The Loire Valley is heavenly: vineyards, castles and French country farms. If you’re looking for an idyllic vacation spot, here’s my favorite little town in the area: Chinon!
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Our stay in Chinon felt like a retreat into another era. Time slowed down, life got quieter. The biggest question we answered each day was, “where should we eat dinner?” The necessary logistics that go into a multi-stop trip faded as we relaxed.
Tucked away in the heart of the Loire Valley, Chinon is a tiny town in a region of small towns. Fields, vineyards, and dairy farms cover the landscape dotted with idyllic villages. When I asked a friend about the Loire Valley, she summed it up with “Wine and castles. That’s why you should go.” Yes, please.
The big event of Chinon was less an activity and more the place itself. We splurged and stayed in a castle! A château, to be exact. Chateau de Marcay is an old rambling property, complete with horses and a tree-lined entryway. From the lobby full of velvet couches to the attentive staff quick to address you by name, the hotel exudes a feeling of aged European grandeur.
Our room itself was adorable. Exposed beams, high ceilings. Luxuriously comfortable bed full of fluffy pillows. Curtains and upholstery matching the walls: the “wallpaper” turned out to be cloth. The space was cozy and comforting.
I’m going to be honest: the first thing I did (after collapsing into the bed, of course) was take a bath. This place ended up being the only place we stayed in Europe with a tub, so I was not about to miss out on that! A luxurious long soak felt perfectly in step with the vibe of the place: relaxing, elegant, and offering whatever amenities you desire. The bathroom itself was a little out of step stylistically with the rest of the place, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on an 80’s bathroom in a centuries-old château.
As you would hope in a French hotel, the staff were quick to help us make arrangements for our meals. For our first night, we opted for the hotel restaurant, La Table de Marcay. After spending a long day on the road, we ate early by French standards and nearly had the restaurant to ourselves! The food itself was the epitome of gourmet European: truly beautiful food in small portions, elegant from the experimental amuse-bouche to a delicate dessert plate. I ordered rabbit and tried eel for the first time, while Logan chose duck and steak. The staff could not have been more attentive; I think we interacted with about six staff members over a six course meal.
After such a gourmet dinner, we decided to try the continental breakfast on site. We did several in-house breakfasts, and this one had to be my favorite. Trays of pastries, meat, and cheeses supplemented the traditional fruit, eggs and yogurt . Their coffee was positively to die for – one of the best cups we had the whole trip, and this is coming from a girl who loves her espresso!
We soaked in the sunshine, ate bread and cheese, drank wine, read books, and walked. Between the pastoral scenes outside the château and the friendly horses on the property, it felt like something out of a fairy tale.
If the peacefulness of the château doesn’t hold your attention, there’s so much to do in Chinon itself. You can easily spend an hour or two wandering its streets, taking in the architecture of a small town built into a hill. At the top of the hill, there’s a castle that offers tours. The Fortresse royale de Chinon‘s main claim to fame is that Joan of Arc was anointed here to lead the French army. There’s a bunch of cute patisseries and we had a great dinner at Le Cafe des Arts.
There’s also a group of people known as the Troglodytes who built caves throughout the region which are worth checking out. They lived in caves, but many of them now are used as wine cellars because of their year-round temperature stability. I’ve heard good things about this one and this one, both within Chinon itself.
I wanted to spend a week here, exploring the town and relaxing on the Chateau grounds. This was the ideal place to escape reality for a week, and I wish we could have stayed longer!
What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
This post is part of our month-long European trip. Check here for our whole trip!