One of the reasons why I enjoy driving through France is because of the hotels de charme that inevitably pop up along my way — often times, in the most unexpected locations. Today’s destinations take us to paradises situated in Champagne-Ardennes and Alsace regions. Each one is easily accessible by car or train — TGV (high-speed train) or TER (regional train).
The Maison de Rhodes, Troyes
The city of Troyes remains an ideal destination for an overnight or a week-end outing from Paris. Museums, great restaurants and luxurious hotels abound. But, if you are looking for a cozy experience, knock at the door of The Maison de Rhodes, a 16th-century timber-framed mansion that once belonged to the Templars. The house sits in the old quarter of Troyes. Although the heavy doors under the coachman’s porch will take you back in time, once you step in you will marvel at the stylishly modern décor. The bedrooms’ minimalist furnishings with their huge white linen beds blend harmoniously with the exposed rough-stone walls. If you must have a room with a view, you won’t be disappointed. Windows overlook the Troyes’ cathedral’s spires, the interior courtyard of cobble and grass and the formal gardens of the Museum of Modern Art. Truly, this four-star hotel invites you to farniente (idleness), but you may want to take advantage of a stop in Troyes to travel around the champagne villages.
Getting to Troyes by train: from Paris, about 1h and 40mn.
Hotel Castle Jeanson, Ay
Just outside of Epernay, the village of Ay is home to a stunning art nouveau mansion, previously owned by wealthy champagne families. Today, the Hotel Castle Jeanson counts as one of these rare gems that you may want to keep a secret. The owners have created a warm and friendly atmosphere and make your comfort their top priority. After a dip in the indoor swimming pool, you may enjoy a relaxing moment in the drawing room. Nature lovers will spend time strolling through the wonderful private park of the Vicomte Bona-Dona – a mere 50 meters away from the hotel. Furthermore, as one of France’s greatest champagne villages, Ay houses world-famous champagne makers – Bollinger, Deutz & Gelderman and Gosset, as well as smaller producers. If you happen to visit the area between July 2 and 4, don’t miss the village’s bi-annual champagne fest. On the occasion, many of the Champagne Houses keep their doors open. The casual and fun street festival lasts long into the night with dancing, music and the traditional fireworks!
Getting to Ay by car: from Paris (150km); from Reims (30km); from Epernay (3km).
By train: Paris to Reims (45mn); Paris to Epernay (about 1h30mn); Reims to Epernay (30mn).
Hôtel la Belle Vue, Saulxures
Located in the heart of Alsace, in the tiny mountain village of Saulxures, the Hotel la Belle Vue is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. Most likely named after its spectacular vista (la Belle Vue translates as ‘lovely sight’ in French), the hotel has been run by the Boulanger family for four generations. The owners will greet you as if you were old friends. La Belle Vue features 11 luminous rooms, each one with a unique atmosphere inspired by the owner’s imagination. One of the hotel’s highlights is its restaurant. More than just a good address, it has become a place of rendezvous for amateur connoisseurs of authentic cuisine. The dishes follow the rhythm of the seasons. The chef uses only the freshest ingredients and produce available at the local markets. You may savor your feast in the beamed dining-room or on the terrace in the shade of the cypresses. Ideal to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary or just a good time, the restaurant is often booked, so be sure to make a reservation.
Getting there by train: from Strasbourg (about one hour)
Hotel le Moulin, Gundershoffen
Bordering the Parc Regional des Vosges du Nord, the Hotel le Moulin is an oasis of peace. The scent of pine trees, the sounds of rushing water from the nearby river, and the expanse of fields all around will make your stay unforgettable. Once a water-run grain mill, the hotel features 12 rooms and junior suites thematically designed and decorated with extraordinary taste. And that’s not all! At Le Cygne, the hotel’s two stars restaurant, you will dine on dishes inspired by regional cooking in a typical Alsatian home. Of course, you will also taste some of the best wines that the region offers. The most active among you will have plenty to do. Fishing, horse-back riding or mountain-biking are available on the premises. A plus: the nearby forest of the Northern Vosges where clearly indicated walking trails will take you to breathtaking spots.
Getting there by train: from Strasbourg (less than one hour)
Written by Brigitte Aflalo-Calderon for EuropeUpClose.com