Saturday 2 October 2010

Chateau de Cop-Choux, near Mouzeil, Loire Atlantique

Set in fairly flat and innocuous countryside, but within striking distance of La Loire, Nantes and the Breton coast, Chateau de Cop-Choux is well-placed for a few days exploring a fine part of France.  Dating from before the French Revolution, the well-proportioned chateau appears handsome from a distance, but, up close, the stone work is quite plain and the box-hedge, grass and gravel surroundings don't do it justice. Still, the 45 acres of grounds has plenty of features from cordoned-off, crumbling ruins to a couple of large forest pools, reachable via a steep and dilapidated stone staircase. You can stroll through the woodland and circle back to the chateau following the grassy path that runs alongside the paddock. Moreover, the chateau's modern facilities are good - the smart swimming pool is new, well-maintained and warm enough in late August, while the tarmac tennis court is just about playable. There is even a modern conference centre.

Local specialities
However, the venerable old chateau itself is tatty and the refined ambiance evoked by the marble and parquet floors is marred by the jumble of furnishings, paintings and ornaments.  Bedrooms are kitted out in period style and have fine wooden floors, but the furnishings in the inexpensive Romarin suite (150 euros a night for two adjoining double rooms and a sizable bathroom), are a little too crude and tacky. Still, at least the suite is equipped with bathrobes, a kettle and other comforts, while the pricier double rooms (120 euros a night) appear to be more tasteful. On the ground floor, there is also a pleasant guest lounge and small untended bar.  The breakfast buffet, featuring cereals, bread, croissants, very strong coffee and orange juice, in the cosy dining room, costs a reasonable eight euros a head. You can also book in for an impressive four-course dinner with wine (38 euros a head), featuring local specialities, such as foie gras and baked fish with beurre blanc. Not easily fazed, Chateau de Cop-Choux's proprietors are welcoming, friendly and laid-back. 7/10