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Top 5 château breaks in France

Our range of châteaux are among the most exciting and rewarding properties at Great Escapes. The grandeur and flamboyance of one of France’s most impressive and historic buildings make for an unrivalled holiday experience. Whether you opt for the rolling vineyards of the Champagne region or a base close to the ocean in Pas de Calais, we have a range of breath-taking châteaux awaiting holidaymakers in 2016. To help inspire you further, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 château breaks in France

 

1. Château de Fère

Located in the stunning and famed Champagne region, Château de Fère is the perfect base for exploring the vineyards, verdant hills and historic towns of Champagne. The fully restored chateau dates from the 16th century and is set amid the imposing ruins of a 13th-century medieval castle. This 5-star hotel and spa is a pleasure to stay at, equipped with luxurious suites and rooms, a gastronomic restaurant managed by a Michelin-starred chef, pool facilities, and a stunning location amid the pristine countryside of Champagne.

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2. Le Château Fort de Sedan

Introducing another of Champagne’s premier châteaux, Le Château Fort de Sedan is part of the largest medieval castle in Europe; surely one of the most prestigious places to rest your head during château breaks in France? A step back in time will be awaiting you at this château, with original stone walls ensuring that the character and medieval charm is retained throughout the hotel. Comfort isn’t sacrificed however, with large and relaxing bedrooms decked out with all the usual mod cons, while an on-site bar and restaurant promises to keep guests fed and watered with the best culinary treats of the region.

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3. Château Hotel Mont Royal

Located only 35 minutes from wonderful Paris, a stay in Château Hotel Mont Royal will reflect all of the romance, flamboyance and style of the French capital. This stunning 18th-century château can be found nestled in the heart of the picturesque Chantilly Forest, providing a relaxing and peaceful escape from the hustle bustle of Paris. The hotel’s immense location and splendour is reflected in its facilities, boasting a spa, fitness centre, sports infrastructure and an ancient ballroom in which the hotel’s renowned restaurant is set. The guest rooms are thoughtfully decorated, while also providing all of the comforts of any modern hotel, promising all-round relaxation during chateau breaks in France.

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4. Château Hotel Clèry

Surrounded by five acres of parkland amid a wooded grove within the realms of a charming French village, the stunning manor house that encompasses Château Hotel Clèry is a remarkable sight to behold. Awakening your Downton Abbey dreams, albeit in the wrong country, the splendour and traditions of this hotel encapsulates a unique and flamboyant holiday experience. 25 beautifully decorated rooms are on offer, as well as a reading room, bar, terrace and gourmet restaurant called ‘Le Berthier’.

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5. Château Tilques

An attractive 19-th century château set in beautiful parkland and reflecting an attractive Flemish style, Château Tilques is one of our most popular châteaux. Just a short drive from Calais, Château Tilques is one of the most accessible of its kind for those on self drive holidays, introducing visitors to a region of France famed for its verdant countryside and winding canals. Features at this hotel include a comfortable lounge bar, an indoor swimming pool, classic château rooms and more modern rooms, as well as a fantastic gourmet restaurant.

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Tempted by a holiday to France full of splendour and style? Have at our full range of chateau breaks in France.


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Romantic breaks in Europe this Valentine’s Day

The most romantic day of the year has crept upon us again this year – Valentine’s Day. Shrouded in mystery as to the precise founder of this romantic celebration, Valentine’s Day is as popular as ever, and has even been recognised as the second largest card sending day after Christmas. We appreciate it can be hard to find something unique to surprise your loved one with (if you’re looking to do something a little different to the usual flowers, chocolates, dinner etc), so our Great Escapes experts have personally selected some romantic Valentine’s getaways across the water, which are sure to get you into your better half’s good books.

Hotel Prinsenhof, Bruges

Nestled comfortably in the heart of Bruges, is the charming 4* Hotel Prinsenhof. Set within a beautifully converted manor house and located in a quiet cobbled street, this hotel is only 350m from the city centre and the stunning sights of Bruges.

With 24 stylish guest rooms, the hotel has a very unique and personal feel, which is sure to make you and your loved one feel very special and well looked after during your stay. Take a romantic walk into the centre of Bruges, where you can explore the meandering canals and array of eateries. Or, take a horse and carriage tour around the city, where you’ll see everything from historical sites and museums, to canals and striking architecture. Carriage tours take place day and night, and the best place to find them is at the Carriage Station, or on a Wednesday morning before midday at The Burg.

Great Escapes are currently offering 3 nights for the price of 2 at Hotel Prinsenhof, from £229pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). You’ll stay in a beautiful superior room, with bed and breakfast, and will receive a complimentary box of chocolates for your custom.  For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Château Hôtel Cléry, near Boulogne

If you’re looking for a romantic stay that’s quiet and away from the hustle and bustle, then Château Hôtel Cléry could be the ideal Valentine’s break. This beautiful manor house, located in the charming village of Hesdin l’Abbé, is surrounded by 5 acres of parkland and exudes traditional French elegance.

There are 25 comfortable guest rooms, some located in the main building, and some in quaint little cottages within the grounds of the Château. Only 10km away, Boulogne offers lots to see and do, including exploring the historic Ville Haute with its cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings, visiting the impressive Nausicaa aquarium, or you could take a stroll in and around the famous Basilique Notre Dame.

Great Escapes are currently offering your second night’s stay at Château Hôtel Cléry for half price, from £119pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). A ‘charm’ room with bed and breakfast and two bottles of selected wines is included within the price. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, Paris

If you’re feeling a little more traditional, you could always surprise your partner with a trip to the city of love… 4* Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche is located close to the stunning Jardin du Luxembourg, and with its wonderful lawns, fountains, statues and palace, it’s the perfect place for a romantic walk. The hotel itself is full of character, with exposed stone walls and beams just some of its superbly attractive features.

Being only 4.5km away from the Eiffel Tower, you don’t have to travel far to experience a true air of romance in quite possibly the most romantic monument in the world. Another close by attraction is which is worth a visit is Pantheon Paris, just 950m away. A stunning church building turned mausoleum completed in 1790, is home to the crypts of Marie Curie, Rousseau and Voltaire, among others.

Great Escapes is currently offering your third night free when you stay at Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, from just £199pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). Stay in a standard room with bed and breakfast, along with a complimentary map of Paris and visit to Montparnasse Tower, where you can see some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Hopefully we’ve sparked a little inspiration for your plans this year, and you’re now feeling the romance.

Please share the love by commenting below if you’ve been somewhere that you thought was a great location for a Valentine’s break.

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Discovering Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ museums and memories

Today we’d like to share a guest post from our very own Ingrid Delamarre, who has worked here for over 10 years. She originally moved from France to Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, to be with her husband, who she met on a ferry between the two countries (how romantic!).

Over to Ingrid…

I have recently returned from a great couple of days exploring Nord-Pas- de-Calais, organised by the region’s tourist office. Although I am French (from Rouen in Normandy) I didn’t know the region all that well, so I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating part of France.

Nord-Pas- de-Calais coast line

Nord-Pas- de-Calais coast line

The Wellington Quarry Museum, Arras

On arrival in Calais, we drove to the Wellington Quarry, where an underground museum has been created in a section of the many kilometres of tunnels dug by the British Army during the First World War. These tunnels connect with original tunnels and quarries dating back to the middle ages and Roman times underneath the city of Arras.

It was here that some 24,000 troops hide to be near the German front lines and the museum tells the story of the lives of these troops from many parts of the World. As we approached the end of the tour, we stopped at exit 10, where men entered the remorselessly kill or be killed battle on April 9th, 1917.  The tour was very well organised, informative and of course, very moving.  It is impossible not to feel humble before the memory of these men whose courage will never be forgotten.

Hotel de l’Univers

As I very much prefer character hotels, I was very pleased to check into the Hotel de l’Univers in Arras where we received a very warm welcome.  My room was very comfortable and charming in a classic French style, which I love. After an aperitif in the cosy bar, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the hotel’s  “Le Clusius restaurant”.

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A moving visit to memorials and cemeteries

After breakfast on our second day, we drove to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial raised in remembrance of the 11,000 Canadian soldiers reported missing during the WW1. A clear blue sky enabled me to capture the monument’s beauty in photographs.

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From the memorial, in the distance, we could the see the coal slag heaps, a memory of a distant mining age. Our guide explained that vines had been planted on one of the slag heaps and soon a new wine, cleverly called “Charbonnay” – charbon meaning coal in French, will be bottled. I hope I get to try some!

Arras museums

We then drove to the French cemetery, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, the World largest French cemetery, where over 40,000 casualties are buried. While a sad sight to see, the cemetery is, at the same, very beautiful. The Neo-Byzantine basilica with colourful mosaics and numerous memorial plaques is stunning. Its 52-metre high lantern tower can be seen over 70 kilometres away when lit-up at night.

The British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge

The British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge

Moving on, we also visited the British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge, one of the largest in the area. Its name came from a small red brick café close to the site, which was sadly destroyed in March 1915. Over half of the 7,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery are unidentified; a poignant sight.

The Louvre-Lens Museum

We then carried on to Lens where we had a delicious lunch at the stylish Atelier-Marc Meurin restaurant opposite the Louvre-Lens museum, an extension of the Louvre museum in Paris. On a much smaller scale, this museum displays art from different historical periods; my favourite piece being Oedipus and the Sphinx, painted by Jean August Dominique Ingres in 1808. Many pieces had commentaries available through the audio system which brought it all to life.

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Following the visit of the museum, we then drove to the India memorial, which really reflected the meaning of “World” war; so many different nationalities and cultures fought in the region. From there we carried on to the Portuguese cemetery designed with the idea of a church in mind. Sadly the cemetery didn’t look as well-kept as the others.

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After this very enriching day, we checked in to La Chartreuse du Val St Esprit, an elegant property with very attentive staff. My room was delightful and again in the traditional French style which, of course, I was very happy with. After a glass of Champagne, in the very welcoming bar, we were served the most sumptuous meal I have experienced for a long time, complemented with fine wines in the Robert II restaurant.

From lace to wines!

On day 3, after a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set off to the lace museum in Calais “La Cité de la Dentelle”. I couldn’t believe that I had visited Calais so many times yet had never set foot in this great museum. From the history of lace to the process of making lace as they would have done in the original workshops, this museum is very interesting. An array of garments all using lace throughout the ages is on display. A temporary exhibition that changes every 6 months is also featured in the museum. I would well recommend a visit to anyone who has an interest in fashion.

Before our return home, we stopped at Calais Vins where we sampled a wide selection of wines and purchased a few bottles. I did enjoy tasting wines I had never tried before. As Calais Vins is conveniently located near to a traditional French cheese shop and a bakery, I was able to buy some supplies for my forthcoming dinner party.

These few days in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais were fascinating and I am eager to return with my husband soon. The trip has given me a keen interest to learn more about the Great War. I have also learnt that The Nord-Pas-de-Calais is a region rich in not just history but also culture and gastronomy; a region well worth visiting.