Honfleur, France, is a charming harbor nestled in the Seine estuary, where the Seine River flows into the English Channel, in the northern part of Normandy. It was a muse for some of the world’s most famous Impressionist painters, and a stay at the 5-star La Ferme Saint Simeon lets you feel like you’re in one of their lovely tableaus.
Eugène Boudin and Camille Pissaro, followed by Monet, Sisley, Jongkind and Courbet, are a few of the artists who used to stay in an old hostel, the farmhouse inn of La Mère Toutain, named for the lady innkeeper who offered them friendly accommodation. Perfectly set on top of a hill, the inn overlooks the Seine River with a panoramic views to the sea. It was not only an ideal location for these painters who found their inspiration in the scenic location, but it’s now a serene spot for travellers to create their own memory masterpieces.
The New Inn
In the 1970’s, the Boelen family, bought l’Auberge de la Mère Toutain and decided to restore the thre 17th century buildings. Now with a new name, La Ferme Saint-Siméon, the property is a luxurious 5-star hotel that’s part of the Relais & Châteaux family.
The buildings kept all their ancient structures, Norman style half-timbered facades, large stone paving, centuries old oak beams. The rooms and suites are a perfect mix of stylish design and ultra-modern comfort. Each one is like a delicious cocoon that invites guests to stay longer. Guests will find tons of top-quality details such as lush bedding, warm and natural décor, and modern amenities that make a stay here feel pampered.
For those who want to walk in the Impressionist painters’ footsteps, ask for the room N°22, the rumoured favorite of Monet. Or for room N°19 that Corot used as his own workshop. Both, as many of the rooms, offer a nice view over the river.
Le Pressoir at La Ferme St Simeon-
And if you really want to improve your painting talents, register for one of the painting courses offered by the hotel.
Another successful activity is the discovery of the surroundings with authentic side-cars, from a two-hour journey to a full-day. You can also book a sailing cruise on the Seine and along the coast.
At La Ferme Saint-Siméon, gastronomy is important. You have to face the choice between two restaurants, the top-gastronomic one is Les Impressionnistes, and the bistro, La Boucane. Both are managed by the Chef Matthieu Pouldeur who works with local producers to create delicious and innovative versions of some of Normandy’s traditional recipes. Even for hotel guests, reservation is mandatory for the dinner at Les Impressionnistes.
The lounge at La Ferme St-Simeon
In the huge lounge, facing the old fireplace or close to the large windows comfortable armchairs and sofas attract guests all day long, to share coffee, tea or drinks. If you are a cocktails lover, don’t hesitate to ask the barman, Fabrice Verdier, awarded “Cocktails Champion of France” in 2021. He will happily suggest one of his best creations.
The hotel is a great place to stay a few days for a total relaxation, but it’s also an ideal base to discover the region. Deauville and its huge sandy beach and casino are at less than 12 kilometers.
Normandy’s D-Day beaches are not too far.
The charming Honfleur Harbor is walking distance from the inn.
The success of La Ferme Saint-Siméon, pushed the Boelen to enlarge their property They recently open another 5-star hotel, just close by, in the heart of Honfleur, a few meters from the harbor itself,
Called the Saint-Delis, also a Relais & Châteaux, the inn is smaller, with only nine rooms, but he same level of style and comfort. The Saint-Delis offers a large buffet breakfast in the morning, a tea-time service in the afternoon, and a charming bar. There is no restaurant, but a free shuttle service is available anytime to get in less than five minutes to the Ferme Saint-Siméon and its restaurants and spa.
The Saint-Delis is the former house and workshop of a painter, Henri de Saint Delis, with a quiet garden. A 3-minute walk and you reach the lively quays of Honfleur Harbour, where you can dine at at Le Vieux Honfleur, which also belongs to the Boelen family.
This hotel is nicely hidden in the countryside about eight kilometres from Honfleur. With 19 rooms dispatched around a few old farmhouse buildings dating from the 18th century and its own nice restaurant, this inn feels like a secret place to stay and relax away from noise and crowd.
BeSeeingYou In: Honfleur, France
Good to know: Honfleur changed hands many times in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) between England and France
WOW! Factor: Honfleur is home to the largest wooden church in France, the Sainte-Catherine church
Tip: Take a guided boat tour of Honfleur’s harbour to understand its important maritime history
Author bio: Frederic de Poligny