In the bright, high-ceilinged foyer of this Southern French luxury residence are two long rectangular picture frames – mirrored across the room like a reflection of one to the other. Within each frame sits three black and white images – ones that show slender turrets, elegant pointed roofs, and a cornucopia of grandiose stone masonry in majestic 19th century building design. “Those would have been the architect’s calling cards,” says Dublin-born current château owner Karl O’Hanlon, as he further explains the property’s history.
Set in the wine-producing region of the Languedoc-Roussillon, it’s no surprise to learn that Château St Pierre de Serjac was originally built and owned by wealthy wine merchant Baron Cyprien de Crozals. His well-preserved business card – one that simply states his name – remains proudly displayed behind the reception desk and his original vision of the property has largely been maintained in its now much more modern make-up. Many of the quirky artifacts discovered here upon purchase (maps, posters, other photographs) have been woven into the building’s extensive renovation and we are told that replicating the sweeping cast iron and bright white pillar banisters of the main staircase was a particularly painstaking project.
The château boasts 8 luxury hotel bedrooms – one of which previously served as the house’s chapel, and the place where the merchant’s son would have had his lessons every day. Guests who stay here now can feel altogether more godly as they wake up in the morning knowing St. Francis of Assisi has been watching over them, while those in the hotel’s other bedrooms can be cleansed of their sins or otherwise, in a different way. Silver roll-top bathtubs, complete with luxuriant spa products from French beauty brand, Cinq Mõndes will ensure a short-break radiance that comes from outside-in.
From the large windows of these bedrooms are views of the château’s original out-houses, now turned into an array of luxury apartments that boast up to four separate bedrooms, depending on your needs. Each building reflects the original premise in name – such as La Maison des Vignerons, des Vignes and des Vendangeurs, and if you’re keen for an entire cottage to yourselves you can book La Maison du Jardinier – a cosy home from home with private swimming pool and integrated Jacuzzi overlooking the vines.
One totally new block exists, crafted to blend in with the rest of the estate’s historic ambience, and a number of them have their own pools offering panoramas of the surrounding vineyards – ones which, at the time of our visit, are still hoping to break into bud after the long winter. When the fruit does appear and the wines are bottled, chances are they may fill one of the apartments that contains an underground spiral wine cellar – every fine wine aficionado’s dream – even if only part of your living quarters when staying here.
Other attractions at the property include the purpose built Le Spa, where daily aches and pains can be slowly massaged away. For us these treatments provide an hour of welcome convalescence after mountain biking all day (just one of the activities available to try). Serjac’s Sales and Marketing Director Darren Kennedy is a keen cyclist himself – extolling the virtues of the local surrounds for its wealth of differing terrain (both altitude and ocean are within a half hour drive of one another). Despite today’s rain, and a little over exertion over some live music at the hotel bar the night before, our journey is made easier thanks to electric power boosts on the bikes, and a pit-stop or two at a handful of small-production wineries (notably the modest but excellent Château de la Liquière – in steep-sloped Faugères, whose wines can be found through The Wine Society in the U.K).
St. Pierre de Serjac can also organize luxury picnics through local resident Monca’s “Courtyard Kitchen”. We break our cycle further for one such occasion. And truly, this is no sausage-roll and blanket affair. We arrive to a table laid under village arches with multiple items of crockery, cutlery and freshly-cut flowers in a vase, with wine and water glasses nestled in-between. Large picnic hampers are delivered to each pair of diners and inside we find homemade everything: tomato soup (to warm our slightly soggy, rather muddy, cockles), fish pâté, roasted chicken salad, lemon posset, and a separate string-wrapped goat’s cheese with wonderful paprika chutney.
The following day we choose to test the large infinity pool that frames the château shot, briskly forcing at least one length of its 25 meters (in late April, the temperatures are still rising). Nevertheless it is delightfully refreshing and wakes up our circulation for what turns out to be a lovely, sunny day. So sunny in fact, there is a chill-delay on the rosé over lunch from Serjac’s restaurant wine list – this one is their own. The terrace menu offers daily fresh fish (the Turbot is excellent), amongst other French classics such as snails and Roquefort salad.
On our last afternoon, our brief encounters with this piece of local luxury forces us out along the coast for a sea-salt stroll and a chance to sample the well-famed oysters for which that this part of France is famous. En-route, we pass a smart Jaguar E Type sitting alongside the sea-front’s pavement and momentarily flirt with the idea of driving all the way back to England. Sadly however, this idea remains short lived, and so the lap of luxury in which we have been allowed to sojourn this weekend we instead switch back into normality and a return to the U.K with a big EasyJet bump.
A one-night stay in starts from 220 Euros (sleeps two) and includes breakfast & access to the Spa. A self-catering apartment sleeping two starts from 179 Euro per night (room only). Reservations UK: 0345 686 6505. For more information, visit www.serjac.com.