The Régie De Courances: A Royal Family-Friendly Cottage 1 Hour From Paris

Head to the Essone département in the Ile de France region close to the Gâtinais forest, and find a picture-perfect landscape of green fields dotted with pretty rural towns and villages, and one of France’s most well maintained castles, the Château de Courances.

Still lived in by its current owner, the handsome 17th century castle is the stuff of dreams. Think tall winding iron gates, an elegant double stone staircase leading up to the main floors, honey hued stone exterior coiffed by a light slate roof and surrounded by acres of magnificent gardens.

Upscale French self-catering rentals company Pierres d’Histoire has made it possible to have Courances all to yourself for a few days by renting out the former estate manager’s home to guests. The Régie de Courances, a two-floor cottage with all the trimmings — including high chairs and cots, and toys for the little ones — sits at the entrance of the castle grounds and gives guests a taste of chateau life.

Pull back the velvet drapes in the morning and you’ll be charmed by the daylight filtering through tall swaying chestnut trees that line the long driveway to the castle. Each floor has an apartment with two bedrooms and a kitchen, which the owners have been careful not to overly restore so the spaces still feel homely and lived-in.

Hand drawn sketches and water colors of birds and plant life found on the grounds hang in the hallway, while a selection of books about the region and the artists who lived nearby in Barbizon or Milly-la-Forêt like Jean Cocteau and Niki de Saint Phalle are scattered on console tables by soft velvet couches and Victorian chaise longues arranged under floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the park with a creak.

In winter, sit reading by the open fire in the living room after brisk countryside walks through the 185 acres of grounds (open to the public at weekends) of forested land and gardens with water features that look like something out of a fairy tale — perfect for younger guests to amble through. In summer, picnics are to be had out on the lawn that last until the setting sun makes the castle’s walls glow pink and purple.

Just an hour south from Paris, Courances is located on the outskirts of the Gâtinais forest, which is great for dipping into nature and getting a taste for French countryside living without having to travel far from the city.

At Courances, there’s also a small café in the old water mill where you can have lunch or tea and cake, with a nook of tables in a small clearing of the forest at the back, or a terrace at the front that looks out onto meticulously looked after Japanese gardens.

Line the gardens and you’ll come to a wooden gate that leads to the restaurant where the kind staff, who are really great with kids, serve lunch, dinner and brunch at the weekends, on open-timber tables decorated with the most beautiful fresh flowers. Below is a small boutique selling produce grown on nearby farms like fruit and vegetables, a small selection of locally made jams, pasta and other sundries, as well as a collection of handmade soaps and wooden utensils for bathrooms and kitchens.

For evenings and mornings off, guests can also order breakfast baskets of fresh crusty baguettes and salted butter, jams and fruit to be delivered to the door, and light Mediterranean focused home cooked meals mixing with local produce from the restaurant kitchen.

Respectful renovations of historic properties is what sets Pierres d’Histoire apart from other vacation home rental companies. As well as the Régie de Courances, the small company has six other maisons including a manor in Normandy, two stately family homes and an apartment on the grounds of another chateau not far from Courances, as well as a beautiful manor house in the Luberon countryside and a restored mill in the Languedoc. Each property’s soul shines through thanks to carefully considered refurbishments and tasteful hand-picked finds that fit with each house’s story, making it feel more like staying with a friend than in just another impersonal rental.

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