Given its rural location in a small village, a reader might wonder why we thought 2 days was too short a stay at Val En Sel. However, we are train travelers who enjoy walking out in the countryside and consider this area to be one of the most beautiful for doing that. Just did not have enough time to explore more....
Footpaths and unpaved narrow roads led us from St. Pere through fields lush with grapevines and grains intermingled with pastures and hilly woodlands. Along the way we encountered some equestrians and an occasional artist painting the scenery that included grazing cows and sheep. Our favorite trail led up to Vezelay about a mile from the B&B. This town, famous for its Basilica of Sainte Marie Madeleine, sits on a hilltop and is a pilgrimage as well as a tourist destination.
Here there is mainly one steep street offering shops, a helpful information center, an interesting art museum, and there is a good selection of restaurants in the vicinity. At the top, the Basilica showcases a soaring nave leading toward a gothic choir (this part under wraps for repair then). It was lovely to hear the robed nuns singing during a service in the side cloister chapel. Walk out to the rear of the church for panoramic viewing down upon the wonderful landscape. From here we continued walking toward Asquins village and unexpectedly came upon the ancient refuge of Chapelle St. Croix, one of those off-the-beaten-track treasures.
This review has strayed a bit too long away from Val En Sel itself and all the benefits of staying there - even if trekking the surrounding trails is not your delight. It is a good base for driving to day-trip destinations as well. Dominique hosts her guests with charm and ready assistance. When we commented on the unique baptismal font in the local church, she told us that four generations of her family have been baptized there. She is very knowledgeable about this area and her advice well taken.
Behind her ancestral manor she has labored, joyfully it seems, to produce a marvelous garden. The wisteria was beautiful and fragrant and it was a pleasure to relax in the comfortable garden seating - a perfect place to unwind after sightseeing with a glass of wine. Inside the very large and rambling house there are bedrooms upstairs for dreamy sleeping, exactly like the colorfully and uniquely decorated ones pictured on the website. Our attached bathroom was spacious and modernly functional. Downstairs the sitting room was just the spot for reading, having refreshments (served when we arrived) and researching the informative materials provided. In the morning, we would find a delicious breakfast presented prettily on the dining room table. We most of all enjoyed the little jugs of fresh yogurt and the tasty croissants. At the time we were there, we practically had this part of the house to ourselves so had a lot of privacy. One evening we bought our wine and supper choices at the village market and bakery for eating by candlelight in the dining room.
When we arrived at Sermizelles by train, we appreciated so much that Dominique had surprisingly offered to retrieve us from this station several miles away from her B&B in St. Pere. As we got to know her a little more, though, it became obvious that her gracious helpfulness is simply her way of giving her guests the best possible visit. We were again thankful when she brought us back to catch the train (for the 2 1/2 hour ride to Paris). Next time we travel to France we will rebook with Dominique for sure.
We recommend without reservation that fellow travelers go and enjoy the hospitality and beauty to be found at Val En Sel.
Elaine and Joe
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- 2 km from Vezelay, Val Sel is a charming eighteenth century manor surrounded by extensive gardens listed among the most luxury private gardens of France.In the quiet wing, reserved for guests, the 3 rooms and 2 family suite are decorated with antique furniture, a beautiful collection of engravings and antiques that create an atmosphere authentic and refined ... more less