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At a glance

  • You'll love

    Home-cooked cuisine

    Beautiful grounds

    Romantic decor

  • Kids will love

    Giant trampoline

    Playground and pool

    Theatrical decor

  • Don’t expect

    Crèche

    Cutting-edge spa

    Hi-tech frills

Overview

In the greenlands on the Normandy border, ivy-clad family hotel Château de Saint Paterne could grace the pages of a fairy-tale book, with Renaissance turrets, blossom-heavy vines, four-poster beds and sprawling grounds. King Henri IV, who once slept here, may not have had the use of the heated pool or, indeed, the huge trampoline, but he would no doubt have approved of the warm welcome and gastronomic delights.

Smith Extra

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

A bottle of pommeau – a Norman apple liqueur – for parents and a basket of sweets for kids

Parent-approved

‘Beyond its turreted Renaissance stone walls are sprawling gardens with trees for climbing, a giant trampoline to bounce on, swings, a heated pool and enough amusements and expanses of lawn to keep imaginations (and little legs) running riot for days’

Smith & Family

Facilities

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Need To Know

Rooms

11, including six family suites.

Check–out

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

Rates

Double rooms from £225.01 (€260), including 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 the Continental buffet breakfast (€14 a person, €7 for kids). Children Children stay in cots for free; extra beds (€20 a night) for under-12s can be added to all rooms but Mare?chal and Henri IV.

Also

Shiatsu and essential-oil massages are available in room.

Hotel closed

From 18 December 2016 to 4 March 2017.

At the hotel

Swimming pool, honesty bar, tennis court, gardens with playground and trampoline, badminton, ping-pong, free WiFi throughout.

In your room

Flatscreen TV, bathrobes, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Casanera toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

The rooms are all individually decorated with sumptuous beds, period pieces, and the owners’ flea-market finds; they have views over the château’s vast park. L’Orangerie is set apart from the château, a huge, self-contained open-plan suite with a living area, sleeping two adults and one child (with an extra bed at €20 a person, each night); it has an in-room Jaccuzzi tub, vast wooden bed and one wall made from a 19th-century backdrop found in a Barcelona theatre. Clad in 18th-century wood paneling, the Canard suite has an imposing four-poster bed, a roll-top bath and an adjoining room with bunk beds for two children. Smaller double Classic Rooms Marechal and Terrasse can be joined together to sleep up to four – perfect if you’re travelling with privacy-hungry tweens.

Poolside

Sitting by a paved terrace, the heated pool in the grounds is open from May to September. It’s not supervised, but the sunloungers set out on the surrounding grass are great for keeping an eye on little ones, who can take their pick from the hotel’s floats. Please note that, in accordance with French law, children in pools must be supervised at all times.

Spa

Try an in-room shiatsu or essential-oil massage (€60 an hour) from Thierry, the hotel’s therapist, who’s been practicing for more than 15 years.

And…

Don't forget your riding boots and hats: the stables nearby offer child-friendly hacks in the surrounding forests.

Book ahead

Babysitters can be booked with a day’s notice; arrange in-room massages before arrival.

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 and drink

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Dining

Owner Charles-Henry de Valbray is a self-taught chef who prepares a terrific five-course set dinner, served around 8pm each evening after an aperitif with the other guests. Typical dishes include beetroot and caper gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, veal tagine with dried fruits, and apricot puffs with rosemary ice-cream. A Continental buffet breakfast of fresh bread, cakes and pastries, home-made jams from a nearby farm, cheese, cereals and juice is served in the dining room every morning, but you’ll need to grab lunch in nearby Alençon.

Family fare

Children gather at 6.30pm to enjoy a special menu together. French kids’ staples of steak haché, ham or pasta are served in the dining room (highchairs are available); parents are then free to enjoy a peaceful dinner once everyone’s tucked up in bed. The hotel can heat up milk or prepare purées – just ask.

Hotel Bar

There’s an honesty bar in the pool house, as well as 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 music.

Last orders

Breakfast is available from 8.30am until 11am. Dinner for children is served at 6.30pm, for adults around 8pm.

Smith Insider

  • Top table

    Every evening, the drawing and dining rooms are set up with candlelight. In good weather, pick a table out on the terrace to make the most of the beautiful grounds.

  • Room service

    None, but you can have breakfast brought up to your room, to be enjoyed from the comfort of your sumptuous bed.

    Also

    It's best to let the hotel know in advance if you'll be dining at the table d'hôtes, or if you have any food preferences.

Childcare

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Parent approved

‘Beyond its turreted Renaissance stone walls are sprawling gardens with trees for climbing, a giant trampoline to bounce on, swings, a heated pool and enough amusements and expanses of lawn to keep imaginations (and little legs) running riot for days’

Smith & Family

Babysitting

The hotel has local babysitters on hand to step in when required (€9 an hour). Book a day in advance.

Baby-listening

There are two baby monitors to borrow, which can reach all the bedrooms from the main dining room. It’s best to check before arrival if they’ll be available, or to bring your own for a guaranteed tête à tête in the drawing room.

What's there already?

For babies

• Highchairs • Travel cot • Cot bedlinen • Baby monitors

For toddlers

• Highchairs • Cot beds • Cot bedlinen • Swings • Slide • Books • Puzzles • Baby monitors

For older children

• Trampoline • Bikes to borrow • Board games • Ping-pong table • Tennis courts • Floats

Activities

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Things to do

The owners’ three little boys have grown up in this family château, so there’s plenty here to keep children of all ages busy. Let yours roam free in the 2.5 acre park, a halo of lush Normandy greenery and manicured lawns surrounding the castle, with a heated outdoor pool, playground, ping-pong, badminton and huge trampoline for active little Smiths. If quiet relaxation is more your thing, book an in-room shiatsu massage, try your hand at croquet, or simply flop with a good book in the dappled shade of an old tree.

Sunny days

Spend days in a haze of simple childhood pleasures: splash in the heated pool, borrow a bike to explore the grounds (there are kid-sized ones, but no helmets), get airborne on the trampoline, swing and slide in the playground, triumph at ball games, or sneak a fresh raspberry from the hotel’s vegetable patch.

Rainy days

In the drawing room you’ll find board games, cards and a stack of DVDs to borrow.

Local Guide

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Don't miss…

laying eyes on some of France’s finest stone-cottage scenery in the romantic village of Saint Ceneri le Gerei.

A stone’s throw from the lively town of Alençon, Château de Saint Paterne sits near the border between Normandy (green fields, apple orchards, mottled horses and endless supplies of Camembert) and the Pays de la Loire (yet more green fields, winding rivers and enough châteaux to satisfy the most demanding princesse). There's a tennis court (set 150 metres from the hotel), for peaceful games among the greenery. 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, with a promise of the sort of outdoor frolics and endless picnics that golden childhood memories are made of.

A 20-minute drive from Saint Paterne, the Ecurie des As-Taquins riding school on the Rue de Bretagne in Alençon offers lessons for beginners to pros. Children as young as three can learn to ride on one of the centre’s Shetland ponies (+33 (0)2 33 28 50 35). Climb to the treetops and zip right back down again at the Arbe & Aventure des Alpes Mancelles centre, open from April to September and a 15-minute drive from Saint Paterne. Pack a picnic and enjoy pedalos and kayaks on the nearby lake. The centre offers climbs for children as young as three; under-16s must be accompanied by an adult (+33 (0)2 43 28 59 72). Less zoo and more stroll through a gorgeous forest, the Domaine zoologique Pescheray is an animal lover’s park home to a host of endangered European species, including wolves and lynxes. Paths meander in the welcome shade, and run through open sections where children can get up close and personal with wallabies and other furry friends. Don’t miss the mighty woolly sweet-smelling muskox, or bear-feeding time (+33 (0)2 43 89 86 04).

Charming Au Petit Vatel (one of the few restaurants open in Alençon on Monday nights) has been around since the 1950s and has retained its quaint, intimate character with pale stone and understated pastel decor. Feast on scallops and clementine salad, lobster in aniseed butter, or beef filet in a foie gras cream. A tasting menu for mini-gourmets is available; children can also order smaller portions from the main menu (+33 (0)2 33 82 64 57). You’ll find oversized wine bottles and retro decorations on the walls of small family-run Le Bistrot. The food’s kept simple, and makes the most of seasonal produce; classic chicken à la normande sits alongside gloriously rich foie-gras-stuffed camembert or black pudding profiteroles. The laid-back atmosphere’s great for a casual family meal; little Smiths’ ears will prick up at the mention of ‘chocolate surprise’ (+33 (0)2 33 26 51 69). Book ahead for a casual meal at San Remo, a cheerful and very popular red-fronted pizzeria, or order takeaway for an easy picnic (+33 (0)2 33 82 68 68).

+ Enlarge
Château de Saint Paterne
4, rue de la Gaieté, 72610, Saint-Paterne, Alencon, Normandie, France
Hotel setting

Cusp of the Loire

Getting There

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', head for the A11 to Chartres. Go towards Le Mans, then change on to the A28 towards Rouen Alençon. Take exit 19 to south Alençon, and follow the signs for the centre of Saint Paterne. The hotel will be immediately to your right. 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.

Parent travel tip

Flying to Tours is your best option: the airport is small and you’ll whiz through it in no time. If you’re driving from Paris, make a pitstop halfway through the journey to take in Chartres’ magnificent cathedral (and to stretch little legs, too). Don’t forget to book a baby seat or booster seats for your hire car.

Reviews

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Smith & Family  Parent Panel reviews

Every property featured in the Smith & Family collection – including Château de Saint Paterne – has been selected and approved by parents.

If fairy-tales were made of carefree gamboling children, fabulous candlelit dinners and gentle idling through Normandy’s verdant countryside, there is no doubt they would be set in the sort of charmed idyllic world Château de Saint Paterne has managed to conjure within its pretty manicured grounds. Yes, the stone turrets, creeping blossom-laden vines, claw-foot roll-top baths and vast beds are perfect for the sort of romantic trysts Henry IV once enjoyed on the estate; but owners Charles-Henry and Ségolène de Valbray’s three children grew up in the leafy sprawl of this ancient seat, and it’s now a family-friendly home, too.

You’ll find all the trappings of perfect childhood holidays here: there’s a large heated pool to splash in, a trampoline for bouncing on and bikes to whizz off on. In the evenings, kids get their own home-style dinner sitting before making their way to bed, leaving parents to enjoy the fabulous table d’hôtes whipped up by Charles-Henry in the château’s kitchens – a fitting end to a well-spent day.

Smith & Family

The Guestbook  Smith member reviews

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith & Family hotel, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life family guests had to say about Château de Saint Paterne in the Guestbook below.

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The welcome from the owners and the chateau itself. Swimming walking around the gardens. Dinner is an excellent home cooked 3 course meal.

Don’t expect

Selecting your own dinner outside of any dietary requirements (if you want a restaurant, the owners advise you of some nearby places). Lively nights

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Superb stay at Chateau de Saint Paterne, exceeded expectations and was the most wonderful stop over on our journey south. I wish we could have stayed for the whole week! The room was beautifully and tastefully furnished and we immediately felt at home and relaxed. The children's tea served on the lawn with a glass of wine for the parents was a complete delight. And then the adults dinner later was a real treat. The swimming pool was wonderful. All in all a fabulous night away. 10/10

Don’t expect

A formal hotel bar. The honesty bar by the pool and in the drawing room was far nicer, and felt very much more relaxed.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The huge rooms, the gardens and the food as well as the warmth of the hosts and the general quirkiness.

Don’t expect

Modernity.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The room (Chambre des Mysteries), but particularly the owners and staff - really lovely.

Don’t expect

To be a long way into the countryside.

Rating: 10/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The friendly, country-house atmosphere, characterful bedrooms with comfy beds, walking in the park, the fantastic cuisine and carefully selected local wines.

Don’t expect

Sunshine!

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Just about everything. The setting, the hostess, the staff, the food. I was travelling with a dog, who was made very welcome.

Don’t expect

Super deluxe. Its more cozy and comfortable.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The combination of traditional and modern contemporary styling and outstanding cuisine. The service was outstanding without being intrusive.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Everything about this place is perfect. The owners are so welcoming and the house is stunning.. there is so much room for the children to play with swings, trampolines, tree house, pool , badminton, table tennis all outside. We stayed in the Chambre du Parc which was perfect for a small family of 4. Beautiful view from our huge window and the bathroom had a sunken bath.

Don’t expect

Lots of places nearby for dinner or entertaining.. its remote but thats ok if you just want to stay for a day or two.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The children's separate dinner on a communal table. Ten out of 10.

Don’t expect

Our one criticism is that there is only one sun shade by the pool which wasn't ideal for those with very small children who can't be in hot sunshine.

Rating: 10/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Beautiful Chateau. Heated pool. Fantastic food. A charming host and staff. Lovely homemade jams and handmade soaps, so good we bought some to bring home. Our 11 year old is an adventurous eater and was welcome at the grown up evening meal. A kids meal is served separately for the younger ones.

Don’t expect

Bright lights and nightlife!

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The ambience of the old Chateau. Dinner was a spectacular affair of home cooked delights. The vines framing the window made you feel like you were in an Edwardian novel. Staff couldn't do enough for us. Our 9 month year old was provided with a cot and baby monitor. They kept my wife's dinner warm while she put our little girl to bed.

Don’t expect

To go hungry.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Beautifully decorated and renovated. Lovely grounds and pool. A perfect long weekend escape or stop off on the way down or back up through France. Really lovely. Owners delightful. Pre-dinner drinks 'on the house'. Don't be alarmed at the rather ugly village you drive through on the way to the Chateau - once in the place you are in heaven. They were extremely accommodating with my 2 small dogs (and other guests with dogs).

Don’t expect

A choice of menu - you eat what they prepare. I think there is some accommodation for allergies etc, but otherwise you go with the flow. Delicious food however.

Rating: 10/10 stars