Fancy Hotel of the Week: Hotel Diderot in Chinon

When my dear friend and mentor Jamie Schler – food writer extraordinaire – announced last year that she and her husband Jean-Pierre were taking over the Hotel Diderot in the Loire Valley, I decided to tack a trip to France onto our planned vacation in England. A workshop was arranged, my friend Stacey and I spent an incredible day in Paris before taking the train down to Chinon, and I returned to Seattle sated with beauty, inspiration and croissants.

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And I realise that I never ended up blogging about Jamie’s wonderful hotel. If you’re visiting France and want to stay somewhere just bursting with charm, history and inspiration; stunning rooms; exquisite breakfasts; and, exceptionally delightful proprietors, then I recommend you book immediately.

When it comes to property you can keep your two-car garage, your granite countertops and your walk-in closets. The only things I’ve ever truly coveted in a house are a mature wisteria, a gravel driveway of exactly the right sort of crunchiness and a wrought-iron spiral staircase.

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As I turned into quiet, cobbled rue Diderot, the first thing I saw, piled up on the weathered stone gate pillar like an old lady’s swimming cap, was a wisteria of exceptional age and magnificence.

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Worse was to follow.

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The gravel of the entrance crunched in the most deliciously satisfying way and as I turned to look at the façade, I saw, to my chagrin, the pièce de résistance spiralling upwards. Quelle horreur!

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Jamie greeted us and showed us to our room.

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Of course there were acres of toile de Jouy and ancient beams and French doors looking out onto a pretty terrace wreathed in peonies.

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Tentacles of jealousy started writhing around my cold black heart – this was not just any hotel, it was the fantasy French hotel of everyone’s dreams.

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To be fair to the woman, it seems like there might be a little work involved in running a successful hotel.

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Jamie posts exhausting updates on Facebook describing her efforts to keep the perfect preserves cupboard stocked with delicious jams of every conceivable flavour and hue.

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It is possible that getting up early to prepare a magnificent breakfast replete with locally sourced goat’s cheese, walnuts and honey for hungry hordes of eccentric English tourists is not always sweetness and light.

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And I’m prepared to accept that ensuring all twenty-three bedrooms are lovingly cleaned and tidied each and every day might get slightly wearing, as well as spending the winter carefully nurturing the perfect French garden.

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But then I remember the evening light caressing the weathered façade, the shadows dancing on the peony-pink umbrellas on the terrace and yes, dammit, the ivy twisting through the railings of that SPIRAL STAIRCASE and I am consumed by bitter envy once more.

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Here is madame la châtelaine trying not to look smug. Unfortunately she is far too lovely to hate.

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