“The Loire Valley badly needed a reset,” says French hotelier Jérôme Tourbier, who recently opened Les Sources de Cheverny, a new, 49-room country-house hotel on a 110-acre estate of forest and fields outside of Cheverny, a two-hour drive south of Paris. “It’s always been a cultural destination, because of the magnificent châteaux, but most of the hotels were, well … ”

“Stuffy” is the word Tourbier was looking for. All over France, but especially in the Loire, the faux-château hotel has been one of the most enduring and popular idioms of Gallic lodgings ever since the automobile democratized travel in France, in the middle of the 20th century. If some of these queen-for-a-day/king-for-a-stay châteaux actually are glorious old piles with bona fide aristocratic pedigrees, more of them were created to ape such credentials with oil paintings of someone’s dour-looking ancestors, Louis-something flea-market antiques, and often wiltingly formal whispery service intended to keep you in your place as a paying guest/commoner.