Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Domaine Les Crayeres, Reims, Champagne, France

 “Possibly the château of your wildest French dreams”.
The extraordinaire Château Les Crayères sits in seven hectares of beautifully tended grounds, just a few minutes’ stroll from the major champagne houses in Reims. Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, and Taittinger, for instance, offer tastings and tours giving a fascinating peek into the crayères, pyramid-shaped Gallo-Roman chalk quarries turned Champagne cellars, brimming with millions of precious bottles. It’s a five-minute cab ride or 30-minute walk into central Reims, which is a 45-minute TGV ride from Paris Est.

You’ll feel like French royalty the minute you arrive at this grandest of châteaux and clap eyes on its elegant colonnade, Belle Epoque-style mansard roof, and topiary-framed parterre. The mood is hushed and exclusive, the décor ornate. We’re talking sweeping marble staircases, salons festooned with gilt-framed oil paintings, corridors with padded wall coverings in deepest claret red, highly polished silverware, and antiques everywhere. It’s decadent and romantic - a Versailles in miniature that is the stuff of honeymoons and weekend-away liaisons.

As you might expect in a hotel of this caliber – built for Louise Pommery, Duchess of Polignac, in 1904 – the service is formal and flawless. There’s an air of discretion, but a full concierge service is provided should you so wish. Besides swanning around the grounds, you’ll almost certainly want to factor in a champagne tasting at one of the nearby cellars. The hotel can arrange activities from horse riding to golf and tennis and organizes a number of clubs and classes – from yoga to wine lectures.

The palatial décor extends to the rooms, of which there are just 20 – all special and no two alike. Many are a fine weft of rococo and Belle Epoque styles, with heavy drapes, richly patterned fabrics, and a nod to Louis XV in the antique furnishings. The windows open onto Juliet balconies overlooking the gardens, the bathrooms all differ – some are marble, some have showers, other tubs – and all come with luscious Hermès toiletries. A knock on your hotel room when you arrive? That will be the butler bringing you a glass of champagne on the house – rather a nice Bienvenue.

Even at breakfast, they never miss a trick here – there are freshly squeezed juices and fruits, oven-warm pastries and bread, homemade spreads, yogurts, and panna cotta, and eggs to order – all served à la carte and with a silver-salver flourish. Gastronomes come from far and wide to Les Crayères for two-Michelin-starred Le Parc restaurant, where head chef Philippe Mille takes pride in regional sourcing and puts his own stamp on dishes such as duck foie gras poached in rosé champagne and hibiscus wine-flavored pear with saffron-infused fruits.   

Domaine Les Crayeres

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