Spending an increasing amount of time in Paris, using Paris as our entry and exit point from Europe to the United States, we decided we wanted to get out of the city and start to explore more rural places in the French countryside.
Our honeymoon was on the horizon, so of course a quick look at the Relais & Chateaux website was our first stop. Our initial search revealed around 150 properties in France, the most of any country in the world – so where to begin? We wanted somewhere romantic, easily accessible as we would love to return in the future, great local food, fun things to do, and luxurious...welcome to La Chapelle Saint Martin!
When we began to narrowed our search we focused on locations that were rich in history, culture and countryside charm. All roads led us to Limoges, and the rustic and elegant chateau – La Chapelle Saint Martin. This post will break down a perfect weekend in the French countryside as we explored Limoges and its surrounding villages.
First things first: transportation. We happened to be working in the UK and flew direct into Limoges airport (LIG). While a small airport there are a surprising amount of flights servicing the region. Upon return we were headed to Paris which was easily accessible by a direct train route from the Limoges main station. Planning the weekend closely with La Chapelle they sent private transport from the airport to the Chateau. Upon arrival we immediately fell in love with the property.
While elegant, the property is also unpretentious, with a warm welcome from the staff who treated us like family, we immediately felt like we were home. The historic 19th century chateau is surrounded by traditional gardens, ponds, beautiful centuries-old trees, and has only 14 guest rooms and villas. We found the perfect place to unwind.
Our room was a detached two-story villa, The Pavilion, perfectly appointed with every amenity one could dream of. The Pavillion, once a horse stable in it’s history, gives the rustic and cozy feeling downstairs with a modern and elegant second floor sleeping quarters. The cobblestone first floor opens up to a wonderful stone fire place and lounge area, this is juxtaposed with the luxurious sleeping accommodations and bathtub upstairs. Needless to say, a bath was in order shortly after our arrival!
Rejuvenated after a soak (with fresh flower petals), we explored the grounds before dinner. Out and around the beautiful pond and surrounding forest, the property truly feels like you have made it to the secluded French countryside people dream of and takes you back to the 19th century.
Making our way to the dining room we were shown our table where our culinary adventure was about to unfold. Spectacular dishes with incredible flavor come one by one as we went through the tasting menu, each artfully staged on the gorgeous local porcelain. The fish and prawns were amazing, one course of home made ravioli – spectacular, the beef dish as the entrée was magical. The meal is best described as a work of art, with a perfectly paired wine tasting alongside each dish. The cheese cart to finish was the best selection I have ever seen at any restaurant, ever. Two carts, one dedicated to goat cheese, gave an enticing variety that left us in cheese bliss. Followed by a delicate and delicious French desert. Overall spectacular meal, and the perfect way to end the day before retiring to our private outdoor fireplace at our villa.
The following day we dined for lunch at the chateau and explored a lovely four course meal prepared by the chef and La Chapelle's talented culinary team. We had a beautiful spread of fish and wine followed by the most delectable soufflé we have ever had in our lives! The culinary experience at La Chapelle Saint Martin is unlike any other. Traditional French cuisine meets modern gastronomy. We highly recommend experiencing their craft in incredible food preparation and taste!
La Chapelle had arranged a tour of the most famous porcelain factory in Limoges the following day – Bernardaud. After a fabulous lunch at the hotel's restaurant we were off to explore the origins of Limousine porcelain. Bernardaud, a family run porcelain icon, has been making porcelain in the region for over a century. Through the tour we learned the art of the craft as well as how the styles have evolved through the years. No trip to Limoges is complete without a visit, you’ll be astounded at both the process and the capabilities of the Bernardaud artists.
Next, we wanted to explore some of the smaller towns on the outskirts of Limoges and really get a feel for the area. La Chapelle had given us a few suggestions for exploring and very graciously lended us one of their Citroen 2CVs for the journey! We picked a town on the map and we were off.
Mortemart and Eglise Saint-Hilaire-de-Poitiers was at the finish line of our wonderful afternoon highway cruise through the countryside. We stopped along the way to admire flower fields and small towns and cafés before arriving at the destination where we walked the grounds of the cathedral and the square in the center of Mortemart. Soaking up the peace and tranquility of the town we hopped back in our trusty 2CV to head back home to La Chapelle to relax before our night on the town!
The restaurant of choice was La Table du Couvent. La Table du Couvent was absolutely incredible from start to finish. Located near the Limoges town center, La Table du Couvent is set in a 13th century monastery, nestled among the parks and buildings. La Table specializes in cooking local meat all over open flame in the fire place, right in front of the patrons – what an amazing concept! Upon entering the restaurant, we were mesmerized watching the butchers preparing cuts for the grill. We were led through a stone archway to the side room with another butcher chopping away and a chef throwing cuts over the fire, the scent was intoxicating. We went with the waiter’s recommendations for the most popular dishes and had an amazing meal. The headliner was, of course, the Limousine beef steak – melts in your mouth, and nothing compares to the incredible flame broiled flavor. La Table du Couvent is worth a visit to Limoges in and of itself, an absolute must.
To round out our stay, we spent our last day touring the bee hives on property with the chef and owner, did we mention La Chapelle makes their own honey?!
We suited up in our bee keepers uniforms and accompanied the owners down to the hives. This was our first introduction into the world of apiculture, and it was an amazing experience. The owner and head chef at the restaurant, Gilles, took us through the harvesting process and introduced us to the bees, hive by hive. We went through what it takes to make all the varieties of honey offered in the Chateau, which include Chestnut, Wildflower, Dandelion, Buckhorn, and many more - just an amazing experience.
After a wonderful lunch and a glass of champagne, we were Paris bound. Limoges was not only an easy getaway but a welcomed change in scenery from our time spent in the city. La Chapelle Saint Martin was enchanting in every way and we couldn't have imagined celebrating our anniversary anywhere else. Classic architecture with a modern flare and hospitality that surpasses that of any property we have visited. We haven’t seen anything like it in all of our travels and are looking forward to returning, soon.
So if you love fine dining, French countrysides, history, and hopeless romance, La Chapelle Saint Martin is the place to book your next getaway!