Want to party like it's 1599?
That's what I've just done for my 30th birthday at the incomparable Chateau d'Autricourt, nestled in Champagne country, around 250km to the east of Paris.
And if you're thinking of celebrating in style for a similar birthday, a wedding, or a family reunion, then you should consider doing the same.
While most chateaux in France, including this one, may not offer five-star living, that doesn't mean you can't live like a king, queen or at least a privileged aristocrat.
The dining room at Autricourt.
The drawing room at Autricourt
For just €120 per person for the whole weekend (including food and booze), 25 of us danced under chandeliers, slept in four-poster beds with portraits of aristocrats above our heads, and walked corridors lined with stuffed boar heads (although granted stuffed animals are not to everyone's tastes).
We spent the days lounging in chaise longues, bathing in a nearby watering hole, or playing pétanque on the grassy fields not far from our very own chapel.
We celebrated through the night in a drawing room with ostrich heads on the walls, with today's music bouncing off 16th century stone walls, and ate fresh croissants from the village next door for breakfast.
But the sheer size of it! The kitchen had space to butcher your hunting spoils, the winding corridors and multiple staircases sent people in circles, and my own bedroom was bigger than my entire Paris apartment (see below).
Master bedroom at Autricourt
In fact, my ensuite bathroom (below) was also bigger than my Paris apartment, but that's perhaps saying more about my apartment in Paris.
… And its ensuite bathroom
And for those who like to dabble in the supernatural, there were whispering walls at night, creaking floorboards to keep you on edge, and some guests swore they saw the ghost of a scantily clad Marie Antoinette on the second night.
In all, a chateau party is an ideal way to celebrate… and the good news is that it's not as tough as it might sound to organize.
In fact, there are 202 properties in France on home-rental site Airbnb that are listed as “castles” with space for 16 guests or more (click here to see the full list).
Autricourt drawing room
They're spread all over the country, some tucked among the other luxury homes on the Riviera, others nestled in the hillsides of Brittany, and some only a short drive from Paris.
These chateaux range from as little as €107 a night to €8,600 a night but come at an average of €964 per night, according to Airbnb.
The fantastic Chateau d'Autricourt in central France, where we stayed, has a base rate of €500 per night.
A few tips for a weekend in a chateau
If you're on a budget (and let's face it, most of us are when it comes to renting a chateau) then you have to be clever with money.
Calculate the total budget ahead of time, including full guest list (often extra people cost more money), cleaning fees, sheet and towel rental, and enough food to cover the weekend – then split the bill among the guests.
Kitchen at Autricourt
Buy all your food in one go at a nearby supermarket so you only have to leave the chateau to pick up fresh pastry treats (which you should order ahead of time).
And lastly, delegate the cooking duties equally so no one gets stuck behind the stove for the whole weekend.
The Chateau d'Autricourt