Welcome back to Beautiful Spaces—a series of posts in which I talk about the places where I stay during my travels. It all started in 2013 when I realized that my contentment on the road is directly connected to how much I love where I’m living…and so made a commitment to find beautiful spaces to call home along the way. Below are a handful of such spaces.
My recent cycle trip across France was an unusual thing for me accommodation-wise.
Firstly, because I normally stay in one place for a month, renting an apartment, cooking at home, taking things slow, and on this trip I traveled quickly, cycling into town one day and out to the next town the next.
Secondly, because I spent a lot of time on this trip in budget hotels, something I would normally (ironically) consider too expensive when I could find an apartment at half the price.
And thirdly, because I didn’t plan ahead (mostly). I’d never done a distance cycling trip before and, thus, had no way of knowing how many kilometers I’d do in a day, when I’d need breaks, how far was too far to assume I could cycle. And even if I had done a trip before, there’s no way a month or two in advance to tell which days will be full of drenching rainstorms that stop your cycling before it even really begins or which days your bicycle will do something crazy and you’ll need to stop and take it into the shop. And so planning ahead, I decided early on, would only stress me out, force me to cycle when I shouldn’t be, and possibly make me miss out on stopping in places just for the sheer beauty of them.
And so, in an unusual move, I found myself cycling into town most nights with no idea where I’d lay my head.
First, I tried campsites. But I quickly learned that sleeping on the ground after a sore, long day of cycling is pretty much The Worst Thing Ever. And so I very quickly decided that even though it would probably kill my budget, I needed to stay in a bed every night.
And so the next month was spent hopping from one budget hotel to another mostly, with a few little splurges (mostly accidental, when the town I rolled up to didn’t have a budget option or the rain was coming down in sheets) along the way.
Of all those places I stayed, these were my favorites:
Hotel de Biencourt in Azay-le-Rideau
A not-too-far detour from the main cycle path, Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded by castles (my favorite was l’Islette) and vineyards and the hotel itself was my #1 favorite place I stayed along the way, with its excellent breakfast spread, comfortable rooms (named after famous artists and creatives), and location just steps from the castle. Rooms start around 65 euros.
Grand Hotel de l’Abbaye in Beaugency
Grand and beautiful with stone staircases and luxe rooms, this is the most expensive place I stayed during my trip. The highlight? A breakfast buffet of products made by monks and nuns. Rooms start at 69 online (mine ran over $100, but I did just show up).
La Coyere, near Saumur
I dedicated a whole post to this little French countryside getaway, but it deserves another mention here. Think: rustic country-style furnishings, a peaceful location next to a farm, and farm-fresh eggs.
Hotel Henry V in Sully-sur-Loire
This little budget hotel is a true budget place with a no-frills lobby and a possibly-needing-renovation interior, but for some reason I just loved it here. It’s hard to rationally explain because it’s not particularly beautiful or well-kept, but the bed was like a cloud and the price was right and I just felt good there. Rooms start at 45 euros per night.
Ibis Styles in Colmar
Ibis is a widespread chain of hotels here in Europe with budget, styles (mid-range), and higher-range hotels in many major cities. I actually stayed in quite a few of these, especially when I arrived in a city on a Sunday (when the tourist office wasn’t open to help me find the cheapest budget option in town). I always knew I could count on Ibis for something semi-reasonably priced and that always accepts dogs. My favorites were the Ibis Styles in Colmar (pictured above), which is beautifully colorful, and the Ibis Budget in Bourbon-Lancy (the interior was nothing particularly special, but it was right on the lake and had a lovely view).
Going to France?
I wrote a book for you. Check it out:France: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, & How to Fit In.
Looking for more accommodation reviews? You’ll find them all here.