HOME > Chowhound > France >


Eating and Sleeping outside of Paris (very long)

Whenever possible, my husband and I stay in chambre d’hotes, the French version of a B&B. Our favorites offer an evening meal, a table d'hote, usually communal, where you will sample local specialties and meet guests from around the world but almost never from the U.S.. Here are some chambre d'hotes and small hotels that we have enjoyed in the last few years.

Beaujolais: Poilly le Châtel in Denisé. Sylvaine and Bruno Chevalier are generous and astute hosts, winemakers and cooks. Our room opening onto the courtyard was huge and comfortable, breakfasts were copious and interesting, dinners were superb. Well situated for crawling the Beaujolais vineyards. They also have a cool dog. http://www.pouillylechatel.com/page_c...

Challonaise: Maison Neipce in Sennecey le Grand. John and Huguette, Belgians, have renovated the 18C house originally built by the “inventor” of photography. Huge, comfortable and breezy in summer rooms. Generous breakfasts and dinners. John cooks, Huguette joins the table at dinner. Another cool dog. http://www.maisonniepce.com/index.html

Near Beaune: Maison Chaudenay in Chagny. New Zealanders Bruce Leonard and his wife offer a superb apartment, fully equipped for any kind of cooking. Bruce drives to the next village to get the best croissants each morning and leaves them at your door by 8am. Very generous hosts and comfortable, convenient room. Great for exploring Beaune and the Cote d’Or, Fromagerie Gaudry, Cassisarium et al. http://www.maisonchaudenay.com/

In heart of Dijon: Maison Perrichet This (Bénigne le Compasseur) had it all: a hundred steps from the Place de la Liberation, 15 minutes from Les Halles and or a handful of excellent restaurants. Private patio with “living wall” was a cool place to enjoy August lunches. Loved this place! M. Perrichet was a delightful and helpful host. http://luxuryflatindijon.fr/

The Jura: The Relais des Abbesses located on the cliff at Chateau Chalon is a perfect place to chase the food and wines of the Jura. Excellent restaurants at Arbois but also an accomplished table d’hote at the Relais. Large comfortable rooms. Warm welcome. http://www.chambres-hotes-jura.com/

The Bugey: The Chambres des Bousseron is a lovely riverside home of the Rivoires. Huge, comfortable rooms, generous hosts. Fine breakfast. A separate garden house provides a complete kitchen and dining area should you want to prepare a picnic or meal. Short drive to Cerdon, the home of the celebrated Bugey de Cerdon. Bring home a case of this delightful and hard to find wine. Also visit the copper factory museum in Cerdon. http://arivoire.free.fr/

The Loire: Moulon du Port on the Cher, minutes from Chenonceau. Lovely rooms on the river. Generous breakfast and professional dinner. Most satisfactory, but lacked the charm we often find. http://www.lemoulinduport.com/bed-and...

Cosne sur Loire: Le Prieuré. Oh, my! This place has my heart. Such lovely hosts, such lovely rooms. Enormous breakfast. How I wished they served dinner…but they are only 15 minutes from Le Chat. Can’t ask for more than that, can you. Just across the river from Sancerre vines. http://prieuresaintagnan.blogspot.com/ .

Roannaise: La Colline du Colombier. This property is a second tier/country Troisgros venture. There are three apartments plopped in the fields and garden. Complete kitchen in each, full breakfast materials on hand and delivered each evening for the next morning. The Grand Couvert serves both lunch and dinner. Excellent! Or drive into Roanne to either of the other Troisgros dining rooms. Le Central is very good and very inexpensive. The Colline is not cheap, but it is not expensive considering the quality and generosity of the hospitality. http://www.troisgros.fr/colline.php

Ardeche: Hotel Faurie in St. Agreve. This is another Oh, my! After a curvwinding ride into the mountains from Valence, you find yourself at this tiny hotel in the village of St. Agreve. Where else could you have a chef who walked away from a 2-star kitchen cook for just for you? There are only 4 bedrooms now in this hotel that used to belong to Phillipe Bouissou’s grandfather. Phillipe cooks for a maximum of 8 people at night. On our very early spring visit, he cooked for us alone! 85€ for an achingly huge and perfect dinner. Equally generous breakfast sends you on your way. I love this place! http://www.hotelfaurie.fr/

Languedoc: Auberge du Cedre is well known to many Chows. Amazing list of local wines. Check carefully what you are booking as some rooms do not have private baths. We particularly like the garden room. Adequate pension meals during the week, and full menu on weekends. http://www.auberge-du-cedre.com/

Le Mimosa in Saint Guiraud. This comes with a caveat or at least a question. When we last visited, July 2010, David told us that they were closing at the end of the season after 27 years. He promised to advise us of the finality of it, but we haven’t heard from him. The website also says that they are closed ‘for the winter’. So we will watch and see. In the past, we have loved staying in their tiny hotel in the nearby village of St. Saturnin and the well crafted dinners at the restaurant in St. Guiraud. Bridget and her daughter cook; David is very knowledgeable about all of the local wines. He does brilliant pairings. Note: During season, he features local wines; off season, he tells us he sells more wines from other areas because locals want something different. We’ve had to ask for the local list in the very early spring. http://www.lemimosa.blogspot.com/

Biarritz: Nere Chocoa. A very comfortable house in central Biarritz, between the gare and beach. We stayed here to make a run over the border to restaurant Etchebari. Large, comfortable room, lovely hosts, generous breakfasts. http://www.nerechocoa.com/

Bretagne: Chateau Mont Dol. is central for visiting Cancale and Mont St. Michel. Several comfortable rooms and excellent dinner . The chef/owner used to be the Chef at the French Embassy in London. Dinner for four was set before a roaring fire in the drawing room. Most enjoyable. http://www.chateaumontdol.com/accueil...

Of course, if you want the full treatment, few guest houses compare with Roellinger’s
Les Rimains. Book the room “Badianne” for its windows on the sea and fireplace. Sumptuous breakfast in your room. Find lunch or dinner at le restaurant Le Coquillage. http://maisons-de-bricourt.com/les-Ma...

On the south coast, Le Moulin de Rosmadec in Pont Aven. In a village that is almost too pretty, Le Moulin provides very comfortable riverside rooms (with guaranteed private parking, no small perk in such a destination village.) Choices of the formal Moulin restaurant, the informal Sur le Pont, or many village options. This was a sleeper. We were sure that we would hate the touristy atmosphere, but the natural beauty, fun shops, fabulous museum and very good food choices made us love this place. http://www.moulinderosmadec.com/accue...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Wonderful report. The entirety, including every and and but and every punctuation, goes into my archive. Merci encore.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      I hope this is only a start that we can all add to. Please.

      1. re: mangeur

        Oh I see.
        My fave ferme-auberge b&bs are:

        Mas de la Madeleine in Largentière. The owner keeps sheep and ducks and has a potager and finds time to manage 5, 6 lovely rooms. Dinner menu 26 euro. All the ingredients come from the farm.

        Basque country:
        Olhabidea, outside the listed beautiful village of Sare.
        Has only about 3, 4 rooms. Reserve long time in advance.
        Lunch menu is around 35 euro, no choice, but everything we have tasted has not been good, has been great. The auberge invites the guests to join in a great game: The guests can choose not to be told what the dishes are and can guess after tasting. We loved the game and did quite well.

        Northern Brittany:
        Ferme de la Porte, by the river Rance, in Saint Jouan des Guerets, between St Malo and Dinan. The first time we arrived, on a bitter cold afternoon, a whole pig was being roasted in the big fireplace in the dining room. Have been hooked every since. Again the meat is from the farm. The veg is from nearby associate farms.

    2. In four years of chowhounding, l have only saved five threads to my profile, this makes number six, WOW

      1. I'll be saving your report, too! I've also been a happy boarder of the Rivoires (during the Ambronay festival) and a charmed visitor to Pont Aven.

        1. I am adding Parigi's good recs from a recent related thread:

          "Bourgogne: (Puisaye) La Ferme des Perriaux, actually quite near chez Soup, is a nice ferme-auberge-b&b. I think the same family also runs the wonderful Auberge de la Gare in St Fargeau. Nothing sophisticated. You know ferme-auberges. Just extremely fresh food.

          Another nice ferme-auberge is Le Vieux Chateau in Oulon, near Prémery, which is more or less between Beaune and Cosne. It has a very nice b&b suite. 03 8668 1829. Mme Fayolle

          Don't confuse this with the quite basic b&b across the courtyard managed by Mme Fayolle's daughter.
          It also has good food, but food-wise I like Ferme de la Gare in St Fargeau best.
          Don't forget to say coucou to Soup."

          One from Laidback re Avallon: "Roughly ½ way between Beaune and Cosne is Avallon, a picturesque town on its own, with the Moulin des Ruats just south of there in a lovely setting spanning a trout stream. The rooms are rather plain but the common areas and grounds are very nice and the owner/chef has the nicest gourmet restaurant in the area. We enjoyed a 2 night stay there between Auxerre and Autun."

          And from Gman re Charolles: "...we had a fantastic meal in December at Frederic Doucet at the Hotel de la Poste... I think it may have been the best meal of my life in fact. Had some kind of degustation menu which was around 60 euros. Seems to change often. Mine was St. jacques two ways, then a bar dish, and then St. Pierre with a surprising mixture of pinapple and potiron,.then a filet charollais in bordelaise, a huge cheese cart, terrific desserts and mignardises. The amuses were quite good too. We were snowed in and spent the night as well and found it to be very comfortable."

          In the purported words of Oliver Twist, "More, please."

          5 Replies
          1. re: mangeur

            Quoting verbatim I add Pti's "favorite restaurant in the whole Western world, Au Lion d'Or in Arcins (Médoc)".

            1. re: Parigi

              Thanks dear you saved me from writing a post :-)

              1. re: Ptipois

                Can we have a little more from you, Sweets? ;-)

            2. re: mangeur

              The "Nid à Bibi", http://www.lenidabibi.com/index.html, is a delightful place in a splendid, bucolic setting in the Ain department, an easy drive to Bourg en Bresse. Bibi is an excellent cook, so in addition to the splendid breakfast, we requested a dinner one of our nights there. Only 5 rooms, but a large place with gardens. You are also not too far from Vonnas, if you care to dine with the master chef of the area, Georges Blanc.

            3. Well, this is just a fantastic thread! I am copying and pasting it so I can have it for "future reference." Milles mercis!

              1. Bless you. Your post and the other replies anticipate an inquiry that I'd been planning to post seeking suggestions for B&Bs/ Tables d'hotes in the Rhone Valley and/or northern portions of Provence for a trip planned next spring (although you've of course covered other areas too).

                NB, we stayed at the Moulin to Pont in St George Sur Cher a few years ago and really liked it. Agreed that it may not be "charming," but the welcome was very warm, the food wonderful, and he rooms clean & spacious.

                1. "chambre d’hotes, the French version of a B&B. Our favorites offer an evening meal, a table d'hote, usually communal, where you will sample local specialties and meet guests from around the world but almost never from the U.S."

                  How true. I never see fellow Americans in any of the ferme-auberges I had cited. Once there was a honeymooning couple from Britain at breakfast. The bride sat frozen in front of the fabulous spread including homemade breads and jams. Finally looking more and more annoyed, she wondered aloud when she would be given a cup for the coffee, not knowing that in the French campagne "etiquette", the bowl in front of her was for the coffee.

                  1. Mangeur, what a useful thread. Although we usually stay in small family run countryside hotels with restaurants, we do also enjoy chambres d’hôtes, and table d’hôtes, for the reasons that you and Parigi note. (And we want to try some of Parigi’s ferme-auberges — we’ve stayed in some in Italy, but not in France).

                    Here’s a list of some of our favorite chambre d’hôtes:

                    Château de Messey (Ozenay, near Tournus, in the Saône-et-Loire, Bourgogne). This chambre d’hôtes offers a fun and lively table d’hôtes (30 Euros pp plus 8 or 10 Euros for wine) and a nice swimming pool on an ancient estate that produces, bien sur, its own wine. (We also enjoyed a nice dinner on the terrace of the stylish Le Saint Martin, run by two Swiss fellows, a 10-15 minute drive from the chateau, in Chapaize.) http://www.demessey.com/EN/chateau.htm

                    Hotel Villa Rosa (Trois Epis, near Colmar, in the Haut-Rhin). Talk about lively — at this chambre d’hôtes, the proprietor, Anne-Rose, is surprisingly outgoing, and may address the assembled guests (in French) during dinner. (25 Euros pp.) The setting is an old family home in the hills above Colmar. http://www.villarosa.fr/en/country-ho...

                    La Vallombreuse (Menthon-St.-Bernard, near Annecy, in the Haute Savoie). This dramatic chambre d’hôtes in an old country mansion (decorated with style and class) sits directly below an even more dramatic castle on lake Annecy. No table d’hôte, but there’s a very nice “mountain” breakfast (with lots of cheeses and meats, etc.), and there are a few good nearby dining options. http://la-vallombreuse.com/chambre-ho...

                    La Croix d’Etain (Grez Neuville, aside the river Mayenne, near Angers, in the Maine et Loire). This is a beautiful and quiet little chambre d’hôtes estate run by a completely delightful older couple (we finally just had the demi of local dessert wine that he pressed into our hands as we sadly departed). No table d’hôte, but a very fine breakfast making use of their own raspberries and other fruits. For nearby dining we enjoyed Auberge de la Diligence (solid country cuisine and service), in Loire; and Chateau de Noirieux (haute cuisine), in Briollay. http://anjou-et-loire.com/croix/croip...

                    Les Logis de St.-Sernin, 12 rue de St.-Bernard, Toulouse. This is a delightful family-run four-room chambre d’hôtes, headed very pleasantly by Sylviane Tatin. The large variety of house-made preserves was a special treat. The place is perfectly located for strolling around the city, and the rooms are generous, bright, and very comfortable. http://www.dormiratoulouse.net/

                    Domaine de Beausejour (Panzoult, just outside Chinon, in the Indre-et-Loire). This elegant chambre d’hôtes (with a pool) is located in the vineyards and produces its own wine. Another very nice breakfast. For nearby dining (about 5 minutes away by car, in Chinon), we enjoyed Hostellerie Gargantua (in a 15th century building), and, especially, Restaurant Les Annees 30. http://www.domainedebeausejour.com/en...

                    Villa Fol Avril (Moutiers au Perche, near Mortagne-au-Perche, Alencon, Nogent-le-Rotrou, in the Oren (southern Normandy)). OK, I’ll admit, this is not really a chambre d’hôtes, but a beautiful and classy country inn with a small dining room that’s open a few nights a week. But it’s so “off the track” that I want to mention it. The “Villa” is run by a nice young couple, in a hamlet in the little-traveled but beautiful Perche region, about two hours west of Paris. http://villafolavril.fr/index.htm

                    Hotel les deux Ponts (Pierre-Perthuis, near Vezelay, in the Yonne, Bourgogne). Again, this is not really a chambre d’hôtes, but a small hotel — and yet I just want to add it. It’s run by a young couple with a two children — he is the Chef; she, originally from the Netherlands, runs the small hotel — the only business enterprise we could discern in this little hamlet. The rooms have a clean and rather Spartan/ somewhat Scandinavian feel, but we so enjoyed a two day visit here with another family, and it’s a nice option instead of staying in nearby touristy Vezelay, and so it’s another that I want to sneak in . . . . http://lesdeuxponts.free.fr/index.htm

                    And these last two make me think: Maybe we should start a separate thread about “favorite small family-run countryside hotels with good restaurants”? We so enjoy walking down to dinner from a nice countryside hotel room. We’ve found a few such places recommended on this forum, and have a few more to suggest, as I assume others do as well. Like, for example, Hotel Taillard, in Goumois, on the Swiss border, in the Franche-Compté/ Doubs . . . .

                    -- Jake

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Jake Dear

                      Wow! Thanks for these addresses. And, yes, small hotels definitely belong to this genre, eg Moulin de Rosmadec, Hotel Faurie, La Colline, Les Rimains. Would they/we be better served in another thread?

                      1. re: Jake Dear

                        This thread just gets better. Merci Dear.

                        "La Vallombreuse (Menthon-St.-Bernard, near Annecy"

                        I have passed - actually hiked - by this lovely b&b on my way to the Ferme de Charbonnière for its tartiflette and its own reblochon.
                        If you "book" a tartiflette ahead of time, you arrive finding that a farm-fresh reblochon has been dripping for hours on lardon, onion and potato, all from the farm.
                        Better fast 3 days before and 3 days afterward, and hike alot to and from the farm. The stunning setting there helps...
                        The farm people are, well, mountain people. They are truly very nice but are not into urbane niceties. Don't be put off. And once the food is served, you are ready to forgive Attila the Hun.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Mangeur: ("Would [coverage of small countryside hotel/restauarants] . . . be better served in another thread?") Well, to me, and as you suggest, the idea/ mood/character of typical "chambre d’hôtes/table d’hôtes" often is so dictinct from even a small family-run hotel-restaurant, that I do think a separate thread on that topic would be useful.

                            Parigi (and DCM): "Ferme de Charbonnière" -- We tried and failed to go there on our last trip to Menthon-St.-Bernard (Fall of 2007) -- and now we are all the more determined to make it back there for what sounds like excellent tartiflette. -- Jake

                            1. re: Jake Dear

                              We the L'Ami Jean gang should all go on a school picnic weekend to Annecy next time. That tartiflette is calling our names…

                              1. re: Parigi

                                One of my dogs many years back was called 'tartiflette', l am in.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  "That tartiflette is calling our names": We hear it, too; let's do it. (And when I have time I may start that separate thread, unless someone else wants to do that . . . .) -- Jake

                                  1. re: Jake Dear

                                    Many diners buy an entire reblochon to go at the end of the meal. We so wanted to buy one, but since we were so stuffed that we decided to walk back to Annecy, the reblochon would have become milkshake on that summer day. So we vetoed the reblochon and have been banging our heads on wall every since.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      As my husband keeps reminding me, you have to leave something on the table to force you to return....

                                    2. re: Jake Dear

                                      "And when I have time I may start that separate thread, unless someone else wants to do that "

                                      Please do, as I have a few as well.

                                2. re: Jake Dear

                                  "I do think a separate thread on that topic would be useful." Go for it!

                                  1. re: mangeur

                                    OMG, I have got to get out of Paris one of these days!

                              2. re: Jake Dear

                                Between Bordeaux and St. Emillion is LaForge, run by the delightful Carol deMontrichard, an American who has lived in France some 40 years. Has a variety of accommodations and runs/arranges food and winetours from time to time. Also provides accommodations for folks taking classes down the road with Jean Pierre Moullé who splits his time in France and as chef at Chez Panisse in California. http://www.whatscookinginfrance.com/W...

                              3. Looking for a gastronomic week-end in Valence (Drome region ?) : you can stay in this wonderful B&B run by a couple passionate about architecture, old buildings,...They also own an amazing building with apartments for rent. The decoration is beautiful and some rooms are quite funny (one with shoes stuck on the ceiling). We had the privilege to stay there last year on our way to Côte d'Azur and we fell in love with the place and...their owners. Once they start talking about architecture and arts in general, no human being can possibly stop them !!
                                And since you are in Valence, you have to try these three restaurants : Anne-Sophie Pic, Flaveurs and la Cachette.
                                B&B Maison de la Pra : http://www.maisondelapra.com/eng/gall...
                                Apartments de la Pra : http://www.maisondelapra.com/all/cham...
                                Pic (3-star Michelin) : http://www.pic-valence.fr/index.php?l...
                                Flaveurs : website under construction. If you read french : http://www.chroniquesduplaisir.fr/200...
                                La cachette : A japanese Chef cooking french cuisine. no website ? review in french : http://www.gaultmillau.fr/restaurant/...

                                1 Reply
                                1. I'm bumping this post to add a link to one of our favorite stops in the Languedoc. La Bruguiere is 15 minutes south of Anduze, an hour west of Uzes. Winemakers Pascale and Philippe are consummate hosts, he a master sommelier and she with years of experience with Relais et Chateaux. They are adorable people and very generous at their table. One of our very favorite destinations. I was actually kind of saving this address, but since the cat's out of the bag...


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: mangeur

                                    "One of our very favorite destinations. I was actually kind of saving this address, but since the cat's out of the bag"

                                    I know exactly what you mean and that's why this is my fave thread on chowhound.

                                    I will also add another of those addresses that I sort of hesitate about disclosing...
                                    An enchanting small b&b with very good food, inexpensive, just outside Cognac, le château de Mesnac.

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      Mangeur have you stayed there or just eaten there? I didn't see much about the accomodations on the internet, but it sounds great! (In the midst of trip planning myself!)

                                      1. re: mc22

                                        We have stayed there 4 or 5 times. There are several accommodations on the property offering different beds and services. I.e., a full kitchened gite as well as the smaller unit we reserve. The Magnanerie is a private space on the back of the main house. It has a small lounge area and bathroom on the ground floor and king size bed on a large mezanine (up a metal circular staircase). The lodging is not luxe, but is comfortable. Breakfast and dinner are served in the main house dining room, breakfast for guests and dinner with the family. I haven't seen inside other units. WiFi.


                                        Click on the name of the unit to see interior photos.

                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          I know I shouldn't be using this site for travel info, but given that the travel is food-inspired, this is the best community out there. THANK YOU. Seems perfect. I will totally start working that into my plans!

                                    2. Chez Remise in St. Urcize in l'Aubrac is a curious combination: a tiny hotel/bar/tabac/presse/dining room that is the social center of the village plus an upscale chambre d'hote a hundred yards down the hill. Our room in the chambre d'hote was huge and comfortable, our several dinners at the hotel simple, local and correct: aligot, local lamb, cheeses, fruit. Isabella and Fred, our hosts, were delightful and generous. I'd go back in a heartbeat. www.aubrac-chezremise.com/

                                      Note: CR is about a half hour from Michel Bras and would be a fine place to stay for those who would like to experience lunch at MB.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        My dear NYC, you are loosing your grip on me...

                                      2. Le Tilleul restaurant (and simple chambre d'hote) in Generargues, a couple of minutes up river from Anduze in the Gard, is another dining room where you most probably won't hear English spoken. Leni is a seasoned pro, choosing the best local produce and handling it properly. She is adorable as was our delightful server (who I think found our pleasure amusing). This local "dining out" spot is only open April through September, otherwise Leni hangs out in Los Angeles!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          Good Lord, Leni Chevasson ! I had no idea she was in the Gard now. I had sort of lost track of her. You sure were in good hands.
                                          She is a very old friend of mine, I practically always knew her and her family. Now she is not only a seasoned pro — she probably did not tell you out of modesty, but she is a landmark of French dining.

                                          Born in Rhône-Alpes (originally from Mâcon and raised in Haute-Savoie), she was trained in Lyonnais cooking and is a heir of the famous "mères" who shaped the Lyonnais tradition and hence much of fine dining in France.

                                          She is known (but little remembered) for introducing the concept of modern bistrot and the first draft of Bistronomie to Paris long before anyone else ever had the idea (mid-70s), and by "anyone else" I mean the starred chefs who all opened bistrots in Paris a few years after Leni opened her own.

                                          She was in charge of the restaurant at L'Olympic Entrepôt, a movie theatre in the 14th arrt.: a large dining-room plus an open kitchen with a zinc counter, which was quite a rarity in Paris restaurants at the time. There were tables for 4, 6, etc, but also some long tables d'hôtes which were not a trend at the time, only a relic of old-style bistros and Lyonnais bouchons. Without being named so, her place was a huge, bustling, trendy, colorful Lyonnais bouchon in Paris. To the slightest detail it had all the features that, much later, made up the modern Paris bistrot and at the time were unknown (both disappeared and not yet developed). It was like a giant Le Baratin, with much more fun in it.

                                          But still it was the 70s so some other features were clearly either personal to Leni or part of the Lyonnais tradition: for instance there was no "service à l'assiette". Dishes, either the appetizers (including some pretty awesome Saladiers lyonnais) or the main courses or desserts, were served in huge collective dishes or tureens. Plates were passed around the table and passed again. Leni and her team loved to cook large pieces like racks of pork chops and whole fresh hams to pass around the dining-room. There was no written menu, no slate either if I remember, dishes were announced verbally: two or three apps, two or three mains, cheese plateau, and desserts were unnanounced since they were thrown onto the tables, some five or six of them (fruit compotes, crème caramel, tartes, buttery pound cakes, etc.), for people to help themselves.

                                          There was tremendous soul and atmosphere too, and it was the roaring 70s, the time of counter-culture before the 80s recuperation. The place was a nest of underground culture which was also logical with both Paris and Lyon bistrot tradition. Only a couple of places in Paris still show traces of that now. Sometimes Leni would take the orders with her hair tied up with a teaspoon while some of her waitresses were trying to contain the energy of some local figures with a little too much brouilly in themselves.

                                          That was really a marvellous restaurant and it disappeared sometimes in the early 80s, when Leni tried other things and also went to the US with her brother and family, where she still spends time indeed. I fondly remember L'Entrepôt, it really was an extraordinary place, all of Paris met there and loved it, while professional chefs and restaurateurs were keeping a keen eye to it. And I believe it was the starting point and inspiration of the néo-bistrot trend in Paris and France through its later developments. Even now, decades after, I still see the filiation. But as is the case with many pioneers, Leni is little remembered for that.

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            As always, Pti, we are enriched by your knowledge and awareness of all things culinarian and French. You re-enforce my belief and experience that sometimes one falls into a special venue and "knows" that it is extraordinary while not exactly knowing why.

                                            1. re: mangeur

                                              Indeed enchanting history of l'Entrepôt - a blast from the past. I want to know more !
                                              I think I crossed the future minister of culture there, on one of his non-cross-dressing days...

                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                FWIW, Leni gives personal cooking courses at 50€, less for a larger number of students, and, if I read correctly, people staying with her for several days will not be charged for instruction on the kitchen's specialties.

                                                "Si vous résidez quelques jours au Tilleul dans l’une des 4 chambres d’hôtes, simples et confortables, Leni vous initiera volontiers ( et gracieusement ) à quelque tour de main des plats servis au restaurant"

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  Oh, there is more to tell. Incidentally, the future minister of culture was the owner of the place.

                                          2. Le Tracteur is set in an old garage in the village of Sanilhac a couple of km south of Uzes. The credentialed chef turns out anything but village food. Among our stellar dishes: a poached egg tucked inside garlicky potatoes with pesto; cold beet soup with ricotta and dill that was anything but ordinary; the celebrated lamb confit with celery root mash and currants...Oh my! A white Banyuls was luscious. We were served by the same adorable woman we met last year.


                                            1. At Mas Cambounet, a couple of km east of Gignac, you will enjoy Mme Perret's accomplished cooking and the excellent wines of her husband, Jean-Charles Thibault. M. Thibault serves and pours. He provided us generous tastings of his wines, from carthagene through a lovely carignan-grenache blend, all well made. You can't get closer to "local" than this restaurant in the vines. Pictured is magret with cepes, asparagus on pastry and fried chives,

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                I must ask that these posts stop! I can't take it. I want to go to each and every place mentioned. How does one pick 'one'?

                                                1. re: t14072

                                                  "How does one pick 'one'?" Well, I think that if one can, one does not. Follow mangeur's lead -- it looks to me like she recently went to at least four such places in one general area -- all in one trip. What a great way to better get to know a region. -- Jake

                                                  1. re: Jake Dear

                                                    ""How does one pick 'one'?" Well, I think that if one can, one does not."

                                                    Amen. (or is this Lucifer whispering in my ear...)

                                                    1. re: Kurtis

                                                      If it is, it's a very modest Lucifer. As Jake suggests, we made a loop from the TGV at Montpellier to Gignac, over the viaduct to St. Urcize, down the Corniche to the Anduze area (staying at La Bruguiere mentioned upthread), stopping Sanilhac for lunch on our way to the Avignon TGV gare. Including 3 days spent at a brocante in Barjac, we were gone just over a week.

                                                      As the menus show, these places are not expensive, just over-the-top in soul, which brings me to a second point. These are the types of places we prefer to visit: no stars, no bragging rights when you get home because none of your friends will ever have heard of them, just the chance to be pampered by people who have pride and joy in their work, their craft and their communities. I have never met people more interesting or, falling back on my overworked word, generous, because generosity is the characteristic that all of our hosts have shared. They are eager to share a sense of place and way of life and in the process undervalue the monetary worth of their hospitality.

                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                        [looking up to heaven in dismay]

                                                        " You gotta warn people that you made modest ones for the French!"

                                                        Our recent trip to Provence involved my parents joining in for the latter half. At the completion of one of many memorable no-star meals, my mother made a request to the hostess for extra business cards whereupon my father jokingly questioned what she was planning to do with them. No words were exchanged, but we all laughed, a mixture of contentment and regret, and she ceased collecting extra ones thereafter.

                                              2. Mangeur, Parigi and others - thank you so, so much for this thread. It is most being saved right now! After our recent visit to Paris, we decided that next trip (sadly, probably not for at least 18 months) we are definitely heading out of Paris - not sure whether to do it by car or train, or a combination...but...sigh.....I guess we have a lot of time to think and plan. As usual, great food is what we are aiming for, as well as the chance to just hang with the locals and not have to fight off the hordes. And next time I am doing a course to up my French from bad phrase book to passable conversational....

                                                You are national, living treasures, no less!

                                                1. Adding Normandy, July 2011

                                                  Honfleur: La Cour St. Catherine. Liliane Giaglis is a delightful hostess. Our ground level room was huge and well appointed, excellent bed and great shower, sink, fridge and tea making facilities. Breakfast was available in the main house or just outside the compound at a tiny coffee shop run by the Giaglises where you can add a full breakfast to the continental breakfast included in room rate. Secured parking, a huge boon in touristy Honfleur, is available just up the hill for 10€ a day. Wifi in the salon and garden. The main part of town is a few minute stroll down the hill. A very good address. http://www.coursaintecatherine.com/

                                                  Les Andelys, a lovely address from Jake Dear: La Chaine d'Or. Beautiful old hotel overlooking the Seine, minutes from Giverny. Huge comfortable rooms, some with breathtaking view, professional owners. Good dining room. (Noix d'entrecote perfectly cooked "bleu mais chaude", as Ptipois taught me to order.) Very generous breakfast.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                    I wholeheartedly second la Cour Ste Catherine, where we had a great stay.

                                                  2. I really like this thread, and will contribute one additional place for now -- and pose a question.

                                                    1. Maison de Myon (7 rue Mably, old town Nancy) http://www.maisondemyon.com

                                                    Take a look at the web site and you will start to get a feeling for the place and Martine Quenot, the proprietor. She's an amazing woman of fine taste and apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm. And she is a great hostess. She offers a table d'hote sometimes -- but there are good restaurants very nearby in any event, including, our favorite from our short stay in Nancy, la Poule Ange, www.lapouleange.fr (we prefered it over the more costly and even more upscale "La Maison dans le Parc," 3 r. Ste-Catherine, http://www.lamaisondansleparc.com/acc... ).

                                                    2. Now my question: We are looking for two or three places like those listed in this thread (or small family hotel/restaurants) that (1) will be open in mid-February (difficult, I know) -- and (2) are in "less-cold" areas – maybe such as near Nice, or other places in/near that general southern area? But I see none listed/ no coverage for that area? -- Jake

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Jake Dear

                                                      For the French Riviera area:
                                                      - Le Jas de Soupié, in Montauroux, is a ferme-auberge that grows - and serves - its own organic veg and fruit, and makes a hell of a roast chicken, so tender and juicy that it bursts juice at first bite. Therefore wear dirty clothes when you go. :-)
                                                      Montauroux is between Callians and Seillans, two beautiful perched villages north of Cannes.
                                                      - La Bellevue in Saorge is good home-cooking and wonderful ravioli. After all, it is so close to Italy. The whole area around the villages Saorge, Breil sur Roya, Luceram, Peillon is well worth a visit, with unspoiled Alpine villages but astounding ornate painted Baroque churches.

                                                      I can't guarantee that these places will be open in February. Best to call ahead. But the last time I lunched at Le Jas de Soupié was in the dead of winter, in late December.

                                                      Another thing to consider: yes the French Riviera coast is much warmer than the rest of the country, esp Menton. But as soon as you go inland into the Alpine foothills, where these eateries are located, it is much colder and the hills are often snow capped. But sooo beautiful.

                                                      Lastly, yes, this is my absolute favorite thread.

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        Parigi, Thanks much; both are now on our list. But neither seems to offer lodging, is that correct? (We especially like places where we can simply "go downstairs" for dinner, etc.) In any event, we hope to go to these places for lunch at least. -- Jake

                                                        1. re: Jake Dear

                                                          "neither seems to offer lodging, is that correct?"


                                                          "We especially like places where we can simply "go downstairs" for dinner, etc."

                                                          Ah that is a great draw. Many b&b's do offer ok meals, but just ok. Ferme-auberge-b&b's like La Ruchotte, Mas de la Madeleine, Ferme Les Perrieaux and Olhabidéa don't grow on trees, alas. That's why this thread is so precious.

                                                    2. In the Ardéche moutains, some 20 minutes from Valence TGV: La Hameau de la Mure, 8km from Saint Laurent du Pape. http://www.gites-de-france-charme.com... Wow! Clinging to the hillside with a view forever, welcoming hosts, huge rooms and terraces on the overlook, cosseting bed furnishings, generous breakfasts and super three course dinner with apero and digestifs. Olivier is an exacting cook and very generous host (note the roast pork plate below). Mostly French spoken but enough English give and take to make dinner interesting and convivial. We stayed two nights and I asked to be adopted. Olivier cooks every night but Tuesday. The next town is some 15 minutes up in the mountains, fine road. Heartily recommend.

                                                      (The complex is composed of several buildings on as many levels, so there are necessarily many steps in between. Nothing strenuous, but wheelchairs or crutches or toddlers too big to carry would be problematic.)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                        An updaet of my fave thread, on one of my fave regions en plus. Chouette !

                                                      2. 7/12 follow up to La Colline du Columbier, 20km north of Roanne. http://www.troisgros.fr/english/colli... We returned for two nights in early July. This Troisgros second-tier facility remains one of our special places. Absolute peace and quiet, stunning bucolic scenery, comfortable apartment (heat and air conditioning) with large salon, deck and out-door table and chairs, huge and comfortable bed, quite workable kitchenette. Welcoming and caring service throughout the stay. They lay in a generous supply of breakfast stuff: half dozen country eggs, litre of milk, jams, honey, about 200gr butter, juice, yogurt, water, wine, fresh fruit. Each day fresh breads and fruit are delivered: 2 croissants, 2 chocolate croissants and a baguette, or one morning, 2 large cakes, one lemon, one with cherries.

                                                        Dining options are on site at the Grand Couvert where we enjoyed divine "Jewish" fried artichokes and an incredible matelote of river fish. 3 courses for 39€, a steal.

                                                        The next night we drove into Roanne to Troisgros' other second tier restaurant, Le Central where we ordered a fine gaspacho with slices of whitefish, osso buco and caillettes, all well prepared if not terribly exciting. Similar pricing as in the country.

                                                        I would be happy to return to La Colline every couple of years. It is the kind of place that feels like a home away from home.

                                                        (Sorry about the matelote photo, but the aroma coming off the tureen was so wonderful that we dug in immediately. There were also two huge ecrevisse on top.)

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: mangeur

                                                          My absolute fave thread on the France forum. This update does not disappoint.
                                                          Chère Manger, if it is not too late, can you correct "La Colline du Columbier"? Should be "Colombier".

                                                        2. Our first visit to La Ferme de La Ruchotte, http://www.laruchotte.com/, half hour west of Beaune. This heritage animal farm is interesting, quirky and fun. A warm if rather no-nonsense welcome was followed by a nap in our large, comfortable room, suitable for a family with child: one huge bed and one single. Good bath with new old-fashioned tub with in-tub (rather than stall) shower. Dinner at 7:30 for us (there is only one guest room), a 6-some from Canada and 3 Frenchmen. Extensive wine list covers the bases in terms of regions and price. A four course no-choice dinner brought us an exquisite farm egg atop freshly foraged girolles, coq au vin, a simple cheese course of 3 fine local goat cheeses and an interesting jasmine tea pot de creme. Well priced at 39€. After a fine night's sleep, we enjoyed another wonderful egg dish with the same excellent bread as the night before as well as home made cake.

                                                          Fred is wry and twinkly, while Eva tends more to the task at hand. However, by morning her apparent shyness had vanished and she was happily chatting.

                                                          I can't say that I lust to return often, but this was a singular and memorable stop. This is real country with plenty of hiking opportunities.

                                                          1. 7/12 return to Le Prieure Saint Agnan in Cosne-sur-Loire. http://www.prieuresaintagnan.com/
                                                            When I grow up, this is going to be my home. Until then, Catherine and Bernard are going to be my parents. This lovely ex-prieure on the Loire, across the river and a few km north of Sancerre, is my concept of the ideal home, the Grillieres the consummate hosts. Huge, comfortable room, extraordinary bathroom, coffee-making alcove with fridge stuffed with drinks (water, juice, beer, local wine), baskets of treats from chocolates to crackers, cookies and dried fruit. Breakfasts of excellent breads, croissants, fresh fruit compotes, yogurts, probably 10 homemade confitures, local honey, a local fresh butter-like cheese. Invitations for drinks or tea by the pool in the afternoon. Parking inside the gates locked at night.

                                                            We started staying here in order to have dinner at Le Chat, down river a few km. This visit, Le Chat was somewhat disappointing and we canceled a reservation we had for the following night. I am holding out hope that it was a singular off-night for the kitchen since it has been a favorite of ours. In its place, Mme Grillieres suggested a new bistrot in town (http://www.chez-anatole.com/bar-resta...} where we found a superb green pea gaspacho with prawns and grapefruit and fine cotes d'agneau, followed by a superb warm tarte fine nectarine (gaspacho and tarte below).

                                                            There are also several excellent options across the river in or near Sancerre such as La Tour in town and Bourgeois' inn in Chavignol, enough to keep us coming back. We love this place.

                                                            1. Just looked up this thread, since we will be stayiing at Mortagne-au-Perche in a month. I'll supply info on the Hotel du Tribunal in a separate thread, since it does not qualify as a chambre d'hote, but gets rave reviews on other sites. But this thread is so fantastic (and I echo the recommendations for Beausejour outside Chinon and Le Chaine d'Or in Les Andelys, Eure, among others), that I think it should be brought to the fore again in summer 2013, for travellers off the beaten track. And I want to save it to my profile!

                                                              4 Replies
                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                  Yours and mine both!

                                                                  I'm saving it for all the great references. "NEED" to stay everywhere...

                                                                2. re: Piggyinthemiddle

                                                                  Salut Piggyinthemiddle, The Perche is a beautiful and much less traveled region, I'm glad to see you will visit. We fondly remember great walks in this area, and of course there is horseriding as well. You may want to also go to Villa fol Avril, http://www.villafolavril.fr/ -- mentioned in one of my posts above. We spent three lovely nights at this place run by an engaging young couple. Much more intimate than le Tribunal, and for us, preferable. And a fine dining room. -- Jake

                                                                  1. re: Piggyinthemiddle

                                                                    An update on my contribution to this thread: our stay at Le Tribunal. As Jake Dear observed, it is not an intimate hotel, despite its location (on a small, out-of-the way but central tree-lined place) and rambling character (it is composed of 4 colombage-style houses linked by courtyards). The reception was a let-down - off-hand and rather cold. The room itself was great - huge, with a very comfortable king-size bed, though located in the farthest of the 4 buildings.
                                                                    As to the food: A & I split the crayfish ravioli, a house speciality, and followed this with two more recommendations - the blood sausage (Mortagne calls itself the capital of this dish), a hefty serving, with apples and potatoes, and I ordered the ris de veau in butter sauce. This latter was served as one large, square, lightly breaded packet - almost like a chicken Kiev - with a garnish of colouredful veg.
                                                                    The crayfish ravioli were light and delicate, but somehow lacking in oomph. The blood sausage was excellent - but waaaay toooo much. The ris de veau was delicious; melting and flavourful, but comfirmed me in my opinion that I actually prefer sweetbreads in a yummy sauce - say madiera or moutarde. We had a caramel and a fruit dessert, neither of which stands out in my memory (I have to say that I'm not really a dessert person; it has to really wow me to make an impression). The coffee and pettifours were very nice.
                                                                    All in all, a very good meal, if not spectacular. The place was humming - not just with tourists, but local clients as well.
                                                                    The service in the restaurant was much more accommodating than that of the hotel itself. The chef is only 27, I believe, so he has time to refine and extend his repetoire. Mortagne-au-Perche is a happy little town, with a couple of good bars on the main place, and a butcher specialising in blood sausage, with about 15 choices, including with orange confit, with figs, with chestnuts, with wine and onions, with camenbert, with paprika and smoked. Something for everyone - assuming you like blood sausage!

                                                                  2. Prades, nice town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, near the Mediterranean side.
                                                                    Wonderful recommendation from miseenplacekh:

                                                                    "Prades was remarkable not becuasue of any specific restaurants (they do have a lovely small market Tuesday and Saturday) but because of Maison Prades the Chambre d’hote we stayed at. I can not describe how comfortable, and well taken care of we were there. We ate with them one night at the table d’hote, and had a wonderful Brazilian Moqueca and rice dish and an apricot desert that was stupendous. Prades is a perfect location to visit Collioure, exloring Villefranche-de-Conflent, and to ride the Yellow Train (Petit Train Jaune ) and go to the Hot Springs. Maison Prades was our top favorite for the way we were taken care of and the lovely breakfasts with home made jams and fresh fruit. Our trip over the Pyreennes from Figueres was incredible, gorgeous scenery."

                                                                    1. Further chambre d'hote adventures in Bourgogne:

                                                                      Northwest of Auxerre in Villiers-sur-Tholon, professional chef Alain Desessarts and his wife Myriam offer spacious and comfortable rooms, excellent Italian baths and a superb yet almost free evening meal. Alain uses the most inexpensive cuts of quality meats and transforms them into incredibly good plates. While we were there, we enjoyed (really enjoyed!) cold grilled andouillette (even DH who never before would touch them) as apero, divine pigs ears in cornachon laced vinaigrette, pork cheeks tender as love and as luscious with roasted potatoes, silky braised lamb shoulder. Two different cheese platters each night; desserts concocted from vine and tree ripened fruits from the garden. Lovely local wine. Four courses including apero and dinner wines = 23€. Breakfast brought freshly squeezed orange juice and house made brioche. Quiet and understated hosts, generous and hospitable, interesting fellow guests. A simple and excellent address. La Pré de Rosine. http://www.le-pre-de-rosine.fr/

                                                                      1. Chambre d'hote a few km north of Avallon, another professionally trained chef hosts rooms in his home as well as a suite in the Pigeonnier (where we stayed). Stylish and delicious plates included a deconstructed coq au vin with quenelle of chicken breast, a cheese plateau each of goat and cow cheeses and a 9" oozing Epoisses. Oh, yes, it was good! Dessert of nectarine topped lemony cheese tart. Aperos and dinner wines were local and good. Lively social-political conversation with our hosts and fellow French and Belgian guests in French and English. Convenient for visiting Vezelay as well as the cave paintings at Arcy sur Cure. Girolles Les Forges. http://www.girolleslesforges.com/

                                                                        1. In Puligny-Montrachet, it is common knowledge that the place to dine and sleep is hotel Le Montrechet. But we were looking for something smaller and more personal. We found it at La Chouette, the 6 room hotel run by amazing Suzanne Gazagnes. If God is in the details, La Chouette is a chapel if not a cathedral. We chose a ground floor room with almost private sitting area outside bordering vineyards. Large and comfortable room, good bath. Breakfast buffet was incredible and unending. Could not recommend more highly. We need little excuse to return.

                                                                          Still in a contrary mood, we chose to dine at La Auberge au Vieux Vigneron in Corpeau, 2km away. Yes! This was what we were looking for. Very, very simple country room full of locals. Equally simple and proper plates. I chose ouefs meurette (to see how mine at home compared) and rognons (cooked just past bloody). Both were perfect. As good a wine list as one would expect here. Sweet waitresses, adorable host. This place is certainly not a discovery, but it is what we look for in the country. Another reason to return. http://www.aubergeduvieuxvigneron.com/

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mangeur

                                                                            Mangeur, thanks so much for these great new Bourgogne posts & pics -- all will go into the file for the next visit there. -- Jake

                                                                          2. Erreguina, in the village of Banka, in the enchanting Aldudes valley in the Basque country

                                                                            First of all, the Aldudes valley is one of our fave drives in Europe. That part of the Pyrenees has such an unforced perfect beauty it makes the Alps feel so manicured and fussy. Plus you drive through the wine towns of Irrouléguy to get there. Plus, the region, all the way down to Spanish Navarra, is reputed to have perhaps excellent charcuteries.
                                                                            On that drive from St Etienne de Baïgorry to the Spanish border, there is no ugly house, no ugly village. After a while, you are so annoyed you want to FIND something ugly.

                                                                            We have driven by the village of Banca before, known for its trout farming on the river that runs through it.
                                                                            I read that this village auberge is much loved for its fresh trout, plus it has very nice rooms. What not to like !

                                                                            When we arrived for lunch, we basically did a Jégo with the young maitre d, who is the owner's grandson. We asked him what was fresh and what his fave dishes were. He steered us to wonderful blood sausage in a piperade sauce that I wanted to drink ! Neither blood sausage nor piperade are things I normally even like, and I loved them there. For mains, we had, well, trouts. Freshness makes such a difference, and things don't get fresher than that. My lunch was still jumping that morning.

                                                                            We even "booked" our dinner: baby trout, which is not on the menu. After you reserve, usually a day in advance, or at the latest in the morning for your dinner, the kitchen gets just enough quantity of river catch for the meal service.

                                                                            The rooms are very nice, spacious and comfortable and very inexpensive. 70 euro for double occupancy, breakfast included.