Chateau de Pray – An evocative taste of history in the Loire Valley
Driving through the vineyards and orchards of the Loire Valley, gasps can’t be controlled at the sight of historic châteaux that one may only visit as a tourist. Then there are smaller, intriguing châteaux where one is welcomed to enjoy a unique experience as a guest. Cue more gasps.
Minutes from the royal city of Amboise, Chateau de Pray takes your breath away as the twin-towered ancient medieval fortress appears before you after a bend in the road. Transformed into a private residence during the Renaissance and later a charming family home, this luxury 4-star restaurant hotel greets each guest with sincere warmth.
History wraps itself around the visitor from the moment of entry into the reception area, watched over by a full suit of armor.
The earliest Lord of this ancient fiefdom from Amboise, reported in 1244, was Geoffroy de Pray. The successive history is well documented. Storied atmosphere pervades the halls and high-ceilinged public rooms decorated with fireplaces, stained glass, Gobelin tapestry, large vases and artifacts from previous centuries.
In an interview with Mme Cécile Cariou, the directrice and owner along with her sister, Nathalie, she said, “We try to keep the family and authentic atmosphere of the castle. The well being of the clients is the most important thing for us.” A visitor feels this from the moment of arrival.
Mme Cariou’s affection for the property is obvious. When asked, she describes Room 1 as her favorite as it was the “room of my wedding. Each time I enter with clients in this room, I think about this special moment of my life.” This room also leads to a courtyard and garden.
Vast gardens encourage a stroll through forest and terraces. In the lower garden a swimming pool sits amidst well-tended plantings. A sense of order combines with natural beauty to instantly leave the modern world behind and carry the visitor back to the glory days of life in the vallée de la Loire.
Leonardo Da Vinci was once a neighbor just 3.3 km down the road in the Château du Clos Lucé. Perhaps he strolled these stately grounds himself!
Dinner in the elegant l’Orangerie, highlighting regional products, is memorable. In the words of Mme Cariou: “People come to the Chateau to sleep in an authentic castle and to eat in a one Michelin star restaurant. Chef cooks with his heart.”
Frederic Brisset has been chef since 2009. He achieved his Michelin star in 2011 and has worked with the same team since his arrival.
Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, and loves to travel, particularly to the south of France. She is the award-winning writer of The Promise of Provence. Find Patricia at her Facebook or Amazon Author Page or her website.