As I mentioned in my previous post about Normandy, my friend and I decided to overnight in Honfleur, the adorable port city just about an hour north of the D-Day sites and just across the mouth of the Seine from the big industrial port of Le Havre. I chose this partly because of the strategic location, but mostly because I found the cutest little property EVER from the amazing Relais & Chateau group and decided that I had to check it out - I didn't even realize all the history this charming little property had until I arrived!
Hotel la Ferme Sainte Simeon at first glance is an adorable, historic half-timbered building, lovingly restored, that now houses a boutique luxury hotel. But I didn't even realize that the impressionists, like the local Eugene Bodin (whose museum is just down the street) and the famous Claude Monet, not only stayed here frequently, but also even included it in paintings! Wandering around the grounds, you can tell why - it's just a simply lovely property. Today they've kept the artistic spirit alive, with painting courses available from a local artist, and a super calm, relaxing ambiance all around the property. I was lucky enough to actually get Monet's former room, which was a fun perk as it had a huge bathroom and a gorgeous grassy patio with views out over the river. The whole thing has an elegant yet rustic feel, with weathered natural woods and a muted palate. I didn't have too much time to explore, but I did wander through the spa and pool area which was, surprise, gorgeous! The piece de resistance, though, was the breakfast. Calling it a buffet is really rude, but technically I suppose it was one, but a buffet as only the French can do. Table after table was artistically piled with the BEST fresh products from the area. Creamy local cheeses, locally produced meats, and obviously spectacularly delicious pastries and fresh breads of all sorts. Homemade jams & jellies of several flavors, and even homemade museli, if I'm not mis-remembering. OH! And the fruit. Whole options and freshly cut options, again, all fresh and local, and at the height of ripeness. I'm sure there were eggs made to order if you wanted them, but I had piled my plate so high with the aforementioned delicacies that I couldn't possibly be bothered with anything else. Believe me, the breakfast (which could provide a packed picnic lunch too, honestly) alone is worth the visit, though I didn't take any photographic evidence - but hopefully these photos of the rest of the hotel will help convince you to consider it for a night (or two!):
While researching dinner opportunities near la Ferme (though their restaurant is likely plenty delicious, if that breakfast is any indication), I found a highly recommended restaurant which turned out to belong to their sister property - Auberge de la Source. This little hotel is a bit more remote, located about 10 minutes outside Honfleur, and it feels much more like you're on a farm, just because of the extremely private situation. Again, the adorable half-timbered architecture, and lovely grounds immaculately landscaped. I begged for a little tour of any open rooms and was really pleasantly surprised. It is a bit more relaxed and rustic than the more refined Ferme Sainte Simeon, and generally a bit more affordable too, but still really lovely. The restaurant, by the way, is both charming and DELICIOUS. Local products again, of course, and elegant but not fussy service. Most of my pics were taken with my cell phone vertically, which doesn't work so well here, but hopefully they help you get an idea of an alternate excellent choice for exploring Normandy:
Now, if you're a WWII buff and really ONLY care about seeing the landing sites while in Normandy (but see my last post to see why I think that's not a great idea), there is another amazing Relais & Chateaux property out in the country about 20 minutes south of Bayeux which I would highly recommend to anyone with a good budget. The Chateau d'Audrieu is an actual 18th century mini-chateau and is supposed to be FABULOUS. I haven't been yet, but if you wanted some luxury before/after your long day touring emotionally stirring sights, that's the spot. If your budget is more modest, there are a bunch of cute boutique options right in Bayeux. My favorite was probably the Hotel d'Argouges, another historic home with a quaint garden, but it is located maybe a 10-15 minute walk from the dead center of town (where you find both the cathedral and tapestry museum). Right in the center of town you have the historically-significant Churchill Hotel, or the Hotel Lion d'Or, but both of those aren't quite as special - certainly not luxurious, but right in the heart of things. Here are a few pics of the hotels in Bayeux, just to give you an idea (most of these are at the Churchill where I was allowed to run around exploring while they were turning rooms over - the other two were full!):
Hopefully this post helps you decide where you should spend your night(s) while exploring Normandy. This doesn't mention any options in Rouen, which would also be a great home base for a night or two, but as soon as I head back to the area I'll rectify that!