A visit to France is not complete without a stay in a château. These palaces, grand mansions and former fortresses were built by French royalty and nobility from the 17th century – for their leisure and pleasure – and they now offer a unique accommodation alternative.
The ornate and imposing structures reflected changing notions about power and society; France had become the leading country in Europe and its monarch was the centre of social life.
In terms of design, châteaux were a combination of mediaeval castle and Italian villa, making them among the most beautiful examples of French Renaissance and Gothic architecture.
They were also often the site of religious conflict or family quarrels over succession, giving them a rich and fascinating history.
One in the Loire, Le Château d’Ussé, is said to have inspired the story of Sleeping Beauty, while the Palace of Versailles (the principal residence of French kings from 1678 to 1793) was where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 after the end of the First World War.
Today, thousands of châteaux remain intact and offer comfort fit for a king.
Many retain their antique furnishings, paintings and tapestries, and formal gardens. You can choose according to region, budget, architecture, traditions or cuisine.
Here is a selection of châteaux near the Sir John Monash Centre:
- Château de Montigny sur l’Hallue (18km): This large and luxurious Louis XIII-style castle is completely restored, surrounded by a three-hectare park, century-old trees and a large lawn. The décor is sumptuous and comfortable.
- Camping du Château (26km): Just to prove that a chateau can be in every budget, Camping du Château offers as its name suggests – 33 campsites in the grounds of Château de Bertangles. This Regency-style castle was headquarters for the British during the First World War and then General John Monash, commander of the Australian Imperial Forces. It is recognised as one of the largest in northern France and is decorated with a park of French gardens.
- Château de Chaussoy (27km): Chaussoy was built from stone in the 18th century as a folie (meaning architecture of mad grandeur). It was acquired on the eve of the French Revolution by the Morgan family, Adriene Morgan being appointed to the rank of Chevalier by Louis XVIII.
Château de Flesselles (30km): Ten minutes from Amiens, this brick and stone castle features a tower that dates back to the 1300s and rooms built in the 17th century.
- Château de Vauchelles (48km): Accessed by a private entrance, this chateau (20 minutes from Amiens) has rooms tastefully decorated in a traditional style with a fireplace, private bathroom and views of the garden.