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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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Hotel Prinsenhof 04-06-08

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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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

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As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

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I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

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As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

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And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

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Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

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And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

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Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

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So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

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Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

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And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

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Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

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Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

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Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France


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The Champs-Elysées at Christmas

Each evening throughout December lights sparkle in the trees, headlights glow and white wooden chalets line the pavements of the Champs-Elysées. From the magnificent Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde in the east to the Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the avenue, it really is an impressive sight.

The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having recently visited Paris for a long weekend I couldn’t resist trying to capture the magic of Christmas with my camera. If only I could incorporate the sounds of chatter and laughter and the delicious smells and tastes from the food and drink stalls. Imagine mulled wine, spicy sausages, toffee apples, fizzing glasses of champagne, mulled cider and so much more.

Please join me on a photo walk down the Champs-Elysées in the City of Lights.

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Hundreds of stalls line both sides of the road for over a mile and as the light starts to dim the fairy lights that bedeck each chalet start to shine.

Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

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There’s a plethora of craft stalls with colourful ideas for seasonal gifts.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

No Christmas market would be complete without an ice-rink.

Ice skating at Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

One of my favourite parts of the market though, as anyone who knows me would guess, is Le Marché Gourmand. One of the first things to catch my eye are these toffee apples and waffles. But I resist until I have checked out every stall.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A chilled glass of Champagne or warm glass of wine perhaps?

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

People drink and eat while walking, perched on stools or inside one of a number of pop-up restaurants.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

The stall holders are full of Christmas cheer.

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Corsican specialities at Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A stall over-laden with Corsican specialities brings back happy memories of Colomba and Pietra beer, fig and chestnut preserves, not to mention their delicious cheeses and charcuterie, from the ‘Island of Beauty’.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having carefully eyed-up every edible option I settle for a very tasty Toulouse herb sausage.

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Paris is full of magic whatever time of year you visit and it was wonderful to see her once again sparkling for Christmas.

Things to Know

The Christmas market runs until January 3rd 2016 and is open every day from 10.30am until midnight (1am on Fridays and Saturdays).

The Champ-Elysées Illuminations will be lit every day until January 6th 2016 from 6pm to midnight and all night on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The Ferris wheel, which costs 12 Euros per adult, will remain until September 23rd 2016 and opens every day from 11am until midnight (1am on Friday and Saturday). It makes one rotation as everyone gets on and off and then two more for a glorious bird’s eye view of the city.

For details of other Christmas markets in Paris visit Parisinfo.com.

And you can find out more about our Eurostar breaks to Paris here.

 


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Christmas shopping in France

As summer ends and the air turns autumnal, it may still seem a little early to be thinking of Christmas but it is a very popular time of year to visit many European cities. The best hotels, in the best locations soon fill-up. I’ve already shared a post about Christmas Market dates for this year but it’s not just about the markets. There are some wonderful bargains to be had in the shops leading up to the festive season. And where better to replenish your wine and champagne stocks in time for Christmas then by taking a short break to France.

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Hop across the Channel to Calais

The most popular shopping street in Calais is the now trendy, Rue Royale, which as well as the big high street stores has some great specialty shops including designer crockery, crystal and Lalique porcelain, at prices much cheaper than you’ll find in the UK. At Brulerie La Tour, you’ll find  some 70 different teas on offer while chocolate lovers should visit Au Royal Chocolate, a really charming chocolate shop. Also on this street you’ll find the stylish Passage Royale, with a fabulous range of little boutiques and cafés inside.

For genuine Calais lace, from tablecloths to lingerie, visit Royal Dentelle on Boulevard Jacquard. Nearby you’ll also find The Living Centre, one of the newest shopping centres in Calais.

Another must for chocolate lovers is De Neuville Coquelles for their world-famous handmade chocolate. For general shopping head to Cité Europe, with over 140 stores including a hypermarket.

Christmas shopping in Calais

4* Mercure Calais Centre

1 night from £56pp including ferry crossing

This modern hotel, in an excellent central location, is just 5 minutes’ drive from the ferry port and from the huge Cité Europe with over 140 stores including a hypermarket. All of Calais’ bars, restaurants and shops are also within easy walking distance allowing you to make the most of your short break here.

Mercure CALAIS Centre H6739

Enjoy a 1 night shopping break from only £56pp (car with 4 passengers) or from £76pp (car with 2 passengers) including the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries and accommodation. The price also includes hot and cold buffet breakfast and a voucher per couple for 2 bottles of wine to be collected from Calais Vins. Extra nights are available from £34pp.

Visit the beautiful Champagne region

If it’s champagne you are after than a visit to Reims, in the heart of Champagne country, is an ideal choice and many prestigious champagne houses offer tours and tastings, including Lanson and G.H.MUMM.

Christmas shopping in Reims

Reims’ also boasts a Les Galeries Lafayette department store and the Halles du Boulingrin covered market, in a fabulous art deco building, as well as some excellent specialty stores. If you visit between 21st November to 28th December,  you can also enjoy Reims’  Christmas Market.

4* Best Western Plus Hotel de la Paix, Reims  

3 nights from £146pp including ferry crossing

The Best Western Plus Hotel de la Paix  is located just a stone’s throw from Reims’ magnificent cathedral, shops and restaurants. Its facilities include an indoor pool and secured parking.

Christmas shopping in France

We’re offering 3 nights for the price of 2 with packages starting from £146pp (car with 4 passengers) or £166pp (car with 2 passengers) including your ferry crossing from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (free night valid for all stays completed in December) and  accommodation. The price also includes breakfast, a guide book, a bottle of Champagne per room and a tour of a Champagne house including tasting.

Enjoy the festive spirit in Paris

Paris, the city of lights, shines even brighter at Christmas with streets like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place Vendom, as well as the major departments stores, such as  Les Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, all trying to out do each other with their seasonal lights and decorations. For dates and loads more information visit at PARISINFO.

Christmas shopping in Paris

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You’ll find a wonderful array of speciality shops in Paris and here are a few of my favourites. For cheeses try La Fermette on rue Montorgueil, a fabulous street full of foodie delights. For fantastic coffee head for La Caféothèque on rue de la Hôtel de Ville, while at Rémi Flachard on rue du Bac, you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of antique and out-of-print cookbooks. Interesting that all my favourites are food and drink orientated and for more edible ideas visit the website Paris by Mouth which has a great guide.

4* Victor Hugo, Paris

3 nights from 182pp, accommodation only

A delightful hotel in a quiet area, yet within easy walking distance of the Champs Elysées.

We’re offering 3 nights for the price of 2, starting from £182pp,  accommodation only on B&B based on 2 sharing.  Packages including Eurostar are also available.

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 For a personal quote and to book, call 0845 330 3434 or visit GreatEscapes.co.uk
Eiffel Tower lit-up by night, Paris


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Picture postcard from… Paris, France

Eiffel Tower lit-up by night, Paris

The Eiffel Tower by Moyan Brenn

Located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most well-known structures in the world.

It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower with Eiffel himself paying 80 percent of the tower’s construction costs. It was originally planned to stand for 20 years after which it was intended to be sold as scrap metal. However, in a bid to save it, Eiffel erected an antenna on top of the tower and financed experiments with wireless telegraphy. The tower proved enviable in sending and receiving wireless messages, particularly for the French military. Today, more than 100 antennae on the tower send radio and television broadcasts around the world.

More great shots from Moyan can be found on Flickr.


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Bastille Celebrations in Paris

As I’m sure you are aware Monday, July 14 is Bastille Day, an annual event when the whole of France celebrates the storming of the Bastille Prison and the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.  If you are in France next Monday we’d love to hear about the celebrations where you are. Even better send me some photos! You can email me at Kathryn@GreatEscapes.co.uk.  

Here are a few highlights of the celebrations in Paris for Bastille Day 2014.

Paris’ Military Parade

A military parade along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is the highlight the regiments of the French military, which will parade in the morning. This year’s theme is the Centenary of The Great War.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Marc Bertrand

© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : Marc Bertrand

The day’s programme (subject to change)
9.10am Troops, gather at the Place de l’Etoile / Avenue des Champs-Elysées.
9.20am Inspection of the troops.
9.45am Honorary detachments of the Republican Guard take their places at Place de l’Etoile and Place de la Concorde.
10am Arrival of the President of the French Republic at Avenue de Friedland. Welcome by General Pierre de Villiers, Chief of Defence Staff, and General Hervé Charpentier, the Military Governor of Paris. Review of the troops.
10.15am Tribute paid to the President of the French Republic by the 1st infantry regiment of the Republican Guard at Place de la Concorde. Welcome by the prime minister, M. Manuel Valls, the Minister of Defence, M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, secretary of state for veterans affairs, M. Kader Arif and Général Benoît Puga.
10.20am Opening event.
10.35am Opening fly-past led by Air Marshal Thierry Caspar-Fille-Lambie.
10.45am Parade of troops on foot led by Brigadier Henry Bazin.
11.25am Parade of motorized troops led by General Marcel Druart.
11.45am Closing event.
12 noon Departure of the President of the French Republic.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Marc Bertrand

© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : Marc Bertrand

Paris’ fireworks

The fireworks will be launched from Bassins du Trocadéro and can be viewed from the Champs de Mars and Trocadéro.

11.00pm: A firework display lasting 35 minutes with the theme “Guerre et Paix”.

© Paris Tourist Office - Photographer : Amélie Dupont

© Paris Tourist Office – Photographer : Amélie Dupont

Firemen’s balls

Numerous firemen’s balls happen each year in stations throughout France, in general starting at 9pm and going on until 4pm. Some have an entrance fee while others are free but have a traditional donation barrel. The money collected will be used to improve the working conditions of staff.

A list of balls in Paris and the surrounding regions can be found here.

And don’t forget, if you are in France that day (or have been in the past) we’d love to hear about the celebrations where you area and see your photos.  You can email me at Kathryn@GreatEscapes.co.uk.