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- A Traveler Recommendation:
Chateau d’Agel is the kind of place you read about in novels or see in films and never, ever come across in real life; a place so perfect that you almost want to vet the people who want to stay there, so you can bar the ones you feel are really not worthy of it. Its story, as befits a castle, is long, dramatic, and romantic. One of its four towers dates back to the 12th century; the rest is largely 15th and 17th century, with fabulous flagstoned floors, a vast entrance hall, a wonderful library filled with ancient books and breathtaking salons. Staying there is like walking back in time – except that the restoration is so beautiful that you live in 21st century luxury, surrounded by antiquities and exquisitely restored furniture. Everything, from the Napoleon III secretaire to the claw-foot iron bath, is family furniture. Martine, the owner, and her mother have reupholstered chairs and settees in stunning slub silks; wall paper has been restored or rehung and all the walls painted in jewel shades of Farrow and Ball. Our room – Suite Auguste – was magnificent in its beauty, from the bed canopied in ochre brocade to the marble fireplace and the double floor-to-ceiling French windows (hung with emerald green crepe de chine drapes) overlooking the terrace to the parkland beyond. You really do feel like a 17th century French comtesse; except that unlike her you have a luxury bathroom with walk-in shower, fluffy white towels and terrazzo tiles. Our two children slept in the twin-bedded connecting bedroom in equal elegance, with a marble-topped chest of drawers overhung by a rococo gilt-framed oval mirror and cornflower William Morris style wallpaper. Chateau d’Agel has five acres of gardens and a large swimming pool where we spent lazy days, fanned by the gentle breeze from the Black Mountains. You can either cook for yourselves or ask Martine to put you in touch with an English-speaking cook who will cook (and shop) for you (15 euros an hour when we were there, July 2009). There is a suitably grand dining room but we ate all our meals in the orangery, the door to which is dominated by a majestic acacia tree. Highly recommended.