Château des Hauts de Loire Hotel Domaine Hauts de Loire near the Loire Valley castles Depending upon your schedule, seeing the Loire Valley castles along the Road to Happiness (Route de Bonheur) can be as short as a few days or as long as a summer escape. My three-night mini excursion brought me, and newest Gal Pal Gail, to the Loire Valley where enchanting castles, charming Relais & Chateaux hotels and the best in food and wine awaited us. The journey began…

rp_lion-dor-1024x683.jpgCharming villages dominate the landscape in the Loire region of France. The boutique hotels of the Relais & Chateaux are among the finest in the area. Grand Hôtel du Lion d’Or (Golden Lion) was the first stop in gal pal Gail and my three night mini “Route de Bonheur” – road to happiness and we were thrilled to find such a wonderful Loire Valley hotel.

DSC_0968It would be hard to find a better place to begin our gal's trip to the Loire region than visiting France's Chambord Castle, the best in France. Feeling regal, we checked into the Grand Hotel du Lion d'Or a Relais & Chateaux property where we were treated like queens. 

Rum baba: Sponge cake, soaked in rum-flavored syrup with strawberries Rum baba: Sponge cake, soaked in rum-flavored syrup with strawberries Approachable and effervescent two-Michelin star chef Jean-Luc Rocha at Hotel Cordeillan Bages in the heart of the Bordeaux wine region in Pauillac makes staying at this Relais & Chateaux property owned by the Cazes' family, a dream come true for foodies like myself. Delicious eye-candy, plate after plate came my way when I dined there on my last visit to area.

DSC_0306Bordeaux is the perfect place to taste fine wines, but there are more experiences to be had in the land of vineyards. Hotel Saint James Bouliac, a Relais & Chateaux property is situated across the river from the city of Bordeaux and is not only a beautiful hotel but offers unique culinary experiences to enhance the visit to the area. The hotel began as an eighteenth-century farmhouse and in the late 1980's was made into a modern luxury hotel with a gourmet restaurant and first-rate cooking school.

  Sophisticated Library Bar Sophisticated Saint James Library Bar Impressive Hotel Saint James Paris is both regal and relaxed. Paris' only château hotel, this five-star Relais & Chateaux member is in a gated park-like setting. Close to Victor Hugo and the Arc de Triomphe, the peaceful estate made me feel like I was out in the country in the heart of the city.

hotel daniel sitting roomFirst impressions count! When we arrived at the Relais & Chateaux, Hotel Daniel Paris, the bellman opened the door that led us into an impeccably decorated combination lobby and living room reminiscent of a comfortable French country estate. Boutique luxury hotels are plentiful in Paris, but ones that make you feel at home are the best types. Hotel Daniel exceeded our expectations on all fronts, especially the cozy factor.

DSC_0270When I began the morning with a fresh cup of ripen strawberries, a warm croissant and a view of hot air balloons in the background, I knew it was going to be a terrific day. Although I hated to leave our outstanding Hotel Saint James Paris for a minute, Sunday in Paris, for me, obliges a visit to church and a mandatory stroll of Montmartre hidden gems. For others in our party, who shall remain nameless, my stroll was more like a forced death march up the stairs, down the hill and back up again. C’est la vie…

  The view from my lovely suite at Hotel Daniel The view from my lovely suite at Hotel Daniel From sunrise to sunset, a perfect day in Paris was had by our group. Father Tucker, Terry and Nancy Sheffield and myself landed in the City of Light after viewing a glorious sunset from the cabin windows of our respective flights. As fate would have it, there was a security scare at Charles de Gaulle which kept the Sheffields on one side of security and the rest of us on the other, awaiting the police to sort out the abandoned baggage and allow our group to reunite and depart for the City of Light.