Accommodations: Chateau de la Barre

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The main house as seen from the sunken garden.

We tried something new when planning our trip this time: we decided to work with a travel agent. We’ve done pretty well planning trips on our own in the past, but this time we wanted to be sure that we were making the most of our limited time. The Loire Valley is a very large region and is very spread out. We knew we’d need a car but still wanted to plan to stay where we could visit the points of interest with a minimum of driving time.

Chateau de la Barre is about 45 minutes outside of Le Mans. It’s the home of and run as a luxury small hotel by the Count and Countess de Vanssay, and has been in his family since the early 1400’s. Some parts of the main house date back even further. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by the family dogs and the Count (who introduced himself as Guy and was as charming, funny and down-to-earth as you could imagine). He helped us with our luggage, then offered us some fresh apple cider made from an apple tree on the property in one of the sitting rooms. The day had been cool and drizzly and the fire and cider were welcome.

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Our room was the Chambre Jaune, which featured an Aubusson tapestry behind the bed, and some 18th Century Italian furniture. (The bed linens were actual linens, embroidered.)

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Nice toiletries too… 😉

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The view of the garden from our window was lovely.

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Fresh flowers in our room from the garden. Guy handles the cultivation and arranging of fresh flowers that grace every room.
Fresh flowers from the garden in our room. Guy handles the cultivation and arranging of fresh flowers that grace every room.

The room itself was spacious and comfortable. We were treated to a lovely breakfast each morning of fresh fruits, yogurts, cereals, pastries, juices and scrambled eggs. There are two dining rooms and the number of guests determines which is used for breakfast. We also joined a “Grand Siecle” dinner in the large dining room, hosted by the Count and Countess on our second evening there and it was exquisite and very memorable. There were two other couples by that point staying at the chateau, and it was a convivial evening. But first the Countess gave us a tour of the main parts of the Chateau, including the old “main keep” which dated from the 1300’s (and included an interior well as a defense against a siege). Because the chateau has remained in the same family through the centuries, much documentation from even the earliest years survives and the family history is fascinating (and would make for a GREAT novel!).

This main stairway is from the 14th century.
This main stairway is from the 14th century.
Defensive tower from either the 15th or 16th century, can't remember. That sunken area was part of the moat.
Defensive tower from either the 15th or 16th century, can’t remember. That sunken area was part of the moat.

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The gardens.
The gardens.
These sheep roam free on the land. They're rounded up annually, sheared and vaccinated, and then turned loose for another year.
These sheep roam free on the land. They’re rounded up annually, sheared and vaccinated, and then turned loose for another year.

Mme. de Vanssay (Marnie) was also SO incredibly gracious and helpful with suggesting activities and places to eat, providing maps and driving directions, and she goes out of her way to make her guests’ stay as comfortable and entertaining as possible. This was such a luxurious, unique and memorable experience, one I would recommend it highly if you’re planning to visit the Loire Valley.

Chateau de la Barre, Conflans-sur-Anille, FR.

No compensation or consideration was received for this post. The above post represents my own personal opinions and observations.

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  1. There are many, many de la Barres in New Orleans, a very old family in the area. I had Pierre dlB as a student a long time ago. Some of the dlB’s live off the wealth generated by their former landholdings (such as my student, who was in his 40s, and had never had a job!) Some of the ancestors of your host family went off to New Orleans to seek their fortunes a couple of hundred years ago.

    1. Yes, and the West Indies too, according to some of the history they shared. The family there (WI) made and lost their fortune in sugar plantations several times over.

      1. West Indies–sugar and slave trade. New Orleans–plantation owners/slavery. Wow! (We were in Nantes a few summers ago and that city is starting to mount exhibitions on its role in the international slave trade. The beautiful botanical gardens where we passed many relaxing hours were stocked with specimens brought back in the ships.)

        1. Interestingly, it was King Louis XVI who abolished the slave trade in France, and Napoleon, “son” of the French Revolution, who reinstated it. A fact not taught in most history classes and books. My husband’s ancestor’s, -Pascalette Edmé de Rouardière, who married to the fourth Marquis de Vanssay,- parents had a plantation in the West Indies, and we have all their correspondence with their daughter. They lost everything in an earthquake, the following year in a hurricane, and then through the abolition of slavery, by Louis XVI, all documented. Very interesting. Near Nantes, the largest Japonese garden in Europe has, as you mentioned, fabulous plants.

    2. Actually there are many Chateau de la Barre in France, the name La Barre means place of low justice, it was where tolls were levied and menial court cases were tried. (Hence the expression “to go to the Bar'”. My husband’s family, the Counts de Vanssay, were owners of the Chateau de la Barre of the Maine region (ie around Le Mans). So no relation with the de la Barres in New Orleans. As we have all the family archives here dating back to 1404, we are quite certain of this.

  2. I’m taking notes! Northern France is on our schedule for 2015, as my DH is itching to visit Normandy and WW2 environs. Some of the river cruises look interesting.

  3. Thanks for sharing your wonderful travel experience. How did you find your travel agent? I have wondered about working with an agent, especially for foreign trips, but don’t even know how to find someone specialized, other than word-of-mouth referrals.

  4. The accommodation looks very elegant! You must have felt a bit like a duchess living in those rooms and wandering the grounds…your agent did a great job finding those special places for you to stay.

  5. thank you for sharing this information Susan. Your trip really looks like it was so much fun! Sally

  6. Wow, that looks like quite the enjoyable experience. So fascinating, the home, the gardens, the history. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Enjoyed so much seeing glimpses of your recent trip. How wonderful for you to get away and breathe the different air, and view the beauiful sites. Thank you for sharing!