Wining and dining our way through France

Reply

Jul 7th, 2010, 02:34 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 636
Wining and dining our way through France

Mr Frogoutofwater and I just got back from a nearly two-week trip through Champagne, Burgundy, Sancerre and Paris. This was the first joint trip back to France for us since we moved from Paris to New York in the summer of 2007. (I had a business trip to Paris in 2008.) Because our two-year sojourn in France had not been without its tribulations (a job I hated, unemployment for my husband, the sudden illness and death of my mother back at home), I hadn't really regretted the move back to North America when we left in 2007. And consequently, I wasn't really expecting that this trip would re-kindle our love for France, since that love had somehow been dampened (or perhaps just hidden) a little by the end of our two years there.

I started planning the trip almost 7 months ago, because I wanted to get 2 business class tickets using our 200,000 point stash of Air France Flying Blue miles. I booked the tickets in late December, getting dates that fit our schedules and the American and French holiday schedules well. We left mid-week on June 22 and returned on July 6, thereby avoiding the tourist hordes that descend on France in early July, the mini-crowd of mostly European tourists that appears in May-June (when there are a number of European holiday weekends), and the French exodus from Paris to the country that starts around July 14.

As is usually the case, I played "travel agent" and my husband played "tour director" (for the most part). That means that I booked the flights, the hotels and the restaurants, and my husband booked the car and organized each day's activities. This time, we were focusing specifically on wine-tasting in three regions: a return trip to Champagne, a trip to Burgundy (which we hadn't really visited before) and a trip to Sancerre (which had been left out of our Loire valley trip in 2007).

I must confess that I am a big fan of large, luxury hotels, as compared with small hotels and B&Bs. I like my privacy and I like the anonymity (as well as the amenities) in large hotels. But this time, it seemed appropriate to stay in smaller hotels with more character, so that's what I booked everywhere except Paris (where we used Hilton points to spend 3 nights at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe).

For those who want an overview of the hotels and restaurants on this trip, here is a brief summary.

Champagne

- Outside Reims: Le Clos du Mont d'Hor in St. Thierry - modern rooms overlooking a vineyard and winery. A good price (about 90 euros) but a bit impersonal. No A/C. Large bathrooms. Basic breakfast.
- Outside Epernay: Hotel Castel Jeanson in Ay - lovely, fairly traditional room with AC (!) in a beautiful mansion in a quiet town very close to Epernay. Friendly and professional service. Good breakfast. Indoor pool and nice lounge. This was the most expensive hotel we stayed at (we paid 150 euros for a superior room) and I thought it wasn't quite worth the price but I'd stay there again and recommend it to my friends.

Burgundy

- Outside Beaune: Hotel le Parc, Levernois. This is the inexpensive little sister hotel to the Hostellerie de Levernois, with which it shares some grounds. We preferred to spend our money on dinner at the superb restaurant in the Hostellerie, instead of sleeping on our money and I think we made the right choice. Our room was very small (even though we booked a "superior" room ) and we felt that we didn't have a lot of privacy: we were on the ground floor, just down from reception and across from the breakfast room. It was also fairly hot (no AC). However, the room was very clean, comfortably equipped and an excellent value (70 euros in high season).
- Outside Chablis: Auberge de la Beursaudiere, in Nitry: This is a somewhat kitschy but nevertheless charmingly furnished hotel. We booked the only free room (Le Sabotier, one of the least expensive at 75 euros) and thought it was just fine - it was roomier than the Hotel le Parc and had a decent-sized bathroom. There was no AC but the room wasn't hot, despite the high temperatures. The Auberge offered one of the better breakfasts we had during our trip, and the host was very genial and helpful. We'd recommend the Auberge to friends.

Loire:

- Near Sancerre: Le Prieure Saint Agnan, Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire: I want to move into this hotel permanently. This was our favourite on the trip. The host and hostess were very hospitable, our room was spacious and beautiful, with a large, well-equipped bathroom, the grounds were lovely (with an outdoor pool and overlooking the river) and the setting historic. A superb breakfast was served, family-style (either outdoors or in the dining room), where guests had an opportunity to sit together and talk to each other. It felt like being at a country house party organized by French friends with excellent taste, but we also felt like the hotel was large enough, and our hosts discreet enought, that we had privacy when we wanted it. I can't recommend this hotel enough. It was also a superb value (around 80 euros), but note that they don't take credit cards (cash only).

Paris

- Hilton Arc de Triomphe: We were upgraded to a "King Deluxe Plus" because I have Gold status with Hilton, but were unable to get a room on the Executive Floor. The room was comfortably large and very stylishly decorated in a 30s Art Deco style. The Art Deco theme pervades the hotel and is quite well done. We found the service to be quite friendly but the hotel was packed so the staff were spread a bit thin. After nearly two weeks without A/C, we luxuriated in our air-conditioned room. I certainly would stay here again on points (but would be unlikely to pay for a room; our room would have cost about 300 euros or more on the weekend we were there).
frogoutofwater is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2010, 03:57 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,391
Great start. Thanks.

maitaitom is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2010, 05:23 PM
  #3
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 636
Part 2: Mostly memorable meals

I planned ahead by doing some research and making a few dinner reservations at highly recommended restaurants. This isn't something I've done before for a trip, although I do it it all the time in NYC, where going out for dinner is practically a sport. Here is a list of mostly memorable meals


Champagne

- Memorable: La Table Anna in Reims was our first meal in France and it was wonderful. The restaurant is located near the main cathedral but a bit off the beaten tourist path. It doesn't look particularly special, but the relatively short menu was well thought out, the food was excellent, the price was quite reasonable, and the service very personable.

- Not so memorable: Dinner at the Hotel de la Banniere in Laon was one of our few disappointing dinners in France. Laon is a charming town, but rather touristy. Most of the restaurants we saw didn't look appealing so we took a chance on the Hotel de la Banniere, whose restaurant had a somewhat positive review in our Fodor's guide. The food wasn't bad but it wasn't great - e.g., brown-edged lettuce. The service wasn't terribly attentive and the food was overpriced.

- Memorable: Les Vieux Puits in Ay, France. This restaurant was recommended by the hotel and we thought it was quite good. The food was of a much better quality than La Banniere, the menu was a somewhat inventive take on traditional French food, and the service was pleasant. It was not cheap (La Table Anna was a better value) but we enjoyed the experience and thought it worthwhile overall.

- Not so memorable: La Cave a Champagne in Epernay. This is a tiny (about 10 table) restaurant that feels very touristy. The food is traditional and well-executed, but I couldn't help feeling like it was a bit of a "touristy champagne experience factory", albeit one with good quality food at a reasonable price.
frogoutofwater is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2010, 05:56 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 4,804
More, please -----
nukesafe is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 7th, 2010, 06:56 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,919
very enjoyable...
rhkkmk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 10th, 2010, 02:20 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 554
Really enjoying your report...thanks!
elsiejune is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 11th, 2010, 10:02 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 509
Anxiously awaiting your Burgundy restaurants!
skibumette is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:12 PM.