Picture a majestic estate, set on countless acres dotted with formal French gardens, a meandering white oak forest, orchards and priceless sculptures. Room after room is ﬁlled with rich layers of portraiture, antiques, handpainted custom wallpaper and period-appropriate decor. There are cavernous hallways, intimate dining rooms and thoughtful touches around every corner. And, it’s quiet: You can hear footsteps and the rustling breeze.
This may sound like a French period-drama fantasy, and, in the best possible way, it kind of is. Lucky for us, Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé is a living, breathing place that combines the nostalgia and fantasy of the French countryside with impeccable, intuitive service and the contemporary comforts of today. Located southwest of Paris in quaint Le Grand-Lucé—the town is situated just outside the château gates, rather than miles away, which is unusual for the Loire Valley—the hotel is about 30 minutes from Le Mans, its closest city.
When my husband and I pull up to the perfectly symmetrical neoclassical estate, our jaws drop. In a word, the château is regal, with its history aﬃrming that description. Commissioned by Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay and completed in 1764, the extravagant summer palace represented the most au courant designs of the time. Exact replicas of statues at Versailles—a gift from King Louis XV—dot the grounds. During the Age of Enlightenment, luminaries such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Mozart were guests. The property served as a hospital for wounded British oﬃcers during World War I, and, during World War II, it housed paintings from the Louvre—they were hidden in a secret space that still exists under the former stables (now a ballroom).
Over time, the château was taken over by the French government, which restored the gardens beautifully, and was then sold to Los Angeles-based interior designer Timothy Corrigan, who masterfully renovated it for use as his private home. In 2017, Corrigan sold the 45,000-square foot property to Marcy Holthus, founder and CEO of Pilot Hotels.
Before opening the 17-room property this past June, San Diego-based Holthus was faced with the challenge of transforming a private residence into a hotel while also bringing her unique vision to life. Over the span of two years, Holthus and her team—including Paul Allen Design—succeeded in imbuing the pomp, authenticity and attention to detail that’s expected in the manor of a nobleman, but with a refreshing twist. Think bespoke de Gournay wallpaper depicting a hunting scene behind benches covered in green mohair, or jewel-toned Pierre Frey wallpaper illustrating the ﬁrst hot air balloon rides in France. Not only is the wallcovering visually stunning, it’s authentic: Hot air ballooning is—and was—a popular leisure activity in the area.
Our days at the property are peaceful. We spend time luxuriating in our large room, the oft-requested Le Grand-Lucé Suite (from $1,097 per night)—a blue-and-white Cinderella dream that overlooks the vast grounds. Bonus: The well-appointed bathroom is stocked with Buly 1803 products; Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé is one of the only hotels aside from Hôtel de Crillon in Paris that carries them. Plus, we enjoy the gardens, relax by the pool and eat some incredible meals. Executive chef Maxime Thomas served exquisite multicourse menus, including a roasted duck breast with cherries and turnips dish that I still dream about. Breakfast can be anything from a plate of fresh fruit and a still-warm croissant to an omelet. And if you want a simple burger, that’s ﬁne too.
The staﬀ—who wear Stan Smith sneakers and a variety of vintage Louis Vuitton Pochettesare both French and American, and all speak English. No request is too large. While there, our clothes are laundered; a zippy Volvo is procured so we can explore the area; and little notes and treats are left in our room every night. We even get to check out the impressive Baron Suite (high season rates from $16,451 per night), a multiroom spread on the ﬁrst ﬂoor that includes a library, a salon chinois (handpainted by artist Jean-Baptiste Pillement in the chinoiserie style) and a marble clad bathroom with its own garden view. We ask too many questions about how best to discover the Loire Valley and are so delighted with the generous suggestions—visiting magical Château de Chenonceau and the fairy-tale town that is Le Mans’ old city are only a few. The whole experience feels intimate, personalized and truly exceptional. While we thought four nights might be too long, we could stay forever. Was it a dream? If so, I’m not ready to wake up. Room rates from $521 per night, buyouts upon request, chateaugrandluce.com