Until recently, travellers to France’s Loire Valley focused on the region’s fairy-tale castles, Michelin-starred restaurants, and world-famous wines such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. But the destination can now add glamping in tree houses to its list of attractions. By Caren Osten Gerszberg
While there are plenty of quaint inns and hotels in the area — an easy one-hour train ride from Paris — to rest your well-fed, royal history-saturated body, Loire Valley Lodges (LVL) offers a unique experience, one immersed in the beauty of a 740-acre forest sprinkled with striking modern sculptures.
Tree houses in France: An environment that blends art with the natural world
Opened in July 2020, just as COVID-19 was surging, LVL was a passion project for Anne-Caroline Frey, a former Paris art dealer who set out to create an environment that blends art with the natural world. Each of the lodge’s 18 tree houses (built on stilts) is decorated by a different contemporary artist and has floor-to-ceiling windows for full exposure to the surrounding nature.
Equipped with an outdoor terrace that has furniture and a hot tub — several even have their own sauna — each tree house is a haven for relaxation. Breakfast is delivered daily and left at the bottom of the stairs in a large wicker basket. When you’re ready to eat, you’ll simply pull on the rope to raise your basket and savour your morning café au lait and croissant en Plein air.
The best way to get around the property is on two wheels, and bicycles are available to cruise along the paths to and from your tree house. Guests can seek out one of the intentionally placed benches or chairs to soak up the surroundings and its active wildlife, which includes birds, owls, deer, and the occasional wild boar. There are also vegetable and flower gardens, a glass-enclosed “bee house” for watching the insects make honey, a forest bathing experience led by a local naturalist, and even an opera singer for hire to sing arias in the woods.
When designing the main lodge, Frey kept the exterior walls of the centuries-old house intact, but gutted the interior, which now houses a reception area; a shop with all things art, nature, and wellness; a bar; and a restaurant that serves lunch daily and dinner three nights a week. There’s an inviting pool outside the main lodge, too — perfect for cooling off after a day of touring the nearby villages, chateaus, and wineries.
Another draw is the property’s attention to every detail when it comes to the natural environment, guests’ comfort, and the creative world — from eco-friendly Aesop products and assorted books on trees to walkie-talkies for nighttime communication and far-out design elements, like our tree house’s barbie-legs light fixture.
Overall, Loire Valley Lodges brings a modern twist with creature comforts to nature lovers in a region that thrives on history. Here, the history lies in the 200-year-old trees.
(This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com)
(Hero and Feature Image Credits: Anne-Emmanuelle Thion)