If you MUST stay in a Loire chateau, let it be this one.

I’ve always been partial to French chateaux, visiting on day trips and trying to imagine living in one. So when my original travel plans for the Loire Valley this year didn’t pan out, it was no hardship to book myself into Chateau de Nazé in Vivy, near Saumur. I anticipated faulty wiring, faux decor and fussy hosts, but hey: it was a French chateau. How bad could it be?

Oh. My. Word. If you’re at all inclined to treat yourself to a stay in a Loire chateau, make it this one, and make it lengthy. Chateau de Nazé is immaculate. Enchanting. Authentic. Better than the website photos in every way. It’s a fairy tale castle, and I’m lucky enough to be sleeping in the Princess Suite. No narky comments, please; I’m wedded to my fantasy.

A little history, to lend gravitas to my romantic ramblings: Vivy is named from the Latin Vetus Vicus, meaning “old village”. It developed on the banks of the Authion River near the old Roman Angers-Tours road. With successive floods destroying its buildings, in the 19th century the village moved (I didn’t know villages did that!) to a hamlet along the Rouen-Bordeux road. A new church was finished in 1849 using stones from the original building, and rich landowners moved in to build beautiful new residences on the bones of the old. Chateau de Nazé was one of these.

Surrounded by the surviving moats of the original 15th century castle, the chateau is an elegantly pale stone building in delicious Angevin neo-gothic style. Outside, its turrets, tower, chapel, orchard and forest create an external wonderland I happily lose myself in. Indoors, it’s all class: contemporary family photos share space in the salon with authentic historical portraits; the shelves of classics on art, architecture, history, music and philosophy vie for attention with the delicate grand piano; the stained glass windows leave their marks on hallway walls, the breakfast room ceiling is as pretty as the superb spread of local home-made produce, and the magnificent staircase winds down forever.

Fussy hosts? Not a word of it. Marité and Brigitte are sisters who have been careful custodians of the chateau for 18 years. Guests are friends, not visitors, and their warm welcome is the icing on this luscious, delectable holiday cake. The chateau is that rare combination of spectacular showpiece and comfortable, family home. I can’t help but adore it.

And every night I go to sleep in the Princess Suite, with its pink and white raked timber ceilings, its ornate timber furnishings, its hand-painted antique lamps, its gorgeous floral rugs and its fluted pink canopy. Look, I have a four-poster bed at home, have had for more than twenty years, so it’s not like I don’t indulge myself enough already. But this? This is something else.

Magic.

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