When traveling on art buying road trips, everything is about timing. The right market, the right time, the right season... and making the most out of the beauty around you. Because otherwise, what's the fun?
One of the best pieces of advice I can give: Rent the very cutest, most unique, eccentric or unexpected Airbnb you can find in the region you will be collecting. Bring maps in case there's no internet. Don't sweat the small stuff. Ok, that was three pieces of advice...
This tactic makes it impossible not to enjoy and soak up the place you're traveling through, which feels especially necessary when you're someone who didn't grow up in France, and each region possesses its unique spirit and charms, not to mention characters and art history.
Most recently (before the lockdown), we headed to the Loire for a big professional fair. I found the sweetest little Airbnb listing in La Fontaine-Saint-Martin, south of Le Mans.
The place itself looked like a mini chateau, just a jewel in the forest, and intrigued me because the location was listed as Le Bois du Maurier. We drove through the night and pulled up the long driveway to be greeted by the mini house and the main house glowing in the night. It was incredibly beautiful.
The host Sylvie greeted us, offered us home made apple juice and apricot jam to look forward to in the morning. When the lights went out, it was pure silence except for the wind. Imagine discovering the bed was heated under those beautiful antique sheets.
A good night of sleep is pretty essential before for rising at the crack of dawn for the professional fair the next day, and heading out into the dark morning with only hand-written directions as Google Maps was extra finicky. A few wrong turns, and ATM mishaps later, we arrived, and here are some photos from the shopping:
After returning from the fair (with some of the paintings now in this shop), I explored the grounds of the Airbnb. Down a tiny path from the cottage is a gorgeous lake, from which the Chateau du Maurier is visible.
While I was mushroom hunting with a basket Sylvie gave me, I realized that the grounds of Sylvie's house had turned into the grounds of the chateau. I walked the back trails for a while with Gigi (my rescue-mixed-elegant-but-grumpy companion), and not trusting my mushroom identification, simply plucked some "specimens" to look up upon returning. The woods were quiet and beautiful. Not a soul.
As I was packing up reluctantly the next morning to return to Paris, I spoke with Sylvie outside for a while, and she told me the story of the chateau. It had been her grandmother's. This property that she still lives on with the cottage was part of the Chateau grounds, which explains the proximity and incredibly secluded access. The family sold the Chateau some 20 years back, and they love the family that bought it. Sylvie kept this corner of the paradise in the family.
I highly recommend this Airbnb booking. Tell Sylvie that I sent you, if you plan to visit. It is both a great base to explore the surrounding region, and also just a perfect hideaway for some R&R, nature, walks in the wood, and a walk through history on the grounds of a chateau. See the Airbnb booking here.
This image with the horse is from the Chateau du Maurier Facebook page, and gives you an idea of the playful family and wonderfully lively bunch at the Chateau these days.
If you're interested in booking the Chateau, that is possible as well! Click here to see the gorgeous photos and booking information.