Since childhood I’ve had a penchant for Relais & Châteaux, an association of independently owned and operated hotels around the world, known for their intimacy, commitment to embracing their locale, bijoux elements and focus on gastronomy. Established in 1954, the group—now 580 members large— began as eight hotels promoting their location along the road from Paris to the Cote D’ Azur under the slogan La Route du Bonheur—or the Road to Happiness. For me, every trip to a Relais & Châteaux becomes a journey on the “Road to Happiness.” But no Relais & Châteaux hotel has more epitomized the consortium’s embodiment of art d’vivre for me as Reim’s Domaine Les Crayères, set in the heart of France’s Champagne Region. Not surprisingly, its owner, Laurent Gardinier, has recently been elected president of the association.
The wow factor begins with the first glimpse: a Belle-Epoque mansion with a Mansard roof, pocketed on a grand circular driveway behind a gate. Beyond, its backyard, 17-acres of garden unfurl, all of it part of a UNESCO protected site. Next door, Champagne Pommery and its ancient Champagne cellars beckon. Within, a splendrous lobby and curving stairwell captivate. Attentive staff await, their job to lead you to the cozily elegant Bar La Rotonde, where a sommelier, directs you to red leather chairs facing the parkland. The bar’s design by Pierre-Yves Rochon, a marriage between English country house chic (plaids and dark woods) and French library stateliness, leaves an impression even as you hear the pop of the Champagne cork and fizzy explosion of the region’s number one beverage being poured into flutes. “This is bliss,” you’ll probably say aloud.
Eventually, you’ll be guided to a beguiling suite (most occupy the mansion, though some lie in the garden), each named for a member of European nobility. On the way, you’ll pass halls and nooks embellished with priceless antiques and period art. It’s easy to imagine members of royalty living here, as the Pommery/Polignac family did. Layered lavishly with silks, velvets, damasks, and gild, your unique, classically French suite will feature a palatial marble bathroom. Mine (once Madame Pommery’s room) had a fireplace and a balcony overlooking the park.
In Relais & Châteaux tradition, every food and drink experience will be artful and inspired by the location. Case in point, one course of many at a meal at Le Parc, in which Chef Philippe Mille delivered a langoustine and caviar dish composed to be a replica of the famous rose window in Notre Dame de Reims, the city’s monumental cathedral. A haven—even a mecca—for culinary travelers, Domaine Les Crayères pampers guests on site, but adroitly organizes, too, VIP visits to a plethora of Champagne cellars around the region. A cosseting hotel with intuitive service, never pretentious, always welcoming, Domaine Les Crayères will feed your soul.
Location: Reims, France in the heart of the Champagne Region
Food + Drink: Bar La Rotonde (for tea, light snacks or Champagne all day); Brasserie Le Jardin, with an open kitchen, for casually chic lunch and dinners; and Restaurant Le Parc, helmed by Philippe Mille with two Michelin stars.
Our Favorite Part of the Hotel: Besides airy Le Parc with its white tablecloths and chandeliers for artful dining, the Bar La Rotonde with its Pierre-Yves Rochon-designed blend of English gentleman’s club meets French country house conservatory vibe delights. Top that off with its Champagne menu that boasts more than 600 labels, and you can stay sipping all day.
Amenities: Seventeen acres of gated, manicured parkland surround the hotel, 24 hour front desk,WIFI, bikes available, EV Charging Station, bar, pet friendly, restaurant , room service, tennis court with a spa and swimming pool upcoming in the near future.
What’s Nearby? The gorgeous city of Reims and its famous cathedral—Notre Dame de Reims—and an abundance of vineyards, Champagne caves, domaines and wineries—including top names such as Tattinger, Pommery and Veuve Clicquot.
Any personal neighborhood recs? Each Champagne house has its own ambiance, and beyond Reims, there are myriad villages in the Champagne region and a plethora of small Champagne houses to discover. Don’t miss Champagne Pommery across the street from the hotel for its extravaganza of a tour and tasting, which includes a walk through its subterranean, ancient tunnels and caves, all adorned with contemporary art.
Rooms: 20 (soon to be 27 with upcoming additions)
Pricing: Rooms start at $550/night
Closest Airport: Charles De Gaulle (CDG), which is about a two hour drive. However, the train from Paris or the airport takes only 45 minutes.
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