France boasts some of the most spectacular sights and landscapes to visit in Europe and luckily since we live in Paris a weekend away in the idyllic French countryside is just a simple train or plane journey away. To mark the beginning of Spring this year we were kindly invited to enjoy the atmospheric interiors of the Ferme Saint Simeon Spa Hotel which is just a 5 minute walk from Honfleur, Normandy. You might find that this is an image heavy post but when the tranquil surroundings and interiors impress you as much as the Ferme Saint Simeon did, it calls for a little oversharing.
Honfleur has been high on my weekend away hit-list for a few years now, very often recommended by friends in Paris, and it’s easy to see why. The countryside is picturesque and the half timber houses dotted along the way will have you gasping in awe like I was, but none more so than when we arrived at the Ferme Saint Simeon. In Spring it was quite something but when nature takes over in warmer months I am sure it will live up fully to its green serene dream.
The main half-timber farmhouse was built in the 17th century. Its charming blue/grey exterior boasts 15 bedrooms and the hotel’s dining room, with panoramic views over the Seine estuary. The “Le Pressoir” (modelled on a Cider Press) houses the Spa and a further 20 bedrooms/suites. The third farmhouse is an incredible thatched cottage, which was being re-thatched and renovated while we were there and will soon open up as a second restaurant/bar this Summer. The property and grounds are immersed in history and the farm estate famously bears the title as “the birthplace of the impressionist movement”.
Once upon a time, this gorgeous 17th century farmhouse was a place abounding with new ideas and perspectives. In around the year 1840, several young artists sojourned within its illustrious walls. Thanks to the warm welcome they received from “Mother Toutain,” the innkeeper at the time, this flock of young painters, hungry for nature and fresh, country air, produced a number of exceptional pieces of artwork which are treasured today. These extraordinary encounters gave rise to the famous Impressionist School of Honfleur, otherwise known as the School of Saint Siméon.
We were told that the bright natural light setting of the estuary attracted young painters from around France and Europe to this spot. Artists like Monet, Gustave Courbet, Sisley, Jongkind and Honfleur’s very own Eugène Boudain spent time at the Ferme Saint Siméon, fed cheap cider provided by Mère Toutain, underneath the shade of the apple trees.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by the roaring fire and a glass of champagne accompanied by a wonderful slice of Normandy apple tartlets. Bathed in the light pouring in from the estuary the warm, atmospheric surrounds of the Ferme make for the perfect place to relax and unwind. When you live in the confines of a small Parisian city apartment it’s truly moments like this that you live for: the perfect countryside escape.
Feeling wonderfully relaxed we took a lovely stroll through Honfleur (more on that later!) and then on to enjoy a light swim in the hotel Spa.
Our stay wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the relaxing surrounds of the dining room and another fantastic meal to follow our lunch at the Auberge earlier that day. The set menu looked like another true culinary delight but still full from lunch we enjoyed a much lighter dinner prepared by the talented team of chefs using only but the best of local produce.
Sleep comes easy in a place as comfortable and as tranquil as this one, only trouble is of course peeling yourself out of the cosy bed in the morning. Not to worry though, you can enjoy an extended lazy morning until check out with breakfast in bed. I must mention the breakfast really was the best we’ve ever had — and we’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed a fair few.
Our short trip came to an end too quickly this time, but we are already planning another trip to Normandy. We would really recommend hiring a car if you are coming to visit the area — the next time we come here we will do the same and travel a little further north to see the spectacular coast at Étretat.