A marriage of tradition and eclectic design
France was on the agenda! Brittany, to be correct, is an area I’ve never been to before, so I’m very excited to visit this lesser touristy part of France. Dutch friends had asked us to join them in a dog-friendly villa close to the beach near Brest in Longonna-Daoulas. With a busy touring season, a short break in June was perfect for recharging the batteries. It might be a bit of a push, but you can visit all five exhibitions on one ticket on one day.
Cambridge to Brest via the tunnel is about 15 hours drive, including stops and the crossing. Quite a trek for one day. I was keen to revisit Honfleur after 20 years. Bad luck! Honfleur was packed due to one of their many festivals and the D-Day celebrations the day before. Honfleur is a lovely quaint fishing village, but to be avoided when big crowds descend on it.
Foodie escapes with Relais de Silence
Plan B – the countryside or one of the major cities. I have fond memories of many great stays with Relais du Silence, a niche accommodation group with stunning properties and where food is on top of the agenda. My last stay with them was in the era of travel guides, but times have moved on, so you can now browse online too. Although I still love flicking through their guide, the Relais du Silence website is much easier for booking and locating the properties. Le Manoir du Lys in Normandy was just what we were looking for, with only another 4 hours’ drive the next day.
Michelin star getaway at Le Manoir du Lys
So there I am, sitting in the garden of Le Manoir du Lys, sipping a glass of Loire wine and munching on delicious appetisers; pickled mushrooms, bread and rillettes, in the evening sun! Life doesn’t come much better, especially knowing an excellent Michelin star dinner is awaiting you.
Le Manoir du Lys is not easy to find as the signs on the roadside are covered by vegetation, but that’s part of the charm. On arrival, it looks like a traditional French retreat on the outskirts of the stunning Spa resort Bagnoles de l’orne, but you’ll be in for a surprise and treat! They’ve done an excellent job mixing traditional with eclectic design and artwork. Although it carries a Michelin star, it’s very relaxed, and I could easily stay here for many days if not a week, but our next destination was calling.
Creating the perfect scene
One of the things I love about the continent is alfresco dining. Whilst enjoying the evening sun on the terrace and admiring the stunning garden and the wedding party, life at Le Manoir du Lys changed. All of a sudden, there was excitement amongst the staff. We thought it was all to do with the wedding reception being held at the time. No, not all! Half the restaurant tables were moved outside for dinner. No half measures here; the full monty. Tables, chairs, pieces of art, and the massive Persian-style carpet were carried to create the perfect setting for the outside dining scene. Attention to detail is clearly very important here. Very promising for dinner!
The evening was young, the sun was out, and alfresco dining was calling. Time to sample the local vermouth-style Pommeau and snack on their delicious bread, pickles and mackerel rillettes whilst soaking up the lovely views of the garden. The setting is stunning; an eclectic mix of the old and new set in a woodlands garden. Every corner has got something to reveal, from beautiful flowers and a stunning swimming pool to rusty-looking ducks.
Al fresco dining enjoying local food paired with excellent wines
Our lazy dinner that night on the terrace was undoubtedly one to remember. Delicious local food, cheeses, Calvados and the honey-style Menetou Salon made it all very enjoyable. One thing we’ll never forget was the start of our meal. The Maître D had secured one of the best tables for us, and we were really looking forward to it until we noticed that one of the guests on the table next to it lit a cigarette. The waitress seemed very surprised when we asked to be seated somewhere else. Later we realised the reason why. Unlike in the UK, where we have confined smoking areas or non-smoking terraces in fine dining restaurants, in France and on the continent, you can smoke anywhere on the terrace. So soon, we found ourselves sitting amongst smoking dining guests. I have to say, we were stunned, but it didn’t affect our excellent dining experience at all. Next time on the continent, we’ll ask to be seated inside. Le Manoir du Lys has terraced doors opening up to the terrace, which gives you the alfresco experience too.
The perfect short getaway
The next morning we awoke to the sounds of horses and birds, and the early morning sun was beaming through our open window. You can’t wish for a better start to a day. After a delicious breakfast, it was time to visit the local Spa town Bagnoles de l’orne before we were heading off to the coast. A real pity we couldn’t stay any longer. Le Manoir du Lys deserves much longer than just an overnight stay. It’s perfect for a short getaway to recharge your batteries, enjoy good food, join one of their cooking classes, go for long walks, Spa retreats in the nearby town of Bagnoles de l’orne or a game of golf. A communal golf course is just around the corner. There are many interesting places to visit, such as Le Mont Saint Michel, which is only an hour’s drive away.
A quick visit to Bagnoles de L’orne
Bagnoles de l’orne is only 2.5 hours away from Paris, with a beautiful lake, gardens, casino, excellent hotels and Belle Epoque architecture. This charming resort is home to the only thermal spring in northwest France and the nearest to the capital. People come for phlebology (vein treatment), rheumatology and gynaecology treatments, and increasingly, to get some time away from it all. The city centre is quite compact and very pretty. It’sIt’s an excellent starting point for walks, and you might want to try your chance of catching something in the lake if you’re a keen angler. There are a few excellent delis with a fine selection of rillettes and local produce. There are a lot of small boutique hotels in Bagnoles de l’ornes if you’re keen to stay in the area and would like to stay somewhere less grand than Le Manoir du Lys. One especially caught my eye with its funky lights, the Albert Premier Hotel. A place I wouldn’t mind staying here.
Le Mont Saint Michel
On our drive to our next destination in Brittany, we had a taste of what was to come…… Looking down the road, we were travelling down, on the shore Le Mont Saint Michel popped up on the skyline. Just a few more nights’ sleep before we would make our way here. The big question was, would we be in time before the tide?
p.s. Don’t forget to have the fantastic crunchy salted chocolate spread for breakfast at Le Manoir du Lys. It’s absolutely scrummy!