Being a musician and having been studying at a Benedictine school, I always dreamed of visiting Solesmes, attend the monastic offices and listen the Gregorian chant performed by the monks. There are other churches in Europe where you can appreciate the beauty of the Gregorain chant however Solesmes, with a tradition of thousand years (1010-2010), is a place not to be missed, not only because of the serenity and beauty of the place but also for the music. The local community of Benedictine monks is famous all over the world for their efforts in revitalizing the tradition of Gregorian chant in the Catholic liturgy, especially from the second half of the 19th century. And it is a privilege to be there. Solesmes is a “petit village” located within the boundaries of the larger city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, well known for its agricultural products and “le Petit Sablé”, a type of butter cookie typical of the region. The trip from Paris to Sablé by TGV takes around 2 hours. The Grand Hotel de Solesmes is a tastefully decorated hotel located just in front of the abbey. You listen the bells tolling and in a matter of seconds (just cross the street) you will be at the abbey’s gate. We spent two nights there, room 106 (90 Euros per night + taxes), facing the back street. The room was clean, spacious, equipped with TV, heating system, mini bar, telephone and wireless internet free of charge. The toilet was separated from the bathroom (which is convenient). There was no wall-mounted shower, though, which was very annoying, as we had to hold the shower hose all the time. Although the room was facing the street, we were disturbed only occasionally by a passing car or the sound coming from the neighboring houses. In the morning, it was nice to hear the bells and the birds chirping on our balcony. If you want to visit the abbey, stay overnight, let’s say, for the Sunday Mass or the attend the daily monastic services, the only option is the Grand Hotel de Solesmes, as all the other hotels are in Sablé-sur-Sarthe, which is located 3 to 4 km from the abbey. The staff is helpful but a bit cold (too formal, perhaps). We arrived in a Friday afternoon and we were well received by a gentle and smiling lady with dark hair who gave us the key and showed us the way to the rooms. She asked us twice about booking a table for dinner. After consulting the menu, I found the prices too expensive and decided not to have dinner at the hotel. Next morning, I went to the hotel’s restaurant and inquired about the breakfast. There was no hot food and the price was again expensive (12 euros per person. The same breakfast in Paris in a **/*** hotel costs 8,5 euros). I went to the bakery nearby (La Banette, if I’m not mistaken) bought two “jambon et beurre” sandwiches (the local baguette called “tradition” is superb), some quiches and, at the café-bar located few meters ahead, two coffees with milk (café-au-lait). Brought them to our room and had a wonderful meal. Few minutes later, on my way to the abbey, a blonde lady at the reception (who, by the way, saw me carrying the café-au-lait…) asked me in a rather direct manner: “Have you taken the breakfast in our restaurant, monsieur?” I answered politely but for some reason I felt rather uncomfortable by her directness. Well, my purpose in telling this little story is to make a point: is the hotel nice? Yes, it’s nice, but somehow you feel that everything is too expensive for the quality of services provided. There are no public transportation around and the only way to get to the hotel from the Sablé-sur-Sarthe’s train station (SNCF) is either walking or by taxi (between 8 to 11 euros, depending the time, holiday or weekday). If you are carrying luggage, walking is out of question. And I would say that the staff “controlling attitude” towards the meals makes you feel a bit awkward for not eating at the hotel’s restaurant. Some reviewers say the food is tasteless. I can’t say anything because I haven’t tried, as the prices were really expensive. Thus, the eating options are limited to the aforementioned La Banette and the café-bar-tabac, and the crêperie “Au coin gourmand”, managed by a young and nice couple where you can taste a diversity of crêpes and whole wheat galettes accompanied by a bowl of apple cider. You can eat inexpensively from these places if you don’t mind eating sandwiches, quiches and crêpes every day. In the last day of our stay we had lunch at the Le Boeuf Fermier, a small restaurant nearby which offers local specialties for a reasonable price. However, travelers must be aware that, generally speaking Solesmes is an expensive place. A 1,5-liter bottle of Evian, Volvic or Vittel mineral water which at any Parisian supermarket does not cost more than 0,70 cents, at the café-bar near the hotel costs 1,20 euros! Back to Paris and telling these stories to friends, the comments were unanimous: “Ils profitent parce qu'il n'y a pas de concurrence.” (They take advantage because they have no competition). It's true.
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and TripOnline SA so you can book your Grand Hotel de Solesmes reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.