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Gracie's Review of Chateau de Challain - 9/9/09 **Very Long!!!**

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I just wanted to write a review of our wedding week at Chateau de Challain. It was the most wonderful and surreal experience. The chateau is more beautiful than you can imagine and pictures don’t do it justice. You have to be there to truly experience it and appreciate it. We rented the whole place for the entire week for our wedding. We informed our family and friends that their accommodations would be taken care of if they chose to come to our wedding. This would be our wedding favor to them. They were responsible for their own airfare and meals and excursions but they did not have to worry about a place to stay.


The Flight:

Our flight to France went fairly well but it was an ordeal as we had been carrying my wedding dress and my husband’s tux with us on the flight. My MOH and her husband were also on our flight so we also had her dress with us too. At the airport, they didn’t even have my husband and me sitting together, but when they realized we were on our way to our wedding, the desk agent called his manager and they arranged for our seats to be together. Our layover in Paris was tight (less than 1 hour) but we made our connection. Once we arrived in Nantes, we decided to wait for our friends and some of my husband’s family because they were arriving through another airline only 30 minutes after us. When their flight arrived, our friends showed up but my husband’s family did not. We waited and waited, and I thought I saw my mother-in-law’s luggage, but when a stewardess walked off with it, I thought I was mistaken (more to this story later). We figured we had better get our rental cars (with GPS’s – would be bad to get lost in a country where we can’t speak the language!) and head to the Chateau b/c once we dropped everyone off, hubby and I had to return to the airport 2 hrs later to pick up my mom and sister. We barely fit all 6 of us (hubby, me, MOH, MOH’s hubby, and 2 friends) in both cars with all of our luggage and wedding gear. BTW – cars run really small in Europe!


The Chateau:

The Chateau is approximately 50 minutes away from the Nantes airport. Our GPS was great and took us straight to the Chateau. We only encountered some mild confusion when we first tried to enter in the address as the Chateau does not actually have a road it is on, but the GPS requires you to enter an actual street. The Chateau is the town. We picked the 1st street that showed up on the GPS and hoped for the best. Luckily, it worked. By the time we got to the street that we entered into the GPS, we could see the Chateau in the distance and just continued to drive straight until we reached it. (If you pass the church, you’ve gone too far!)


Once we arrived at the Chateau, everyone unloaded their belongings and started to explore. Cynthia, the owner and our wedding coordinator, was there to greet us as well as her niece, Reka and their amazing dog, Zeus. My hubby and I wanted to view all the rooms before we assigned them so that we could make sure the best rooms went to our family and closest friends so both Cynthia and Reka showed us around. We chose to take the Madame Rochefocauld Suite as it had a gorgeous bed frame and a huge room. It also had a small sitting room/guest room to the side which was perfect for me to hang my wedding dress without hubby seeing it. We also had a beautiful tub in our room and the shower was just heavenly. We gave my mom and my sister the King Suite and my cousin and her husband the adjoining Princess room. The King Suite and Princess room has a shared bathroom which was both large and spacious. We gave his mom the Toile Suite and his sister and her husband the Empress Suite. His cousin and her husband were assigned the Amboise room and my cousin and his wife were put in the Napoleon room. My MOH and her hubby got the Romance Suite and my college friend and his fiancé received the Tower Suite. My other college friend and her husband would get the Massage room. Our 3 single friends got the single rooms attached to the Napoleon and Amboise rooms as well as the double room in the Mezzanine apartment. However, since several members in the group were not joining us until after our Paris excursion, our single friends could stay in the empty large rooms until then. Every Suite and Room had their own separate entrances so it was very convenient as no one would disturb anyone else if they had a shared bathroom or anything. Once we had the rooms assigned, hubby and I had to turn around and head back to the airport to pick up my mom and sister while our friends got to explore more of the Chateau. By the time we got back, my cousins and their respective husband/wife had also arrived. We were all exhausted but we still had no idea where his family was. We went to the small market in town to pick up a few drinks and some food and then headed back to the Chateau.


Welcome Dinner:

Our friends and family went exploring around while hubby and I decided we needed a nap. One of them woke us up around dinner time. Cynthia was gracious to include a complimentary buffet-style welcome dinner for our group the first night. We were supposed to have 27 people, including ourselves, staying at the Chateau, but only 16 of us would be there for the first few days. The remaining 11 people would be joining us when we went into Paris and would be coming back on the train with us (more on that later). She served rotisserie-style chicken with salad and pate and some amazing desserts. It was just the perfect meal after a long day of travel. And her house chef was to die for! They made everything just melt in your mouth. It was fabulous! We bought a few bottles of wine from Cynthia. She offers quite a selection of local wines which complemented all of the food at $15 euros a bottle. We all sat around talking and drinking and wondering where hubby’s family was. By the end of the night, we were all a bit toasted, LOL!


By this time, we still had not heard anything about hubby’s family and where they could be, so we were starting to get really worried. We assumed they must’ve missed their flight and probably couldn’t get in touch with us. As it turns out, that’s exactly what had happened. At midnight, we saw a car pull up and it was hubby’s mom, her boyfriend, hubby’s cousin and her husband. It was a relief to know they finally managed to get to the Chateau, in the dark, with no GPS and only Mapquest directions. We all stayed up a little to chat and catch up and give them a quick tour of the chateau but ended up turning in shortly after.


More on the Chateau:

The next morning, hubby and I woke up and went down to the kitchen in the basement/cellar area for breakfast. We thought we had woken up at 9:30 b/c that’s what we had set our world phone’s alarm clock to. Little did we know that the world phone was on San Francisco time so we actually woke up at 11:30! Zeus guided us down to the kitchen where there were fresh croissants, juice, coffee, fruits, yogurts, etc all ready for everyone. We arranged with Cynthia ahead of time to have use of her kitchen so that we could cook some of our own meals to save on cost. After breakfast, we headed out to the back courtyard area where everyone was already hanging out. That’s when we found out it was 11:30, LOL! Several of our friends already had left to go touring the surrounding area and nearby chateau and we just hung out with the remaining people to shake off the jet lag and just relax. Cynthia joined us for a while and we got to know her and her family a little better. As it turns out, when I was giving hubby’s cousin and her husband a tour, I accidentally opened the door to Cynthia’s bathroom/room. I did not realize it but when I closed the door and turned the key, she did not have a key on her side and I had locked her in her own room! Ooops!!! That morning, she was yelling out her window to anyone who could hear to let her out. I felt so bad! She has amazing soundproofing between the rooms! She also informed us that in the countryside of France, stores and restaurants have unique hours and we would have to be careful about what time we wanted to go shopping or out to eat, etc. She informed us that Anger was a good area and that’s where we would need to catch the train the next morning to go to Paris so we would be able to find plenty of restaurants in that area as grocery stores are closed on Sundays so we couldn’t buy anything to make dinner. There is also a large medieval chateau that we can tour there (which we did the following Friday).


We hung out for a little while longer and then decided to head to Anger to find a restaurant to get dinner before it got late. We all packed into 3 cars and caravanned to Anger. We started walking around the town and finally found a restaurant that could handle our large group of 12-14 people. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but they had a server there who spoke English so he was able to explain to us what some of the items on the menu were so we could order. The meal was excellent. It was so well presented that we took pictures of some of our dishes. Afterwards, we stopped by a small store that happened to be open and picked up some wine and alcohol for later that evening and went back to the Chateau. On the way back, we realized that we had just had a large family dinner because the only ones who were there were all family members and our friends were still out sightseeing. By the time we got back to the Chateau, our friends had returned from sightseeing also and so we all headed to the TV room and drank wine, ate some snack, had a few drinks and laughed and talked and just had a really great night. We also decided that everyone would pool their monies together at 20 Euro a piece and leave it with my other cousin and her husband (who would not be joining us in Paris as they would be visiting the city later on that week) so that they could go grocery shopping for us for food for the week.



The next morning, we all woke up early to head to the train station in Anger which is 45 minutes away as we needed to catch the 9:00 train to Paris. We all got breakfast in the cozy kitchen and headed to the train station. However, before we could get to the train station, we had to attend to hubby’s cousin’s husband who had slipped and fell in the shower and cracked open his forehead and was bleeding profusely. We were able to get bandages on him and we barely got to the station in time to park all the cars in the public parking garage and make it to the platform for the train. We had prepaid tickets for most of our family and extended family but our friends and my cousin and his wife still needed to buy tickets so they were super rushed to buy their tickets and by the time we got on the train, we weren’t even sure if our friends made it on the train. But, we were all staying at the same hotel so we knew we would meet up with them eventually.


Once we got into Paris, we went to go get our Metro tickets so that we could get around the city easily and cheaply. As we were getting off the train, we were able to find our friends who actually just barely made it. The only ones who were on the later train were my cousin and his wife. We all went and bought metro tickets and headed to our hotel, the Hotel Concorde La Fayette. We arrived at the hotel and our room was ready to check in but no one else’s was, so everyone put their bags into our room and we all headed to get some lunch as we were all starving. We also met up with another friend who had flown into Paris the day before and decided to stay in Paris instead of coming all the way down to the chateau only to have to come back to Paris. We found this cute Italian bistro which was one of the few restaurants that could accommodate our large party. It was fabulous! I wish I could remember the name of the place but because we were wandering around for a little while, we randomly picked the place so I have no clue what it was called. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and got everyone else checked in and then split up into smaller groups to go sightseeing. Many of our friends stayed with us and we all went to see Notre Dame with my mom and sister. Notre Dame was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The architecture was superb. Afterwards, my mom and sister were tired and went back to the hotel while we went to the Arc de Triomphe. That was also fun to see. We got to witness the memorial service that they hold daily for the “Unnamed Soldier”. We also met up with more friends who were on the tail end of their honeymoon who would also be joining us at the Chateau for our wedding. We all decided we wanted to sit at a café and get some drinks so we went down the Champs Elysees to find one. After a couple of drinks, we needed to head back to the hotel to regroup with the rest of our party and see what was going on. We got back to the hotel, rested about half an hour and then got ready for dinner. We ran into hubby’s mom and b/f who were just returning from dinner with hubby’s sister and her husband. Hubby’s sis and husband also flew into Paris earlier and stayed to see the city and planned to head back with us to the Chateau together. We also had not seen hubby’s cousin or her husband all day. They had gone to their room when we had arrived to lie down since his head was still bothering him and we were all worried that he might have a concussion or something. Hubby’s mom said she would check in on them and so the rest of us decided to go to dinner. We met up with all of our friends (from the Arc/Champs Elysees as well as others who had also stayed in Paris instead of at the Chateau) and we all went out to dinner at a nice French restaurant. Once again, we had a large group that we had to manage around but it was doable. At the restaurant, they had to split us into 2 tables which we had no problems with. Afterwards, hubby and I had to run back to our room to drop off our leftovers to my mom and sister, because we weren’t sure if they had eaten yet or not (they had as it turned out), and we told our friends we would meet them in the lobby. When we got back down to the lobby, we couldn’t find them. We waited about half an hour for them. We walked back to the restaurant and they weren’t there so we headed back to the lobby. Still did not see them. So we tried to get to the metro station through the hotel (which I forgot to mention earlier that the hotel lobby is connected to an underground mall which is attached to a metro stop), but b/c of the late hour, the mall entrance was closed. We got a call from another friend who wanted to meet us at the Louvre and was waiting there, so we hurriedly caught the metro at the other entrance and went to find him. By this point, he was waiting an entire hour and we felt bad to keep him waiting. He told us to take the Rivoli stop when we got near the Louvre. Well, as it turns out, he meant he was on Rivoli Street but we needed to get off the Louvre exit. Between all the miscommunication, we finally found him another hour later at the Louvre, but by this point, all the lights everywhere were being shut off. We got to see a few of the lit sights and we couldn’t believe how big the Louvre actually was. We also could see the Eiffel Tower being lit up in sparkles every hour on the hour. We then got a call from our Arc/Champs Elysees friends and they said that a few of them were still at a café in front of their hotel (they were staying at the Marriott). The rest of the group had gone back to the hotel room to go to bed (it was very late). We agreed to meet them at their hotel café and caught a cab to meet them. This time we found them no problem. We had a few more drinks with them and all went back to our respective hotels. We actually had to roll one of my girlfriends into the cab b/c she was a little intoxicated but it was more funny than anything. We finally got her into her room and were able to retire to ours.


The next morning, we woke up and called everyone’s rooms and decided to split up into groups again to see the sights. Our group decided to go see Versailles. By the time we got there, it was approximately 1:00 pm and the line into the palace was over an hour long so we decided to go look at the gardens. They were so large that it would still take an entire day just to see them. We only had a few hours. My mom loved the gardens. After wandering through there, we headed back to the hotel b/c we needed to catch the 5:30 train to get back to Anger. We decided we would no longer wander around looking for everyone so if they were at the designated meeting area, then they were with us, otherwise, they were on their own. We were able to gather our family and extended family together and we were able to make it to the train station. At the train station, no one had seen my cousin or his wife at any time and they held one of the car keys. We just hoped they were on the train and I knew they knew which train it was because we had gone over it many times before we had left for Paris. We also ran into some of the friends we never found the night before and asked them what happened. They said that they were waiting for us in the bar looking out into the lobby and never saw us! D’oh! Once again, it was a case of miscommunication. As we were getting on the train, we saw my cousin and his wife. Yay! We have car keys now! And they made it ok! Now, we just had to find the last of our friends. But we weren’t too worried b/c they had a car that fit just enough for the 4 of them.


When we unloaded at Anger, they also had made the train! My cousin who had stayed behind at the Chateau agreed to come in her car to pick some of us up as we had more people returning than we had when we left. We literally fit every car to the max and were able to get everyone back to the Chateau. Another wonderful surprise was that my cousin and her husband had cooked up a wonderful pasta dinner for everyone with salad and garlic bread and the works. It was the best thing to come back to!


We also got to meet with Javon Longieliere and his wife who would be photographing our wedding the next day. They are such a wonderful couple, as well as their son Cade, who is an absolute precious doll! Since this was our first time meeting with him, he asked us a few pertinent questions of what we were expecting and looking for on the wedding day and we told him what we wanted but we trusted his professional experience.


The Wedding:

The next morning was our wedding day! YAY!!! The day (and this whole week) was everything we had hoped and imagined it would be. We woke up by 9:30 and went down to the kitchen to grab some breakfast. By 10:30, I had to head back to our room because the hair and makeup people had arrived and hubby had to head to Nantes to pick up the motorcycle we rented for 2 days. We planned to take pics on the motorcycle in our wedding clothes as well as some more artistic pictures, if we could. We also wanted to ride the motorcycle the next day through the countryside of France and go exploring around. The hair and make-up people were fabulous. Cynthia and Reka have an amazing crew of people that they use for the weddings that they coordinate and every one of them is fabulous! Most of the pictures of the hairstyles that I loved were on my work computer back at home, but luckily, I had one photo of my most favorite hairstyle on the computer we had brought with us. They replicated it just perfectly! After hair and make-up were done for me, they started on my MOH and my mother and my future mother-in-law. I got into my dress and they set my veil in my hair.


By this point, hubby had gotten back with the motorcycle and started to get ready. He hadn’t expected getting the motorcycle to take as long as it did, so he didn’t have much time to get ready. During this time, Javon was bouncing back and forth between me and hubby, taking pictures of both of us getting ready. It took hubby about another hour to get ready and after all of that, they realized they had lost the rings. Hubby swore he put them in his jacket pocket but when he checked, they weren’t there. Now, I was still in our room and our MOH’s room waiting for things to start. We were supposed to start photos by 2:30 but by this time, it was already 3:30 and I had no idea what was going on b/c no one wanted to worry me. As I was getting antsy about the delay and not knowing what was going on, Javon took me down the back staircase and we took some photos of me in the hallway, on the staircase, and in the cellar while we were waiting. Turns out, hubby’s jacket had a hole in the pocket so the rings had fallen down into the bottom of the jacket lining. Thank goodness one of our friends figured that out and helped fish out the rings! And good thing that happened because our Best Man’s jacket also had a hole in his jacket pocket and it happened again during the ceremony but this time, we knew where to look! LOL!


Once they finally found the rings, we got the show on the road! We decided to have our first look photos on the beautiful winding granite/marble/limestone staircase of the chateau. Hubby looked so handsome in his tux! Once we had our first look photos, hubby and I were taken outside to have our couple photos taken with the chateau as our backdrop. We walked over to the moat and bridge and took several pictures there. Weather was so beautiful! It was actually kinda hot! We also took additional pictures together in the gazebo in front of the chateau. I can’t wait to see how the photos come out! After those pictures, we went back into the Chateau and took some more family/group photos before we headed over to the cathedral for the wedding.


The Ceremony / Cathedral:

The Ceremony was vivid and a blur all at the same time. Our only blip in the entire day was that we were supposed to have 3 musicians – a violinist, a cellist, and a sax – play during the ceremony but they never showed and Cynthia had no idea what had happened to them. Luckily, Cynthia or Reka had an ipod that had the music we requested and played that during the ceremony. The cathedral was beautiful! Tall, arching ceilings with old world architecture and detail! Once everyone had gone into the church, we got everyone into position and started walking down the aisle – first, hubby and his mom; next, our MOH and Best Man; and lastly, my mom and me. As I walked down the aisle, I kept looking at hubby which would start to make me cry so I would look at our friends which made me smile and almost laugh and then I would look back at hubby and start to cry again. It was a vicious cycle, LOL! Once my mom and I got to the front, she handed me off to hubby and we went to the top of the stairs and the service started. It was such a beautiful ceremony and service. We had each of our sisters do a reading, 1 secular reading and 1 religious reading. Our moms also did the unity candle. Even though it was a 30 minute ceremony, it went by so fast. Next thing I knew, we were exchanging rings and supposed to kiss!


Cocktail Hour:

After the ceremony was over, we headed outside to have a few more pictures taken and then onto cocktail hour. Hubby and I decided to stay back and had our pictures taken on the motorcycle during this time. Trust me, climbing onto a motorcycle with a full ball gown-style wedding dress is not easy. Staying on is no laughing matter either. I was holding onto hubby so I wouldn’t slide off either side. Javon was so awesome to work with. I totally recommend him to anybody who is getting married in the future! We joined everyone for cocktail hour shortly thereafter. The cocktails were awesome! We weren’t sure what to pick for the cocktails so Cynthia told us not to worry, that she would take care of it. We had something wrapped in prosciutto (which were apparently so good that they were gone before we even got there), 2 different types of pate on crackers/bread, a fruit thing set on small miniature serving spoons, and mini-tomatoes filled with cheese. Everything was magnificent. For drinks, we had champagne and wine as well as other alcoholic beverages. (We opted to have an open bar which we would pay the tab at the end of our trip.) It was so nice to just mingle with everyone and because we had already gotten to know each other all during the first half of the week, cocktail hour as well as the reception was so much more relaxed and enjoyable.


The Reception:

After an hour or 2 of cocktails, we then headed inside to the main reception room for dinner. Once again, Cynthia and Reka took our breaths away with the décor. The room itself is magnificent, but they did such a fabulous job on the place settings and the centerpiece. We decided to have hubby’s mom and her b/f and my mom and sister sit with us at the head table and everyone else sat at one large table. We opted to have the 3 course meal by the house chef and it was fabulous!!! We started off with fresh wild scallops and courgette casserole oven roasted, top with puff pastry, and shellfish sauce. This just melted in your mouth. I thought it was the best of all 3 dishes. Hubby doesn’t even like seafood all that much and he loved this dish. Our 2nd course was a beef filet cooked whole, accompanied by fresh market vegetables, chateau potatoes, and cooking juices reduced with red wines. This, too, was simply divine. Every dish was like a work of art that we took pictures of each course so that we would remember them. The 3rd course was a chicken mousseline with 3 cheeses, pan-fried with a red onion marmalade. We did not try this dish at all because we were so stuffed from the other 2 courses, but our other guests tried it and they also raved about this dish. During the 3rd course, Javon asked if we would mind leaving the reception to do an artistic-style photo, as I had asked him about this earlier on in the day. We were so excited to try it. Javon had us take the motorcycle out beyond the gates of the chateau to a spot in front of an old bar/café. He had hubby turn on the headlight and had Reka hold a mirror to reflect the light back onto the motorcycle. He had me stand next to hubby and had us kissing while he took photos. Of course, we had to be ready to move if there were any cars coming. Near the end of the shoot, another motorcycle came down the road. We stopped him and had him shine his headlight at us which led to us having a little more light. I got to see a sneak preview on Javon’s camera and the photo looked amazing! I can’t wait to see what he does with it!!!


Afterwards, we headed back to the reception and had our cake cutting, kinda. In France, you don’t have the normal wedding cake. A traditional wedding cake in France is called a croquem-bouche which is tiny pastry puffs (kinda like éclairs) piled into the shape of a cone/triangle. We fed each other a pastry puff from the croquem-bouche, and again, it was like the puffs just melted in your mouth. I wish I hadn’t been so full cuz I totally would’ve had more if I could.


Now it was time to P-A-R-T-Y!!!!! The main atrium was used as the dance floor for the reception. Our DJ was so accommodating. Hubby was very particular about what type of music he wanted to hear at the reception because he was adamant that he did not want to hear the standard wedding music you tend to hear at most weddings. We both love techno music, but we are very picky about the type of techno music we like, so, for the last 2 wks, hubby created a techno compilation of the songs we both felt were dance-able yet techno. He meticulously edited the songs so that they flowed well into each other and cut out the long intros and endings. We asked the DJ to play anything he wanted for the first 1-2 hours and then for the rest of the time, to play our compilation. We hoped it wasn’t insulting to the DJ for us to request this and he seemed very amenable. In fact, the music he played was techno but not quite the techno we preferred. Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to our collaboration on the large sound system, feeling the heavy beats all around you, kinda like you’re in a club but they’re playing your most favorite music! Also, because our musicians for the ceremony never showed up, Cynthia had our DJ stay an extra 2 hours for us. Our reception ended up going until 3:00 in the morning! At least that’s when we finally went to bed, but we heard people were still up and hanging out outside well into 3:30 and 4:00 in the morning.


The bar was set up in the room between the dining room and atrium for everyone to get drinks and Reka was our bartender. Reka was an awesome bartender and from what we heard from our friends, she was egging people on to drink more, LOL! Many of our guests hung out in that room as well as outside (because it was such a beautiful and warm night) and just chatted and talked. We also had the billiards room available so that people could play pool and foozball. Everyone said they were having so much fun, and even though they may not be into techno music, it was great music in the background to listen to. Of course, like every party, we had the occasional person(s) who got a little too drunk but it was more amusing to watch than anything and it led to great stories to tell.


In Conclusion:

Staying at the Chateau for our wedding week was one of the best times of our lives which we will remember forever. We are so glad we got to share it with our family and friends, and are thankful to Cynthia and Reka as well as the rest of the staff at the Chateau for making it such once-in-a-lifetime, memorable experience.

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Originally Posted by amandseth View Post
Wow, sounds absolutely beautiful!! Have you got pictures to post??
We don't have our pro pics yet, but the link in my siggy for the shutterfly site has all of the photos our family and friends took during the stay. Enjoy!

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