Browsing Tag


5 min read, france, opinion

Four French B&Bs for cycling enthusiasts

21st April 2017

“The thing about France is that the French aren’t great at building bike routes, but they don’t need to be because there are endless stunning roads with no traffic – and what little traffic there is, is considerate towards cyclists.”

Peter, Owner of Le Cheval Blanc

France is a dream for cycling, after all, it is where the Tour De France was born. With its wealth of virtually car-less backroads, the option of a challenging climb for the sports enthusiasts or a gentle pootle between pretty villages for the more laid-back, freewheeling in France is a joy.

Purpose-built routes allow you to cycle the length of the Loire all the way to the Atlantic, making it irresistibly tempting to hop on a bike and discover a different perspective to this beautiful country. But it’s the locals that really know how to work this wonderful landscape and create epic cycle-routes that show off historical sites and jaw-dropping views. We asked four of our Owners to share with us their favourite routes leaving straight from their front door.

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5 min read, inspiration, opinion

Unforgettable B&Bs – Toby remembers four of his favourite stays

18th April 2015
Unforgettable B&Bs – Toby remembers four of his favourite stays

Generous hosts, sensitive restorations and local, hearty food; Toby tells us what makes an unforgettable B&B, and why these are four of his favourites.



The Old Forge, Fanners Yard, Dorset


No one should run a B&B unless they LOVE hosting. Many forget this very simple rule, seduced more by the money than the prospect of welcoming strangers. Lucy and Tim are born hosts – generous-spirited, easy company and with a genuine love of sharing their home with others. And they’ve had the courage really to keep it home, rather than an ‘enterprise’. A B&B as it should be.



Château de la Bourlie, Dordogne, France

A dream – this place demonstrates perfectly how the world of B&Bs is now aeons away from the musty, fusty formality of yore. Simple, laid-back and with a touch of funk, Lucy’s set-up defies categorisation. Breakfast isn’t served, it’s delivered on a tractor to be eaten whenever you like. And you’ve not a bedroom in a house, but the run of a whole barn set in the grounds. It’s a touch pricier than usual, but then you have so much more than just a bed and a breakfast.


Finca la Ramallosa, Cáceres, Spain


An unbelievable feat of courage and passion, this is a pitch-perfect resurrection of a derelict hamlet in the remote wilds of Spain’s Extremadura. 6 miles down a bumpy track, into birdsong and quiet, and you come across a collection of old farmworkers’ buildings, sensitively restored yet with considerably more comfort than a Spanish 1950s labourer would have experienced. It’s unusual, without for a moment being naff. I want to take my whole extended family, as many – suggests the guest book – have done already.


Le Due Volpi, Florence, Italy


From the slab of salt-encrusted, oven-warm focaccia awaiting new arrivals to the rolling Tuscan views, this is classic Italy at its unpretentious best. Le Due Volpi is neither guest house nor B&B – it’s an Italian home, full of warmth and conviviality, that you have the privilege to call yours fora spell. Heidi welcomes you like an returning friend – it almost feels crass handing over a cheque at the end your stay.


2 min read, france, opinion

France in the fifties – Alastair Sawday on his everlasting love affair

19th February 2015
France in the fifties - Alastair Sawday on his everlasting love affair

In the Fashoda Incident in 1898, the French and British had a stand-off on the White Nile in the Sudan. The British, surviving on grim army rations, were invited to a dinner of fresh vegetables by the French. They had carried the seeds for 14 months across Africa.

That is why I love the French – for what they consider important: like fresh veg and baguettes, good coffee and good manners, books, cartoons and lampoons, sharp femininity, their own way of doing things. They stick like limpets to their Frenchness. They are French and proud of it.


My early French memories, from the ‘50s, are of empty roads, wine cooling in streams while we picnicked on bread and cheese and tomatoes. A café and bar in every village, farmers, cows, Citroën 2CVs bouncing along with hay-bales, old men in berets, and ineffable charm at every encounter. Ridiculous, of course, to hark back to those days, but they have left their mark on me and early marks survive.



I was introduced early to the châteaux and castles, to the beautiful buildings and villages scattered throughout the country. I thought that Azay Le Rideau was an architectural paradise, a château-jewel in its own lake. I spoke French early, at the urging of a mother who had learned it as a girl, so my connections were alive and nourishing. I felt French, wanted more of it all. Years later I would read JeanGiono and Moliere, take travellers around the country in coaches and then myown mini-bus. I fell in love with French women, idling in Montmartre and underthe bridges of Paris. I took a girlfriend to Les Folies Bergeres – oh how grown-up that was. Paris made me, makes me, think about beauty, about aesthetics, about love.



I have been to Martinique, too, and heard French patois in other islands. I have enjoyed croissants in Pondicherry, and French-style coffee in Kerala, relieved to retreat into nostalgia. France has captured me, and I can see why. I have been touched by Frenchness in so many ways, starting affectionately at a young age. I even taught the language for 5 years, but confess to my love stumbling at the third year of the imperfect subjunctive. However I can still produce it, to startle older French people and mystify young ones. Luckily, we have many ‘older’ owners of our Special Places, and my enjoyment of them is deep. They, too, enjoy their subjunctives.