Take a full-day trip out to explore Versailles’ Palace, Grand Trianon, Estate of Marie Antoinette, and 800 acres of gardens; or the smart town of Fontainebleau – enveloped by the 77-square-mile Forêt de Fontainebleau – as big a playground today as it was in the 16th century, with superb walking and rock-climbing opportunities – plus a cosmopolitan drinking and dining scene. Indulge in some Parisian people-watching along the Boulevard Saint-Germain, dotted with famed terraced cafés like Café de Flore, haute-couture shops, ivy-covered railings and fine-dining restaurants. Take advantage of late-night openings at one of the big three museums – a great way to avoid the crowds and get the most out of your visit. The Louvre is open til 9.45pm Wednesdays and Fridays, Musée d’Orsay until 9.45pm on Thursdays, and the Centre Pompidou (usually open until 10pm), is open til 11pm on Thursdays for the shows on Level Six).
Shangri-La Hotel Paris’s two-Michelin-starred L'Abeille (10 Avenue d'Iéna) – creative fine dining in a garden-inspired setting.
Stay: Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel (3 nights)
||Paris to Champagne
Drive Time: 2 hours | Distance: 93 miles
Visit the vineyards and cellars of Moët & Chandon, the largest champagne house on the planet (doffing your cap to the statue of Dom Perignon in the building’s entrance, the monk credited with inventing the world’s favourite sparkling libation,). Tour the legendary underground labyrinth of intersecting tunnels and numerous vaults spread across several levels (and over 10 miles) beneath Épernay and round-off the trip with a tantalising tasting session. A spectacular Gothic structure, Reims’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame is where the kings of France were crowned for centuries. Heavily damaged during WW1, it has since been restored and has a remarkable balance of light thanks to its brilliant rose windows. It may be less than half a mile long, but Épernay’s Avenue de Champagne is one of the most expensive streets in the world, lined with grand mansions, and the headquarters of many legendary Champagne houses including Pol Roger, Mercier and Moët & Chandon.
Le Millénaire – in the heart of Reims on Rue Berlin, and a stone’s throw from the cathedral, this contemporary Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the best in town, serving delicious, thoroughly modern and seasonal takes on traditional French flavours (closed for lunch on Saturdays and all day on Sundays).
Stay: Domaine les Crayères (3 nights)
||Champagne to Burgundy
Drive Time: 3 hours | Distance: 185 miles
Dijon’s Musée des Beaux Arts is not only one of the oldest museums in France; it’s also one of the most interesting – not only because of the richness of its encyclopaedic collections (stretching from Egyptian art to the 20th century) but also the historical interest of the building that holds them (the Palais des Ducs) and their world-famous Mourners sculptures in the hall of the tombs of dukes Philip the Bold and his son John the Fearless. A hospital foundation from the Middle Ages, Hospices de Beaune is one of the country’s most prestigious historic monuments, thanks to the flamboyant Gothic architecture, polychrome roofs and renowned 148-acre wine estate (its prestigious wines sold at auction on the third Sunday in November). A real Burgundy gem. Head to Burgundy’s last independent, family mustard mill, The Fallot Mustard and experience mustard-making ‘the old way’. Discover the secrets of the traditional methods used during an interactive tour of the mill and grindstone facilities, watch a graphic depiction of the entire process, then enjoy a tasting of their signature Dijon and Burgundy mustards.
Ideally located opposite the Palais des Ducs, Pré aux Clercs is considered one of Burgundy’s best restaurants, having enjoyed an excellent reputation since the 19th century. Its magnificent architectural setting aptly complements the talent of chef Jean-Pierre Billoux, who blends Burgundian culinary tradition with daring modern flavours.
Stay: Grand Hôtel La Cloche - MGALLERY by Sofitel (3 nights)
||Burgundy to Evian-Les-Bains
Drive Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes | Distance: 200 miles
Taste Evian’s greatest export at source, the Cachat Spring (the most famous of Evian’s numerous springs) located opposite the Cachat Pump Room (Evian’s best Art Nouveau building and one of the finest examples of spa resort architecture in France). Or head to the Evian Mineral Water Company and take a tour of its bottling plant where you’ll learn all about the history of this watery wonder, its geological origin and the entire bottling process. Take a boat tour to the wonderfully-named Pré Curieux Water Gardens, a protected wetland only accessible by solar-powered boat, whose exhibition and discovery trail presents all sorts of ecosystems, from ponds, mountain streams and marshes to damp grassland and deltas. Dominating the water-front promenade is the huge Casino d’Evian (Europe’s largest theme casino), built in 1911 by the architect J.A. Hébrard with 18,220 square foot of gaming space including 250 gaming machines, 11 table games, five restaurants, and one bar.
At the heart of the Hôtel Royal, Les Fresques offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Geneva from its terrace, while magnificent frescoes by Gustave Jaulmes adorn its ceiling. And the food? Creative, sophisticated and spellbinding using the most superlative of ingredients. (Dessert-lovers – don’t miss the must-have Morello cherry warm soufflé with kirsch).
Stay: Hôtel Royal at Evian Resort (4 nights)
||13 nights from £3295 per person, including accommodation, round-trip economy class flights, breakfast and car hire.