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Publié le 06/05/2024

Relais & Châteaux celebrates its 70th anniversary!
Chapter 1: Our history, how it all began

A warm welcome, exceptional gastronomy, experts in l’art de vivre

Relais & Châteaux celebrates its 70th anniversary!|Chapter 1: Our history, how it all began

A warm welcome, exceptional gastronomy, experts in l’art de vivre

In 1954, the husband-and-wife team of Marcel and Nelly Tilloy, two music-hall entertainers and owners of La Cardinale hotel and restaurant on the right bank of the Rhône in Ardèche, two visionaries contemplating society’s rush to experience magical moments, joined forces with a handful of hotelier friends to form the organization ‘Les Relais de Campagne.’ This convivial consortium was officially born in Thoissey, a small town north of Lyon, on May 12, 1954, at Le Chapon Fin, the property of Paul Blanc, the uncle of chef Georges Blanc. In total, eight establishments between Paris and Nice planted the seed of what would ultimately bloom into Relais & Châteaux. Each one was located in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of towns, on side roads near the Nationale 7–then the country’s vacation thoroughfare, but which was competing with the opening of a new southern highway that would bypass them and threaten them with a premature demise. None of these hoteliers had the means to pay for advertising to attract guests, so Marcel Tilloy invited them to come together, bound by their shared values that earned such loyalty from their guests: a warm welcome, exceptional cuisine and carefully crafted art de vivre. Other hoteliers and restaurateurs, impressed by their intelligent approach, chose to join them and Les Relais de Campagne swelled, first to 19 members in 1955 and then to 29 in 1956.

By the early 1960s, the Association had 50 hostelries across France and chose to expand beyond its borders. This began with the addition of 27 European properties, starting in Belgium, then moving into Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and Italy. This international growth would spread swiftly to the five continents. By 1970, the Association had 77 properties in France and a further 69 across 17 other countries. And this is how the first Route du Bonheur evolved into many, just as the Tilloys and their friends had envisioned. Other Routes du Bonheur similarly led vacationers off the beaten path as they journeyed to the French Riviera, Italy and Switzerland, all offering carefully curated itineraries dotted with high-quality overnight lodgings, superb hospitality
and equally stellar dining. Starting in 1972, restaurants operated by renowned chefs were labeled Relais Gourmands, a joint idea of chef Pierre Troisgros and Association President Joseph Olivereau.

From one meridian to another, from one property to the next, the most incredible nomadic network, that of the Routes du Bonheur

As Les Relais de Campagne swiftly spread far and wide, a competing group, Châteaux Hôtels et Vieilles Demeures, looked on with more than a little envy, until the year 1974, when the presidents of the two entities made the decision to collaborate rather than compete, and then to ultimately merge. Their joint Association adopted the name Relais & Châteaux, a friendly, mutually beneficial and unifying alliance that was structured and strong enough to embrace and expand the Routes du Bonheur. From 1975 onwards, with a solid reputation and strong momentum, Relais & Châteaux gathered pace and the not-for- profit Association welcomed more and more members from across the globe. Today, it counts 580 properties in 65 countries, weaving the most incredible travel tapestry–from one establishment to the next, from longitude to latitude–that we still call Routes du Bonheur

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