In the heart of the Southern Alps, overlooking Lake Serre-Poncon, the medieval (14th/16th-century) Chateau de Picomtal stands proudly in its own grounds. In fact, each of the château's four façades faces out over something new: a French garden, orchards, a large pond and mountainous woodlands. Given the area can expect around 300 days of sunshine per year, there should be plenty of opportunities to discover them all.
  Step inside and the formula is very much up-market maison d'hote: there's an abundance of original features throughout with the 19th-century style interior decoration and plenty of character spread amongst the dining room and three drawing rooms. As you would expect, the bedrooms are large and beautifully refurbished to a high standard, and there is a detached 18th-century annexe across the courtyard that has been converted into an apartment that sleeps four. The thorough resoration of the chateau, in very poor repair when Sharon (from the USA) and Jacques bought it, is partly a reflection, perhaps, of Sharon's francophilia.
  Summertime temperatures can get relentlessly high in the south of France, but Picomtal is located in the southern Alps (Hautes Alpes department) where it is warm during the day and cool in the evenings. Lake Serre-Ponçon is just a kilometer from the chateau and offers swimming, water sports and other activities. Guests describe Picomtal as ‘well worth the detour' and ‘picture-perfect’, and the Franco-American partnership of the chateau's owners, Jacques and Sharon, has created a romantic retreat against a stunning backdrop.