Day 1: St. Paterne. Pick up at the airport in Paris in the morning and transfer to the town of Le Mans. Have a short walk through the medieval centre and a light lunch in a restaurant in the old town. Continue on to Saint Paterne in time to relax, unpack and settle in. After some time to snooze, enjoy a welcome aperitif in the grand salon or on the terrace and get to know your fabulous hosts, Charles-Henry and Segolene de Valbray. Tonight feast upon your first dinner in the elegant dining room of the Chateau. Hotel: Chateau St. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 2: Mont St. Michel & Cancale. After breakfast leave for the scenic drive to Bagnoles de l'Orne, a very charming, 19th Century spa town hidden in the dense forest. Continue west and cross into Brittany to visit the famous village of Cancale, known for its historic charm and its excellent oysters. Walk to the end of the harbour where you can watch the fisherman shuck the oysters and enjoy a tasting directly on the pier. After this incredible "amuse bouche", tuck into a decadent seafood platter in one of the harbours quaint restaurants. Leave the port and drive back along the coast to Mont Saint Michel, the staggering coil of 14th Century buildings that rises out of the sea. Spend the afternoon exploring this fascinating town and take a private visit of the Benedictine Abbey that perches like a crown at the summit. At the end of the visit, return to Saint Paterne for dinner. Hotel: Chateau St. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Honfleur & Deauville. After breakfast set out for Honfleur, an exceptionally alluring fishing village on the English Channel. Along the way stop in the renowned village of Camembert, visit a dairy farm and fine tune your palette with a cheese tasting. At a nearby 17th century farm walk through the orchards and taste the calvados and cider that is made on the estate. In Honfleur discover the many curiosities of the narrow cobbled streets and have lunch in a little restaurant that is a local favorite. On the way back to Saint Paterne, stop in Deauville, the legendary 19th century beach resort to mingle with the international glitterati. Return to Saint Paterne for dinner. Hotel: Chateau St. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: St. Ceneri. Head out this morning to visit the Perche region, now considered one of the most trendy areas in France. Visit the picturesque stone villages, and enjoy lunch in the fascinating home of a local antique dealer. In the afternoon, enjoy a fun and interactive cooking class at home with Monique DuVeau, top food stylist for Coté Sud Magazine. Explore the art of menu planning, the importance of style in the setting and the atmosphere, and even the complimentary appearance of the food on the plate and in its setting. Sample your own hard work during dinner with Monique. Hotel: Chateau St. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Normandy Landing Beaches. Travel North to the coast of the Channel and visit the dramatic, sweeping D-Day beaches. Discover the many tales of this historic coastline, visit the graveyards and explore the D-Day museum in the charming town of Arromanches. Following lunch at your leisure return to St. Paterne via the Medieval town of Bayeux and visit the remarkable Bayeux Tapistery. Return and take some time to relax before heading out to dinner with friends and cousins of the de Valbray's, the Marquis Gicquel des Touches, in their lovely 18th Century chateau. Hotel: Chateau St. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Loire Valley. After a leisurely breakfast journey south toward the Loire Valley. En route stop at Saint Ceneri le Gerei, one of the most beautiful villages in France where you can explore a picturesque cluster of stone houses and shops. Drive on and stop in the Abbaye de Solesmes, one of the most prestigious Christian monasteries, still occupied by monks and is a centre for Gregorian chanting. Its magnificent sculptures from the late 15th and 16th century are masterpieces of French sculpture. Indulge in a fabulous lunch in a Michelin 1-star restaurant the Chateau de Noirieux where we can peak inside the working kitchen for a slice of life of a renowned chef.
After lunch arrive at the Chateau des Briottieres where Francois de Valbray and will welcome you. Relax in the huge park and if you are curious, visit the Chateau du Plessis Bourré, one of the finest castles in Anjou, only ten minutes from Les Briottières. The chateau is still occupied by descendants of its owners and friends of the de Valbray family. Built in 1468, the transitional architecture is a cross between a fortress and a Renaissance-style dwelling. The interior is opulently furnished, the magnificent structure adorned with historic works of art, and in the Guard Room the ceiling is frescoed with mysterious alchemical figures. Return in time for an aperitif and wine tasting dinner at a fine restaurant on the banks of the river. Hotel: Chateau des Broittieres. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Saumur. Venture further in the Loire Valley and visit the beguiling town of Saumur. Enjoy a wine tasting in cellar at Langlois Chateau, another abode of the de Valbray extended clan, and members of the esteemed champagne family, Bollinger. We continue for lunch in a very charming and traditional troglodyte restaurant, specializing in les fouaces bread, cooked in the oven and filled with local ingredients. Here enjoy a fascinating demonstration of this regional delicacy. Drive along the Loire and stop in at several of the enchanting towns such as Candes and Saint Martin. Return to des Briottieres for our last festive evening apero and a decadent dinner. Hotel: Chateau de Broittieres. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Angers to Paris. Depart for the train station at Angers - travel to Paris for your flights home. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Trip Format: Independent Trips are designed for independent-minded travelers who like to travel on their own (without a Horizon escort), but still want to experience our superbly designed itineraries at reasonable prices. The itinerary and prices are always fixed, and the departure dates may be flexible or fixed depending on the specific trip.
Guides: An English-speaking local guide will accompany the trip throughout.
Level of Activity: Light - Strolling through city streets, walking on beaches. Suitable for all ages and abilities, with some opportunities for extended walks.
Level of Luxury: Indulgent - This trip is designed with a focus on indulgence and creature comforts. The accommodation is the best available, which usually means a combination of well-known luxury hotels (Relais & Chateaux, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Design Hotels, etc) and lesser known gems with plenty of regional character and charm (from wilderness lodges to converted 17th century monasteries). The food is always first rate, with a blend of haute cuisine and regional delicacies, the transportation is discrete and comfortable, the guides are knowledgeable and charming and the events are unique and memorable.
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