A visit to a French chateau should be towards the top of your to-do list when you visit France. These homes of the nobility in times past offer a fascinating glimpse of social and political history stretching back centuries, and a chance to really savour the true culture of France.
There are, sadly, plenty of stately ruins with perhaps one turret remaining intact, scattered throughout the countryside, most numerous in the Burgundy region. But many are restored and maintained, offering visitors a glimpse of the great halls, period furniture, the kitchens and gardens – a waft of domestic life for the honoured and wealthy in previous centuries.
French châteaux are not all of fairytale design like Carcassonne, famed worldwide as a stunning example of a medieval fortress. Some (less ancient) are of palatial style, such as the renowned Palace of Versailles, with architects designing not just to protect inhabitants from enemy hordes but to impress and entertain. A stately home.
The Château of Pennautier is one such, dating from 1620, and situated not far from Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi in the south of France. The Château is set in French style gardens amidst the vineyards of the Lorgeril family within the Languedoc Roussillon region. The 10th generation descendants of the original owners of Pennautier still live there. And they have recently made their home available to private guests in an exclusive association with one of the superb floating vacations available on a luxury hotel barge cruise.
As part of an exclusive 4* hotel barge cruise aboard hotel barge Savannah you can fine dine in Château Pennautier and stay the night, explore the grounds and breakfast in the kitchen in the morning. You may also like to have exceptional tuition with a master oenologist and a master chef as part of this wonderful experience.
Hotel barge Savannah has three gorgeous double cabins for six guests and one single cabin, and is immaculately decorated throughout with quality furnishings, including upholstery by Christian Lacroix.
Delicious foods and wines are served throughout the cruise, in the dining room or on the shaded sun deck, whilst the Canal du Midi floats gently by.
The Hotel Barge Savannah Cruise and Chateau Experience
This cruise aboard the Excellence rated hotel barge Savannah includes five nights aboard and an exclusive two days and one night at the Château. Immerse yourself in its history and culture, the beauty of its decorations and furniture, its cuisine and of course its wine produced from 360 hectares of vineyards in the Languedoc region.
As part of the experience you will enjoy an extensive (and delicious) introduction to their Domaines*, to taste and savour distinctive red and white wines, aged and young, fermented in steel vats and oak barrels. You will explore the subtle differences between combinations of grape varieties and the ways in which the soil, style and fermentation processes affect the flavour and character of thier wines.
Dining at Château Pennautier
Champagne from Bollinger is served as an aperitif in the high-ceilinged first floor salon, where the original decor and furnishings are still there for you to touch and enjoy, centuries old family heirlooms for you to walk on and sit upon. You will be charmed by this setting, especially when the musicians arrive to serenade you with classics from the folk tradition as well as Edith Piaff and Serge Gainsbourg.
Your 5 course dinner, with carefully chosen wines, will be served in the lower dining hall, a room adorned with original Classical-themed tapestries by Aubusson, a pink-marbled fireplace and a huge 16th century brass chandelier from Holland.
As this is a family home and not a hotel, the charming owners, Nicolas and Miren de Lorgeril, always make a point of welcoming guests personally and if they are in residence they will find the time during your dinner to come and greet you.
This is an evening of atmosphere like no other – soft lighting, gentle harmonies permeating along the corridors and from room to room, superb cuisine from Savannah’s own master chef and top quality wines from the family vineyards – with the promise of heading up the sweeping staircase to your suite for the night. Perfect.
Your room is large, renovated to the highest standards to combine original features – tiled floors, heirloom chairs and tables, wallpapers, window and light fittings – with modern sanitary ware, plumbing, and super comfy beds and bed linen. And when you wake, you will have a view over the extensive gardens and vineyards, where you might like to stroll before breakfast.
Your delicious start to the morning is served in a room full of personal family artefacts – a quiver and rapier, a dresser of books and photos – with two chandeliers in the style of antlers, a huge armoire, a large stone fireplace and antique chairs. It feels like a family room into which the gamekeeper might stroll with a couple of pheasant for lunch or the coachman might take a quick nip of brandy before setting off to Carcassonne or further afield.
Indeed, your morning may continue with a wine workshop with Caroline de Beaulieu, Oenologist. This is a chance to savour and learn about the structure of different wines, and perhaps how and why they go together so well with cheeses and chocolate.
After a good lunch, you may like a cookery class at the Château by Stephane Reau and Frederic Vivas, which includes not only a demonstration of 17th century cuisine, but also kitchen equipment, presentation of dishes, menus and table manners.
* The Lorgeril family estate now consists of 6 vineyards in the Languedoc Roussillon region, each producing distinctive wines:
- Château de Pennautier
- Château de Caunettes
- Domaine de Garille
- Domaine de la Borie Blanche
- Château Moulin de Ciffre
- Mas des Montagnes