When the macho Mr Smith in my life decided to be less than macho and put work ahead of a weekend away in Chablis, I realised this was the perfect opportunity to enjoy some well-earned downtime.
Back in my younger days I wouldn’t have flinched at the thought of jumping in a hire car and heading down a French motorway to find a château in the heart of Chablis. Now, as an older and more cautious adult, I was somewhat apprehensive about the drive. I channelled my ‘independent woman’ spirit and braved the motorways and tolls. (Note to self: next time drive closer to the machine, to avoid getting out to pay as less-than-patient drivers hoot and swear at you.) Arriving at Château de la Resle all stress quickly dissipated.
Johan Bouman, the Dutch co-owner of the Château, was extremely welcoming, despite my endless date changes and post-booking queries: Is there a restaurant? Could he book me into the spa? Should I get a taxi from Paris? Where should I eat locally? And what should I do in Chablis? He was informative, polite and efficient throughout all correspondence. I was tempted to ask him who I should bring with me…
After cruising down the A5, with only one speed-camera flashing at me, I turned off and started to pass the surrounding vineyards – a sure sign I was headed for Chablis. Turning into the Château de la Resle, perfectly manicured hedges and gardens guide you down the drive.
On entering, the minimal, design-led interiors impress immediately – a beautiful hall, then perfectly-turned-out living and dining rooms. Over the weekend, I admired the finer details and clever design touches at leisure and wished I had such an eye for style. If Johan ever penned an interior design book, I’d be the first to buy it.
Then Johan showed me to my room; it’s always a relief to find one that’s beautifully designed and spacious. ‘Excited’ is an understatement for what I felt on seeing a bathroom and shower the size of my London flat. Relieved that I had arrived (and how…) in once piece, I threw my bag on the floor and flopped into the bed; I was ready for ‘a well done me for driving’ bottle – a whole bottle – of wine.
As a wine lover, I knew what my first adventure would be… Shortly after arriving, I headed off to watch the sun set over a vineyard that Johan had recommended. Watching the breathtaking view while sipping Chablis was a moment to savour.
When travelling, my favourite thing to do is eat locally and Johan’s recommended restaurants did not disappoint – on both nights. On the first night we visited a local restaurant called Au Fil du Zinc in a gorgeous little village with a picturesque river running through the cobbled streets. I enjoyed a five-course tasting menu which really was incredible: well-cooked, stylishly presented with great service and, at €45, very affordable, too. The second night was just as good: great food and brilliant wine.
After a lazy wake up and great shower I ventured down to breakfast. Actually, let me rephrase that: the most stylish breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen. The croissants, cheeses, meats, granola and all the toppings were presented under glass domes. I boiled myself an egg, chose from four types of breads and smothered butter all over a perfectly fresh croissant whilst Johan made me tea. Chateau de la Resle proving that breakfast buffets can be cool.
If all the local eateries, vineyards and views are not enough, the château is perfectly teamed with a spa where you can enjoy a swim, sauna and a host of treatments in total luxury. I whiled away an afternoon with a massage before heading out for dinner.
The friendly yet non-intrusive service that Johan (and co-host Peter) provided throughout my stay really was fantastic. Not only had they organised all my reservations and trips but were also on hand to provide guidance and information when needed. They were passionate about Chablis and genuinely excited for me to see the best parts of it. I felt honoured to be a guest at their home and their love and passion for what they do is clear to see.
The tranquillity, the views over the misty fields, the soft-boiled egg at breakfast, the glass of wine at lunch – if only I could wake up here every day.