Relais & Chateaux: Elegance and dining on the road to happiness

The Relais & Chateaux Association began as a dream. The resulting business' high standards can make travel a dream come true for vacationers around the world.

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Chateau de Curzay, Haute-Vienne is typical of Relais & Chateaux' distinctive accommodations. (Image via relaischateaux.com)

FRANCE, March 12, 2016 – Something unique happened more than 60 years ago in the south of France that changed the world of travel forever. The vision of two music-hall artists, Marcel and Nelly Tilloy, who owned Hotel La Cardinale in the Rhone Valley, inspired an exciting inn-keeping concept that captured the imagination of globe-trotters from every corner of the planet.

Welcome to life in a chateaux (relaischateaux.com)
Welcome to life in a chateaux. (relaischateaux.com)

As with so many things that reach a pinnacle of success, the magic erupted from the simplicity of the idea. Combining the authenticity and history of eight entirely different off-the-beaten-path properties between Paris and Nice, the Tilloys organized a non-chain chain of hotels that provided diverse travel experiences in their own right.

United by the common values of the highest quality amenities, exquisite culinary adventures, the individual personalities of their owners and a love of life and living, the original octet merged to become the prestigious hotel Association of Relais & Chateaux.

Today with more than 530 properties in 65 countries on 5 continents, most Relais & Chateaux properties are historic landmarks that include castles, manor houses or townhouses nestled in idyllic surroundings featuring magnificent cuisine.

Charming hotels are nestled amid stunning scenery (relaischateaux.com)
Charming hotels are nestled amid stunning scenery. (relaischateaux.com)

As President Philippe Gombert sums it up, Relais & Chateaux offers “a better world through cuisine and hospitality.”

It’s a difficult argument to dispute.

Membership is not awarded without strict adherence to the “Five C” method of evaluation; Caractère, Courtoisie, Calme et Cuisine. The words may be French but the meaning is universal. Though each property is distinctive with its own personality, all members must meet the same rigid standards:

The 11th century Chateau Mirambeau was built on the side of a medieval fortress (relaischateaux.com)
The 11th century Chateau Mirambeau was built on the side of a medieval fortress. (relaischateaux.com)

The soul of the Innkeeper: – Each property owner must add his or her own personal touch within its environment. As Relais & Chateaux likes to say “each property beats to the innkeeper’s heart.”

The taste of the land: – Member inns must reflect the local surroundings including the environment, architecture, landscaping, leisure activities and, of course, the food.

The passport of friendship: – All Relais & Chateaux member share the same core values of making guests feel welcome by getting to know them personally.

The celebration of the senses: More than a just place to sleep and to eat, Relais & Chateaux properties immerse their guests into the local culture in ways that appeal to each of the senses.

An awakening to the “Art of Living”: – There was a time when travel meant that “getting to” a destination was as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself. Relais & Chateaux renews that spirit by making each visit a journey of discovery.

Manoir Les Saules is a delightful spa. (relaischateau.com)
Manoir Les Saules is a delightful spa. (relaischateau.com)

La Cardinale Hotel/Restaurant was an authentic 17th century farmhouse overlooking the Rhone Valley and the mountains in the distance. With rich fields of fruit, lavender and sun-flowers plus vineyards, these were the seeds that evolved and grew into the Relais & Chateaux Association of today.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Relais & Chateaux in 2014, 60 chefs met in Ain, France for a luncheon at the Vonnas Georges Blanc along with historical members and journalists from around the world. Several gourmet festivals were organized throughout the year including 11 in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, 32 in Italy, 30 in the UK and 15 in Austria, Eastern Europe and Northern Europe.

The restaurant at Vonnas Georges Blanc was the site of the 60th anniversary. (georgesblanc.com)
The restaurant at Vonnas Georges Blanc was the site of the 60th anniversary. (georgesblanc.com)

There is no question that each of the chefs at a Relais & Chateaux property sets his personal standards as being a “virtuoso of taste.”

With its distinctive fleur de lis-style vector logo designed to reflect the joy and happiness of a four-leaf clover, Relais & Chateaux has earned the distinction that travelers recognize as something truly special much in the way they understand that a UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a one-of-a-kind experience.

The environment is an integral part of the Relais & Chateaux concept. (relaischateaux.com)
The environment is an integral part of the Relais & Chateaux concept. (relaischateaux.com)

Way back in 1954 the eight original inns were linked as a culinary itinerary along the road that ran parallel to the tracks of the world famous Blue Train. The advertising slogan, much like the hotel concept itself, was simple; “La Route du Bonheur” or basically “the road to happiness.”

Relais & Chateaux properties are friendly and welcoming filled with style and grace. (relaischateaux.com)
Relais & Chateaux properties are friendly and welcoming filled with style and grace. (relaischateaux.com)

Marcel and Nelly Tilloy were visionaries who created a new world of elegance and charm for travelers. You might say they developed their own personal “unchained melody.”

 

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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