It has all the makings of a fairy tale. Storybook castles. Towers, flying buttresses and flawless gardens. Fertile fields, graceful rivers and idyllic biking routes. Exquisite treats at patisseries and gourmet meals. The Loire Valley—a family getaway that ends with "happily ever after."
Backroads has long embraced the philosophy that, after a day spent biking or hiking in off-the-beaten-path corners of a new and beautiful region of the world, an outstanding meal is the perfect way to immerse ourselves even further in the local cuisine and culture. For this reason, our guests in Europe and the United States enjoy exquisite meals at over 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, including California's Madrona Manor, Italy's Ristorante Villa Crespi, Spain's Marqués de Riscal and France's Auberge de l'Ill.
In a country as magnificent as France, where class and style are as prevalent as the grapes in the endless vineyards, selecting our favorite Backroads hotels is a nearly impossible task. But we’ve done our best! Here are seven exceptional properties visited on Backroads trips in this remarkable country. To stay at any of these incredible accommodations is to immediately recognize that you’ve arrived somewhere truly special. Whether enjoying a Michelin-starred meal, vistas of imposing mountain peaks or the scent of immaculate gardens, each of these hotels promises a complete sensory tableau.
There are days when you might not appreciate your home as much as you once did. Waking up in the same place every day, you become so familiar with the light of the sunrise, the sunset, and what the sky looks like throughout the seasons. You even know for a fact when it will rain, or when birds will start to sing in the springtime. In our busy lives, it can be easy to take these things for granted.
Fall in Provence is a magical time. The weather is usually crisp and clear due to the mistral winds blowing hard from the northwest. The usually silver-green hills turn a vibrant reddish orange and the air smells of smoky olives as farmers burn the cuttings pruned from their crops.
In French, 'castles' translates to 'châteaux' and throughout the country there are many châteaux that embody the extravagance of French nobility from centuries past. The epicenter of this 16th to 18th-century lifestyle was the Loire Valley, located two hours southwest of Paris and the perfect setting for royal summer escapades.
Many of our trips have a Michelin-starred restaurant (or two!) as part of their program. Speaking just for France, we work with more than 20 starred restaurants! While it can take more than a year to get a seat at one of these prestigious tables, Backroads guarantees that you'll get to enjoy this incredible cuisine. We work hard to create a privileged partnership with these restaurants and have a unique experience at their properties. More than just a dinner, a Michelin-starred meal is a moment and a souvenir that stays in your mind for years!
Provence rhymes with vacances ("vacations" in French). When I was a child, my family was renting every summer a mas (Provençal farm) in the Luberon. So when I came back to Provence years later with the mission of designing a new trip for Backroads, all my childhood memories came back to me!
I don't think that I fully understood Vincent van Gogh's paintings until I stood in an olive grove in St-Rémy de Provence, France. This particular olive grove sits outside the walls of St. Paul de Mausole, a 12th-century Augustine monastery that became a psychiatric hospital in the 1800s...
I'm not writing any new material by saying that Paris is a magical place. The amount of history, creativity, fine art and architecture in this ever-gray city is astonishing. In fact, deciding what to do with only 24 hours in such a culturally rich place can be overwhelming. Here's my recommendation for a day well spent in the City of Love.