The town of Cognac—surrounded by rolling vineyards on the edge of the Charente River in southwestern France—isn’t just the birthplace of the famous bottled spirit; it was also once a bustling river port and the birthplace of François I, the legendary Renaissance king and arts patron who sponsored Leonardo da Vinci to come work in France. (The artist carried the “Mona Lisa” with him… The rest is history!) Today, a trip to Cognac provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the gorgeous French countryside while also learning about this histoire—and quaffing a few Cognac-laced cocktails, bien sûr. (While you’re there, don’t miss Hennessy’s visitor experience, relaunched in 2016.)
New for summer 2018, however, is a splendid luxury hotel called Hotel Chais Monnet, offering 92 rooms and suites along with 14 apartments. The word “chais” means warehouses, or cellars, and the property is indeed built upon ancestral cellars. Nestled on a five-acre estate, the hotel will show off an eye-catching contemporary design. Relax in the spa or lounge by the swimming pool; there will also be two bars where you can taste rare, old cognacs. The two restaurants will be overseen by a “renowned chef,” according to the website. Other facilities will include a boutique, deli, children’s center, a large ballroom and meeting rooms for events. Hotel Chais Monnet is a member of Leading Hotels of the World.
A trip to Cognac can easily be combined with Bordeaux, which is about one and a half hours away by car. The new fast TGV train links Paris and Bordeaux in just two hours. For other train trips out of Paris, check out our feature on Avignon, Barbizon and Colmar—all of which are within three hours of Paris by train.