As a self-confessed foodie and booze lover, I couldn’t wait for the road-trip we’d planned to Normandy and Burgundy, famous for producing apples and grapes and their respective tipples of cider and wine. And that’s before you even get me started on the cheese board…..
Just a hop across the channel, Normandy boasts an extensive coastline and bucolic countryside – in other words fertile grounds for surf and turf gastronomy. And it’s only polite to wash it all down with locally-made cider or calvados.
Our hotel for the start of our trip in Normandy is La Château La Chenevière, an 18th century mansion house not far from the historic town of Bayeaux and the D-Day landing beaches (not to mention the 36-hole Omaha Beach Golf Club). With a relaxed country club feel in verdant grounds overlooked by stylish and spacious guestrooms, it is quintessentially château chic.
On our first day we visit the nearby medieval town of Bayeaux and its Unesco protected tapestry, which still vividly depicts the Norman conquest of 1066. After an afternoon pottering around this charming cobblestoned town, it’s time to hit the bar back at the château. Its calvados-inspired cocktail menu starts the evening with panache, before we dine at the hands of resident chef Didier Robin. Les Noix de St Jacques (scallops), lobster and fillet of beef are all on the menu, accompanied by a world-class wine list ready to be liberated from the basement cellar. If there’s one thing La Chenevière knows how to do well, it’s spoil you silly.
Our road trip takes us from sun-kissed apples to sun-drenched grapes as we leave Normandy and head closer to the equator to some of the world’s finest vineyards in Burgundy – specifically the beautiful Medieval market town of Beaune. Perched atop a nearby hill with panoramic views of the region’s winemaker villages, the family-run B&B La Terre d’Or (translation – ‘the land of gold’) is beyond doubt the best place to stay when visiting Beaune. A luxury bed and breakfast with four rooms and a honeymoon suite, La Terre d’Or has a jacuzzi placed conveniently next to a high quality wine collection in a natural cave under the property and an outdoor pool with a view of the wine valley.
During your stay here, a tour of the local wineries is a must. We enjoyed being chauffeured around the top vineyards by the charismatic godfather of the family, Jean-Louis. Born in Beaune, Jean-Louis is an expert on the region’s vineyards and vintages. A true entrepreneur with a passion for masonry, he built much of La Terre d’Or literally with his own hands, using traditional techniques. These days when he’s not relaxing on the terrace with a glass of rosé, he’s busy developing a truffle garden from scratch, where he has also planted vines, blackcurrants and raspberries to make homemade produce for future guests.
At the end of a day wine-tasting, you’re ready to indulge in one of the numerous local Michelin starred restaurants. As we pack up the car the next morning and have the warmest send-off from La Terre d’Or’s hospitable manager Fabrizio, we feel quite emotional to leave this Bacchus paradise.
But the tears don’t last for long – after a two-hour drive north towards Paris, we arrive at the spectacular Burgundy manor house, La Borde, which started life in the 14th century as a château before evolving over time into a walled manor house. Today the property is owned by the sophisticated Marieke and Rik Klomp, a Dutch couple who bought La Borde originally as a second home, until one day they decided to give up their high-flying careers and run it as a one-of-a-kind small luxury hotel.
Complete with not one, but two helipads (as one does….), tennis courts, gym, a play room, swimming pool, spa and jacuzzi as well as an attractive orangery and 17 acres of beautifully manicured grounds, you are spoilt for ways to while away your days here. The six suites are odes to the manor’s 16th century remodelling, with dark exposed beams and small turret windows, whilst the plump beds and free-standing baths are reassuringly modern and luxurious.
Dinner at La Borde is elegantly prepared using fresh produce – we have fish with vegetables and herbs from the organic garden. If you’re lucky you might even get to taste Marieke’s fabulous home baking. Breakfast is superb – fresh orange juice, croissants and La Borde’s homemade jams and honey (you’ll see the beehives when you tour the grounds). The honey is hands down the most delectable nectar I have ever tasted – I am so hooked on its deep, smokey flavour I take home two jars.
La Borde can be summed up simply as ‘A-List privacy’. Your hosts are on hand to make your stay as comfortable as possible, yet conveniently absent enough that it feels like you are a rock star retreating at your private French manoir. Tennis anyone?