After crossing the Channel in your sleek hire car, cruise along the autoroutes to the Champagne region. Once in the village of Champillon, it’s a short drive to the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa. Unpack and relax in this luxurious hillside property, which affords you idyllic views over Épernay and Champillon.
Spend your morning at leisure, enjoying the modern comforts of the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa – voted by Condé Nast Traveller readers ‘the best hotel in France’ (2019). In the afternoon, head to Leclerc Briant champagne house in the pretty commune of Épernay. It’s the first proper chance during your holiday to taste the sparkling wine for which this region is renowned. Sample four distinct champagnes, and enjoy a guided tour of the house and its celebrated cellars.
Dubbed the ‘cradle of champagne’, Hautvillers is where Dom Pérignon famously helped advance the art of winemaking. Today, explore his legacy during a private, guided e-bike tour and picnic in this charming commune. Hautvillers’ hillside vineyards form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrating its important role in French viticulture, and the Abbey of St Peter – where Dom Pérignon practised as a Benedictine monk – remains standing for all to see.
Famed for its magical châteaux and lush vineyards, the Loire Valley is an essential stop on any tour of Champagne. Drive first to Les Hauts de Loire, your luxury hotel for the remainder of the holiday. This refurbished 19th-century residence is a member of the Relais & Châteaux collection, and a great base from which to explore the Valley. After checking in, spend a peaceful afternoon cycling independently around this scenic location.
Begin your day at the Château de Chenonceau for a private tour around this masterpiece of 16th-century architecture. Famously straddling the River Cher, the property is steeped in royal history and features a spectacular ballroom gallery in the bridge section. Upon returning to the River Loire, tour Château Royal d'Amboise, which purches on a spur overlooking the town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was a favourite residence of numerous French kings. Amboise also houses the Clos Lucé, a Renaissance manor-turned-museum where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last four years of his life.
This morning, drive to the town of Saumur, known for its sparkling wines, mushrooms and horse riders, and tour its fairytale hilltop château. Next, visit Château de Brissac, the tallest château along the Loire. Though privately owned, 10 of its rooms can be visited by the public – each abrim with furniture, paintings, tapestries and other historic treasures. Of particular note is Louis XIII’s bedroom, and the opera theatre, still used for concerts today. Don’t miss the duke’s cellar, where his wine can be tasted.
Today, visit the famous gardens of Villandry, which exemplify the tastes of 16th-century French aristocrats. The skilful gardeners mix flowers and vegetables in strict geometric patterns with striking results. Continue on to Azay-le-Rideau to visit the commune’s 16th-century château with your private guide. This imposing property sits on an islet in the River Indre, and remains a dazzling example of Renaissance-period architecture. In the afternoon, discover the historic riverside town of Chinon, birthplace of the author François Rabelais.
Having imbibed the wines, admired the châteaux and explored the communes, bid adieu to Champagne and the Loire Valley. Today, you return home.