Roger Bray has a wonderful experience.
The best chambres d’hôtes offer an experience few hotels can match. That’s not to say their bedrooms are more comfortable – though some are – or that the cooking is better, though it sometimes is. Their advantage stems from personal service and insights into local and national culture. La Sorellerie surely ranks among the crème de la crème.
Getting there, mind, was was less than encouraging. Travelling north from Perigord, we missed the first turning off the A10 to Saint Avertin and wound up stuck in crawling rush hour traffic. After a long drive, much of it in heavy rain, tempers were a little frayed. Détente, as usual, was a rant at the satnav. We entered the destination. Not found. Useless. Pulled off into a car park and tried again, this time using the full street address with a hyphen between “Saint”and “Michel”, and added the postal code for good measure. Bingo.
Saint Avertin is on the south bank of the Loire, just across the river from Tours. It leaves an impression of discreet affluence. Avertin was the name bestowed here on a monk who travelled to Tours with Thomas Beckett in the 12th century. The stone for that city’s magnificent cathedral was quarried nearby.
La Sorellerie is a spacious property on a quiet street. There is an entry phone at the entrance to the drive. We were greeted by our host, Veronique Bertolo, who moved there with her husband from Versailles, not least, she says, because they loved riding. They extended the house to provide three guest bedrooms. One is named Balzac. Veronique formerly taught literature. The others are named after lovers of French Kings: Agnes Sorèl, whose penchant for low cut gowns scandalised the royal court at Chinon, some 35kms away, and Louise de La Vallière, a Duchess later turned nun. Respectively they were the mistresses of Charles VII and Louis XIV.
The room we had chosen was large, beautifully decorated, with twin washbasins in the bathroom and a shower in the bath. In better weather we could have enjoyed its large balcony.
Downstairs were sumptuously comfortable sitting areas where I relaxed in and armchair with a book until dinner. Readers unfamiliar with chambres d’hôtes should be aware they do not all offer a table d’hôte, or evening meal. And if they do, you usually eat at the same long table as other guests. In our experience the talk, this being France after all, almost always involves food (save for one where we stayed during the Tour de France). Inevitably the speed of chatter increases with the intake of alcohol, so it helps to check that your host speaks fluent English. Veronique is fluent.
At dinner we were joined by a young woman from Chartres who was staying frequently while on a banking course in Tours. Expect specialities from the surrounding Touraine area. We began with pumpkin (potiron) soup, followed by boudins blancs, a particular favourite of mine, though as the meats vary from place to place so, inevitably, does their quality. These, served with pureed sweet potato and a little of their juices, were outstanding. They came from a shop a short walk away down a steep hill in “the village”. Dessert was perhaps best described as a kind of biscuit with apples. Red wine was included and a request for espressos was quickly satisfied.
Besides croissants, pains au raisins and various breads, breakfast might include pear or apple juice and plenty of freshly ground coffee. An excellent start to another day on the road but not quite enough to remove the frustration that we hadn’t booked two nights, allowing for a day in the city, or perhaps a walk along the river. Another time.
The total price for our stay was a touch under €185 (or roughly £162 at online exchange rates in late 2023).
Further information and booking at https://www.hotes-touraine-sorellerie.fr/
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