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Launay Castle, Le Mans, France on Vrbo: Every little girl knows that, when it comes to fairy tales, it’s not the gorgeous gowns, the charming prince, or even the talking wildlife that makes the story. The most important aspect of the princess life is the castle. Well, queen, don your tiara and get ready to give the people your best regal wave because Launay Castle outside of Le Mans, France, is ready and waiting for your royal visit.
Romance is woven into the very history of this posh estate. In the 16th century, two aristocrats committed the ultimate scandal—they fell in love. But not everyone—ahem, the good lady’s mother—was on board with their relationship. So, Charles de Coesmes did what he had to do and he kidnapped his amour Gabrielle d’Harcourt, who was in on the abduction. They found sanctuary at Launay Castle, the home of Charles’ friend and accomplice. For this crime of passion, Gabrielle’s mother convinced the King of France to decree that both men involved in the bride-napping should be publicly decapitated. Eventually, all was forgiven, heads did not roll, and everyone was welcomed back at court.
Now, for the not-so-princely sum of just over $920 a night, you can temporarily move into Launay Castle in the French countryside to live out your very own fairytale romance complete with a—wait for it—moat. (You read that right. Consider all of your princess fantasies officially fulfilled.) Launay Castle may look charming and quaint on the outside, but on the inside it is all spacious luxury. The eight bedrooms in the main palace can sleep 16, while two additional friends of your choosing can be banished to the guest house.
You may not have a Mr. Carson to show you around (butlers are strictly BYO), but as you will surely see as you run through the halls of your palace, this is not your grandma’s castle. Parts of the structure were built as early as the 14th century, but a restoration with an eye towards preserving the vintage charms while bringing things into the 21st century have added a little modern flair. But there is one recurring wall art theme that will continue to remind you of the home’s medieval roots: we’re talking old-school woven wall tapestries everywhere you look.
Like all good European country homes, Launay Castle is all about the wide open, remote spaces. The heated swimming pool is divine, of course, but when you start venturing beyond the confines of your moat you will get a sense for what this castle really has to offer. There are 36-acres of tree-lined paths, orchards full of fruit for the picking, and a pond stocked with fish, all ready for Your Majesty’s enjoyment.
But not all vacation days are best spent holed up on your own luxurious estate. When you’re feeling the urge to step off your private grounds and explore your domain, this Loire Valley location has plenty to offer. You can walk the charming streets of the village Sarthe near your castle, or indulge in the favored pastime of all royals throughout history—horseback riding. Or choose one of two enjoyable hops: a wine hop to taste the best fruits of the land or a hop among the rival castles in the area. (It’s always good to keep an eye on the competition.) And when the mood strikes, jump on the high-speed train and zip along to Paris in under an hour.
We live in the 21st century when princesses aren’t quite as plentiful as they used to be. But that doesn’t mean, for one long and dreamy holiday week, that you can’t pretend that your cupboard is full of crown jewels and Launay Castle is your very own palace. Just don’t let the royal life go to your head; fairytales do come true, but unless you’ve been saving up some of that “I’m going to buy a castle” money, they also come to an end.
Book Your Stay: Launay Castle in Le Mans, France: $921/night via Vrbo