Some hotels leave you with a lasting memory—the kinds of places where wish you could spend an entire week and drink in even more of that ambiance that makes your heart skip a beat. Castelbrac clearly belongs in this category and is one of my very favorite finds for the beginning of 2017. This jewel of a hotel is located in Dinard, in one of the loveliest seaside resorts in Brittany.
Ever since it opened barely two years ago, I have not heard the end of praise for this superb establishment. The hotel is already attractive on paper: perched up on a cliff side, this luxury location offers only 25 rooms and suites, and every one of them has a view of the sea ! Above and beyond all of the qualities and services that one can expect at a five star establishment, this hotel has a deep and fascinating history, which of course drew me right in !
A Quick Look at an Exceptional History
Before becoming one of the most magnificent hotels on the French west coast, Castelbrac was a bourgeois villa, built in the 19th century by a wealthy English family. The estate changed hands many times; an English colonel followed the first occupants, and in 1934 the building was converted into a marine station and aquarium. Naturally, inside the villa, vestiges from this period are still visible and even beautifully emphasized by the décor and interior design.
Greeted Like a VIP
As soon as we arrive in this beautiful town along the Côte d’Emeraude (Brittany’s “Emerald Coast”), we head straight toward Castelbrac Hotel, where we will spend the night. We barely have the time to announce our presence using the parking lot intercom when we are warmly greeted. We leave our car keys with the personnel and make our way to the lobby entrance. Well, it’s not exactly a lobby; as we’re being received, we quickly realize that we’re in an atypical hotel, noting a reception desk before we’re immediately steered into the Charcot lounge for coffee served as a welcome gesture (guests that arrive in the late afternoon are treated to a glass of champagne, but we’re a bit early for that!). Paradoxically, even though the greeting is extremely professional, we feel right at home, as if the staff has been waiting for us rather than considering us as just another number. Suffice it to say they know how to welcome their guests, and it’s a good sign for the rest of our stay !
An Atmosphere That Reflects the Past
Let’s talk about the Charcot lounge, where we’re comfortably seated. This exact location was formerly the office of Jean-Baptiste Charcot, the famous explorer who co-founded the marine station. The room is both elegant and inviting, and I’m enchanted by a large painting that recounts Commander Charcot’s Antarctic expeditions, and by the impressive collection of books for guests to browse. As I mentioned earlier, the central theme of this place is without a doubt its unique history.
A Room with a Spectacular View
We make our way to our Deluxe room with a sea view and it’s truly a heart-stopper: a magnificent, extremely well-lit space with great big windows and a breathtaking view of the bay. As for the décor, I’m a huge fan of the room’s audacious look which mixes different colors and prints, forming a very attractive and original interior. Decorator and designer Sandra Benhamou along with interior designer Léonie Alma Mason are behind this unquestionably successful aesthetic.
The building’s Art Deco design creates a chic and glamorous ambiance that immediately makes you feel good. While I was surprised by the bold tone used in my room’s decoration as well as in the rest of the hotel, I was also charmed by it.
Basking in the Hotel Pool
By mid-afternoon, it’s time to throw on my bathrobe and explore the outdoor swimming pool. Heated to 30° C (85° F), the water is warm enough for me to feel comfortable in the sunny mid-April weather, despite an outdoor temperature of 15° C (60° F). That’s really saying something, considering how sensitive I am to the cold! What’s more, I can enjoy the view while swimming. Glorious!
Later I take a moment to stroll through the hallways and admire the various period paintings dispersed throughout the hotel, while remembering to appreciate the beautiful view, omnipresent no matter where you go. This is even the case in a surprising place located just a few steps from the restaurant: the Saint Gabriel Chapel. Yes, you heard me, there is an adorable little chapel that also has a view of the sea! You don’t have to be religious to fall for this atypical and absolutely beautiful sanctuary.
At 7 p.m., we’re off to “L’Aquarium,” and the name is honestly well-chosen; the bar sits at the exact spot where an aquarium was once open to the public from 1934 to 1992. Remnants from the aquarium include a gorgeous thirties-era door, decorated with a fish motif, as well as well as a series of porthole windows over the ocean. Reminders of the past are everywhere, from long semi-circular benches to mosaic-decorated columns with ocean-themed colors and prints. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a glass of champagne before dinner!
This evening, we’ll have to dine elsewhere, as it’s still the off-season and on Monday evenings the restaurant “Le Pourquoi Pas” is closed. Chef Julien Hennote has adopted a simple philosophy at his gourmet restaurant: showcase the product and the local region with cuisine that places the emphasis on seafood. Maybe we’ll have a chance to try it out another time!
Breakfast in Summer-like Surroundings
The following morning, it’s time for breakfast with a view of the sea! Since it’s a bit chilly, we have to savor our breakfast inside, but we still get to take in the magnificent panoramic view. The menu includes an original and tasty buffet with freshly prepared foods such as eggs, pancakes… The quality is excellent, and we’re tempted to spend the whole morning at the table!
The “Fou de Bassan,” Castelbrac’s Private Speedboat
At 10 a.m., we have a date for a boat ride! The hotel has a few more surprises in store for us, including this elegant, 13 meter-long (43 foot) wooden boat in Italian vaporetto style. Castelbrac is the only hotel on the west coast with a private boat available for its guests to use. It’s therefore possible for guests to enjoy their breakfast at sea, hold sunset cocktail parties, or take a few hours to explore the area by boat. We even heard that a few marriage proposals had taken place on the vessel and it’s easy to understand why—nothing could be more romantic than a boat ride at sunset!
Off we go for an hour at sea with Nicolas, our skipper, to admire the Dinard coastline and surrounding elegant houses, as well as the islands and the city of Saint-Malo across the way. Aboard our private speedboat, we can enjoy a different view of the coast, and it’s absolutely magical! This is undeniably a moment that will leave a lasting impression on me, a unique and exclusive opportunity.
We have just long enough to return to our room and pack our bags, and then it’s already time to hit the road again and head to Saint-Malo! It’s hard to leave my room and the exceptional view. I wish I could settle comfortably in my armchair with the view of the bay in the background and enjoy a book instead!
At Castelbrac, you feel like you’re not in a hotel, but rather in a villa from a different era where you will be greeted in an exclusive atmosphere. It’s an intimate establishment where the staff knows you by name and does everything to make sure that your stay is relaxing and rejuvenating. The service is flawless, very upscale with clearly qualified personnel. And on top of the décor that tugs at my heartstrings, there are certain features like the private boat and the heated outdoor pool that make this place unique and beyond compare. All I have to say is, treat yourself to a stay at this hotel, a veritable gem known to lovers of unique places.
I loved :
- The décor
- The outdoor swimming pool, heated to 30° C
- The exceptional view of the bay
- The private speedboat available for guests’ use
I disliked :
- I can’t think of any major flaws, and that’s saying something…
- 17 avenue Georges V, 35800 Dinard
- Reserve your room on Booking.com
- More info available on their website
- The station at Dinard is absolutely enchanting with its gorgeous beaches, adorable boutiques, and fine restaurants.
- Don’t hesitate to seek advice from the hotel’s personnel, who know the area very well.
- There’s also a Spa Suite by Thémaé inside the hotel.
- Deluxe Room with sea view for 230 €, mid-April 2017