France is filled with beautiful chateaux and manor houses that have been lovingly restored and converted into charming bed and breakfast properties, also known as ‘chambres d’hotes’.
So on your next visit, skip the hotels and follow this fascinating itinerary that will take you from Paris down to the Loire Valley, into the Dordogne, down to the land of the Cathars near Toulouse, back up to gastronomic Lyon, and ending back near Paris in the famous vineyards of Champagne!
After spending a few days in Paris, start your journey by driving into Normandy to the Manoir d’Hermos, a 16th century manor set in the heart of a 12 hectare park, with glorious views of the grounds, lake and apple orchard. This lovely estate, located under 2 hours by car from Paris, has rooms from 59 including breakfast, which is served either in the wood-panelled dining room or outside under the lime trees. While there, you can visit Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, where he painted many of his famous masterpieces.
After a relaxing few days of walking, fishing or horse-riding, set off for the Loire Valley to the town of Saumur, just over 2 hours from the Manoir. Here you will find the Chateau Jacob de Tigne, a beautiful 17th and 19th century Chateau set between the river and vineyards of the Loire. The Chateau has 5 beautifully decorated rooms, that start at 110 including breakfast. Spend a few days exploring the area and visiting some of the more famous Chateaux of the Loire, including Chambord, Chenonceau and Cheverny!
The next stop is the Dordogne, just under 4 hours’ drive from the Loire valley, where you can stay in a charming chateau near the magical, mystical town of Brantome. The elegant Chateau de Villars, set in 9 acres of tranquil and beautiful grounds, has been beautifully restored and tastefully decorated. The gracious sitting rooms lead to a stunning terrace ideal for relaxing, reading, or just enjoying a glass of wine, while the pool offers a refreshing break during the hot summer days!
Chateau de Villars offers a spring and summer menu of full board holidays some themed ‘Sketch and Paint’, from 950 pp, and 2 night short breaks in August, September and October from 95 a double room. A highlight is the light and delicious gluten free gourmet French cuisine (4-course dinner from 32) made using the freshest ingredients possible, often from local farms and organic. They serve artisanal local cheese and yoghurts, and grow many of their own herbs and some selected vegetables and fruits.
Nearby Brantome is one of the most beautiful towns in France, and is steeped in history. Crowned by a stunning abbey, Brantome is also known as the ‘Venice of the Perigord’ as it is completely surrounded by the river Dronne.
After a few days in the Dordogne, or a week learning how to paint and sketch at the Chateau de Villars, head down (3-4 hours) towards Toulouse to the town of Lautrec, where you can stay in the 11th century Chateau de Brametourte, in the heart of Templar and Cathar country. This beautiful castle, once home to Toulouse-Lautrec’s ancestors, has been ecologically restored and is now one of France’s first self-sustainable castles, and conducts organic and traditional farming. The rooms have interesting names such as Gothic, Troubadour and Templar Suites and are reasonably priced from about 80 a night.
This area, like the rest of France, is steeped in history, and offers many places of interest to see including he ruins of Cathar castles, Templar sites as well as the vibrant city of Toulouse.
Next, head back North towards the gastronomic capital of Lyon, about 5 hours away by car, stopping off at the historic towns of Montpellier and Nimes. Here you can stay in the picturesque Manoir de la Pagerie, an 18th century Manor located about 15 minutes from Lyon. Set in glorious grounds and shaded by 100 year old cedar trees, the manoir resembles a florentine villa and offers rooms in two wings of the building, the pavilion and the pigeonnier.
While in the area, don’t forget to visit the historic city of Lyon, the traditional home of some of France’s best chefs.
After enjoying the best of gastronomic cuisine it’s time to taste the pinnacle of French wines in the Champagne Region of France. Where better to do this than staying in a chateau vineyard B&B located in Ludes, near the famous champagne towns of Reims and Epernay? This drive will take about 4 hours, through the town of Dijon.
The house of Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart has 5 beautifully decorated rooms set in the manor house, with prices starting from 100 a night including breakfast.
Many of the larger champagne houses offer guided tours and tastings so make sure you taste the best champagnes while visiting Reims and Epernay.
The last stop on your journey is Paris, less than 2 hours by car, where you can return and reflect on your magnificent tour of the chateaux and regions of France.