Channel hops to make your heart leap

Give yourself a break and skip over to France for a night. Ian McCurrach chooses some great hotels and restaurants within easy reach
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The Independent Travel

1 La Matelote, Boulogne-sur-Mer

1 La Matelote, Boulogne-sur-Mer

Boulogne is back. Frequently overlooked, there are many fine reasons for visiting this historic fishing port. One of them is the Hotel and Restaurant de La Matelote. Set within two pretty 1930s sea-facing town houses, there are 29 traditionally decorated and spacious rooms. The top attraction, though, is the first-class one-star Michelin-rated restaurant. The specialities of chef Tony Lestienne include roasted langoustine with saffron sauce, grilled duckling fillet with rosemary, apricot chutney and roast peach and roast turbot steak with thyme butter. A la carte will set you back around €60 (£44) per head for three courses without wine. Set menus range from €25-71. Boulogne offers a wealth of good speciality food shops and there is also an excellent cave. Le Chais, 49 Rue des Ponts has some 50,000 quality bottles for sale in it cellars underneath the railway arches.

Restaurant and Hotel de La Matelote (00 33 321 30 33 33 hotel; 00 33 321 83 29 24 restaurant; www.la-matelote.com), 70-80 Boulevard Sainte-Beuve, 62200 Boulogne-sur-Mer. Double rooms from €95 per night room-only. Continental breakfast costs €11 per person.

2 Hermitage, Lille

Catch up on some culture at the end of Lille 2004 and spend a night at the city's newest swanky four-star, the Hermitage Gantois Hotel on Rue de Paris. Less than 10 minutes' walk from Vieux Lille, this listed building dates from 1463 and was originally a hospice founded by wealthy benefactor, Jean de la Cambe, to house the sick. Just reopened, the property has undergone two years of renovation and kept the original chapel, interior courtyards, library and old infirmary. Don't miss the small museum of medieval medical instruments. The bedrooms combine classical and contemporary design. Easily explored on foot, Vieux Lille offers unbeatable wining and dining. Splash out at eateries such as A L'Huitrière, which specialises in oysters, lobster and turbot roasted in beer and served with chicory. A mosaic-fronted Art Deco gem, the restaurant has held a Michelin star since 1932. It is on Rue des Chats-Bossus - the street of the hump-backed cats.

Hotel Hermitage Gantois (00 33 320 85 3030; www.hotelhermitagegantois.com), 224 rue de Paris, 59000 Lille. Doubles from €190 (£138) per night room-only. Continental breakfast costs €18 per person. A L'Huitrière (00 33 320 55 43 41; www.huitriere.fr). Set menus from €66. A la carte from approx €80 per person.

3 Château de Montreuil

This charming family-run country house hotel, secluded behind old ramparts in the village of Montreuil-sur-Mer (not on the coast), is one of the finest in the Pas-de-Calais region. Hosts Christian and Lindsay Germain make sure guests are given a warm welcome and made to feel at home. Lindsay is responsible for the English-style landscaped gardens while Christian, the Michelin-starred chef, creates feasts in the elegant lemon-yellow restaurant. The 16 bedrooms retain original features and are spacious and well decorated. The menu changes daily as Christian uses fresh local produce, including garden vegetables and herbs. Typical dishes include foie gras, langoustine ravioli, fresh fish, and pear tart. Guests have the option of a three-course menu or seven-course tasting menu. To burn some of it off, take a dip in the pool or go sand-yachting or windsurfing at nearby Le Touquet.

Château de Montreuil (00 33 321 81 53 04; www.chateaudemontreuil.com), 4 chaussée des Capucins, 62170 Montreuil-sur-Mer. Doubles from €180 (£131) per night room-only. Three-course dinner from €58, breakfast €15 per person. Dinner, b&b from €330 for two people.

4 Chartreuse du Val St-Esprit, Béthune

Live it up at this former 18th-century monastery set within extensive grounds, just five miles from Béthune and around an hour's drive from Calais. Known locally for its high level of service and sophisticated cuisine, the monastery has been imaginatively converted to four-star luxury, with 63 rooms retaining many original features. There are three restaurants, offering a range of cuisines. La Chartreuse is the formal gastronomic restaurant in the main building, La Distillerie, in the old farm, serves regional dishes and La Brasserie La Vasco, serves modern European cuisine. A typical menu might include dishes such as duck goose liver escalope and organic local farm chicken roasted with truffles. If guests are not satisfied with a lazy stroll around the large wooded park, they can practise their backhand on the tennis court. Slightly further afield are golf and France's first artificial ski slope. A trip to nearby Arras is recommended for its two landmarksquares and fine art museum.

La Chartreuse du Val St-Esprit (00 33 321 62 80 00; www.lachartreuse.com), 1 rue des Fouquieres, 62199 Gosnay. Doubles from €98 (£71) room-only. Continental breakfast costs €12. Dinner from around €48 for three courses excluding wine.

5 Le Clos Du Moulin, Vron

Old tapestries and ancient beams are the theme at Le Clos du Moulin. Tucked away in the grounds of an ancient 17th-century high-walled estate, the restaurant and hotel are housed within the manor house and outbuildings, converted by the owner, Joseph Journel, a retired architect. There are 15 spacious rooms with views over the countryside. They are all unique and tastefully furnished. For a treat, opt for one of the sumptuous suites. The culinary cognoscenti travel from far and wide to eat in the Countess' Stables. The former stable building, which dates from the 16th century, has many antiques. Manuel Almude, the chef, uses fresh seasonal ingredients so the menu frequently changes. Last week he served up delicious sea bass and melt-in-your mouth fillets of beef with wild mushrooms. Set menus range from €29 (£21) upwards. One of the most popular à la carte starters is the seafood platter, which costs €25 per person.

There are plenty of activities on offer in the surrounding area, including golf and fishing.

Hostellerie Le Clos du Moulin (00 33 322 29 60 60; www.le-clos-du-moulin.com), 1 rue du Marechal Leclerc, 80120 Vron. Doubles from €90 on a room-only basis. Continental breakfast €8 per person.

6 Le Château de Ligny

It's worth going that extra kilometre to discover the rural and peaceful charms of the Château de Ligny. This historic Loire-style chateau, which dates from the 12th century, has an excellent Michelin-star restaurant, known for its innovative and traditional cuisine. Rest your head and take your pick from the 26 individually decorated bedrooms and suites. The chefs, Gerard Fillaire and Raymond Brochard, are tipped to be the next big thing in French cuisine so it's worth the trip to sample their fare. The three-course set menu, which costs €48 (£35), includes dishes such as duck foie gras flan with port sauce and panache of saint pierre and plaice with ratatouille and tagliatelle in a lobster sauce. A la carte dishes start at €28. Those with a sweet tooth will have a field day at Afchain, Zi de Cantimpre, the nearby Betises bonbon factory. Art lovers make for the Matisse Museum, in the beautiful Palais Henelon in Cateau-Cambresis, which houses the third largest collection of his work.

Château de Ligny (00 33 327 85 25 84; www.chateau-de-ligny.fr), 2 rue Pierre Curie, 59191 Ligny-en-Cambresis. Doubles from €120 room-only. Continental breakfast costs €15.

7 't Heerenhuys, Boeschepe

This tall red-brick mansion, which dates from 1892, was once home to a hop trader. Today it is lovingly run as a bed and breakfast by Roger and Beatrice Maerten. The bright and airy public rooms, decorated with pictures, antique porcelain and hand-painted friezes, are a reflection of Beatrice's artistic talents. A central staircase leads up to the four bedrooms, in which there are antiques that have been handed down through the generations. All have large en suite shower rooms. Beatrice is an excellent cook and if you book ahead she will serve Flemish fare such as beef or chicken casserole made with beer and freshly picked vegetables. Her breakfast includes Flemish flatbread, Belgian pastries, home-made yoghurt and jam. The surroundings and the village are quintessentially Flemish and the small traditional cafés are not to be missed. There are plenty of good walking routes - Beatrice will provide you with maps and point you in the right direction. Belgium is only 2km away.

`t Heerenhuys, Roger & Beatrice Maerten (00 33 328 49 45 73; www.boeschepe.com), 340 rue de la Gare, 59299 Boeschepe. Doubles from €60 (£44) per night, for b&b. Three-course dinner with wine costs €25-30 per person.

8 La Ferme de Beaupré

It may have only one guest bedroom, but La Ferme de Beaupré is a gem. Lut and Jean-Michel are passionate about their small organic dairy farm and welcome guests with enthusiasm. A tree-lined driveway takes you to the front door of this farmhouse, which is long, white and rectangular, topped off with a bright red roof. Everything is immaculate - from the garden bursting with clipped box hedges, peonies, lupins, roses and cherries, to the peaceful double aspect bedroom with its taupe colours and natural fabrics. Expect lots of fluffy white towels in the en suite bathroom. Guests have sole use of the living room. Lut cooks using organic home-grown produce and serves dishes such as quiche with salmon and vegetables followed by home-bred organic chicken roasted with vegetables.

Lut & Jean-Michel Louf-Degrauwe, La Ferme de Beaupré (00 33 321 35 12 44; lut.degrauwe@nordnet.fr), 62890 Bonningues les Ardres. Double room from €49 (£36) per night, for bed and breakfast. A three-course dinner with wine costs €18 per person.

9 Château de La Motte, Liessies

The Château de La Motte has been cared for by the same family for more than 60 years and its peaceful setting in the Avesnois area provides the perfect getaway from stressful town and city life. There are nine traditionally decorated guest rooms overlooking the surrounding leafy park. The restaurant offers traditional cuisine and gastronomic specialties, with set menus to suit all tastes and budgets, from the €19 (£14) lunch to the €68 "Pleasure" menu, which includes a choice of starters and mains such as Normandy oysters, hot slices of foie gras, and venison with figs. The extensive à la carte menu includes a choice of fish, meat and game dishes from €16 and changes regularly according to season. Feeling active? Guests can borrow mountain bikes and head off to the surrounding forests and countryside. The picturesque village of Sars-Poteries is 6kms away.

Hotel Restaurant Château de la Motte (00 33 327 61 81 94; www.chateaudelamotte.fr), 59740 Liessies. Doubles from €63. Continental breakfast costs €7.50. A "Gastronomic Evening" dinner, bed and breakfast package costs from €147 for two people.

10 Hôtel Atlantic, Wimereux

Think real French seaside, think Wimereux. At the heart of the Côte d'Opale, this breezy resort with its great stretch of sand is perfect for outdoor pursuits such as coastal walks, water sports, horse-riding and golf. The Hotel Atlantic has a commanding position right on the seafront and houses the excellent gourmet restaurant La Liégeoise, where Alain Delpierre whisks up culinary treats. Seafood features highly and his signature dishes include cassolette of shellfish and flash fried red mullet, vegetable purée with Guérande salt butter, panache of turbot and sole, and fillet of beef with shallots in a vinegar sauce. Set menus start at €32 (£23). A la carte starters cost from €16 and there is a wide range of fish and meat dishes, from €23.

Hôtel Atlantic (00 33 321 32 41 01; www.atlantic-delpierre.com), Digue de Mer, 62930 Wimereux. Doubles from €84 per person, half-board.

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