Villa Fol Avril

Moutiers au Perche, Normandy, France Book from Book from £80 per night

Discover an unlikely hotel de charme in an untouched rural corner of Normandy, less than 2 hours from Paris
Villa Fol Avril is full of surprises. Bang on the crossroads of a sleepy village, it looks at first glance like any old relais de poste (coaching inn) - which is what it used to be. But now behind its ochre exterior lies one of Normandy’s most stylish little hotels, whose clean lines and sumptuous fabrics entice you to linger for days. It’s the handiwork of dynamic owners Sandrine and Philippe, who have taken the building’s natural charms (oak beams, old stables) and infused them with contemporary verve and funky furnishings - most of which they've taken great pains to source locally.

The other surprise is the area. Few, even among the French, have heard of the Perche, a historic province tucked away in Normandy's southeastern corner. Yet its historic stone villages and rolling hills, similar to an ungentrified Cotswolds, are one of the region's best kept secrets. It's also famous for its huge white horses. Riding is Sandrine's passion, and the hotel's bizarre name is borrowed from her favourite Arab pure-bred stallion.

Highs

  • Villa Fol Avril's firelit salon, locally crafted furnishings and personal service make this the complete antithesis of a chain hotel
  • The region, much of it a natural park, is great for history-lovers, foodies and walkers alike, with its Percheron horses, venerable manoirs, honey-stoned villages and birdlife
  • The dining room and sunny terrace offer tasty and affordable food, with an informal atmosphere that’s more bistro-chic than grand restaurant
  • There's a decked swimming pool for cooling off in the summer months
  • It's excellent value

Lows

  • Two sides of the hotel are on the road - but it’s the quietest place on earth, and if a car passes more than once an hour in the night, that’s busy
  • Be prepared to dust off your French - English is not widely spoken round here, although Sandrine and Philippe are exceptions
  • This is one of Normandy's remotest corners - not the quickest place to reach from Channel ports, though it's close to Paris and Chartres

Best time to go

Spring and autumn are when the countryside colours are at their best; come in summer if you want to be sure of warm weather for hiking and riding.

Our top tips

Most guests come for one to 2 nights. But you could happily spend longer here, as it's a great base to discover a little known region of France. You could even do a day-trip to Paris by train if you wished.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 12
  • Restaurant
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Light, space and natural materials are the keynotes of all of the hotel's 12 rooms. Set in either the main building or the garden, each of them is immaculate and agreeably different. New oak is cleverly combined with old beams and the odd antique, and there are pleasing corners where a patch of stone or brick has been left exposed. Sandrine and Philippe were adamant that as many as possible of the furnishings should be from the Perche, so furniture, stair banisters and key-holders were all hand-crafted in local wood, and linen bedcovers and cushions were purchased from the long-established Maison Fassier in nearby Rémalard. Even the ironwork lanterns in the stairwell were made by a local craftsman. The only 'foreign' touches are the occasional item from Belgian interior design company Flamant, and a few Eastern European antiques.

Bathrooms are a delight throughout - luxurious, spacious and well-equipped, with thick towels and classy toiletries by Damana. All have bathtubs, and loos are always separate (except in Room 4 - Chambre Confort), which is a pleasing touch.

Two of the larger rooms - and our favourites - are Room 6 (Grande Chambre) and Room 7 (Chambre Familiale), both on the second floor and nestled under the vast oak roof beams. Room 6 has part of an animal manger as a bedhead, a coarse linen eiderdown from Fassier, and luxurious wool carpets and blankets. Room 7, in soothing storm-greys and whites, is a duplex, with a double bed in the main space and twin beds on a platform reached via an oak ladder. For more outdoor space opt for one of the Junior Suites au Jardin or Exception, as they all have private balconies.

Of the first-floor rooms, Room 3 (Junior Suite) has a white Flamant four-poster plus a Percheron antique wardrobe and desk. Stripes and strong colours like navy and burgundy add interest, and flooring is oak parquet or seagrass. Room 2 (Grande Chambre) has a more classic feel with its pink floral wallpaper. Rooms 1 is the only room on the ground-floor and therefore the only room suitable for those with limited mobility.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

Lunch and dinner are so fresh that you can almost smell the garden it grew in, and unlike in so many French restaurants, it's deliciously light. We had a salade jardinière for starter, followed by a fishy filet de julienne aux poireaux and a choice of crispy crême brulée or juicy apple tart. Nothing too fancy, just good local food done to a T. And it's great value, especially if you book half-board. Or you can choose from the suggestions du jour, based on what's in the market that morning.

In summer, you can sit out on the enclosed terrace and watch the gentle goings-on of a rural village. In colder weather you adjourn to the dining room, whose smart oak and chocolate linen décor is every bit as fresh as the food - but be aware that in winter it's only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner, and on Wednesday and Sunday for lunch only.

Breakfast is a fairly standard continental affair, including crusty local bread, croissants, fruit, cereals and yoghurt.

If you fancy going out, there's a surprisingly impressive choice of restaurants nearby, although you'll need wheels to reach them. The foodie favourite has to be Auberge des Trois J in the tiny village of Noce (closed Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday in winter). For an Obelixian extravaganza, head for the luxurious Château de Villeray at Condeau. If you fancy a taste of old France, the Tribunal (also a hotel) in historic Mortagne is a must - try the locally-made boudin noir (black pudding).

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Start with a stroll around this quaint village perché ('hill-village'), whose Romanesque church dates back to the 12th century and boasts the largest dog gargoyles ever seen. Amble down the cobbled lanes with their honey-stone houses and rose-decked gardens, past the tempting épicerie (deli) and bakery
  • Relax by the heated outdoor swimming pool with its elegant decked area for sunbathing
  • If you're into hiking, this undulating region is criss-crossed with well-marked footpaths; make sure you stop off at La Bourdinière farm shop a couple of miles away for an unbeatable picnic of home-made bread and goats' cheese
  • If you prefer to see the area on horseback, there's a pony trekking centre on the edge of the village. If you want to ride a mighty Percheron, just ask Sandrine - she's passionate about horses and will happily to fix you up (bring your own gear and pay by the hour or per day)
  • Go fishing on a lake nearby (again bring your own gear). Hunting and shooting are also available, as is golf (at Bellême, 28km away)
  • Visit the region's tiny fairytale manor houses, many of them still inhabited by their original land-owning families
  • The historic town of Mortagne-au-Perche, with its ancient houses, crumbling convents and monumental portal, is less than half an hour's drive away. On Saturdays there's a great market in the central square, and at the end of March you'll catch the annual Foire au Boudin (black pudding fair), when over 5km of the dark sausages are sold
  • The pretty town of Bellême boasts some of the best artisanal shops, including the chocolatier of Charles Bataille (14 Boulevard Bansard des Bois), the homewares and tea-shop of Le Comptoir du Porche Adorable (1 Rue du Château) and the usual weekly market (on Thursdays)
  • Chartres is less than an hour's drive away (55km), with its soaring Gothic cathedral, pretty half-timbered houses and the languid waters of the river Eure bisecting the old town

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

The hotel is child-friendly but Philippe and Sandrine are keen to not have too many children on site at the same time - it can spoil the atmosphere. Under 5s stay for free.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Room 7 (Chambre Familiale) is a large duplex with a double and 2 single beds ideal for families

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors are available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Pony riding
  • Farms nearby
  • Castles to explore
  • Local markets and fairs to experience

Kid Friendly:

Location

Villa Fol Avril is in the village of Moutiers in the Perche region of southeast Normandy.

By Air:
Paris Orly (140km away) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (170km away) are a 2-hour drive from the hotel, mostly on motorways - see our car rental recommendations. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

By Ferry from the UK:
The most direct route is Portsmouth to Caen. From Caen, you follow national and minor roads for a little over 2 hours (a journey of 152km). Alternatively, you can sail from Newhaven or Portsmouth to Le Havre. From Le Havre it’s a 2.5-hour drive (218km) following the motorway as far as Louviers, then national roads N154 and N12 and the minor road D918. Other ferry routes, such as Portsmouth or Poole to Cherbourg, or even Dover to Calais, are also possible and can be useful if you're combining the Perche with other parts of France.

By Train from the UK:
If you'd prefer to travel overland, take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then the train from Paris Montparnasse to La Loupe, 12km away. You can also take the Eurotunnel car services from Ashford to Calais and drive from there.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to France and getting around

Airports:

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle 170.0 km CDG
  • Paris Orly 140.0 km ORY

Other:

  • Beach 150.0 km
  • Shops 8.0 km
  • Restaurant 5.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 17 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

Lovely room, fabulous food, really helpful staff and beautiful countryside.

10/10,

Amazing food, but they could work on putting a good vegetarian and vegan option on the menu. This is the future. We had amazing service and we got to use the pool at night to look for shooting stars.

8/10,

Very special and nice place, we liked it very much.

10/10,

This was our third visit, and we plan to return.

10/10,

We really enjoyed our time at VFA and found our room to be comfortable and charming. It felt as if we had our own cottage. The hotel is located in one of the most picturesque villages in the area. The owners were very helpful in giving us ideas, maps and restaurant recommendations for our trips around the region. One of the highlights if our trip was visiting Manoir de Soisay and bieng show around its amazing interior.

10/10,

We had a lovely stay at Villa fon Avril. The owner was charming and helpful as were all his staff. Excellent dining room. (breakfast and dinner). Beautiful countryside. Enjoyed swimming in the heated pool....just right for twenty lengths before breakfast. Moutiers en Perche is a lovely Normandy village. The church in the village is especially pleasing (if you like that sort of thing). Walking in the wonderful woods in May is fabulous. I think that we will go again.

9/10,

The room opened on to the garden - lovely anyway, but perfect for us as we had the dog with us.The room itself was lovely, quirky. The dinner was fantastic, they were accommodating of my not eating fish, and it was a perfect last night in France, as we were staying as a stop-over on the way to the tunnel which is only about three hours away. The village is just gorgeous, and the region of Perche was new to us and is absolutely beautiful. We will definitely return.

10/10,

A tiny but important thing; the internet was not working in our room and the front desk told us that this is a frequent problem. No big deal since we were there for one night but can imagine for people staying long, it may be an issue. The staff were truly welcoming and warm. Overall, a truly delightful place. We will happily go there again. The village itself is very pretty and there looks to be some lovely walks in and around the area. So if you're looking more to do a lot more than just read, sleep, eat extremely well and take a swim in the pool, then this is not for you. This is a place to switch off and soak up some glorious country views.

10/10,

The hosts were superbly generous. The gave us excellent tips for hikes and trail rides, The room was spacious and very pleasant, the restaurant lovely. We enjoyed every minute of the four days, in spite of the occasional bad weather.

10/10,

This hotel is simply beautiful. Our room was stylish and elegant, with everything we needed. The service was excellent, always available but never intrusive. The surrounding area is beautiful and the hotel is a perfect haven.

10/10,

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