Stay in an 18th-century Château Outside Paris Surrounded by 100 Acres of Gardens
The first thing I noticed at Domaine de Primard — a newly opened hotel in an 18th-century château an hour west of Paris — was that the gardener is treated with as much reverence as the celebrity chef.
Gérard Germaine, the gardener in question, was originally hired by the estate's former owner, the French actress Catherine Deneuve. More than a decade later, he still tends the 100 acres, which were designed by 20th-century Belgian landscape architect Jacques Wirtz — including a semi-wild rose garden with more than 250 varieties.
"Gérard is an institution," raves co-owner Guillaume Foucher. He and his partner, Frédéric Biousse, manage six other properties in Europe as part of their hospitality brand Les Domaines de Fontenille. Soon after they purchased the property, the couple hired a team to help Germaine plant hundreds of trees and add an extensive potager, or kitchen garden — as well as a neighboring field for cows, sheep, and donkeys — where chef Eric Frechon, of the Michelin three-starred Epicure in Paris, sources produce for Primard's three restaurants. "Both Frédéric and I come from agricultural families," Foucher says. "For us, connecting to the landscape is essential."
The pair hired architectural firm Lafourcade to help transform the estate's buildings (the main manor, as well as two farmhouses and a barn) into 40 airy rooms and suites. But Foucher, who previously ran the couple's art gallery in Paris, and Biousse, a former fashion executive, remained extremely hands-on when it came to the interiors. All of Les Domaines' hotels occupy historically significant buildings, and the first prerogative is to properly restore and maintain them. But for this particular property, surrounded by nature, they also wanted to bring the outdoors in.
"We wanted everything to smell like roses," Foucher explains. "We wanted guests to hear the birds, even inside the rooms." In one hallway, dried flowers cover the ceiling and ceramic snails crawl along the walls; a sitting room is filled with a scientific collection of mushroom specimens. To balance the whimsy, they asked French heritage brand Pierre Frey to create custom fabrics for the curtains and furniture.
Here are a few other things that impressed me about Domaine de Primard: The sunlit bathroom in my suite with a view over the woods, where I felt like I was bathing outdoors. The decadent croissant-baguette hybrid, slathered with homemade jam, that I ate at each breakfast. The deep-massage facial at the property's Susanne Kaufmann spa — as soothing to my nerves as to my skin.
"We made decisions as if this were our own house," Foucher says. "It was only at the end that we remembered we needed a reception desk."
To book: lesdomainesdefontenille.com, doubles from $410.
A version of this story first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Make This Garden Grow.