News & Reviews Europe France Review: Château de la Messardière, France

I really hate the French.  They have better food than us Brits, better weather, a vastly superior national football team (even accounting for football coming home, a few days ago).  They don’t elect morons as Presidents, their healthcare system works, they’re part of the EU and boy do they know how to run hotels.  Airelles, the owners of Messardiere, seem to be on a mission to create the finest hotels in the world. Right now, its biggest competition is probably another French company, Cheval Blanc.  I think we can all agree the French are the worst.

Normally I walk around properties spotting their flaws, but here, every few meters I was mouthing “fuck” under my breath as Messardière is so brilliant I’m now going to have to brush up on some positive synonyms to describe it.  Not since Park Hotel Vitznau has a European property impressed me so much.  It’s rare to find something this brilliant, this unique, this focused on the customer at the owners’ expense.

I’m going to try something different for this review.  I’m always telling you why you should or should not go somewhere, so instead, I’m just going to wait for someone to give me a single reason not to visit.  Cos it’s so damn good I can’t think of one.  I’ll just sit here and wait….

Exactly how I look in my waiting pose

Well, fine, as usual I’ll have to do the hard work.

The moment you reach the gates of Messardière, and then journey through their perfectly maintained gardens, that look like 1980s Tim Burton designed them, to the hotel entrance, you already know you’re not in normality anymore, Dorothy.  The hotel just reeks of class.  It’s the kinda place that puts you on your best behaviour, as it would be a disrespect to mankind to be anything but polite.  You want to dress up, you want to impress it, but it’s so relaxed that you’ll forget all that by the evening and get pass-out-drunk and fall asleep in a bush.

For us, the experience began with a, quite frankly, absurd attention to detail.  I have never experienced such personalisation in all the amenities in a room, all the way down to the writing pads, pillows and robes having our names in them.  Even our 18-month-old daughter had a robe, which almost melted my iron cast heart.

This level of personalisation made its way throughout the property, where I was greeted by name from the first day, even though they were at full occupancy.  They went above and beyond to make our anniversary special.  It’s the kinda place that makes you feel that you’re wrapped up in a fluffy cloud and everything is going to be alright.  Until you check the news and look at your share portfolio.

Then there was the beautiful room decor, as part of our anniversary celebration.  But before we even had a chance to be impressed by the room,  we were greeted by the Guest Relations Manager and the General Manager.

Messardière just about hangs onto the title of boutique.  Airelles purchased it in 2019 to fully Airelles-ify it over the coming years.  It was 120 rooms, currently stands at 103 and will end up somewhere close to 70, with every room being refurbished and remodelled.  This makes the omnipresence of the GM, his engagement and proactivity even more impressive.  It’s not like it’s a 14 room resort where you’d expect to see the GM regularly.  Nowadays it’s a rarity, which makes it stand out even more.

When you combine a no-expense sparred resort with a service level that matches it, you have what is officially known as the dog’s bollocks.

Our room, a recently refurbished One Bedroom Appartment, was sublime.  At 95sqm the biggest issue was how big it was, as children do manage to find a way to destroy everything.  Bigger the space, bigger the problem.  I’m not sure whether I believe that hotel rates are so high due to inflation; it all seems to have coincided since our daughter was born and things started getting broken.

You entered our suite into a large living area with balcony, next to which was a dining room with a 6-seater table and free minibar.  To the left is a guest bathroom leading into a dressing room, the master bedroom and the master bathroom.  The bedroom leads to an outdoor balcony which offers landscape views. Were they the Mandarin Oriental they’d probably will try and throw in “sea view” in there, as technically you can see it.

It does suffer from usual “guess the light switch” and blackout blinds that really are not, but otherwise, you can see the amount of money that went into it.

The hillside setting adds to the charm.  Away from whatever the reason is that people visit St. Tropez, it has magnificent views, but even more impressive grounds.  They are so vast that they offer golf buggies to take you to the outdoor gym, the tennis courts or the kids club.  Whilst any other property would stick more and more rooms on, Airelles seem determined to put more and more facilities that create a greater sense of value.  Cos that’s what Airelles do.  You don’t come here and feel penny-pinching, because kids eat for free, and laundry is free, and trips into St. Tropez in a Rolls Royce are free. And they put on a huge daily buffet for lunch for free, which gave me part of my five-a-day, assuming a cake counts as one.

The reaction to 90% of my jokes

I have to be honest: when something is extremely difficult to photograph, sometimes I just don’t even bother.  Yet with 15 minutes to go I think fuuuuck I need to do this to do it justice, so I rush around aimlessly.  That’s why even though their spa is beautiful, with an indoor pool, huge steam room, and even bigger sauna, I have zero photos of it.  I can, however, tell you they use Sodashi and Valmont, so that’s gotta count for something, right, guys?  Guys?

But really the showstopper is everything that’s not attached to the property but a few minute’s walk away.  They have two swimming pools, one a 30m long lap pool.  There are five restaurants.  An outdoor gym, two tennis courts, a basketball/football court, numerous boutiques, beautifully landscaped gardens.  Yet then there’s the kids club.  Where do you even begin with the kids club? You could start in their cinema or the three arcade rooms or the virtual reality machines, a Lego room, two pools, a pirate ship, and a playground with trampolines.

If that’s not enough, they have a Beach Club.  It’s a 5-minute drive and offers a Mediterranean vibe with dining options.  It also suffers like all French beaches do – they’re public, so expect random people to walk past offering massages.  Yet you’re in France, so just be grateful it’s not a prostitute and you’re left trying to explain to your children what that is.

Let Papa explain the involvement of alcohol in procreation

The food was very good, but it was a shame that during lunchtime it’s so limited, hence why they put on the buffet.  Breakfast also has no menus, just a large buffet selection, although they will do the standard eggs or French pastries if you ask.  Come dinner and there’s a massive selection, including their Japanese restaurant, which Nobu himself was cooking at just the week prior.  I thought the man was too rich to work.

Compared to Cheval Blanc St. Tropez, the staff are much older here, meaning more experienced.  Whilst Cheval had staff so young that my daughter could have worked there.  That doesn’t mean it was flawless; there were some mistakes along the way, regarding the minibar not being restocked, being accidentally charged for kids meals and some poor English skills.  Yet the biggest problem with seasonal staff is that they don’t offer a service befitting of a property and it’s always left to get management to do it properly.  That wasn’t the case here.  Instead, management enhanced it.

As we departed the GM and Guest Relations Manager came to say goodbye and gave Isabelle some clothes as a gift – really nice clothes too.  The kind that you’d expect from those French monsters.  Our car was then loaded up with Laduree macarons and we were on our way to somewhere, anywhere, that wouldn’t be as great as here.

The Good

  • Location

The Bad

  • Really?  Really?!  You’re really even wasting your time looking for flaws instead of booking here?
  • Ok, you got me, the lunch options could be better

The Luxurious

  • Room
  • Food selection
  • Personalisation
  • Management
  • Facilities

Rating

Luxurious – duh

Conclusion

Rarely I come somewhere to just admire it rather than finding fault.  I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Confused?  Dirty?  Broken?  All of the above?

Château de la Messardière is a one-of-a-kind property, much in the same way that Airelles’s other resorts, like Bastide de Gordes and Versailles, are also one of a kind.  Yet this is a really one-of-a-kind, kind of resort.

It comes as no surprise this is an owner-managed property.  When you truly love something, when you care more about it than the financial rewards, the end results always benefits the customer.  Not the owners, they’re screwed, but then they’re French, and as I have clearly demonstrated, they’re the worst.

Room type: One Bedroom Appartment Duration: 15 June > 17th June, 2022.  Approx. €6,000/n

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 4th Aug '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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