Last year we held a competition for a lucky Sawday’s fan to take an unforgettable trip from London to Lyon (with a few very Special Places to Stay in-between). Winner Emily and her boyfriend Robin reminisce about their trip.
From stepping off the tube just a stones-throw from Harrods, to walking past the Mandarin Oriental and Harvey Nichols on the way to The Levin Hotel, we knew we were in for a treat. It didn’t disappoint; with art-deco inspired design and a huge multi-story chandelier in the lobby, there was a sense of understated opulence throughout.
The room was luxurious and the service impeccable – the sort of personal care and attention you don’t often receive from a London hotel. The cooked breakfast was also just what I needed after one too many glasses of wine the night before!
Having visited some friends in north London, we stopped off at the Camden Image Gallery – it was great to get a taste of the culture of the area. In the evening we had dinner at the The Pantechnicon Rooms (a Sawday’s recommended pub), situated on one of the few cobbled streets in London. Don’t visit without ordering the crispy squid, it was one of the highlights of the whole trip!
After an extremely early start the next day and a rushed croissant, we caught the first tube to St. Pancras and then the whole day started to improve… Another croissant in the station was followed by another (unexpected) croissant on the Eurostar – start as you mean to go on! Relaxing in the spacious seats and enjoying wine with a light lunch as the beautiful French countryside flashed by made me wish I could travel premier class everywhere.
We’ve never stayed anywhere quite like Châteaux dans les Arbres before, it really was a once in a lifetime experience. The excitement as we walked along the raised pathway through the forest to Monbazillac Treehouse, a firm favourite at Sawday’s glamping off-shoot Canopy & Stars, was palpable.
The thought that had gone into everything impressed us the most; not only was the construction of the treetop château a marvel in itself, Monbazillac was fitted out like a five star hotel.
Once we’d unpacked and taken in the view, we really started to feel at one with nature; a local cat came to visit and the silence was only interrupted by the gentle sound of the trees moving in the breeze.
As the sun was setting it seemed that nothing could possibly get better, then our dinner was delivered, fresh from a local bistro and bursting with regional flavour. Eating on the balcony of a magical treehouse with wine from a local vineyard seemed pretty perfect to us. When sitting in the hot tub under the stars with a glass of wine, it felt like we were really living the high life!
The next morning our breakfast (winched up in a basket!) was superb, with fresh warm baguettes, croissants, jams, cheese, ham, yoghurts and orange juice – how all continental breakfasts should be.
We took a detour en-route to Bergerac and visited Château Monbazillac – the actual stately home which inspired the architecture of the treehouse. Set amongst rolling vineyards the view itself was worth the trip.
It was great to have a car while we were out there, the region is so rich with places to visit and picturesque little towns that we never ran out of things to see. Having said that, the treehouse was so special we didn’t really want to leave there either – tough decision!
It was my first time driving on the continent, so to step off the Eurostar and then get behind the wheel in a French city was a bit of a shock! Driving in the south of France is actually relatively civilised though – on the country roads you are lucky to see another car at all. I would recommend carrying change for toll booths, taking a sat nav and factoring in extra time for travelling. There are always places worth stopping off at along the way and it’s a shame to miss them.
We made it (just about) to Les Hautes Bruyères, a beautifully converted period house which was like an oasis on the outskirts of the city. The setting was absolutely stunning, set behind a gated driveway in a lush wooded area. Inside the whole place was an interior designer’s dream, and a four-poster bed resplendent with chic French charm formed the centrepiece of our bedroom.
We were fortunate enough to get some great weather and the first night we bought bread, paté, cheese and wine from a local supermarché and sat outside for a leisurely dinner as the sun set.
We ventured into Lyon for a proper look around the next day and I only wished we had more time to spend there. Like a less hectic version of Paris, the city was exciting, the shopping exceptional and every turn revealed another tempting Bouchon serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Vieux Lyon, the old part of the city was also worth visiting with its beguiling winding streets and ancient architecture.
Each place we stayed at was unique and personal, and decorated exquisitely. Without wanting to sound like an advert you really could tell that every place to stay had been picked for a reason. The locations were excellent and to be honest we didn’t really want to leave any of them. Travelling between two countries and three hotels felt like a luxury adventure and we both agree we’ll have a hard time replicating a holiday like this one any time soon!
Thank you for a great trip, Robin & Emily x
If Emily and Robin’s French adventure has inspired you, plan your next trip with our collection of place in France: www.sawdays.co.uk/France
…and experience life in the trees with Canopy & Stars: www.canopyandstars.co.uk/InTheTrees