Honfleur! Heard of it?….. Probs not, but believe me you’ll remember it.
To get there, I had to fly on a plane that looked like it was made out of eggcups and pipe cleaners but it was totally worth it and we stayed in 2 hotels while there.
Honfleur is the absolute stereotype of a chic French marina town and comes complete with small dogs and men in blue/white striped tops drinking wine and more moulles mariniere than you’ve ever seen, but the best thing about it? Ferme Saint Simeon.
If you imagine an idyllic French 17th century farmhouse which is 50% country chic and 50% Baroque, this is it. This is not just dreamy. This is sitting in the sunshine, drinking ice cold wine saying, “This is dreamy” dreamy.
Now pay attention class…. In around 1840, the Innkeeper at the time allowed young artists to stay for free in exchange for art for the house… Like who? Oh no big deal… Just Monet and Boudin and a few others.
What’s that? Monet’s actual bedroom you say?!? Mais Oui!
Yes mes amis. I actually slept in his bedroom. The same room that Monet stayed in every time (which I am told was often) that he stayed there.
They have kept the traditional design and decor which is so fitting with the property itself. Although the room is covered in wooden panelling throughout, there are windows all along both sides of the room making it bright and light with the sun flooding the room in the afternoon. Like your own private solarium which also fills the bathroom (which has a jacuzzi).
I had hoped that when I awoke, I would have absorbed some of his artistic talent, though as it turns out my artwork still looks like chicken scratches and stickmen.
Often, I find that the measure of a hotel experience isn’t the obvious but in the detail. It’s the additional room gifts (Slippers and candles), the extra attention, the unexpected service and of course, the bath products. They use Hermes products which I LOVE and I won’t lie to you, I may have applied so much moisturiser that I could have slid down to dinner, but it just smells so good.
The one thing I would mention if you are going to stay is that as the building is old, there is no air conditioning in the main house. Assuming you are a normal person and are happy to sleep with the windows open because the chances of a wasp invasion are slim (basically not like me), I would definitely suggest you do that or you will be hot in the warmer weather.
Are there other rooms? Sure! Though after talking about Monet’s digs, it’s a tough act to follow. Other return artist guests include Boudin, Jongkind, Corot, Courbet, Bazille… (Unless you work at The National, let’s not pretend we know all of these but an impressive alumni for sure.)
They have a fine dining restaurant which is run by chefs, Jacques Maximin, a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, and Sébastien Faramond, Executive Chef. Their focus is Normandy’s finest products.
We started with the White asparagus just grilled, mimosa eggs and herbs with wild garlic & hollandaise sauce and Green asparagus with caviar from “Prunier” house in Périgord….. as delish as it is beautifully plated. We drank summery 2015 Premiere de Figure rosé from Provence with this.. It is basically Summer.
Up next was the Veal chop softly smoked with aromatic herbs from our garden, ketchup, carrot mousseline and cake of braised knuckle of veal. Perfectly cooked and so deliciously rich.
Now then…. I’m not a huge dessert person, but their dessert named “Apple” was a tatin mousse, granny smith preserved and creamy salted caramel butter… All of those things individually are fab, but together wrapped in their presentation…. Seriously fab.
At this point I said that I was so full that I could not eat another bite…. and then they wheeled out the cheese cart and a great selection of French cheeses. Well, I am sure I heard somewhere that the French considered it rude to reject cheese?
It is important to add that the service throughout was EXCEPTIONAL.
The hotel also offers an extensive breakfast buffet, eggs every way and… a puffed apple pancake that will Rock. Your. World. If you have a fear of carbs, look away now (and basically never move to France)
They also have a beautiful bar in which they serve… wait for it… Yes, their own Champagne. I mean, you know you’ve made it as a hotel, when you have your own Champagne.
Or just do what we did and trot outside with your glasses and soak up the beautiful weather and views of the Seine. Amazingly, they never let your glass get to empty and you can sit outside for most of the afternoon just sunbathing and feeling totally and luxuriously content. My guest actually said that this is the “best Rosé she has EVER had”.
Situated in the old outhouse, it has an indoor pool, fitness centre, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and beauty center
They take their treatments pretty seriously here and have clients including a whole list of celebrities who return here during awards season for mini relaxation breaks.
We also stayed a their sister hotel Auberge de la source which is their more relaxed and understated sibling.
This is effortlessly cute… like Hansel & Gretel cute. Far smaller than its sibling hotel but also far more remote and you have to drive a little into the wilderness to find it.
A converted barn that looks like the beginning of every Disney fairytale meadow movie:
They have everything, birds singing, streams…. streaming and they even have a (not yellow) brick road winding up to the woodland barnhouse.
The rooms were smaller than in La Ferme Saint Simeon, but the hotel was far more rustic and so this was fitting.
They also have an all day restaurant where they also serve continental breakfast with meats, cheese and DIY eggs, where…. I won’t lie to you, I served up what can only be described as “risky” eggs.
If sitting inside is not for you, (because the sun is shining and you are a normal human being), then sit outside for some seafood or if it’s a little later, enough cheese to warrant having cows next door (which they do).
This feels very much like you are in a private, secluded country hideaway and is “country relaxation” in the best way.
So, whether you are looking for more “Fabulous Farmhouse” than “Beautiful Barn Conversion”, they have got you well and truly covered.
You may not know Honfleur now, but I guarantee… Once you’ve been, you won’t ever forget it.
La Ferme Saint Simeon – 20, Route Adolphe Marais, 14600 Honfleur – France. +33 2 31 81 78 00
Auberge De La Source – Chemin du Moulin, 14600 Barneville-la-Bertran – France +33 2 31 89 25 02