Here's a recap of our third trip to an affordable, amazingly fantastical castle in the beautiful Loire Valley in France.
Chateau du Pin is the real deal. Parts of the castle are more than nine hundred years old (around the time when the magnetic compass was invented if you're a history buff) and there are surprises everywhere you look: gargoyles, hidden towers, dark dungeons/wine cellars, lush gardens, secret book case passages, massive fantastical creaking doors, an old overgrown moat, dusty lintels, a battered front gate, cobwebs and the occasional (friendly) chameleon. Best of all there are no crowds, no lines and no velvet ropes. It's a wide-open mythical paradise and guests are free to explore and let their imaginations run wild.
The cost is about € 2,000/$3,000 per week -- not just for a room -- for a whole wing of the castle! If that's still out of your budget range, there's more than enough room to split the price with another family.
The pictures may look amazing, however authentic chateau living definitely isn't for everyone. If you depend on round the clock attention and brigades of butlers and maids, then you've come to the wrong castle; when it comes to personalized service, all you'll find here is a reclusive master gardener, and if you're lucky, a general manager (assuming she isn't off oil painting or picking grapes in the vineyard). At Chateau du Pin, guests are pretty much on their own -- and that's what makes it great.
The one big exception is it's possible to arrange an excellent cook to set the dining room table and prepare exquisite dinners each night. The cook cleaned the pots and we cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher.