At the House of the Apothecary

Amboise, France

June 2015

I’ve noticed that different travellers have very different views on hotels. It seems to range from “All I ask for is a place to sleep” to “My entire holiday is centred around enjoying this hotel to the fullest”. I think I would place myself somewhere in the middle of this continuum – travelling by myself I’m not really fussed where I stay, so long as it is clean and convenient for where I need to get to. That is not say, however, that I don’t enjoy luxury hotels when I get the chance to stay at one! 

Le Choiseul's garden

A glimpse of the garden – the entrance to the troglodyte cave can be seen cut into the hill on the right.

I don’t normally rave about hotels, but I really must tell you about this one: Le Choiseul in Amboise, an incredibly picturesque town in France’s Loire region. The moment I arrived I was smitten. This boutique hotel, part of the Grandes Etapes Françaises group, is composed of three houses from the 15th and 17th centuries – the Maison du Duc, the Maison de l’Ermite, and the Maison d’Apothicaire, inhabited in their previous incarnations by a duke, a hermit and an apothecary, respectively. These houses are ensconced in lovely gardens with, surprisingly, an enormous troglodyte cave used as a granary dug into the hillside behind the hotel (troglodyte caves are a feature of this area). The cave is open to visitors at certain times, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to go and investigate during my stay – maybe an excuse to go back?

My room in the Maison d’Apothicaire was exquisitely decorated, with brightly-coloured wallpaper, matching bedlinen, a huge mirror filling the room with light and – thankfully, given the weather – very effective air-conditioning! Each room seemed to be decorated differently, but each was gorgeous – I have a thing for bright colours, so the somewhat loud yet harmonious interiors really appealed to me. I also rate the comfort of the bed extremely highly – it was a struggle to convince myself to get out of it in the mornings!

It was worth it to get out of bed, though, for breakfast, either in the garden by the swimming pool or in the breakfast room. The buffet was lovely, even though it quickly became inhabited by a few flies on the very hot days, and had a beautiful selection of teas, pastries, a boil-your-own-egg setup and French touches everywhere. Also worthy of mention is the fact that on our departure day, when we were due at the train station at 7am, a light breakfast of tea and pastries was provided especially for us in the lounge at half past 6, despite the fact that the buffet was not open that early – an example of the excellent service.

The pool

The pool.

Food was a highlight at Le Choiseul. The hotel’s restaurant, Le 36, served stunning meals – modern French style but not overly fussy, with an emphasis on flavour. We chose to eat there on two consecutive nights and highly recommend it, though on both occasions we were too full by the end of our meal to fit in selections from the chariot du fromage – the magnificent cheese trolley. Another reason to go back?

While we were staying at Le Choiseul we spent each of our days traipsing around the nearby castles like there was no tomorrow, so we really didn’t get that much time to just sit back and enjoy the ambience. We did swim in the pool, but a bit of time exploring the gardens and the caves would also have been fun. Another trip might be in order – I can think of plenty of reasons to go back!

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