THE INSIDERS MONTSOREAU, LOIRE VALLEY
CO-OWNER, LILY & LULU STAY: La Marine de Loire, Montsoreau Built and decorated by its talented owner, Caroline Chagnaud, each guestroom in this beautiful hotel is unique. The view of the Loire from Les Grandes Sablees is glorious, but my favourite is Saisons, which overlooks the courtyard garden. Make time to be pampered in Chagnaud’s divine day spa; hotel-lamarinedeloire.com. STROLL: Rose-scented ramble From the hotel, turn right, head up the hill behind the small square and stop to smell the roses — literally. An amazing array of flowers grows wild up ancient stone walls as far as the eye can see. Keep climbing, it is worth it for the view over the slate roofs to the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers. INDULGE: Antiques shopping The village of Montsoreau is full of wonderful antiques shops, the highlight being the gorgeous small boutique owned and run by Yannick Lafourcade at 22 HauteRue. Browse the beautiful pieces and be sure to mention Melissa sent you. Hopefully, he will flash his most divine smile and the angst of overspending will disappear. BE INSPIRED: Chateau de Chaumont This 10th-century edifice stands tall among the many magnificent chateaux of the Loire Valley. Its annual Garden Festival (April to October) hosts themed displays created by landscape architects, designers and artists from across the world; domaine-chaumont.fr. LEARN: Abbaye de Fontevraud No visit to the Loire Valley is complete without a few hours spent at this spectacular abbey, the resting place of Richard the Lionheart; abbayedefontevraud.com. TASTE: L’Aromate Restaurant It is impossible to make a poor selection from the innovative menu at this restaurant in the township of Saumur. But don’t go past the confit de canard with fresh herbs and goat’s cheese; laromate-restaurant.com. SIP: Domaine de la Paleine In the heart of the Loire Valley, near the magnificent Notre Dame du Puy, this family-owned vineyard set among 14ha of vines is a must-see. Clothing and homewares business Lily & Lulu runs small-group tours for women to France. More: lilyandlulu. com.au.