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Luxe for Less Travel

5 ways to save money when visiting France

Last year, I spent quite some time planning a small road trip around France. I found that it was quite easy to have a luxurious French holiday on a low budget. If you hope to visit France, these are my top tips for making the most of your money.

 

Tip 1: Shop around to find good deals

My Dad seems to pretty much always find the best rates for hotels when he makes his reservation directly with the hotel. Hotels often have deals available on their own websites. However, I usually find I can get better prices when I use different sites, so I always shop around.

For our trip to France, I used Booking.com to book all of our budget hotels. I found that their prices beat those offered everywhere else and they had added bonuses too, such as being able to cancel our reservation for free very close up until the day we were staying.

You can find some great value budget hotels that don’t feel like they’re a cheap hotel at all. Possibly because it was a little way out of Lille itself, the Mercure Lille Metropole Hotel was a great price and felt very modern and comfortable.

I found an amazing deal for a chateau in rural France by using Secret Escapes. Their price was a great deal cheaper than the price offered by the hotel themselves. We also had breakfast every day included, which would have been an extra cost if we booked through the hotel. In addition to this, we had free unlimited access to the chateau’s spa, which was a fantastic facility to enjoy whenever we liked. We also received a box of chocolates in our room on arrival, which was a simple but really nice extra.

I’ve seen other great value deals for luxury hotels in France on Secret Escapes many times, so it’s definitely worth checking on there to see what they are offering. They also sometimes provide deals that include Eurostar travel, so that’s worth bearing in mind if that is how you would like to travel.

 

Tip 2: Stay at both budget and luxury hotels

If you’re planning on visiting a few different places in France and you want to watch how much you spend but you also want to enjoy some luxury, mixing budget and luxury stays is a great idea. I employed this technique on our road trip, as did my Mum and Dad when we travelled to a few places in France years ago.

When we stayed in cities, or nearby, I booked cheap budget hotels. When you are visiting a busy area where there is lots to do and see, it’s often the case that you’re going to only be sleeping in the hotel, so it makes sense to book somewhere cheap. I then booked a luxury chateau stay for a few nights in rural France.

I found it was a really nice mix to stay in some cheap hotels to keep to a lower budget, with a luxury stay to look forward to later in the week. This way, you’re still indulging in some luxury but keeping your overall spend for the holiday down.

 

Tip 3: Travel for free on the Eurotunnel or ferry

We wanted to take our car to make it easy to travel around France, so we decided to take the Eurotunnel. If you have a Tesco Clubcard, you can save up your vouchers and use them to pay for Eurotunnel tickets, or for the ferry. Tesco vouchers are currently worth triple the value for these partners, so vouchers can go a long way. It’s an easy way to get free or very cheap travel to and from France.

We found the Eurotunnel to be a really easy and quick way to travel. There is a terminal to visit before you board UK-side with places to get food and a duty-free shop. When it’s time to board, you simply drive up and wait in your allocated lane, then drive onto the train when boarding opens. The journey only takes about half an hour and you drive straight off the train and onto the French roads. We couldn’t believe how much easier than flying it was!

 

Tip 4: Find the free attractions 

There are so many free things to do in France. A good tip is to search on TripAdvisor for things to do in the area you are wishing to visit. By doing this, you can find good ideas of what attractions you can visit for free, plus helpful information from other visitors about the sights and activities. I found several free places to visit for our road trip, including parks and gardens, a cathedral and even a zoo!

Planning your visit to coincide with free admission dates provides another way to have free days out. Throughout France, there are many tourist attractions you can visit for free on the first Sunday of the month. An example of this is the Chateau de Fontainebleau, which is usually costs 11 Euros per person to visit.

 

Tip 5: Have a picnic

France is renowned for it’s plentiful fresh bread, delicious cheese and wonderful cakes. Instead of going out for lunch every day, having a picnic is a great way to save some money. In my opinion, it can be just as enjoyable as visiting a restaurant. So much of France is picturesque and green that it’s often easy to find scenic places to sit and have some lunch.

We saw several people doing just this in the grounds of the stunning Pierrefonds chateau. I mean, you can’t get a backdrop like that for a lunch date very often!

 

I hope these tips will be of some help if you plan to visit France at some point. Let me know if you’ve been to France before and if you have any tips!

Travel

The final part of our French road trip

And so the time has finally arrived to document the final part of our French road trip. It was nice to do something different and to travel around a country a little, visiting lots of new places.

I’m glad we made the decision to stay in some budget hotels during our trip, with a few nights at the luxurious Chateau d’Augerville. I think that’s a good tip if you’re travelling around and want to watch your spend – stay in a few budget hotels while you’re visiting cities and then splurge on a luxury hotel for a few nights of indulgence and relaxation.

We were a little sad to be saying ‘au revoir’ to the chateau. It had been a peaceful place to relax in the evenings, where we really enjoyed taking in the scenery and grounds of the old building.

We drove through the gates for the last time, to head towards the hotel we had booked for the final part of our French road trip.

Because the chateau was a very long drive away from the Eurotunnel, we had chosen a budget hotel that was much closer to Calais for the last night of our stay.

Located less than an hour’s drive away (only about 40 minutes if you’re happy to use a toll road), made the Hotel Najeti du Golf a great choice for our final night.

We found the hotel to be great value for money. Whilst it was pretty basic, which you would expect of a budget hotel, we felt that what was provided was very good for the cheap price.

As you can probably tell from the photos, the room was a good size and the bathroom was much nicer than a slightly more expensive hotel we stayed at earlier in the trip at Compiegne. I didn’t even bother writing about that hotel because we both honestly hated staying there, even though it had lots of positive reviews on Trip Advisor!

We had lovely views of the golf course and the countryside from our bedroom windows.

During the afternoon, we headed to some wine warehouses to purchase plenty of wine to bring back with us because how could we not! We got some great deals on many bottles of wine and champagne. Having said that, we did buy a case of wine I was sure we would enjoy, only to find out when we got home that neither of us liked it at all, which was very disappointing!

It was nice to see different parts of France and to visit cities as well as peaceful places and to go shopping, sightseeing and enjoy a luxury spa all in one holiday, so I’m really glad we chose to do something different to the usual beach holiday.

There were so many highlights during the trip. I really enjoyed visiting the Pierrefonds chateau, which was such an impressive building. Similarly, the Fontainebleau chateau was a real joy to visit. I do have to also mention the Chateau d’Augerville spa, which was such an experience. I’ve been to a small handful of spas before and this one has to be the best I’ve visited so far.

The only downside to doing so much travelling was that it was a little tiring at times and we came home feeling like we could do with another holiday to recover! Always a good excuse!

Travel

Lunch at Bistro atelier Beauvallet

I have to admit, I’ve been dragging out the posts about our French road trip, mainly because I don’t want the reminiscing to end! However, needs must and part 7 is well overdue.

After spending the morning at Fontainebleau we returned to our hotel, Chateau d’Augerville for a little wander around the grounds, before heading to Bistro atelier Beauvallet for lunch.

As well as the luxury spa, the chateau also has it’s own golf course, golf boutique, salon and even a chocolate factory! Yes, you read that right, you can go and make chocolates on site and browse their offering of ready-made chocolates in la Chocolaterie.

Looking forward to having a relaxed lunch and drinks, we headed over to the hotel’s bistro, Bistro atelier Beauvallet.

A combination of rustic features and modern decor, the brightly coloured animal artwork on the walls provided a fun touch to the interior.

Choosing to sit outside under a parasol to shade us from the hot sun, we sipped on cold drinks and snacked on complimentary crisps, whilst enjoying the grounds of the chateau.

The bistro is very popular with golfers playing at the chateau’s golf course and it soon got very busy.

For lunch, after feeling like I had eaten a little too many unhealthy treats during the holiday and wishing for something light, I opted for the salmon salad.

Dan had possibly his 3rd burger of the holiday and I mean who can blame him?!

There was a very enticing selection of desserts available, but we were too full to attempt to eat anything more!

It was such a shame that the bistro didn’t open in the evenings for dinner. The other restaurant at the chateau, Le Restaurant Jacques Coeur, served amazing food but it certainly wasn’t cheap and sometimes it’s nice to have a lighter meal in the evening.

We were quite sad to be having our last lunch at the chateau and to see our road trip almost at it’s end.

I feel like now would be a good time to mention that we purchased our stay at Chateau d’Augerville through Secret Escapes. We enjoyed our stay, but I definitely wouldn’t have paid full price – we saved a huge amount using the Secret Escapes deal, which in my opinion was much more of a realistic price. The chateau felt like a luxurious place to stay and the grounds were lovely, as was the spa. However, it was in a very rural location, with much driving involved to visit anywhere, which is something that would sadly put us off visiting again.

We saved a fortune staying at this hotel and also got added perks thrown in for free, like spa access and a complimentary box of chocolates on our room in arrival. It just goes to show that shopping around for a good price when travelling can reap rewards!

 

Travel

French road trip part 6: Fontainebleau

We planned on visiting Fontainebleau whilst we were staying at the Chateau d’Augerville because it was only a half hour drive away.

After driving past the Chateau de Fontainebleau when we entered the town and seeing how impressive it was, we couldn’t miss getting a closer look at it.

First, we wandered into Le jardin de Diane, an English-style garden, in the grounds of the chateau.

We thought it would just be a very small garden next to the chateau but we were pleasantly surprised. There were several meandering paths taking us through very well kept and peaceful gardens containing statues, a fountain and grand buildings.

Visiting fairly early in the morning meant that we were lucky to find the gardens pretty quiet. I can imagine that they would get busy later in the day.

The fountain was quite a focal point.

We found a path which led us through to the front of the chateau.

I wore clothes that would keep me as cool as possible for most of this trip – I can’t tell you how hot it was and walking everywhere in the hot sun didn’t help matters!

Dan tried something different on the camera and I’m not sure what he did but it worked a treat to show a panoramic view of the front of the chateau.

We went to take a closer look at the ornately decorated black and gold entrance gates.

Standing in front of the gates, the chateau looked very impressive with it’s grand horseshoe-shaped staircase and immaculate formal gardens.

You can look around the inside of the chateau for a fee, but to look around the gardens was free. Similarly to many attractions in France, admission to the chateau is free on the first Sunday of each month (apart from in July and August).

We chose to miss looking inside in favour of browsing the nearby shops and of course we wanted to get back to the hotel early so we could spend plenty of time in the luxury spa on our last day there. Who wouldn’t!

Travel

French chateau luxury spa experience

After walking around Orleans for the morning in part 5 of our French road trip, we did a little browsing at a nearby shopping centre, Place D’Arc, and then found a restaurant for lunch.

We sat outside at L’Entracte by Paul and had a burger each with chips and salad leaves, plus a refreshing cold drink to cool us down from the hot sun.

Feeling full from our lunch, we couldn’t wait to head back to the chateau for an afternoon in the spa.

It was lovely to arrive back at the peaceful and picturesque chateau grounds after the hustle and bustle of Orleans.

The spa was incredibly relaxing and the perfect place to completely wind down.

The exceptionally cold water you could walk through in the oval section above was certainly not something I chose to partake in! And neither was the icy water in a bucket you could drop onto yourself in another room!

I did venture into the ice room for a while though, which was pretty chilly. The sauna and steam room provided a complete contrast.

Underwater beds offer a lie down combined with hydromassage jets.

Stepping inside the Rain Mist Corridor provides a unique experience.

Standing inside, you witness changing lights, sounds and falling water, all mimicking various tropical rainstorms. Quite surreal and rather impressive.

A duo of pedispas means we could both enjoy a warm bubbly water treatment for our feet together.

Seating areas indented throughout the pool containing more hydromassage jets.

We retreated to the warm Winter Garden to relax on the sun loungers and read a magazine while sipping fruit tea.

A perfect way to end the day!

Travel

French road trip part 5: Orleans

The location of the chateau, the base of our stay for this part of our trip, being very rural, we chose to go out and about the next morning and visit Orleans.

As we arrived at an underground car park, I spotted this metalwork horse perched on one of the beams and couldn’t resist attempting to take a photo of it as we drove past!

After finding somewhere to park the car, we wandered through this little garden, complete with painted animal ornaments!

With benches dotted around, it was a tranquil little space.

Eager to explore more, we walked into the centre of town, where we found more greenery and stone benches, perfect for catching some shade under the hot sun.

The Place du Martroi is home to a selection of restaurants and bars, a fountain display and an imposing statue of Joan of Arc.

I took a photo of the fountains as they were at full height and looking much more impressive, but someone decided to walk in front of the camera just at the wrong time!

Wandering through a narrow street full of old timbered buildings, we emerged back onto the main street and headed towards the cathedral.

We took a slight detour to the right of the cathedral to take a closer look at a water feature.

The Cathedrale Sainte-Croix is a hugely impressive building.

The intrinsic detail throughout the front of the building was breathtaking.

I wasn’t sure if I was particularly interested in going inside, but I’m so glad I did.

The inside was just as impressive as the outside. The sheer scale was surprising to me – it felt absolutely huge. There were so many things to look at and read about, with plaques and information boards providing historical facts.

I didn’t take many photos because it just didn’t feel right to somehow – it felt too sacred and spiritual. I think I may have got goosebumps walking round there. It would be a perfect place to sit and reflect and to express gratitude for the amazing things we have in our lives.

It certainly gave me an unquestionable feeling of there being something bigger than us out there. Yet another amazing experience on this road trip.

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La Vallee Village and a rural chateau stay in France

For the next part of our French road trip, we left our hotel at Compiegne and headed down to the rural chateau we had booked for the next few nights, stopping off at a shopping village on the way.

La Vallee Village is part of a collection of designer shopping outlets across the world, including Bicester Village in Oxford and it is located very close to Disneyland Paris.

Similarly to Bicester, La Villee Village is not cheap – the shops are high-end designer shops and the village is impeccably maintained, so we only window shopped, apart from picking up some beautiful Villery and Boch glasses that I fell in love with.

The shops quickly became very busy, with queues forming just to get inside the most popular shops, so we headed to Pret a Manger to pick up some lunch. It was very crowded in there so we took our lunch with us and got back on the road, looking for somewhere scenic to pull up and have a mini picnic.

We found a lovely peaceful spot looking into the forest, where we ate our salads and snacks and took in the fresh air and all the greenery around us. Bliss!

We headed straight for our next hotel – Chateau d’Augerville in Augerville La Riviere.

There was an event taking place in a nearby town, and the road that our sat nav tried to take us down was closed for the celebrations, which resulted in me hilariously attempting to converse with some French ladies who spoke very little English. Somehow, we managed to vaguely understand each other, and new directions were followed.

We were a little relieved to finally arrive and to check into our room.

We stayed in one of the Tradition Rooms, all of which are situated in the 17th century listed outbuildings opposite to the chateau.

Traditional and rustic decor and features, with modern amenities like air conditioning, which in the blazing heat was much needed, let me tell you! Although no kettle or hot drink making facilities were provided, which were greatly missed.

Considering the rural location, and we were a little weary from a day of travelling and walking around the shopping village, we chose to eat at the chateau restaurant, Le Restaurant Jacques Coeur, for dinner on our first evening staying here.

Wooden panelling and beams combined with a grand fireplace made for a formal and very traditional room.

We snacked on a trio of nibbles while we browsed the menu, followed by a choice of various types of fresh bread rolls.

We were served a salmon amuse bouche, which looked incredible, and I’m so annoyed I forgot to photograph it!

We both chose the Limousin beef with potato croquettes and vegetables for our main course.

The food was delicious and the portion size is very deceiving – although eating fresh bread, an amuse bouche and a trio of nibbles beforehand were probably the main reason I struggled to finish my food!

The food at the chateau restaurant isn’t cheap, but it was certainly good quality and very enjoyable.

We had a couple of drinks and then headed back to our room to get a good night’s sleep ready for another day of exploring and a much anticipated trip to the chateau spa!

Travel

French road trip part 3: Arras & Pierrefonds

In September, Dan and I went on a road trip around Northern France. You can read about parts 1 and 2 of our road trip here and here.

Having booked a few nights at a chateau quite far south of Lille, we planned for our next overnight stay to be in Compiegne, but we decided it would be nice to stop off at Arras on the way, to stretch our legs a little.

Arras France

We wandered around the cobbled Place des Heros and Grand Place squares, taking in the French architecture and browsing the market stalls set up all around the town. Due to the big market taking place that day, Arras was a hive of activity.

Arras belfry and town hall

The town hall and belfry really stood out on the square. You can walk up to the top of the belfry for a view of the town, but we decided we better get back on the road after a little wander around and head towards our next destination.

When planning our road trip, I had discovered that Pierrefonds was located not too far away from Compiegne, and it looked like a good place to look around with a chateau and lake to walk around, so after checking in to our hotel, we were back on the road again.

As soon as we neared Pierrefonds, we spotted the impressive chateau, and we couldn’t wait to get closer to such an enchanting building.

Pierrefonds proved to be very busy, so when we finally found somewhere to park the car, we made our way up the hill towards the chateau.

Pierrefonds Chateau

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I find that old buildings can sometimes be a little creepy, and standing right in front of this domineering building and looking up at it, it was pretty breathtaking, if a little spooky! It certainly looks like something out of a film, and so it isn’t much of a surprise to know that it was featured in the BBC series Merlin.

Pierrefonds Chateau

You can walk around the inside of the chateau for a fee, but we decided to enjoy a slow walk all the way around the outside of the chateau and in the grounds, which was completely free to do.

Catapult at Pierrefonds Chateau

View from Pierrefonds Chateau

Being perched on a hill means that beautiful views of the town can be seen from all sides of the chateau.

Pierrefonds Chateau

We wandered back through the town, watching people riding swan pedalos across the lake.

Pierrefonds lake

We headed back to the hotel and found a nearby Leon de Bruxelles restaurant. Having never eaten at this chain before, we decided to give it a try.

Dan opted to have burger and chips, whilst I thought I would be daring and try the seafood salad.

Leon de Bruxelles seafood salad

I’m not a huge fish fan so I think maybe I was being a little optimistic with how much fish there was! At least I had been brave and tried something different for once though! But I decided that next time, I may stick with the safe option.

After a wonderful day sight-seeing and travelling, we were looking forward to the next stage of our road trip, staying in a chateau in rural France.

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Outlet shopping and patisserie brunching

On the second day of our French road trip (you can read about our first day here), staying close to Lille in northern France, we discovered that there was a McArthur Glen Designer Outlet in nearby Roubaix. We enjoy visiting Cheshire Oaks, which is another McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, so we decided to take a little drive and do some shopping.

McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Roubaix

There were several shops for familiar brands, such as Lacoste, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Guess, as well as many I hadn’t heard of before.

I used to visit the Kookai store in Manchester many years ago, so it was nice to see they had an outlet there, and I loved this white top with a cute lacy collar.

White Kookai top with lacy collar detail

We got pretty hungry browsing all of the shops, so we decided to get some brunch in between our shopping.

We went for a little wander around Roubaix and found this rustic patisserie full of beautiful cakes and breads. Well, it would be rude to visit France and not indulge a little!

Patisserie Roubaix

There were busy tables outside, but we chose to sit inside in the quiet and cool off a little from the hot morning sun. Yet again, I was way too focused on the food in front of me that I forgot to take a photo before we had started munching away!

Roubaix patisserie

For the last night of our stay close to Lille, we couldn’t be bothered to get ready and go back out for dinner after a day of driving around and shopping, so we decided to be totally lazy and get dinner service so we could relax in our room. We both chose the ravioli, which arrived served piping hot in rustic glass jars with bread rolls.

Mercure Lille Metropole room service

Mercure Lille Metropole room service

Just what we needed after a long but very enjoyable day out.

Travel

A not-so budget stay in Lille

Dan and I decided to do a little road-trip around northern France. We love nothing more than spending our holidays lounging on sun beds, eating ice cream, soaking up the sun and cooling off in a beautiful blue pool. However, for our latest holiday we fancied doing something different; soaking up the culture and beauty of France and getting out and about in various towns.

Our first stop was Lille. We wanted to have some budget stays on our trip, so we decided to stay at the Mercure Lille Metropole Hotel for a couple of nights. A good base to see the city, around a ten minute drive away from Lille, meaning quiet evenings for a great night’s sleep and great value for money due to not being in the centre of town.

Front of Mercure Lille Metropole

With it’s greenery outside and modern lobby and rooms, the hotel hardly felt like a budget option.

Mercure Lille Metropole

Mercure Lille Metropole lobby decor

The rooms have been recently refurbished, with lovely bright colours creating a welcoming vibe. The artistic headboard really stands out as being something unique that gives the room a distinctive modern edge.

Mercure Lille Metropole bedroom

Mercure Lille Metropole headboard

With free car parking, air conditioning, minibar and more, the hotel proved to be great value for money.

Mercure Lille Metropole bedroom

After a long day of travelling and visiting Lille, we decided to have a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and then have dinner in the restaurant.

Mercure Lille Metropole restaurant

Dan and I both opted for bagel cheeseburgers, which arrived served with super cute newspaper-style lined baskets of french fries, and all of the food was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I couldn’t resist having a few mouthfuls before taking photographs!

Mercure Lille Metropole bagel cheeseburger

Mercure Lille Metropole french fries and bagel cheeseburger

We were very disappointed to be too full to try dessert, but we knew that we would be eating enough bread and cakes for the rest of our holiday to make up for it!