Celebrating our anniversary with a driving trip through the backwoods of France. In planning the trip we decided to make a stop in a french national park and stay in a Castle called the Chateau de la Caze. Prior planning coordination with the hotel was excellent. My emails were quickly answered and when I asked the hotel rep (turned out to be the general manager Chantal) which of the Chateau's room would she recommend to her parents if they were visiting, she said "the Melchoir suite". Which we reserved and used for our three night stay.
The suite was located in one of the castle turrets on the highest level with a view from the bedroom out upon both the grounds on one side, the river tarn and the beautiful Gorge on a second side and a view of the side of the castle and the MOAT on the third side.
With certain exceptions (the restaurant manager Mark), the staff is comprised of very young, college aged kids who seem to be working their way through life with an adventure by working at the Chateau. It kind of felt like the staff on a cruise ship in some respects. So what you have is a great deal of good intention delivered awkwardly on occasion and, with the exception of the restaurant, a lack of in depth knowledge of the finer points of providing a top drawer room.
The setting is magnificent. The natural beauty is incredible. We left the castle just last Saturday - late april and there were few tourists in the area, which made navigating the tiny road that follows the tarn river through the Gorge relatively easy.
While living in a Castle is scenic and an experience, the chateau cannot be construed to be a five star facility. The mattresses aren't the most comfortable. The sheets are not the fine quality you would find in better hotels and the furniture in the room is awkward (but they ARE period antiques). there really was no place to sit and read or work comfortably. so the facilities themselves in our particular suite were scenic but not at the top of the comfort scale. I feel a bit petty saying that considering there were people and families all along the Gorge valley sleeping in TENTS and sleeping bags on the GROUND. No comparison with THAT.
The absolute highest point of our stay was the dinner in the restaurant. We had a waitress named "Mel". she shortened her French name to make it more pronounceable for the Americans. She was a French canadian. Our lack of ability in the French Language has occasionally resulted in big surprises during restaurant meals (what we THOUGHT we were ordering and what we RECEIVED). She spoke English like an American, completely down to the colloquialisms used properly - if you're reading this and you're BRITISH, you might disagree that her language was flawless, but for an American it was perfect.
The CHEF is a genius. We had the finest meal we have ever eaten in France at the Chateau (and we've traveled in France frequently). The price of that meal reflected it's quality. I could have skipped the meal and bought a small used CAR with the savings. I exaggerate, of course, but it WAS seriously expensive. We had a few meals down the road in Saint Enimie during our stay and just as a comparison, we purchased two main course entrees for less than the price of one appetizer at the Chateau.
I mentioned before that they really make an effort to insure their guests are happy. Here's an example. We're traveling by car on this trip. The evening before we arrived we were staying at a Chateau several hours north - also in the french countryside. I asked the concierge at the previous property to phone the Chatea de la Caze and find out if we could have a few things dry cleaned while there at the property. He came back to me and said they would be happy to assist with having my dry cleaning done while there. I was thinking, this is like a traditional hotel and they have a laundry service. Anyone who has ever been to France and has had dry cleaning done, knows that it is not something the french use frequently and when they do use it, it costs them a pretty penny. When we arrived we gave our dry cleaning to the people in the reception office and they said someone would drive it to town and have it cleaned for us - I thought "town" was the village just down the road (15 minutes). It turned out that the dry cleaning facility was nearly an hour drive each way (we found out when we insisted on retrieving it ourselves - it appeared it might not be finished before our departure - which caused a minor meltdown on my part). Probably the proper thing for the hotel staff to have done in this circumstance would have been to tell us "sorry, we don't do dry cleaning".
We had no idea it would be such a project for them until we insisted on picking it up ourselves (whether it was ready or not). The bottom line is that they bent over backwards to accommodate us and did it quietly without sharing what an inconvenience it was for them (not to mention the cost of gasoline for that drive - to the young lady who delivered it for cleaning).
so in summary, wonderful customer service filled with great intentions, a remote and isolated experience - quiet as a churchmouse at night with only the gurgling sounds of the passing river to lull you to sleep in your semi-comfortable, non lux bedding and sheets, fantastic FOOD worthy of a trip all on it's own.
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- Also Known As:
- Chateau De La Caze Hotel Sainte-Enimie