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Hotel Highlights

  • Chic family-friendly château
  • Perfect base for exploring north-west France
  • Creative cuisine from self-taught chef

Overview

No wonder the fairy-tale looks and imposing stone walls of Normandy’s Chateau de Saint Paterne hotel feel right out of a history book – King Henry IV is said to have conducted late night trysts in these very rooms. Luckily, you won’t have to expect 17th century amenities – or amoureux – at this family-friendly castle that now boasts L’Occitane toiletries and underfloor heating.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Château de Saint Paterne with us:

A bottle of pommeau – a Norman apple liqueur

Facilities

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Château de Saint Paterne hotel – Normandy – France

Need To Know

Rooms

10, including six suites.

Check–out

12 noon, but flexible according to availability. Earliest check-in, 2.30pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $217.04 (€159), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.70 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates exclude breakfast (€13 a person).

Also

In-room massages can be arranged on request, and there are bicycles to borrow.

At the hotel

Tennis courts, gardens with playground and trampoline, CD, DVD and book libraries, in-room massage, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD, iPod dock, L’Occitane products.

Our favourite rooms

L’Orangerie is set apart from the château, a huge, self-contained suite with an open bathroom, vast wooden bed and one wall made from a 19th-century backdrop found in a Barcelona theatre. The château’s most modern room is the Chambre des Mystères, romantically secluded up two narrow flights of winding stairs. It’s chocolate-coloured, with bold red accents. For a stay that’s steeped in history, go for the Chambre d’Henri IV, where France’s first Bourbon king kipped.

Poolside

There's a heated outdoor pool in the grounds, open May–September.

Packing tips

Riding boots and hats, and a hearty appetite for cider and cheese.

Also

Pets can stay for €10 a night.

Children

Extra beds can be added to all rooms, except Maréchal and Henry IV, for €15 a night (free if you book a family room). Cots for babies cost nothing. Baby monitors can be borrowed. Children’s dinner is served at 7.15pm.

Read more

Pet‐friendly

Pets can stay for €10 a night; the owners have dogs of their own and are happy to make meal arrangements for yours too.

Food & Drink

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Château de Saint Paterne hotel – Normandy – France

Hotel Restaurant

Owner Charles-Henry de Valbray is a self-taught chef who prepares a terrific set dinner, served around 8pm each evening. Typical dishes include beetroot and caper gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, veal tagine with dried fruits, and apricot puffs with rosemary ice-cream.

Hotel Bar

There’s an honesty bar in the salon, a grand space in which to nurse a nightcap and pretend you own the château, to the sounds of jazz, lounge and classical.

Last orders

Breakfast is available from 8.30am until 11am. Dinner is served at 8pm.

Room service

None, though breakfast can be served in-room.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Bohemian and chic, to match owners Ségolène and Charles-Henry.

Top table

Take your pick from the drawing room or dining room, out on the terrace if the sun is shining, or in the Moroccan-inspired games room, which can be decorated romantically if you’re planning to propose.

Local Guide

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Château de Saint Paterne hotel – Normandy – France
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Green fields, apple orchards, mottled horses and endless supplies of Camembert… Château de Saint Paterne sits near the border between Normandy and the Pays de la Loire, a stone's throw from the lively town of Alençon. In town you’ll find flea markets, attractive cobbled streets, mediaeval quarters and a flamboyant Gothic basilica as exquisite as the precious lace they’ve been making here since the 17th century. But it’s the glorious countryside – all heavy blossoms, verdant rolling hills and placid waters – that seduces.
A 20-minute drive from Saint Paterne, the Centre équestre de l'Ermitage riding school in the heart of Ecouves forest offers day workshops and Sunday morning hacks, and there's golf, kayaking, zip-lining and light aircraft flying for the intrepid, too.

Local restaurants

The château’s owners have a gastronomic side project: Rive Droite, a collection of dining rooms set in the town’s 18th-century former lace museum on Rue du Pont Neuf in Alençon, where you can enjoy seasonal food either indoors or on a pretty riverside terrace. Saint-Céneri le Gérei is often voted as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and its other boast is painters’ school turned rustic bistro L’Auberge des Peintres (+33 (0)2 33 26 49 18), where dishes such as seafood cassoulet and a very good black pudding exemplify simple French food done well. In La Perrière, La Maison d’Horbée on the Grande Place (+33 (0)2 33 73 18 41) is a tearoom, gallery and antique shop in one, for browsing brocante with your coffee and brioche. In Neufchâtel-en-Saosnois, Le Relais des Etangs de Guibert (+33 (0)2 43 97 15 38), overlooking a woodland-fringed lake, serves specialities such as carpaccio of foie gras and lobster.

+ Enlarge
Cusp of the Loire

Château de Saint Paterne

4, rue de la Gaieté, 72610, Saint-Paterne, Alacon, Normandie, France

Nestled between Normandy and the Pays de la Loire, Château de Saint Paterne is in the outskirts of the historic town of Alençon.

Planes

Easyjet (www.easyjet.co.uk) flies from London to Tours, an hour’s drive away. You can also fly to Paris, which is a two-hour drive from the hotel.

Trains

Alençon station is a five-minute drive from Château de Saint Paterne. The station serves Paris via Le Mans

Automobiles

From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, take the A1 towards Paris, then follow the 'Paris Ouest' signs to Porte de la Chapelle. Once you're on the 'périphérique ouest', follow the A13 towards Rouen. When you reach Versailles, take the N12 towards Dreux and Alençon. At Alençon take the D311 towards Chartres, Mamers and Orléans. You'll find the road leading to the Château on the right, opposite a gas station, in the centre of the village of Saint Paterne. The drive takes two hours and 30 minutes. From Tours, the A28 goes directly to Alençon (about an hour and a half). Hire a car at either of the airports, or at the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord.

Other

There’s space for three helicopters to land (during the day only) at the château; let the hotel know two days before your arrival so they can make arrangements.

Reviews

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Château de Saint Paterne hotel – Normandy – France

Anonymous review

by Victoria Moore , Resident oenophile

This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France. Outside it’s raining hard, and all we can see of northern France are autoroute reflectors glowing green under the glare of our headlights as we speed towards Le Mans. We’re tired, crotchety, cursing this country’s passion for rail strikes, and fantasising wildly about the bread, cheese and …
Read more

Château de Saint Paterne

Anonymous review by Victoria Moore, Resident oenophile

This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.

Outside it’s raining hard, and all we can see of northern France are autoroute reflectors glowing green under the glare of our headlights as we speed towards Le Mans. We’re tired, crotchety, cursing this country’s passion for rail strikes, and fantasising wildly about the bread, cheese and carafe of wine we’ve been promised on arrival. I’m confident it won’t consist of a plastic-wrapped slice of supermarket cheddar. ‘Do you think there’ll be Pont L’Eveque?’ I ask Mr Smith. ‘And gooey Camembert?’ he counters. ‘And something radioactively whiffy, with proper French bread to squash it on...’

By the time we reach the village of Saint-Paterne in the Perche region, we’re almost delirious with hunger. We pass the church and peer into inky blackness through sprays of water to make out the bulk of a small turreted cha?teau dating back to the 15th century, and take a sharp right turn into its rewardingly crunchy gravel driveway.

It’s 10.30pm and we haven’t so much as packed up the SatNav when the front door swings open and proprietor Ségolène de Valbray appears to greet us. She shows us into a series of communal salons furnished with parquet floors, faded rugs and antiques, promising us not just cheese, but a tray in our room with a plate of something warm. ‘We haven’t really put away dinner yet,’ she says.

This is the beauty of Château de Saint Paterne. There are 10 rooms and suites, each spacious and with its own distinctive character. Yet, though guests’ privacy is never compromised, this maison d’hôte retains the sense of being a grand family home (which it is: the de Valbrays have lived here for centuries) to which you’re invited for a long weekend of sumptuous meals and good hosting.

A reassuring smell of wood smoke emanates from the open fire in the drawing-room grate, and we’re tempted to curl up in a salon – perhaps the one with velvety, wine-coloured walls, comfortable armchairs and bold display of tall church candles. But Ségolène is already throwing open a back door and marching us outside, over more gravel, past a wet lawn, towards a high-ceilinged garden building whose high windows are illuminated by the warm light glowing inside.

This is the Orangerie, an airy space that must be suffused with sunshine in summer yet is still, at the less sympathetic end of October, surprisingly cosy. It feels like an extension of the outdoors: a painted garden picture hangs like wallpaper along one entire, long wall; the enormous bed is built out of great big hunks and chunks of naked wood; and the semi-open-plan bathroom is painted a sprightly lime green. Even the chandelier seems to be made of branches. My ragged senses are still being soothed by decadent details – a pair of champagne flutes beside the bath, the oversized sink piled with L’Occitane toiletries, terracotta tiles with underfloor heating – when there’s a knock at the door.

The tray – no, two trays – arrive, crammed with dishes. This is a four-course feast, not a supper. We feel regally pampered. Spiced mussel soup might not have been my first choice so late (it’s now 11pm) but it’s so good I finish it. Next comes a meltingly tender lamb tagine studded with medjool dates, made by the Moroccan housekeeper. I’m too tired to tackle the plump, glistening strawberry tart, or make a hole in the cheese, which comes on a plate of dressed lettuce leaves – and I start to wonder how much this might all be costing. (€30 each, it turns out, which is extraordinary considering the quality.) No fan of clever-clever foams wrung out of a daringly unappetising set of ingredients, or over-worked edible sculptures on ridiculously shaped plates, I’m relieved to find the food at Château de Saint Paterne is pitched at the level of home cooking, if you could actually cook that well.

As we discover the following night, the way dinner usually goes is that guests gather for a convivial fireside aperitif at 8pm (in my case, an unholily strong G&T). Then, at about 8.30pm, everyone moves on to the dining room to eat a set menu by candelight at their own tables. In the kitchen in his pinny most evenings is Charles-Henry de Valbray himself. Where did he learn such skills, I ask, sighing over a beautifully light asparagus mousseline, and magret de canard cooked with honey and crispy little potatoes. Charles-Henry shrugs. ‘Just at home, in the family kitchen.’

The wine list is short, just a handful of reds and whites. Like the British aristocracy, it takes refuge in well-bred clarets. It’d be nice to see a few more exciting bottles, though what’s here is good. I love that it’s sold by the bottle, but when we ask for a glass of Pouilly-Fumé each, Ségolène says that’s fine – she will drink the rest herself.

Much of our time is spent dreaming of whiling away a few days here in warmer weather; the outdoor pool is open until the end of September, and we’d have the run of the 25-acre grounds. The lawn is dotted with chairs and tables begging for you to sit with a book, sipping a local drop. As for its Smith credentials, there’s a fairy-tale quality, and it’s romantic, too. King Henry IV apparently stole away here for trysts with his lovers. More prosaically, the motoring museum at nearby Le Mans is said to be excellent. I am drawn to the glittering Loire, about an hour and a half’s drive away, where there are wine producers galore, so you can drop in for a tasting without making an appointment.

Our greatest temptation? To keep coming back, staying in a different room each time: we love Chambre Henri IV, whose antique wardrobe is carved with faces that Charles-Henry admits terrified him as a child; and Chambre du Parc with its attic bathroom. A secret door in a room downstairs opens onto a stone spiral staircase that takes you to another suite, the more modern Mystères. Consider them all earmarked.

The Guestbook

Reviews of Château de Saint Paterne from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I loved the excellent hosts and staff – thoughtful, attentive, intelligent, accommodating and well-mannered (even the dogs) – and the extraordinary food, which was imaginative without being bizarrely novel, well prepared, attractively presented and very, very delicious. The facilities were very attractive, visually interesting and in good repair (especially the great showers) and the property was beautifully maintained and conveniently located.

Don’t expect

We would have preferred dinner to be served earlier – the 8:30 start and 10:30 finish is charming and relaxing, but really hard on an aging digestion. Chairs and couches in the public rooms are beautifully antique but most are not very comfortable (generally, seats are too low or too saggy).

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

We fell in love with this gorgeous chateau as soon as we arrived with two tired kids after a long day's drive. The children were enchanted by their box beds with curtains, in a tiny room off our bedroom (we stayed in Canards), and thrilled by the beautiful pool and the trampoline and treehouse. The chateau is beautiful inside and out, and we loved the friendly informality - it's very much a family feel, with forthcoming and generous hosts. Our bed was supremely comfortable. Nice touches like a decanter of pommeau in the bedroom, board games in the sitting room and aperitifs on the terrace during the children's dinner were much appreciated, and we enjoyed an excellent dinner.

Don’t expect

A loo near the pool would be a good addition, but there's really nothing else to suggest.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Two friends and I stayed here for three nights and had a wonderful time. The atmosphere in the hotel is incredibly relaxed, and we felt very at home. The interiors and decor of the whole chateau are tastefully done with stunning antiques. The bedrooms are full of character and very spacious. The food was really the highlight. Excellent breakfasts every morning (additional bonus is that it is served till 11… a real treat when on holiday) and we dined in the chateau two nights over our stay. It's the perfect location for a laid-back girls' holiday for people who want to relax and enjoy some excellent food.

Don’t expect

I do not have a bad word to say about this place. I cannot wait to go back.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the quiet and extensive gardens; the decor; the friendliness of owners and staff; the honesty bars; the pool area; attention to detail; and the aperitifs. It was a very pleasant experience that made an excellent start to our holiday.

Don’t expect

It would be good to have help with carrying luggage. The pool area is really well equipped, but to have a WC there would be a welcome addition. It was quite difficult to find someone when it was time to pay the bill and leave, but I suppose this is all part of its charm and air of relaxation! I do understand that the age of the chateau means that they do not want to install air conditioning, but a fan would have been welcome.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

A very charming place with lots of character yet contemporary accommodation. Great for Al Fresco dining in a lovely square within the grounds. The General Manager of the hotel was very hands on, extremely helpful, and very good at his job. He could not do enough to make sure we had a pleasant stay. I would return.

Rating: 9/10 stars