In the market town of Gencay, about half-way between Paris and Bordeaux. Le Vieux Château is the first thing you see as you hit town. It looks like a traditional auberge, but its 12 rooms, tucked away under the huge old town walls, were opened only in 1995.
The convenience factor - an ideal staging post on the long drive south, easy to find, with convenient and secure parking.
The comfort factor
Two-star but perfectly adequate comfort, with room to enjoy a drink, inside or out. You can easily wander up to the main square and people-watch at one of the pavement cafés opposite the covered market.
The food and drink
The €23 (£16) gourmet menu included half a dozen oysters, blanquette de veau, trout or pig's cheek in red wine, an excellent cheese board and a choice of desserts. The chef offers other menus, including regional dishes. Breakfast is coffee and croissants, and a pile of oranges and an electric juice extractor are provided so you can make your own orange pressé.
The soap comes from a wall dispenser and there are no fancy robes, but the shower works.
Very friendly staff. The other guests appeared to be commercial travellers, confirmed by late arrivals and early departures.
If you do linger, the huge castle built by Godfrey IV of Ransom, Lord of Gencay, in the 13th century is worth a detour. It was listed as an ancient monument as long ago as 1840, and is in a ruined state. For opening hours check with the local tourist association (00 33 549 594 737) or the president of the friends of the castle, Simone Vignaud (00 33 549 580 182; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). There is a fine Romanesque 11th-century church. Market days are Thursdays and Saturdays. Futuroscope (020-7499 8049; www.futuro scope.com) is nearby.
There is no lift, so visitors with limited mobility should book one of the four ground-floor rooms.
From €50 (£36) per night for a double room. Breakfast costs €6 (£4.30).
Le Vieux Chateau, 10, Route de Poitiers - 86160 Gencay (00 33 549 361 717;Reuse content