Roadtrip Through French Châteaux & Mont Blanc
Arts & Culture
Road Trip Travel
When I decided to move to Naples, Italy, I knew I wanted more than a flight directly to my new home, I wanted an adventure. Which is why my partner and I decided to take the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic, cross the English Channel on a ferry, then drive through France, exploring wine country until we reached Northern Italy, where we caught a train to Naples. This guide will go over where we stayed and what we did during our adventures through Burgundy all the way to Mont Blanc. Feel free to take my recommendations bit by bit to supplement a multi-day trip to any of these towns individually, or follow our epic road trip itinerary through French wine-country all the way to the Alps.
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Where to stay
Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé
Royal chateau accommodation with attention to detail ranging from its spacious suites to top service and activities.
Le Mont Blanc Hotel
A luxurious alpine escape, blending opulent accommodations and unparalleled vistas in the heart of Europe's highest peak.
Château de Gilly
A stunning historic castle hotel nestled in the heart of Burgundy, France, providing a unique blend of medieval charm and modern comfort.
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Day 1: Mont Saint Michel
We started our trip through France in Mont Saint Michel, the UNESCO world heritage site on the coast of Normandy. Nestled between the ocean and sky, this incredible site is a testament to history and nature in perfect harmony. We parked our car in the morning and decided to walk to the 1.25 miles (2km) it takes to get to the town entrance. A shuttle service also runs ever 15 or so minutes if you don't feel up for the trek. Tide was low as we walked, making the island more of a peninsula. Once we reached Mont Saint-Michel, we explored the medieval town until we reached the Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel, an awe-inspiring monument situated atop the rocky outcrop.
For lunch, we walked back down to the base of the tidal island to enjoy a meal at Mére Poulard, famous for their omelettes prepared over an open flame. By the time we finished our meal, the island was becoming increasingly busy, so we decided to walk back to our car and continue on our journey.
Day 2: Château du Grand Lucé
The trip from Mont Saint-Michel to Chateau du Grand Lucé takes about 2.5 hours without stopping. It will take about 30 minutes south from the Le Mans train station and a little over 2 hours from Paris. We visited in January and had the entire 45,000 square foot chateau to ourselves. When we arrived, we pulled up to tall iron gate opening inward to expose the neoclassical chateau surrounded by 80 acres of gardens and forest. A member of the staff greeted us with a cold glass of champagne and showed us around chateau before bringing us to our room. I was trying to sip my champagne and keep my jaw from falling to the floor as my eyes spanned the impressive artwork and crystal chandeliers.
Make sure to take your time delving into your room and the home, exploring the colorful wallpaper, beautiful upholstery and maximalist gallery walls filled with portraits inside of golden frames.
Later that night, a private dinner was arranged in a pink-walled dining room, dimly lit by candles and crystal chandeliers. The authentic, multi-course French meal, crafted with the freshest of ingredients was fantastic. Before returning to our rooms, we enjoyed a nightcap by the fire in the living room.
The next day we woke up to a beautiful breakfast spread in the dining room and enjoyed a coffee in the gardens. Ludovic Poirier, the hotel GM, made sure to greet us and ask about our stay before we explored the grounds. I could've moved in if they would have let me, but unfortunately, our stay at the Chateau du Grand Lucé was over for now. We packed up our car and continued on our adventure, stopping at Leonardo Da Vinci's former home, Château du Clos Lucé and enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal at Le Maître d'Art, where the owner, Ingrid, and her beautiful english bulldog, Boss, welcomed us.
Day 3: Château de Gilly
Our next stop was Château de Gilly, a former Cistercian Monks residence located between Dijon and Beaune in the middle of the finest wine producing area in Burgundy. The rooms were charming and the beautiful gardens were lovely to explore.
The best part of the chateau, however, was the dinner we had at its restaurant, Le Clos Prieur. We enjoyed a delicious multi-course meal in the stunning rib-vaulted room. Following the meal, our waiter rolled a beautiful silver cart full of cheese for us to chose from. Do not forget this crucial step to the meal! It was some of the most amazing cheese I've ever had, and I think about it frequently.
I also recommend making a reservation at Ma Cuisine in Beaune. We had a delicious meal paired with an aged chardonnay that made every simple yet delectable ingredient pop. La Table du Square for is also a fantastic spot for lunch. After you've finished winery-hopping your way to Meursault, I recommend stopping in Le Soufflot for dinner. It was one of our favorite meals and the wine list is fantastic.
Day 4: Mont Blanc
We then made the trek over (and through) several mountains until we reached Italy. Our final and last stop before taking the train down to Naples was Mont Blanc. For someone who has skied all over the U.S., I've never seen mountains quite like this. To make things even more magical, we arrived to Relais Mont Blanc Hotel & Spa as it snowed.
We had some time to kill before our dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant, La Fenêtre, so we decided to check out the spa. The spa (and the Seupa à la Vapelenentse, which I will get to later) is enough of a reason to stay here. As you enter the seemingly ordinary spa, instead of going straight to the turkish baths, take a left and enter through the door leading you to a long stretch of caves with baths of varying degrees, inlets of waterfalls and seating areas. Once you get to the end of the caves, you'll find two saunas, one infrared and one Finnish. If you are visiting Mont Blanc to ski, this would've been a great place to end the day.
After the spa, we headed to dinner at La Fenêtre, a cozy restaurant with beautiful views of the mountains. My favorite dish was the Seupa à la Vapelenentse, a local soup made with layers of cabbage, bread and Fontina cheese simmered in beef broth. It was a perfect dish for the cold weather and a great way to end our trip before finally making our way to Turin where we caught our train to Naples.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to France.