I suspect many of us, at least in the Western world, grew up on fairytales. At one time or another, we imagined ourselves as the strong and courageous Cinderella whose prince came galloping in to save her from her evil stepmother and took her off to live happily ever after in his royal castle. Or perhaps you were King Arthur in the Knights of the Roundtable, leaving his royal fortress behind to go on a quest for the Holy Grail.
The fairytales of our youth evoked a romantic and magical world, making us long to be in the story. If we adults are honest with ourselves today, we still yearn for the kind of romanticism and adventure such tales provide. That’s why in June 2023, WordsRated—an international research data and analytical group—reported that in 2022, 788 million copies of print books were sold in the United States, fifty-two percent in the fiction category.
Figures don’t lie. Most of us crave an escape into another world in our ordinary work-a-day worlds. We want to identify with the heroes and heroines whose lives are full of drama, adventure, or romance in exotic, beautiful, historical, or peaceful places where, despite encountering terrible trouble, all our hopes and dreams can come true.
Why am I talking about fairytales and escapes into other worlds in my blog series on little-known castles in France? Because it is possible to live your fairytale dream, even if only temporarily, if you have or are willing to spend the money to experience it. Of the forty-five thousand castles in France, many have been renovated into luxury hotels.
During our five-day bike trip in the Dordogne Valley, we discovered one of those refurbished castles while crossing a bridge on our way.
to Rocamador. The castle had such a lovely and strategic position surrounded by forests on a precipice over the river that we decided to take a mile detour downriver to see what it was.
To our delight, Château de la Treyne in LaCave provided a much-worthy diversion with its stately French gardens and majestic towers. Today, the fourteenth-century medieval castle is listed as one of France’s “monuments historiques,” having been home to knights and noblemen over the centuries, and the Louvre Museum’s Egyptian collection during World War II.
With its Michelin-starred restaurant, dinners are served in the Louis XIII dining room in the winters and the candlelit terrace overlooking the river in the summers. The breakfasts have been described as “magnificent feasts” of croissants and pastries, and the interior as “enchanting.” Guests often sip champagne or the local vin de noix (walnut wine) around a stunning hearth in the reception room.
Though we were unable to see any of the luxury rooms—at four hundred dollars per night, we relative paupers only ogle from the outside looking in—one reviewer from The Telegraph had this to say: “It is impossible to say which of the 17 rooms is the loveliest. Several have four-poster beds and striking original features: an incredible Gothic woodwork ceiling, a painted vaulted ceiling, a 14th-century spider web of exposed beams, polished Versailles parquet. Luxurious bathrooms have Jacuzzi baths, multi-jet showers and Hermès products; and a generous courtesy tray includes fruit, biscuits, walnuts, sweets perhaps, and a handwritten note of welcome from Stéphanie and husband Philippe (owners of the hotel since 1982).
Originally Published on September 4, 2023 for the Heroes, Heroines, and History Blog.