It would be hard not to fall in love with the Najeti Hôtel Château Cléry . This welcoming and wonderfully romantic hotel chateau lies in 12 acres of partially wooded parkland on the edge of Hesdin l’Abbe, about 10km from Boulogne and 45km from Calais.
The elegant original château part of the hotel is set back off the road down a sweeping drive; to the right a car park and a stone’s throw away a converted out building that houses the spa and guest accommodation and to the left more guest accommodation. At the rear a large elegant lawn set out with tables and chairs, calling out to be enjoyed with a glass of champagne whilst relaxing after a day’s sight-seeing prior to dinner in the gourmet restaurant Najeti Restaurant le Berthier.
The welcome was warm and friendly
It was late afternoon before we arrived at Najeti Hôtel Château Cléry and pushed open the heavy front door into the tiny reception area. This was my first visit and the welcome was warm and friendly. In fact it has to be said that all the staff under the direction of the delightful Valerie Hanquez were helpful and charming, and when on hearing my English accent thoughtfully and without hesitation broke into English.
My room was in the main hotel on the first floor looking out over the lawn, my friend in a room above me. I loved my cheery yellow room with its wonderfully heavy drapes at the windows, elegant furniture, and its oh so comfortable bed. All told the main hotel and the two outlying buildings offer 27 very individual and comfortably furnished rooms and suites.
The château’s interesting history
The château itself dates back to 1766 and has I was to learn had something of an interesting history, including a Scottish connection.
Once upon a time, in fact before the French Revolution, a middle class businessman from Boulogne called Michel Cléry made money through his business activities following the 1756-63 Seven Years’ War. He came to the notice of Louis XV who appointed him in charge of the lakes, rivers and forests of the Boulogne district. Cléry became not only one of Louis’s advisors but an aristocrat, and as such exempt from taxes.
A Scottish tenant
As befitted his new status he built himself a country house at Hesdin l’Abbe. All was well for a few years until through various family problems he could no longer afford its upkeep. He leased it to a Samuel Swinton, a man of Scottish descent, who, having left the UK under something of a cloud, took up residence in the chateau with his French mistress.
Swinton appears to have been a somewhat interesting character in his own right, who despite his nationality and the fact that France and England were at war over the American War of Independence for several years became closely connected with the French government.
The French Revolution
In the meantime Michel Cléry had resolved his financial problems and settled with his creditors and in 1783 took back his château. But the French Revolution was soon to take place. Cléry was one of the aristocrats who by renouncing his titles during the reign of terror literally kept his head. In the fullness of time Michel’s son took over the house selling it out of the family in 1811.
Intervening owners lived in and added to the original château until WWII when it was occupied by German army administration staff. In 1986 the then owner converted it into a hotel, naming it Hotel Cléry after its first owner. Today the hotel is now part of the Najeti group of hotels.
Champagne on the lawn
The weather that June evening was glorious and those tables and chairs on the lawn were too tempting.
We adjourned and sat with a glass of champagne each until the shadows lengthened and it was time to go and change for dinner.
I like the way that both the restaurant and the cosy little bar have been given significant names from the château’s history.
The Bar 1766 is named for the year the château was built and the restaurant ‘Le Berthier’ named after Louis Alexandre Berthier, Napoleon’s much-respected Chief of Staff who had resided there.
A talented young chef
I have much respect for Emmanuel Dorius, Najeti Restaurant le Berthier’s talented young chef. My meal was outstanding – home-cured smoked salmon; fish encased in a crisp pastry parcel in a creamy sauce followed by a ‘Cléry’ tarte tatin.
This was not the type of tarte tatin that I was expecting, but it looked and tasted divine. The whole meal was served charmingly and impeccably by Head Waiter Emmanuel Duvant and his colleagues.
It was quite obvious from the happy murmurs of appreciation that fellow guests thought that their meals were truly gourmet too. This was confirmed the next morning after breakfast when I took a walk through the wood and round the grounds bumping into some fellow guests also taking a stroll before heading for their cars.
Things to do and places to visit
One couple lived in Kent and took Le Shuttle at least twice a year to France to stay chiefly at Cléry for a short break, or at Hotel Château Tilques, also part of the Najeti portfolio. They liked to spend one of their days following the coast road to the Somme beaches, and another shopping, chiefly for DIY equipment – cheaper they said than back in the UK. Another group I chatted to were a party of Dutch golfers availing themselves of one of the Golf breaks – there are many noted golf courses in the area.
I was realising how ideally Cléry is located – apart from being an easy drive from the channel ports -there are lots of close by places to visit. Not far away is the little town of Desvres with its museum devoted to the local ceramics – Faience de Desvres.
Then there is Arques with its tours of the glass factory and its staggeringly good value factory shop; the shops of Le Touquet; Hardelot and its chateau; Boulogne, with the crypt of Notre-Dame crammed with treasures – the largest crypt in France, and Nausicaa its excellent aquarium on the edge of the city are all within easy reach. And if you are tired of driving – let the vintage steam train, as it puffs its way through the pretty countryside to seaside resorts, take the strain.
Don’t forget Montreuil
Another small close-by town that I always love to visit is Montreuil perched high on its hill.
We called in for a wander round its charming streets and stopped for a massive plate of excellent charcuterie at Froggies’ Tavern, 51 bis place du Général-de-Gaulle for some lunch www.froggystavern.com before making our way back to Le Shuttle and home.
But it was a romantic, elegant château, with super friendly hotel staff and a stunningly good gourmet restaurant that I had fallen in love with. A.H. www.clery.najeti.fr
For September and October 2015 Najeti Hotels are offering a 40% discount off the second night for stays of two nights between Friday and Sunday (ie, Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday) subject to availability.
Offer applies not only to the Najeti Hôtel Château Cléry but to all the eight Najeti hotels. For information about all Najeti Hotels visit www.najeti.fr.
To take advantage of this special 40% discount, click here.
NB: This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion.