides being the perfect place for a romantic European getaway, it is also a gorgeous wedding venue. Innkeeper Cynthia Nicholson kindly took the time to answer some questions for us about her historic inn and what makes it so special.
1. What do you enjoy most about being an innkeeper?
I think the one thing most innkeepers have in common is that we genuinely like meeting people and we like spending time getting to know each one of them. I enjoy entertaining and making people feel at home. When a stranger walks through the gates of our Chateau they are initially greeted by Zeus, our German Shepherd. Almost everyone immediately loves him. When I meet them shortly thereafter, they already feel welcomed. I love knowing that by the time our guests leave, they feel more like friends than strangers.
2. How long have you been an innkeeper?
We bought the property in 2002 and it had no electricity or plumbing. Our careers in the United States have included construction and interior decorating, so tackling the renovation of the Chateau did not overwhelm us as it may have others. In nine months we were open for business with three beautifully unique suites to choose from. We continue to add rooms and improve upon the property every year.
3. What was your inspiration for your creating your inn? Did you have a certain vision for it?
The Chateau has historical importance and is a source of pride to the small village of Challain la Potherie. I wanted to honor that. As a designer, I saw a canvas that had to be painted in the old style in which it was created so many years ago. I think we managed to successfully pay tribute to the grand love story around which this home was originally built. Today, it has modern day luxuries without giving away any of its old-world charm.
4. Why did you choose this inn and this city?
It was my husband; he saw a photo of the Chateau and said, "I have to have it.” This is the short version of the story; only our guests get the full story.
5. What sets your B&B apart from others?
The Chateau itself is an amazing place. It was important to us to maintain an authentic feel and ambiance when we began renovations. We managed to incorporate modern luxuries without sacrificing any of the elegance and glamour from the era in which it was built. When our guests arrive, they immediately get a grand tour. We then encourage our guests to feel at home and explore, so they know all there is to enjoy on our property. It is satisfying when guests tell us they feel as if they stepped back in time and could imagine themselves as royalty.
6. Why do you think travelers should choose B&Bs over hotels?
People tell us they choose our B&B because we extend a hospitality that can’t be found in most hotels. We pay attention to our guests’ individual needs and take care of the details of their stay, so they can relax and feel indulged. Everyone should allow themself to feel pampered and indulged on occasion.
7. Does your B&B have any special history?
Yes, it was completed in 1857 after six short years of construction, a record for the time. It was built by the Count and Countess of La Rochefoucauld-Bayers as an homage to the Rochefoucauld name. At 78,000 square feet, it is clearly a masterpiece; it has 365 windows, 12 dormers, and 4 towers. It is known as the “Jewel of the Anjou.”
8. What makes your town worth visiting—are there any interesting local attractions or activities?
Our Chateau is situated in the small, friendly village of Challain la Potherie, in the western Loire Valley. There is a quaintness and sereneness to the village that is wonderfully relaxing for those who like to stroll and experience the “local life.” The surrounding area is rich with history and offers many regional sights. We are conveniently located for those wanting to explore the chateaux of the Loire Valley, tour area vineyards, antique shop, eat at fine restaurants in the towns and cities along the river, take a ride in a hot air balloon, or research the history of royal France. Angers and Nantes are the closest cities outside the village; however, Paris is less than two hours away by TGV (high-speed train).
9. Do you have any food specialties?
Duck! Our signature dish is a delicious duck breast accompanied by a whiskey or fruit sauce and served with fresh vegetables of the season. We also offer the perfect wine pairing from our personal wine cellar and then finish the meal with a cheese tasting. It is amazing!
10. Do you have any special offers coming up?
For April and May we offer a three-night stay in our Romance Suite (pictured to the left) that includes one night's dinner. This is a 150 euro value. Please, take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to lavish in the glamour and elegance of an era passed.