It’s probably best if nobody ever hears about the Chateau d’Uzer.
There is a reason owners Veronique and Eric do not list their five bedroom guest house – and by house I mean 12th century chateau – on the likes of those one click holiday websites.
They don’t need to, they don’t want to, as they prefer the personal approach and select their marketing in a much more selective way.
And they prefer a phone call so they can pick and choose their guests.
This bewitching small castle buried in the tiny village of Uzer, in the Ardeche region of southern France is, after all, their home.
I’m lying here in my huge bed in the Grand Salon, a Princess in my own castle, wondering about those who came before.
This is very large, quirkily luxurious, en-suite bedroom decorated in shades of antique green with a romantic Rome and Juliet-style iron-work balcony looking on to the lush depths of the garden.
The interior and exterior design is the work of the talented Veronique, who has managed to turn this historic building into a thing of wonder.
This is shabby chic, the original.
No complex decorating techniques were needed to achieve this utterly authentic experience.
The solid stone walls, constructed from the 12th century onwards, from local rock are accessorised with quirky, family, object d’art, inspired by the local countryside and generations who have called this small castle home.
Veronique has pitched it just right.
It is almost impossible to explain the privileged grandeur of such a building.
It’s not enormous, as chateaus go but I am staying amid history.
Every turn in this building makes you gasp.
It feels wrong to drag your suitcase on the ancient stone work and beautiful thick tiles which lead to the highly individual rooms and suites (a couple have two bedrooms making them ideal for families)
From the enclosed garden room with its wraparound mural, painted by a soldier in gratitude to his general (who owned the Chateau) in the 1930s, to the Oubliere (former dungeon), now a tiny little cinema and entirely dark spot for Eric to enjoy his afternoon nap during the height of summer, this is a remarkable place.
My room, with its original tiles floors and huge ceilings and stunning full length balcony, epitomises shabby chic and the romance of France.
Except there is nothing shabby about the little Ardeche gem.
This is authentic French chic, every detail has been restored with love, attention and an eye to modern comfort to detail in this green pocket of serene, rural, France.
There is no TV in here, something I didn’t even notice until Eric pointed it out.
Who needs TV when you can gaze, enraptured, at the ocean of green in the garden from your own Romeo and Juliet style balcony with the peace only interrupted by chirping birds.
The Chateau d’Uzer is not easy to find, surrounded by high walls and hugged by the tiny village, surrounded by the mountains and next to the river.
This was one of several castles built in the 12th century to guard the region during a boom in silver mining – the mining itself help to fund the Crusades.
It remained in the family of one general for many centuries, before being sold on.
Veronique bought it just a handful of years ago and her touch is everywhere.
She is French chic in every way (we first encountered her as we drove in through the tiny maze of Uzer, cycling in with French breads in her basket, looking every inch a glamorous French film star in her black dress and chignon) and that translates beautifully into every detail, including the food which she prepared personally from the kitchen using ingredients sourced locally and from the Chateau’s garden.
We enjoyed pork and chestnut (a speciality of the region) pie, served with spinach and potatoes, after a delicious chestnut soup (a theme emerges and why not?).
We also enjoyed local artisan goats cheeses before a choc-chestnut pudding with home-made and minty ice cream – the entire meal enjoyed alongside our hosts who plied us and our fellow (Swiss) guests with local wines and conversation.
Despite the wine and late hours, we learn Eric’s routine, a 6am run straight over the garden wall and up into the mountains before a cooling swim in the Chateau pool.
All this before helping with breakfast service to the small retinue of guests.
Outside, the Chateau boasts lust green gardens bordered by walls and then mountains.
There is a outdoor swimming pool and gypsy caravans are placed whimsically amongst the trees (they can also be hired as rooms. )
Meanwhile, in the courtyard there is a tiny shop, stocked with local olive oils and curiosities, alongside clothes dreamed up by Veronique and stitched together by local artisans.
This is a magical place, fit for princesses and to discover it’s magic and secrets you must travel to the heart of southern France and find out yourself.