Five french fancies in Orne in Normandy
The little-known department of Orne in Normandy is a year-round destination which offers something for everyone. Just a short, green hop across the channel by rail or sea, it is easily accessible within two hours by car from the ferry port at Caen and two hours by train from Paris. Take your pick of the cream of the crop from vintiquing to Michelin-starred food, for families to couples alike.
Shop until you drop
Broc and shop is a major pastime among visitors to Orne, and nowhere more so in the delightful south west enclave of The Perche. Villages such as Bellême and Mortagne-au-Perche are a treasure trove of antiques and brocante shops and a popular weekend spot for Parisians. Vides-greniers take place between Easter and September when whole villages are closed to traffic as locals empty their attics and sell family heirlooms and bric-a-brac alike. Stay at the Flamingo Rooms in Longny-au-Perche which has four quirky bedrooms and an eclectic collection of objet d’art, as well as beautiful gardens. The Flamingo Rooms (00 06 64 16 29 90 flamingo-rooms.fr) offers B&B from £60-90 per night, based on 2 sharing.
Orne is home to three Michelin-Star restaurants: Le Manoir du Lys near the spa town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, L’Auberge de la Mine under chef Hubert Nobis, in Ferrière-aux-Etangs near Domfront and finally the La Renaissance in Argentan, the heart of Normandy’s horse country. La Renaissance, a restaurant with rooms, is owned by Chef Arnaud Viel and his wife, Cecliia and opened in 1998. Arnaud was awarded his first Michelin star in February 2016. Menus are seasonal and delicious and draw largely on the area’s production of apple and pear cider, and cookery courses are available too. Rooms in the hotel are stylish and modern. La Renaissance (00 33 2 33 36 14 20 arnaudviel.com) offers rooms from £85 (based on 2 sharing), with breakfast from £10pp.
The Domaine de Villeray and accompanying Spa Pom is a luxurious place to relax, away from it all surrounded by glorious countryside on the banks of the delightful River Huisine which sweeps through the village of Condeau. Stay in either the Old Mill or the XVI Century Castle, each with a rarefied ambience to reinvigorate. The Spa has a range of treatments using organic products based on active apple ingredients, with a 14-metre hydro-massage swimming pool, sauna and hammam. Domaine de Villeray (00 33 2 33 73 30 22 domainedevilleray.com) offers Junior Suites in the Mill or Castle from £195 based on 2 sharing, with breakfast from £14pp.
Le Manoir du Lys near the spa town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne is a family-run boutique hotel on the doorstep of the Andaines Forest. With great service and facilities and a Michelin starred restaurant by Franck Quinton, it is ideal for a romantic break for two. There are just 23 stylishly furnished rooms, some overlooking the gardens while others have balconies over the swimming pool and terrace. The food is locally sourced and finished in style with wines to match by head sommelier Yvon Lebailly. It stays open for most of the winter, with plenty of cosy nooks and crannies to cuddle up to each other in. Le Manoir du Lys (00 33 2 33 37 80 69 manoir-du-lys.com) offers rooms from £145 (based on 2 sharing) and breakfast from £15pp).
Turn back the clock at Country Lodge, 24 beautifully designed eco lodges with a stylish Club House situated on 60 acres of the rural countryside, the perfect spot to escape year-round with (or without) the family. Opened in late 2017, Country Lodge is set to add a swimming pool, tennis court, sauna, Swedish Baths and sports hall for spring 2018. Over 2,000 trees have been planted on the land which boasts an abundance of local species, while natural reed beds filter the waste water. The active can go biking, ride a horse, walk in the surrounding park or swim in the pond. Country Lodge (00 3 36 84 98 12 23 country-lodge.com) offers B&B from £105 per night (based on 4 sharing), with a minimum three-night stay.
Getting here: Brittany Ferries (0871 244 1400, brittanyferries.com) offers return channel crossings to Caen or Cherbourg from £112pp for a car and two passengers. voyages-sncf.com offers return train fares from £110pp.
For more information on exploring the area, see normandy-travel.co.uk.