Relais & Châteaux was founded in France in 1954 by two music-hall artists, Marcel and Nelly Tilloy, who, during World War II, bought a hotel restaurant in the Rhône Valley called The Cardinal. They convinced seven of their hotelier and restaurateur friends to create an association based on shared values of quality, lifestyle and gastronomy, and to open their properties to the discerning wayfarer under the slogan of "La Route du Bonheur".
There are 530 properties in the group Relais & Châteaux in 64 countries, each with its own routes du bonheur, or suggested driving itineraries - from castles in Spain and cottages in England to riads in Morocco and ranches in the United States.
The Gourmet Traveller team undertook the route du bonheur in style, in a BMW 640d Gran Coupé with TwinPower turbo technology (to get technical, this combines high-precision direct fuel injection with continuously adjusting camshaft positions for both the intake and exhaust valves). In terms of dynamics, comfort, technology and design elegance, it would be hard to imagine a more innovative or luxurious form of transport through the fields of south-western France. The car features a Connected Drive navigation package, Dakota leather trim, electrically adjustable seats (including memory function), two-zone automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors, an iDrive operating system with touch controller, state-of-the-art suspension technology and carbon-dioxide emissions said by the manufacturer to be the lowest carbon-dioxide emissions for a car this size. We like.