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  • Gardens and vineyards at the heart of France

    La Briqueterie

    La Briqueterie

    Chateau de Gilly

    Chateau de Gilly

    Le Prieure d'Orsan

    Le Prieure d'Orsan

    Le Prieure d'Orsan

    Le Prieure d'Orsan

    Le Chateau de Chenonceau

    Chateau de Marcay

    Chateau de Marcay, Gardens

    Self-drive touring holiday of the gardens and vineyards at the heart of France

    8 nights and 9 days
    An enchanting tour which combines some of the best-loved vineyards and wine producing regions of France with some of its most beautiful gardens, both well-known and elusive. Start in Calais before journeying southwards through the varied scenery and vegetation at the heart of France.

    Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    Your tour starts in Calais, from where you drive into the lush, green, agricultural landscape of the Champagne region. In the fresh, warm air of northern France, you will stay for two nights at La Briqueterie near Épernay, an exclusive property which promises relaxation amid stunning scenery. After two nights' stay here, Burgundy beckons. The route through countryside ripe for wine-growing and -making, encourages visitors to stop and visit the wine merchants and their vines as you go. Your base for two nights in Burgundy will be the impressive palace hotel of Château de Gilly. Then you cross into the very heart of France and the little-known region of Berry. From the magical Prieure d'Orsan, with its own fascinating restored mediaeval monastic garden, it is only a short drive to the Sancerre vineyards and the city of Bourges. Spend your two nights' stay here exploring the region before heading north to the Loire with its renowned châteaux and undulating vineyards, producing rare light reds and popular whites. Stay at the Château de Marçay, dating back to the 12th-century, which is the perfect setting from which to visit mediaeval Chinon and numerous gardens including Villandry and the chateaux of Amboise, Cheverny, Blois, and Chenonceau among others. If time permits, extend your stay to include a few days in Normandy to visit Monet's garden before returning to Calais for your return ferry.

    PRICES
    Prices for this self-drive touring holiday from £1650 per person

    What’s included:
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at La Briqueterie near Épernay
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Gilly in Gilly-lés-Cîteaux
    • Two nights’ dinner, bed and breakfast at the Prieure d'Orsan in Berry
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Marçay near Chinon
    • Self-drive with Eurotunnel return from Folkestone to Calais

    Gardens and Vineyards at the Heart of France

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAYS ONE TO TWO
    Drive from Calais into Champagne, where you spend two nights in Épernay

    La Briqueterie is the perfect spot to explore Épernay, the Champagne Capital, and its nearby rival, Reims. Venture into the nearby countryside to see the Aisne and Marne Valleys, which see the vineyards thrive, before viewing and tasting the produce of this landscape in one of the hundreds of underground chalky wine cellars in either Épernay or Reims. These Gallo-Roman cellars notably belong to champagne firms of international repute, such as Moët et Chandon and Mercier. Champagne Tribaut, a family-run business that supplies companies such as Krug and Taittinger, opens their cellars and vineyards to guests for tours and tasting sessions. This intimate, homely experience lets the visitor see an alternative side of wine-growing to large scale production. Equally, just across the Marne Valley, you can find the vineyards that produce Pinot Noir, or head southwards through the Côte des Blancs to taste the local mineral-packed Chardonnay. Aside from vineyards and galleries, Reims offers a wealth of impressive architecture and culture, from the Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame with its wine-grower carvings, and the Palais du Tau, to the floral delights of Nanteuil-la-Forêt.

    DAYS THREE TO FOUR
    Épernay to Gilly-lés-Cîteaux, and stay for two nights

    Situated in Burgundy, amidst the vineyards of Nuits-Saint-Georges and the Côte d'Or, Gilly-lés-Cîteaux is made up of the picturesque golden limestone buildings so typical of the area. As you approach your hotel for two nights, Château de Gilly, you’ll be struck by its elegant and formal French gardens, ideal for an evening stroll to appreciate the temperate climate. The Burgundy region is best known for its Pinot Noir red wines, and Chardonnay white wines; however, Gilly-lés-Cîteaux is perfectly suited for an exploration of all the wines Burgundy has to offer. The closest vineyard to the Château de Gilly is the relatively small vineyard of Vougeot, though the neighbouring, more recently cultivated vineyard of Clos de Vougeot is home to the produce of 70 wine growers. From here visitors can explore the Christian Clerget estate and the Château de Clos, which has four huge 12th Century winepresses, and taste the wine produced there. In nearby Chenôve, the Cuverie des ducs de Bourgogne houses two 13th Century winepresses, for visitors to view. Marsannay-la-Côte produces a selection of rosé wines that are obtained after a short maceration of Pinot Noir grapes. These wines can be tasted at the Domaine Regis Bouvier and the Château de Marsannay. However, the most famous of the Côte de Nuits wines is Chambertin, produced in Gevrey-Chambertin, a village very close to Gilly-lés-Cîteaux. When sitting down for a meal, partake in the tradition of drinking a Kir before your meal, as this blend of crème de cassis and white wine, produced locally, is the perfect start to a delicious evening. Venture further out to visit the famous Chablis, or take a tour of the white wine vineyards and cellars on the hillside village of Montagny-lés-Buxy. After tasting the various specialities of the region, head into Dijon to visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and for a short tour of its many tombs and ancient structures, including the statue of Bareuzai the wine grower, on the Rue des Forges, who acts as a guiding spirit for the whole of Dijon.

    DAYS FIVE TO SIX
    Gilly-lés-Cîteaux to Maisonnais, and stay for two nights

    Situated just south of the city of Bourges, Maisonnais is very well placed to explore the treasures of the small region of Berry in the Loire Valley. We highly recommend a trip into the surreal, but magnificent city of Bourges, with it charming medieval streets and fantastic cathedral. In the centre of Bourges lies the Marais, an area set aside for locals to cultivate their own gardens, veined with canals perfect for the small wooden boats that residents use to navigate them. The Marais is so large that it has led to Bourges being named one of France’s greenest cities. Springtime in Bourges and the International Ecological Film Festival are two festivals, among others, not to be missed in spring and summer. Just north of Bourges, La Borne is a village famous for its stoneware and ceramics. The Centre for Contemporary Ceramics offers a valuable insight into this particular aspect of the Berry way of life. Maisonnais is just an hour and a half from the Sancerre villages and their vineyards, making it easy for you to find out what each village has to offer, as well as visiting the old hilltop Sancerre town. The Domaines Vacheron and Henri Bourgeois are owned by two of the oldest and best reputed wine-making families in the area. To pick up more information about the wines of the area, visit the Maison des Sancerre in the old town and take the interactive tour, which culminates in a wine tasting. Travel to Chavignol to taste the Crottin de Chavignon, a versatile goat’s cheese that goes well with the local wine. Return to your hotel, the Prieure d'Orsan, in the late afternoon to make the most of its medieval gardens, which attract a menagerie of wildlife, specifically birds, all year round.

    DAYS SEVEN TO EIGHT
    Maisonnais to Chinon, and stay for two nights

    The Château de Marçay is nestled in 15 hectares of perfectly manicured land, just a stone’s throw away from the historic town of Chinon. Chinon itself runs along the bank of the river Vienne, at the base of a rocky hill atop which sits the Chinon Fortresse Royale. The fortress dates back to the 10th Century and has been repeatedly tied in to the legend of King Arthur. Inside, however, puts a modern twist on the history of the town with its high-tech, interactive facilities. Wine, art and history tours are also available in Chinon; or, if something a little quirkier appeals, visit the Musée de la Poire Tapée de Rivarennes (Pressed Pear Museum). Nearby, there are numerous beautiful châteaux, available for wine-tasting and exploring, such as the Château de Montgeoffrey, or dine on food grown on the estate at the Château de Rivau. Less than an hour outside of Chinon, sits the Château de Chenonceau, which is definitely not to be missed. The château itself is built over water, adding extra drama and regal charm to the already magnificent building. Its vast formal gardens make the perfect place to stroll away the afternoon, before tasting the excellent wine grown in the château’s vineyards. The Chinon area specialises in Chinon Blanc wines grown from Chenin Blanc grapes or Pineau-de-Loire. For Loire Valley red wines or rosés, head to Bourgueil and Saint-Nicholas-de-Bourgueil for a wine-tasting tour, both less than half an hour from Chinon.

    DAY NINE
    Return to Calais

    Leave the hotel after breakfast and take the drive back to Calais, enjoying the beautiful views of the Loire Valley and Normandy on your way. There is potential here to take a 20 minute detour through Paris.

    Driving times:
    Calais to Épernay: 3 hours
    Épernay to Gilly-lés-Cîteaux: 2 hours 50 minutes
    Gilly-lés-Cîteaux to Maisonnais: 3 hours 30 minutes
    Maisonnais to Chinon: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Chinon to Calais: 5 hours 10 minutes

    Gardens and Vineyards at the Heart of France v2

    Hotel Information

    Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations - please contact us for full details.

    La Briqueterie
    Épernay
    Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region, Hostellerie La Briqueterie is a gastronomic hotel with the ambience of understated luxury and charm typical to all Relais & Châteaux properties. Once the former brickworks of Chevirer, architect of Chaumières de France, La Briqueterie’s name and design appears as a homage to the area’s history, bringing the essence of the ‘country cottage’ to the 21st Century. The 36 rooms and 4 suites are designed individually with modern bursts of colour set against furniture in timeless French style. The wooden beams in the communal areas add unmistakable charm. The bar serves as a lounge where guests enjoy champagne by the fireside and relax in the Winter-Garden, a conservatory with an indoor fountain and exotic plants. There are spectacular views of the Champagne countryside all around and large windows bathing rooms in light. The restaurant is a sensory joy where guests enjoy Michelin starred cuisine paired with the perfect wine. The spa at La Briqueterie leaves guests with a heightened sense of wellness with treatments, a hammam steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and indoor swimming pool. The 3 hectares of manicured grounds and fountains are a harbour of peace with stone benches to read on and fragrant flower lined trails to explore. Days of entertainment and culture are promised with nearby visits to the Champagne houses’ cellars, trips to Épernay and the city of Reims.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Gilly
    Gilly-lés-Cîteaux
    The Château de Gilly is a former residence of the Priors of Cîteaux; still moated and very much palatial in ambience, it offers high standards of accommodation and cuisine and is beautifully situated at the heart of the Burgundy vineyards. The elegant, vaulted restaurant ‘Le Clos Prieur’ was once the palace cellar and is just the place to enjoy a gourmet dinner accompanied by fine local wines. ‘Coté Terroirs’ a new restaurant, offers local specialities. Breakfast is served in the restored historic Pierre de Nivelle room and musical soirées are held regularly in the Tapestry room. The 48 bedrooms have been refurbished to offer modern comforts whilst retaining their individuality and fine architectural features. To the front of the hotel are remarkable formal French-style gardens. The hotel features an outdoor heated swimming pool.
    Find out more here.

    Prieure d’Orsan
    Maisonnais
    The priory dates from 1107 when it was founded by Robert d’Arbrissel, who also founded the Abbey of Fontevraud, burial place of Richard the Lionheart and numerous other Plantagenets including Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is a boutique Relais & Châteaux hotel but also home to the incredible gardens, inspired by the mediaeval monastic gardens that would have been here for years. The gardens as they are now are credited to Patrice Taravella, the unassuming but hugely creative owner of Orsan. The gardens have come to the interest of the British public recently due to being featured in Monty Don’s recent BBC Two programme on French gardens and deserve to be visited almost more than any other garden in France. The gardens are situated between the priory buildings and are divided into individual areas of intense interest: there are vines, fruit trees, a flourishing kitchen garden, a maze, lavender beds and wild flower meadows. It is an artistic creation that resembles a tapestry yet where organic crop rotation is practised. The thought and care that goes into the attention to detail is spectacular. It is a truly wondrous place. The gardens are peaceful, the birdsong is intense, and butterflies abound. The gardens are open to the public and you are allowed to walk on the grass! However, the adjacent priory is not open to the public, while the shady courtyards and pergola covered tables and a wild flower garden are only accessible to guests of the Prieuré. Restored by Patrice Taravella and fellow architect Sonia Lesot, the first floor of the priory comprises inter-connecting sitting and dining rooms where guests can relax and browse the library of books on art, architecture, garden design and so on. The handful of bedrooms are located on the second floor and on garden level where they open out onto private garden areas. The boot room is a characterful and unusual room – it is here you can select gardening clogs to wear into the woods and fields or borrow a straw hat. A highlight of a stay here is dinner. Patrice serves a menu of the day, based on seasonal and local produce, including of course many of the fruits, herbs and vegetables he grows. Dinner here is a delight because it is unusual, wholesome, flavoursome and relatively unfussy. Breakfast is equally unusual with slices of goat’s cheese, cake, home-made quince or plum jam and their own apple juice.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Marçay
    Chinon
    The Château de Marçay near Chinon is a superb four-star château hotel, built in the white-blond stone typical of many of the châteaux of Touraine. The hotel is absolutely enchanting both in terms of its breath-taking secluded and natural location and the quality of accommodation it offers. The Château de Marçay originally dates from the 12th Century, although the main building is in fact 15th Century. During a painstaking renovation programme, it became a hotel in 1971. The Château de Marçay enjoys a splendidly tranquil and rural setting in its own grassy parkland, with views onto the cornfields, sunflower fields and vineyards around it, while in the distance you can see rooftops of a local village. There are extensive lawns and terraces to the rear of the hotel where drinks are served in fine weather and there is also an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. The interior of the Château de Marçay is spacious, serene and charmingly furnished. There are two very comfortable lounges where open fires roar in the winter under a blond stone chimney, a TV lounge, a bar and of course the restaurant. The elegant Michelin-starred restaurant is divided into two rooms, one decorated in hues of pink and the other in shades of blue. Rich fabrics complement the white stone walls and the dark timbers of the ceiling. The 30 bedrooms at the Château de Marçay vary enormously in size and location: some very spacious ones are in the main château itself and some are located in a wing of the chateau on two floors (these are more recent but offer a marvellous combination of stone, beams, terracotta floors and extremely comfortable furnishings). All rooms have private bath or shower and wc, telephone and television, and there is a lift to three floors in the main building of the Château de Marçay.
    Find out more here.

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