Michèle and Jean-Jacques are the best kind of urban refugees. They retired early from high-stress jobs in Paris after falling in love with this house in a wonderful, less-beaten part of the Loire Valley. Warm and fascinating, they will communicate their love of this new life over delicious breakfast of fresh fruit salad, homemade cakes and jams, or homely French dinner. The previous designer owner’s flamboyant eccentricity brings joyful touches to the guest wing of the classically elegant Touraine country house: black beams, a bright pink staircase, meals served beneath the glorious great gilt-framed mirror… There’s a comfortable grey and red salon, too, most attractive with its throws and cushions and fine stone fireplace. Up that colourful staircase are the four excellent, brand-new bedrooms. The airy first-floor rooms give onto the pretty courtyard, the quirky rooms under the eaves have great tree-trunk rafters and share a stylish bathroom. The whole place bursts with personality. But don’t forget to visit châteaux, vineyards and wonderful Fontevraud Abbey, go kayaking or cycling from Chinon, and much more.