I when i first arrived, I was stunned by the amazing northern façade, designed by the architect Jean-François Wilmotte, responsible for the renovation and expansions of the hotel. The contemporary spirit with its vertical style and slates highlights the exuberance of the castle's Renaissance architecture without overshadowing it.
A fireplace, a library, and a collection of old watering cans! As soon as I arrived in the lobby, I felt enveloped by the sense of entering a family home, where every object tells a story. Each was meticulously chosen and staged by Marie-Laure Jousset, the landlord's mother and the former head of design of the Centre Pompidou.
With or without a view? I'm in one of the 55 bedrooms and suites where the great black-and-white photos by Jean Grisoni stand, reminescent of the outside decor. Before my stroll in the forest, I enjoy the cozy comfort of the room enrobed with delicate colors and soft materials—I can't imagine anything better than this view like a painting come to life.
In Sologne, the French art de vivre is also evidenced by the products of the terroir. The simple but tasty dishes match perfectly with the Loire valley wines, whether served on the tufa-paved terrace—hewn from the local chalky rock—or under Marcel Wanders' poetic lighting in the great dining room. It's a royal moment, al fresco or inside!
Do you know that the National Domaine de Chambord is the biggest enclosed forest park in Europe, with its 5,440 hectares (13500 acres) and 32 kilometer (20-mile) long walls? It does take time to explore the entire park, so I chose to go by bike. While breathing pure air, I promised myself to come back to observe the bellowing of the stags' mating call during foggy fall mornings.
For a late afternoon coffee or apéritif, the upholstered wooden bar is the perfect place. All the more so, as the fire crackles in the chimney embossed with a salamander, the emblem of the King François I, along with the mysterious motto: "nutrisco et extinguo," meant to convey: "I feed the good fire and extinguish the bad." Perfectly enveloped by the heat, I thought about the tremendous destiny of this great "Builder King," responsible for some of the greatest Renaissance monuments.
The special Loire Valley attitude towards life gives the hotel a peaceful atmosphere. Guests relax with a modelage treatment by Esthederm, or a visit to the hammam and sauna. Do you want to know the ultimate in well-being here? The unexpected outside hot tub next to the Cosson river, the other bucolic side of the Relais de Chambord.
While contemplating this great forest of roofs, bell towers, and chimneys during a memorable breakfast on the terrace, the Chambord castle familiar to me. But, I am really excited to discover its interiors, beginning with the famous "double revolution" staircase attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci. Goodbye the Relais, bonjour Chambord!