France will always be my favourite European country. It is blessed with many beautiful areas and recently on a short trip I decided to go off the normal routes and explore an area near to Le Mans, yes of motor racing fame. Many tourists visiting France fly down the down the Auto routes missing some amazing scenery and wonderful villages and towns. I took some time out a couple of months ago to discover what this amazing area had to offer.
I flew with EasyJet from Belfast and after an hour and thirty minutes I was in Charles De Gaulle Airport and heading for the TGV. Unlike here the rail infrastructure here, the TGV railway runs right under the airport, which is such a super way to get around France.
An hour later, I was pulling into Le Man station to collect my hire car.
As it was evening, I headed straight to Les Tables de la Fontaine to enjoy some amazing cuisine from their head chef Patrice Héran. The restaurant was located in the ground floor of an amazing castle where you are welcomed with a huge fireplace, just perfect for a September evening.
Chef Patrice’s menu takes you through a journey of seasonal products prepared and served in a delightful way, with spectacular results. As you can see the cuisine is delightfully presented. Photo
The Hotel boasts 22 bedrooms, 12 in the castle and 5 outbuilding, add to that a heated indoor pool, a sauna and an outdoor Jacuzzi (heated May to September) you are guaranteed exquisite relaxation. So for a night of luxury in Grande surrounding visit: http://www.domainedebelair.com/
As I was travelling on a more limited budget I decided to return to a charming hotel, which is a firm favourite of mine. I visited a few years ago and its located right in the centre of small but perfectly form town called La Fleche. The Hotel is located just around the corner from the main shopping area. Close enough to be a short walk away but far enough not to hear the hustle and bustle. As we are in the Petit Loir, nothing gets too busy here, so you can have time to relax.
Le Vert Galant, a former eighteenth century coaching inn, was completely renovated in 2005 and comes with 25 beds, including rooms to suit 2,3,4 or 5 persons.
All rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, a flat screen TV, free high speed Internet access in the room and WIFI throughout the hotel so the Kids will be happy communicating with their friends at home and mum can keep up with her Yoga class emails.
There is free secure private parking which is located at the rear of the hotel. Mr room was delightful, beautifully furnished and exceptionally clean.
After a wonderful nights sleep I visited the conservatory breakfast room where I was treated to a beautiful breakfast.
The Hotel does not provide an evening meal but no need to fret? Your’e in France and there is always a plethora of places to visit. Rooms start at €65 See: http://www.vghotel.com/en/ and enjoy their excellent website. Whilst the hotel is classified with three stars, it’s French, so the quality is much higher.
For dinner I found the inexpensive La Bisquine at 11 Rue Henri, just two minutes walk from the hotel.www.restaurant-labisquine72.com/. Good local fare, at affordable prices.
This chic little eatery is well located and provides delicious food in a nautical themed restaurant. The overriding feeling you get when you enter is one of clean boutique chic. The food does not disappoint and it’s a great little find.
You can’t shut the curtains here!
When in the area, you cannot and I mean cannot miss this opportunity. Just outside the town of La Fleche is the Zoo, but this is no ordinary Zoo. It boasts 1,200 animals: giraffes, hippos, lions, elephants, white tigers, koalas, and grizzly bears to name but a few. Now that is not that unusual for a Zoo but imagine the film, night at the museum add in a little Disney magic dust and a Zoo meet and greet experience all rolled into one.
Quite a few museums do sleepovers so it’s not that extraordinary, but sleeping with the exhibits in a Zoo? That is amazing! And that is what you can do in La Fleche!
Located inside the Zoo are a number of perfectly reconstructed private hunting lodges, where the detail is exceptional and traditional carpentry practices have been used to recreate the lodges, as you would expect to find them
Just imagine taking your children to the Zoo and spending a wonderful day looking at the animals and then telling your children that you’re going to leave via a special exit. Typing a special four digit code into a secret keypad and an amazing experience unfolds as the Jurassic Park type doors slide back to reveal a secret garden in the middle of the Zoo. The hidden area contains four private hunting lodges that no one else has access to.
Time flies when you’re having fun.
After a wonderful night’s sleep in La Fleche I was up early as I had a rendezvous with a light aircraft.
A short drive from my hotel I visited the AeroClub de la Flèche, to experience the beautiful views of Le Loir from the air.
This private aero club is allowed to provide short 15 minute flights to the public. And it provides a simply breath taking view of Le Loir. It also gives the pilots the opportunity to keep their flying hours up as well.
Flights can be arranged for a very small fee, we are talking 15 to 40 Euro which covers the fuel. So for a real treat that’s right up there literally then check it out, it is well worth a visit. http://www.aeroclublafleche.fr/
In France traditional B&B’s are on a far grander scale that you might expect to get in the UK. One such place was Le Moulin Page (www.lemoulinpage.com).
Have you ever arrived at an airport and checked in for your flight to find the check in staff say, “I’m sorry the cabin is full, I shall have to upgrade you to first class” Well that’s what it is like staying at this fantastic family home.
Le Moulin Page Mill is the last mill on the Dinan, a small river that flows a few hundred meters into the Loir. This former flourmill located partly in the municipality of Flée and Vouvray-sur-Loir, ceased operations in 1948.
Despite a number of renovations it has maintained its original character. The mill now offers intimate and comfortable accommodation for relaxation, fun and daydreaming. The standard of the accommodation is outstanding.
There are only two rooms in this beautiful home and the bedrooms are spaces where modernity and comfort co-exist with the charm of the Mill Page.
The romantic charm of falling asleep lulled by the lapping of the river, waking up with the birds singing and being intoxicated by the greenery, is truly a thing to behold. And it that were not enough then you could try your own Spa facility to boot.
The spacious wellness area with a Jacuzzi (heated to 37 ° C), sauna, steam room and heated outdoor pool (31 ° C, high season) brings a new standard to a B&B.
This place is Ideal for a romantic getaway. I stayed here for a night in late September 2015, the room rates were exceptional and I mean exceptional 80 euros for the room and breakfast. What you get is nothing short of 5 or 6 Star. Beautiful Room robes, slippers and spotless housekeeping. The welcome from the owners is exceptional.. then after all that you go down for breakfast, all I can say is, “this place is beyond wonderful”
If you are in France please please visit you will not be disappointed.