La Petite Folie

Honfleur, Normandy, France Book from

Reviewed by Kate Parsons
Whether you choose B&B or self-catering, this warm and welcoming auberge is perfect for a romantic weekend in Honfleur
The Normandy town of Honfleur is bursting with charm. Its timber houses, old port and narrow cobbled streets inspired the Impressionist artists; foodies rave about its fabulous cheeses, cider and restaurants. All in all it's a great place for a long weekend or stopover on a drive to southern France.

But if you needed any more persuading, La Petite Folie is reason to come here in itself. Owned by a French-American couple, Penny and Thierry, it consists of a splendid 1830s captain's house, a quaint 14th-century home next door, and a third building just along the road. The first is a B&B with 6 pretty bedrooms and an apartment, and its neighbours house 5 further self-catering apartments for 2-4, so you can choose what suits you. Outside, the houses are majestic; inside, the B&B is a haven of family-style comfort, with a large salon, a cosy communal breakfast room with an open fire, and hosts that make you feel like guests and friends at the same time (corny but true). You're ideally placed to explore Honfleur or drive to the beaches of Deauville, and just a few blocks from Michelin-starred restaurants.

Highs

  • Great location in the centre of Honfleur, just 100m from the historic port, Vieux Bassin
  • Wonderfully stylish, decor is both bang up to date and a fitting homage to these gorgeous historic buildings
  • Fabulous and very generous French breakfasts served in the cosy salon
  • Charismatic hosts, Penny and Thierry, who love to advise what to do in the area - Penny will even take you to the markets to help you barter for meats and cheeses to take home
  • The historic houses are typical of the region and beautifully styled inside

Lows

  • Strictly a 2-night minimum stay
  • There's only limited parking on site (and at extra cost), otherwise there's a (free) car park down the road
  • No lifts, and winding staircases throughout; not suitable for the frail
  • There's no restaurant on site, but Honfleur's world-class eateries are on your doorstep
  • Unsurprisingly, this picturesque harbour town is full of tourists in the summer months; we'd suggest visiting in spring or autumn

Best time to go

Although gorgeous all year round, the best time to visit Honfleur is during the months of September, October and November when the trees are full of colour, there are plenty of coquilles st jacques (fresh local scallops) and not so many tourists. Honfleur is heaving in the summer months and relatively quiet in the winter period. The hotel is closed during some of January and February.

Our top tips

Honfleur makes a great stopover on a drive from UK to the south of France, or on your return - but don't fly through too fast. There's a minimum stay of 2 nights, and we reckon 3-4 would be better to do justice to Honfleur's restaurants and shops (stock up on goodies for back home).

Do bear in mind that in high summer, its olde worlde charm draws hordes of tourists.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B & Apartments
  • 12 (rooms and apartments)
  • Breakfast only; restaurants nearby
  • Over 18s only (except 2 apartments: over 10s only)
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

The B&B rooms are each decorated differently and lavishly: Farrow & Ball wallpapers, Pierre Frey textiles, Porthault bedding, brass bedsteads, lacquered armchairs and mahogany chests of drawers. Most look over the garden and all have ensuite bathrooms with tasteful toiletries.

On the second floor, Double Room Chez Rene (named after the former owner) is decorated in shades of mint and black, with lacy wallpaper, a wrought-iron bedstead and candelabra bedside lights. Opposite lie the other 2 Double Rooms, La Directoire and Le Kiosque, separate rooms which can be interconnected. Le Kiosque was designed with single women in mind (a salute to Penny's years as a solo traveller). Twin Room La Directoire, decorated in muted orange and greens, has original-style floor tiles (a deep rusty red) and 4 tall windows overlooking rue Haute. The bathroom fuses modern fixtures with an old-style bathtub.

The third floor houses Double Room Mauve and the 2 Suites (La Chambre Bleue and Le Studio Atelier). Mauve is set under the lucarnes (sloped eave ceilings), and is the smallest (but also one of the most romantic) of them all, with soft mauves and greens, exposed wooden beams and a garden view. La Chambre Bleue is a medley of 18th-century French fabrics, antique linens and oversized pillows. The soft blues and greens are pretty and soothing, and it's a large, quiet room with a garden view. Le Studio Atelier breaks from tradition with a rather more modern styling: monochrome colours and bright splashes of modern art fill the bedroom, living room and kitchenette of this airy loft space. Also with cooking facilities is first floor Apartment Jasmine which has a full kitchen as well as a double and a twin bedroom; it’s the latest addition (2014), and we’re yet to see it.

Next door, at 42 rue Haute, are 3 self-catering apartments housed in a 14th-century building. Its original wooden beams and stone floors give a picture of how the building used to look, but the furnishings are modern and stylish. You enter through a private courtyard garden and the bottom floor of the building is a boutique (which closes at 6pm). Apartment Rouge (sleep 2) is on the first floor, with a stunning original 14th-century fireplace (not functioning) and a cosy red colour scheme. Apartment Anis (sleeps 2) is ideal for a couple and is decorated in sage and muted yellow. Third floor Le Trois (no lift, don't forget) has plenty of windows for admiring the great views.

Two minutes' walk away, at 94 rue Haute, are 2 newer apartments (also self-catering). Gernez is a loft-style studio for 2, named after the early 20th-century painter (don't worry, we had not heard of him either) who completed many of his works here. Its first-floor living space boasts tall ceilings, wooden floors and a huge window over the lovely garden, with its sculpted box hedges. The apartment does not have access to the garden below but guest are welcome to use the garden at the main house. Priscilla, occupying the lower 2 floors, is the best option for a couple with 2 (older) children, having 2 bedrooms: 1 ground-floor double with French windows into the lovely garden, and 1 cosy attic twin (WC and basin only).

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Heaters
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

A typical but very generous French breakfast is served to B&B guests, at a communal table in the breakfast room, and the apartments can also have it delivered for an extra fee. All of its produce is locally sourced: apple juice and coffee, cup cakes, crepes, cheeses, homemade jams, fresh breads and pastries from the patisserie, and creamy yoghurts. Penny likes to mix it up and a different extra is available each day. Our favourite was the creamy fromage frais with a fruit coulis and fresh fruit, all from the market. If you'd prefer to eat separately, if on honeymoon perhaps, Penny can make up a separate table in the salon.

The apartments have their own kitchens, with espresso maker, teapot, toaster, small fridge hot plates and microwave - enough for a sumptuous DIY breakfast, or light lunches/dinners if you want - though it's not really intended for long-term self-catering. At Gernez and Priscilla, you'll even get bread and croissants delivered daily to your door; and a few basics (butter, coffee, jam, milk) in the fridge. In the B&B, Suite Le Studio Atelier has a basic kitchenette and Apartment Jasmine has a full kitchen.

Otherwise, you're right in the heart of Honfleur and there are some excellent restaurants within walking distance. The Michelin-starred
Sa Qua Na is world class, and lots of international chefs come to Honfleur simply to eat here. We had an exquisite meal here dining on the five-course menu. If you are pushing the boat out, choose the more expensive 10-course menu for a culinary treat. Le Fleur du Sel and Le Breard come recommended, as does Le Vintage, a funky timbered jazz club/tapas bar. We also dined at newly opened Le Gambetta, just down the road from La Petite Folie, which was delicious.

The gastronomic specialties of the region include Calvados, cider and other apple-based drinks; world-famous cheeses such as Camembert, Pont L'Eveque, and Livarot; and sea food - mussels, oysters and scallops in particular.

If you're staying in the self-catering apartments ask Penny to direct you to the local markets (Saturdays and Wednesdays) where you can pick up gorgeous meats, cheese, salad and fresh breads. The kitchens are intended for simple snacks rather than slap-up feasts, and equipment varies, so check before booking if this is important to you. Rouge has a simple kitchenette with a sink, tea making facilities, crockery and cutlery; Anis' kitchen is more spacious, with a dishwasher, hotplate, microwave and cooking utensils. Gernez and Priscilla both have microwave, fridge-freezer, coffee maker, dishwasher and toaster - but no stove.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll around picturesque Honfleur. Its Vieux Bassin (old port), timbered houses and cobbled streets are charming, and the town recently won a 'Four Flowers' rating for its lush landscaping
  • Visit the local museums: Musee Eugène Boudin (featuring works by the artist who trained Monet), Les Maisons Erik Satie (a visual and musical tribute to the composer), and the Naturospace (a fabulous tropical space filled with orchids, palm trees, birds and thousands of beautiful butterflies) are all worth a tour
  • Pop into the 15th-century Eglise Sainte Catherine, one of the finest timber-frame churches in France

  • Walk into the countryside to see thatched houses and taste local cider
  • Take a day trip to Deauville or Trouville (beautiful beaches), the World War II landing beaches (and museum, if you're interested) or Bayeaux (with its famous tapestry). En route you'll drive through the pretty, undulating scenery of the Pays d'Auge and the Cote Fleurie
  • Play tennis or go for a swim at the municipality sports centre behind the hotel. There's also mini golf and lovely gardens to stroll around. Horse riding and proper golf are also available nearby - please enquire when booking. Deauville has a Thalasso spa with Olympic size heated salt pool and spa services
  • Do an art course: the hotel is surrounded by local painters, sculpters, photographers and graphists who regularly hold classes in their studios
  • Visit the local Farmers Market and stock up on fab cheeses to take home

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

This hotel is not suitable for children. Well behaved kids over 10 are welcome in the self-catering Apartments Priscilla and Jasmine (max 4 guests including children), and babysitting can be arranged. But for security reasons and the comfort of other guests who are primarily couples, children are not accepted in the other apartments or in the B&B sections of La Petite Folie.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Apartments Priscilla and Jasmine are the best (and only!) option. Both have 1 double and 1 twin bedroom. Priscilla's bedrooms each have their own toilet.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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