Château Les Merles is one of the countless little hotels in France, which are decorated with effortless style and still incredibly good value. Located in the Dordogne region in France, Chateau Les Merles is a small luxurious family run hotel comprising of 12 guest rooms, 2 suites, 1 spacious apartment, restaurant, golf course and swimming pool .
Here, while you may intend to play tennis or go round the nine-hole golf course, the temptation to sit at the bistro all day, enjoying the delicious food and wine, before heading back to your room for an afternoon snooze, is hard to resist.
In addition to the impeccable service and beautiful surroundings, to those of us who choose our vacations according to the destination’s cuisine (as most of us New Orleanians tend to do), Chateau Les Merles offers not only amazing fare but you can also book a cooking class during your stay. The classes are taught by the Chateau's Dutch chef Albert Kooy, who modestly believes that, with good food, the ingredients, not the chef, should be the stars. Under his tutelage you visit local producers and markets, prepare a lunch and five-course dinner, and sample the best of Bergerac’s wines.
The history of Château les Merles dates back to 1677, when it was owned by the Babut family. Joseph Babut married Marthe Valleton de Carrieux in 1717; the links between the inhabitants of les Merles and those of Valleton were thus established.
But, it wasn't until the early 19th century when Baron Mesclop, one of Napoleon's Generals, had the Château largely rebuilt to the arrangement we see today. Les Merles' classic style matches the order and authority of this General.
Château les Merles shows a neoclassic architecture of perfection and detail all around: the monumental U-shaped stairs, the Ionic and Tuscan columns, all testifying the ancient quality of the Château.
The interior of the Château has been faithfully restored by the present owners to match the historic 19th century architecture. Jan van Grinsven, after his worldwide voyages on his sailing yacht for seven years, had, together with his children, the idea of settling down and working all together in a pleasant environment. And off he went with his wife to look for his new dream. During one of their trips to the French wine region of Bergerac, they encountered Les Merles whose premises perfectly suited the whole idea …a golf course, a hotel and enough land and premises to develop what today is Château Les Merles.
Les Merles is now a Dutch family-owned business. The chateau has been restored by its current owners and renowned Dutch interior designer Joris Van Grinsven has given the Chateau a fresh and new charming character. I love the mix of modern pieces with antiques and the simplicity of the rooms.
Without a doubt, this is certainly a place I would love to visit one day in the near future. And you don't have to be a millionare to make that dream a reality. Prices start at $159US/night for a double room and $292US/night for an apartment which accomodates 4 people. For an additional $20, you can bring your well-behaved dog. And, an 8 course meal at the restaurant is $56 per person.
(photos and text courtesy of Chateau les Merles)