By Frederic de Poligny
Honfleur, the charming little harbor nestled in the Seine estuary, was one of the main picturesque settings choose by some of the most famous Impressionist painters. Eugène Boudin and Camille Pissaro were soon followed by Monet, Sisley, Jongkind and Courbet, just to name a few. At that time, after 1820, they all used to stay in an old hostel, the farmhouse inn of La Mère Toutain -the lady innkeeper- who offered them a very friendly accommodation. Perfectly set on top of a hill, the inn overlooks the Seine River with a panoramic view till the sea, an ideal location for these painters who changed the artistic rules of the time, by working outside on the spot.
In the 1970’s, the Boelen family, bought l’Auberge de la Mère Toutain, and decided to make a huge and complete restoration of the three different buildings of this historical monument dating from the 17th Century. With a new name, “La Ferme Saint-Siméon”, the property is now a fabulous 5-star hotel Relais & Châteaux. 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. A great importance has been given even to the less little details. Top-quality of bedding, warm and natural tones of the room, wonderful fabrics and high-quality materials guarantee a real good night’s rest. This way, guests can start their day with the energy they need, whatever their choice, an active or a lazy day.
For those who really want to walk in the Impressionist painters’ footsteps, ask for the room n°22, the favorite one of Monet, or for the N°19 that Corot used as his own workshop. Both, as many of the rooms, offer a nice view over the river.
And if you really want to improve your painter’s talent, don’t hesitate to register for the painting courses offer by the hotel. Another successful activity is the discovery of the surroundings with authentic side-cars, from two-hour journey to full-day one. You can also book a sailing cruise on the Seine and along the cost. Deauville is at just a 15-minute drive and there you can enjoy all the pleasures of a beautiful seaside. Horse riding along the beach is a must! And if you are a lucky person, why not try the casino?
At La Ferme Saint-Siméon, gastronomy is important. You have to face the choice between two restaurants, the top-gastronomic one “Les Impressionnistes”, and the bistronomic “La Boucane”. Both are managed by the Chef Matthieu Pouldeur who works with a maximum of local producers for a creative, delicious and totally revisited version of some culinary traditional Norman recipes. Even for hotel guests, reservation is mandatory for the dinner at Les Impressionnistes.
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 chef barman, Fabrice Verdier, who was awarded “Cocktails Champion of France” in 2021. He is always pleased to share with guests his knowledge and to let them discover 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 are at less than 12 kilometers, the D-day beaches are not too far and the tiny and charming Honfleur’s harbor is at a very short walking distance.
And to fullfil all the needs of its guests La Ferme Saint-Simeon shelters a nice spa “La Ferme du Bien-Être” (the Farm of Weel-Being) managed by Patricia Verbecq, French national Champion of massages 2019. Among others, you can try the signature massage “Le Temps d’un Voyage en Normandie” (Time of a Journey in Normandy).
The success of La Ferme Saint-Siméon, pushed the Boelen to enlarge their offer. They recently open another 5-star hotel, just close by, in the heart of Honfleur, a few meters from the harbor itself, “The Saint-Delis”, which is also a Relais & Châteaux, but smaller in size. Only 9 rooms, but with also the 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 later on. There is no restaurant for lunch or dinner 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. It also an historical house with a nice and quiet garden. A 3-minute walk and you reach the lively quays of Honfleur harbour where you could try the restaurant “Le Vieux Honfleur” who also belongs to the Boelen family.
All these Boelen’s properties are gathered in the “Collection Saint-Simeon” that also includes a third hotel, l’Auberge de la Source, a 4-star hotel branded Les Collectionneurs. This hotel is nicely hidden in the green countryside near Honfleur, at a short distance of about 8 km. With 19 rooms dispatched in a few old farmhouse buildings dating from the 18th Century and its own nice restaurant, it’s a fabulous secret place to stay and relax away from noise and crowd, even if the trendy Deauville with its beach, its casino, its festival, is only at a distance of ten kilometers.
More info at www.collectionsaintsimeon.com/en/
Text & Photos ©Frederic de Poligny
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