Sleepover: Hotel de Biencourt

A bed for the night in France
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The Independent Travel

Where is it?

In charming Azay-le-Rideau, a village in the Loire Valley, 20 miles west of Tours.

Where is it?

In charming Azay-le-Rideau, a village in the Loire Valley, 20 miles west of Tours.

What's it like?

An 18th-century townhouse set in a semi-pedestrianised street leading to the 16th-century Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau. Its 17 rooms are divided between the house itself and a 19th-century converted schoolhouse ("La Classe") behind the flower-filled garden courtyard.There's no car parking, but you can leave your car in the village square – about a minute's walk away.

What's its USP?

It's practically within sight of the chateau – one of the most romantic and intimate in the Loire Valley and a required stop on the chateau trail. And it's one of the few low-priced comfortable hotels in the area (see below).

Service?

Brisk and efficient. The manager can be a bit brusque, but then the whole area does explode during the summer months and the constant stream of tourists can be a bit wearing. She does, however, have the winter to recover: the hotel is open only from 1 March to 15 November.

Rooms?

Some are due for a makeover, but most are decorated in typical rustic style and are of a good size for the money. Most are en-suite, and two of the rooms in the schoolhouse have balconies overlooking the garden. The cost ranges from £21 to £38 per night.

Food?

Only breakfast is served in the dining room with its french doors leading to the garden, but it's just as pleasant to buy some croissants and have a coffee in one of the cafés in the village square. For dinner, Les Grottes around the corner on rue Pineau is excellent. It's in a troglodyte cave, both cosy and cool, but you can also eat outside on the terrace when the weather isn't scorching.

Clientele?

Mainly people touring chateaux and vineyards in the area. You don't see much of the other guests, unless, as we did, you run into a cheerful bunch of Swedes having a civilised nightcap in the garden.

Things to do?

You can't go to Azay without visiting the chateau. Built in the early 16th century as a pleasure palace, it sits on an island in the river Indre in semi-Gothic splendour. You can get a closer look at its delightful Renaissance interiors than at some of the Loire chateaux which keep most of the rooms off limits to the public. A special ticket will give you entrance to the chateau and allow to you return after sunset for the highly imaginative son et lumière which runs nightly from May to September. It's an utterly magical experience. You are also not far from one of the region's outstanding chateaux, Chenonceau, the scale of which makes Azay look like a village house. Then there is the lively university town of Tours, as well as vineyard after vineyard producing crisp white wine.

Address?

Hotel de Biencourt, 7 rue Balzac, 3710 Azay-le-Rideau, France (00 33 2 47 45 20 75; fax: 0033 2 47 45 91 73).

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