CHÂTEAU BRACHET: THE LOOK AND FEEL OF A STATELY HOME AT THE HEART OF THE “RIVIERA OF THE ALPS”
Located only 5 kilometres from the shores of Lake Bourget, on the heights of the small town of Grésy-sur-Aix, this 4-star hotel is housed in a beautifully restored historic residence: 15 rooms and suites, a wellness area, a gastronomic restaurant and a six-hectare landscaped park, with an 18-metre long outdoor swimming pool, a solarium and a selection of outdoor games: tennis and padel, pétanque, croquet, badminton and volleyball courts, a giant chessboard as well as an Executive Golf training area covering more than one hectare.
Staying at Château Brachet is not just about pampering your body and indulging in gastronomy, but a chance to travel back in history. The establishment is the ultimate homage to Dr Léon Brachet, one of the last owners of this stately home. His untiring efforts to transform Aix-lesBains into the queen of spa resorts at the end of the 19th century saw him mingle with the European aristocracy.
For the current owners, the acquisition of this building in 2010 was a case of love at first sight but also a major gamble. They confide: “We had to wake up the sleeping beauty. Turning it into a hotel was a rather wild dream. This renovation, which we wanted as faithful as possible to the rules of the art and the “soul” of the buildings, was made possible because, just before the time of the sale, we were made aware of many history components around this residence and its owners /visitors. We then brought in 3 contemporary history master’s degree students from the University of Grenoble who took a very active part in researching the history of the Château and were slowly able to piece together the puzzle of this intricate heritage.” The goal was for the château to embody the French art of living and to recreate the rather relaxed atmosphere of the age. Thus, to convey the power of attraction of Aix-les-Bains, where aristocrats, crowned heads, artists and intellectuals – from the Austrian Empress “Sissi” to Sarah Bernhardt, not forgetting Queen Victoria, King George I and the thespian Coquelin brothers – all flocked to enjoy the thermal “seasons”. The result? After a ten-year restoration, the building has been brought back to life, transformed into an elegant historical boutique-hotel that offers modern comfort as well as a unique journey back into a forgotten era: Aix-les-Bains’ golden age as a spa resort.
The heyday of the “charming house in Grésy (…) with its garden of a thousand roses”.
Dr Léon Brachet was born and raised in the Château until he left to study medicine in Montpellier where he met his wife Nelly Bazille. In 1864, he returned to Aix-les-Bains and became a doctor at the thermal baths. A leading figure in Savoyard high society, he played a key role in the development of the spa resort. He resided in the centre of the town of Aix-lesBains in the Villa Frieda, which he renovated and had elevated at great expense. When he inherited the family château in 1886, he did not settle there because, given the means of transport of the time, it was too far from downtown Aix-les-Bains. For ten years, he therefore rented it out to an English countess, Lady Virginia Somers. Born and raised in India before returning to England at the age of 18, she was the great-aunt of celebrated writer Virginia Woolf. At Château Brachet, she hosted lavish picnics and parties throughout the spa season, which were regularly attended by Dr Brachet and his wife Nelly. In 1890, Queen Victoria herself, during her third visit, came to take tea with her compatriot at the château, which she described as a “small picturesque house with its old-fashioned charm”! Also received by Lady Somers, Mary, the wife of Victorian painter George Frederic Watts, spoke of the “charming house in Grésy (…) and its garden of a thousand roses”.
Léon Brachet: a pioneer of thermal treatments (1840-1898)
The boom in thermal treatments at the end of the XIXth century can be put down in part to Doctor Léon Brachet, nicknamed the “Doctor of Kings”. Wielding significant influence, he was instrumental in the development of Aix as a spa resort and its renown among European high society. He even wrote books in English on the matter such as “Aix les Bains in Savoy, the medical treatment and general indications” published in 1887, and threw himself into the creation of the Revard rack railway, the first local Golf course, the Racecourse and the Alpine Club. A pioneer in the field of tourism, he also served as a town councillor, then deputy mayor of Aix-les-Bains and even as president of the Casino Grand Cercle.
Elegant surroundings in an idyllic setting
The restaurant, La Table du Château, and its crowning glory, the sculptural “ship’s hull” frame, has been decorated using noble materials and finishes. The dominating colours are variations on the themes of celadon, beige, taupe and terra cotta in a range of textures and textiles. Panels of blond oak, a decorative fresco, comfortable benches, wing chairs and an eye-catching iron chandelier with its faux candles, furnish the space. The granite tables, made from Egyptian stone that required an old quarry to be exceptionally reopened, echo the anthracite cabochons of the travertine floor and the shades of the Belle Époque glass roof. But when the weather is clement, nothing compares to al fresco dining on La Broderie, the outdoor terrace seating 50, to take in the exceptional panorama of the landscaped gardens and flowerbeds. The hidden gem worth discovering however is La Table du Jardinier. Located under the ‘Gloriette’, in the heart of the vegetable garden, it offers a gourmet and bucolic escape surrounded by greenery.
Restaurant open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays
A Victorian vibe and a subtle nod to spa culture!
Each category of rooms and suites (from 18 to 55 m²) is decorated in a unique style featuring luxurious details, harmonious colours, refined prints and noble materials. But each also boasts its own distinctive views, over the gardens, the solarium, the fishpond, the cross-shaped courtyard or the vineyards. While some open out onto terraces, those with sloping ceilings showcase the intricate framework. All have one common denominator in that they capture the soul of this stately home back in its Victorian heyday, without skimping on the excellence of modern comfort (top-of-the-range bedding, smart gadgets, etc.) and a particular concern for sustainability and health (wifi on/off, anti-radiation rooms, choice of surfaces, etc.). Finally, to pay tribute to the heritage of Aix-les-Bains, particular attention has been paid to the bathrooms. Laid out and furnished as havens of elegance, they have been designed as chic water rooms to be admired for their aesthetics. Most of them are equipped with comfortable bathtubs, in addition to spacious showers.