For an authentic and truly unique experience, think Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle, about 40 minutes from Paris. You can even, at times, dress up. This New Year’s Eve promises to be extra-special. Hosted by hotel GM Julién Revah, a traditional costume Ball – wigs, breeches, lace-decorated gowns, if you want – will be preceded by an elaborate multi-course dinner minutely planned by Alain Ducasse, who has, in fact, always been closely involved, as have UNESCO and every French heritage group imaginable.
Although Louis XIV, the Sun King, did not start construction of Versailles, he made it de facto capital of France in 1682 and it remains, for many, the heart of the country. The hotel, leased from the Ministry of Culture, is a barely-transformed conversion of the ruler’s treasury. Feel part of history and stay over.
Each of the 14 rooms and suites has its own character. All have original wood floors, and most sport four-posters which, though modern, blend perfectly with Sun King authenticity. Rooms’ fabrics, and wall-papers, are authentic patterns: some opt for the soft hues of Suite Necker, while others choose Suite Hardouin-Mansart, named for the Sun King’s architect, who designed the Orangery – this suite has a pink and white palette that complements suede-covered tablets that provide latest technology. There is nothing so mundane as a television screen, anywhere in sight, here at Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle. And the bathrooms are so gorgeous that you want to soak for a long time.
But you can swim properly, in the 15-metre pool. If you prefer fresh-air exercise, what about the adjacent Château gardens, manicured and sculpted to provide, since their creation in 1661, the ultimate exercise in perspective. For even longer runs or walks, there are 800 hectares of natural parkland at your disposal.
After all that, you could well be hungry. Breakfast, which like your private guided Chäteau tour is included, produces the largest flavourful croissants I have ever seen. At a main meal, I might choose turbot with fungus but definitely start with a Ducasse special, namely whipped egg whites encasing a yolk, the whole topped by Kaluga Queen’s Gold Caviar.
If this all sounds like a dream, savour it while you can. When you need to come back down to earth, a doorman in 18th century gear, including breeches and white stockings, sees you off – for airport, Gare du Nord or even Champs Elysées.