Take to the treetops
Stay at La Chouette Cabane (chouettecabane.fr, cabins from €115) – a collection of three luxurious treehouses (and a gypsy caravan) between Rennes and Angers. Dinner and breakfast is served in a hamper lifted up the shady deck via a pulley. The kids, meanwhile, will love petting and feeding animals on the farm.
Walk on the wild side
Stop just south of Le Mans and stay the night at the magical Zoo La Flèche (safari-lodge.fr, from €129 per person) where nine comfortable safari lodges allow visitors to admire the lemurs, arctic wolves, polar bears and grizzly bears through the lodge’s large windows that look directly into the animals’ enclosures.
Stay at a castle
A warm welcome awaits at Château des Briottières (briottieres.com, doubles from €150) just north of Angers where exuberant aristocrat François de Valbray and his wife Hedwige welcome guests to their ancestral pile. Sip aperitifs in the antique-stuffed salons, wander the rambling walled gardens and parkland and swim in the dainty pool before continuing south (if you can tear yourself away).
Le Mans may be synonymous with speed, but one can enjoy a lazy break at the Hotel de France (lhoteldefrance.fr, doubles from €85), a luxurious art-deco hotel that celebrates Le Mans’ history of motoring. Leave time to explore the medieval streets of Le Mans’ old town, before getting back on the road.
Bed down like a hobbit
Try a quirky glamping experience en route south with a stop at the Terragora Lodges (terragora-lodges.com, cabins from €60) in the Western Loire. Their kooky cabins include chrysalis-shaped treehouses as well as a Hobbit-like burrow. It’s also a stone’s throw from France’s most unusual theme park – Le Puy du Fou (puydufou.com), where some 1000 costumed actors re-enact dramatic moments from history.
Distract the kids
Parents will love the stylish Manoir du Moulin (manoirdumoulin.com, doubles from €135), which goes all out to make families welcome. Its garden has a trampoline and play equipment for the kids, and deckchairs under willow trees for the adults. The five-room B&B is a great half-way stop between the northern ferry ports and the Dordogne.
Foodies pass through Burgundy at their peril; France’s most gastronomic region has copious reasons to stop, not least for a night at La Cimentelle (sawdays.co.uk/france/burgundy/yonne/la-cimentelle, doubles from €95), where owners Nathalie and Stéphane serve gourmet dinners using the most delectable local produce and wines.
Stop at the farm
Just try and tear yourself away after a night at Le Ferme de Marie-Eugenie (bnb.lafermedemarieeugenie.fr, doubles from €135) where hostess with the mostess Marie-Eugenie will treat you to a gourmet dinner before you retire to one of her four inviting bedrooms. It’s all set in the idyllic farmhouse once owned by her grandmother, and makes the perfect stop between Dijon and Lyon.
Get a kick from Champagne
Motor on down through the Champagne region and take a detour at Troyes to discover some lesser-known champagne producers of the Aube department and make a stop in the village of Les Riceys, known for its unusual rosé wine. Stay at Hotel Le Marius (hotel-le-marius.com, doubles from €63) for its cavernous restaurant and charming little bar.
Pause for a pamper
Le Manoir de Surville (manoirdesurville.com, doubles from €180) is a chic new B&B in Normandy south of Rouen. Its spa offers a sauna and hammam and treatments using Cinq Mondes products, while its beautifully decorated rooms and five-acre gardens are the perfect place to chill out. Chef Jordan Fouchet’s fresh and flavoursome menus use the best local produce.
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