Words by Amelia Bell
Tapping into the charm of Normandy’s countryside, Château La Chenevière hotel is surrounded by rose-filled gardens, a permaculture plot brimming with fruits and vegetables, and characterful rooms decorated with floral furnishings, rendering this luxury, eighteenth-century château all the more enticing for a country retreat.
A forty-five minute drive from Caen airport, Château La Chenevière is located in the bucolic setting of Normandy’s Port-en-Bessin, on the north-west coast of France. It was this picturesque location, amidst the centuries-old trees and vast acres of land, that lured owner, Mr. Dicker, to turn the former hemp farm into a hotel back in the Eighties. Since then, he and his wife have resurrected the château into a five-star luxury bolthole, all the while retaining its family run feel. That’s the beauty of a stay here – the moment you step inside you feel at home.
The chateau’s honey-coloured stone, white wooden shutters and mansard roof, set amidst the sprawling countryside, are the epitome of Gallic charm. As for the interiors, decorative lounges and country-home furniture ring true of that chic countryside aesthetic, though Mr. and Mrs. Dicker have made their own mark by adding collectables and memorabilia around the hotel.
Striking the balance between opulence and rustic charm, there’s a melange of authentic artworks depicting the Norman coastline, grand old bookshelves and ornate fireplaces mixed up with modern details. If the weather permits, there’s a heated pool and bikes for adults and children to peddle off and explore the lush pastures surrounding the hotel; there’s even a map that shows you the history of each and every tree in the vicinity. Active types can enjoy horse riding, golf and sand yachting, all within easy reach of the hotel. Or, if the Normandy weather stays true to form, there’s a fitness suite in the hotel to work off the previous night’s feast.
The connection to nature resonates throughout the hotel, from the honey made in the apiary next-door to the garden-to-table restaurants serving seasonal ingredients (in winter, that’s apples and scallops) and herbs from the permaculture plot. At Le Botaniste, led by chef Didier Robin, you can delight in a scallop-themed menu, each course a unique twist on the next: wrapped, raw scallops with fresh herbs or pan-fried in a decadent mushroom broth.
Dinner is served in the lovely and light dining room, which features pristine white tablecloths paired with a soft colour palette of cream and lime, and Art Deco style wooden floors. After making your selection from an indulgent cheese trolley (with excellent wine pairings to boot), retreat to the cosy Zanzibar bar for a calvados-inspired cocktail for a quick tipple and try the local Pommeau.
Bringing the outdoors inside, lunch at Le Petit Jardin is also a must. Set in the striking orangery (inspired by The Louvre’s glass pyramids) and looking on to the outdoor pool, the decor is all large plant pots, wicker chairs and chintz furniture. The cuisine tells a similar story with nature at the fore of every dish: pan-fried egg decorated with fresh herbs, shaved pear and edible florets; pecan-crusted guinea fowl garnished with seasonal winter squash from the permaculture plot; and the pièce de résistance – sweet poached pear with rich chocolate and a sour kick of sorbet.
From the classic to the deluxe, each room, of which there are 29 in total, has a unique style fusing contemporary and vintage design. Picture: paisley wallpaper, floral headboards, pastel tints, velvet-backed armchairs and marble-sided bathrooms. From your room, the views of the 12-acre wooded parkland stretch for miles (try and bag the top floor room for the best views in the house). A gift of Pommeau, honey and herbs await your arrival, as do beautiful shower gels and shampoos, courtesy of L’Occitane.
The hotel is in a prime position to discover a host of landmarks and heritage sites. For instance, the American Cemetery which honours troops from World War II is a short drive from the hotel. Meanwhile, a mile from Port-en-Bessin, Bayeaux is home to the famous tapestries which depict the Norman conquest; the town itself is also worth a visit to get a glimpse of the spectacular cathedral. Further afield, there’s a fantastic cider distillery, Calvados Dupont, turning orchard-grown apples into all sorts of delicious spirits, like the nation’s favourite Pommeau.
The hotel itself is steeped in history, too. During World War II, the manor was occupied by Germany, then America after D-Day and fully restored in 1988. Today, history buffs, art enthusiasts and foodies flock to get a taste of Normandy’s rich culture, and Château La Chenevière certainly doesn’t disappoint in delivering the picture-perfect view of Northern France. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, culture and history, elegance and charm, then look no further.
You can fly directly to Caen from London Southend Airport with Flybe.
Rooms can be booked from €223 in low season and €309 in high season.
Address: Escures-Commes 14520, Port-en-Bessin, France
Phone: +33 (0)231 512525