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6 February 2024

Ferrari Fun in France from Lord and Lady

Where to take a Ferrari FF to enjoy it at its best? Well it was designed as a touring car so a luxury Chateau near the Le Mans 24hrs racing track seemed like a really good idea. The French roads are ideal touring material and provide endless opportunities to really test out this wonderful feat of engineering. Perhaps starting with a really unique hotel in Paris and finishing up in a historic house in England would make this a perfect review of this fantastic Italian supercar.
The Ferrari FF (Ferrari Four) is a very sexy car, especially in the rich Rosso Maranello. This stylish super car is a design dream, from the Prancing Horse on the wheels to the leather interior with FF logo. This even extends to under the bonnet with the eye-catching 6.3 litre V12. The FF has a top speed of 335km/h and sprints from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds.
We powered comfortably from London to Dover, enjoying the acceleration and that wonderful F1 sound!  Hopped on a ferry over to Calais, nestled in the club class lounge during the journey.
It was a distinct pleasure to finally get the Ferrari out on the smooth French roads and enjoy the thrill of the engine, the fine sports seats holding you firm in place as you slalom from lane to lane French style (except for our indicating with is regarded as cheating in France). The car is so finely tuned that you draw every drop of power from the engine at the touch of the pedal, secure in the knowledge that you can accelerate out of any problem and brake confidently if needed. The cabin is reassuringly luxurious with a modern racing design, the smell of Italian leather fused with steel and engine oil. The decor is racing Ferrari red, grey and black with beige interior and multi coloured buttons adorning the robust steering wheel, which reacts to the smallest turn to propel you exactly where you want to go. The suspension can be adjusted from comfortable to lethal, somehow increasing your local gravity so the car stays locked in a permanent smooch with the ground.
The FF is Ferrari responding to their audience of wealthy discerning customers who want both a race car and something they can whisk off for a weekend to the South of France and still take some luggage. The FF looks as flash as any Ferrari but is practical as well and Ferrari have succeeded in producing something truly exceptional. A car with all that Ferrari joy that you can use every day. Hats off to this legendary brand!
Our first port of call in Paris was the sumptious 5 star Saint James’ hotel, an extraordinary mansion house, right in the 16th with its own massive entrance and huge grounds. Once through the gates and into a courtyard complete with fountain you step into an oasis of luxury and decadence. The hotel is a plethora of arresting decor complete with faux zebra heads over the fireplace, rich colours and textures and eye catching carpet and mirrors everywhere.
Our room 504 (junior suite) was a wonderful surprise, complete with an elegant conservatory style sitting area cleverly created with skylights and the ubiquitous French mirrors, adorned with an abundance of greenery. A step down into the bedroom reveals a fantastic use of prints and fixtures and some lovely pieces including the angelic headboard.
Dinner was an extravagant experience, set in a beautiful French ballroom, replete with giant chandeliers, French history mixed with a modern design aesthetic, looking out on balloon style tents in the garden. We followed advice and went for the multi course surprise tasting menu, from chef Virginie Basselot, complete with wines. We were not disappointed, the plates kept coming and we kept eating and oohing and aahing. From foie gras with stewed apple and pomegranate seed jelly, to smoked turbot with béarnaise sauce, to spiced confit of lamb and then the puddings (yes plural!) iced meringue cake with grapefruit and lemon bergamot cheesecake. Sublime!
We spent a wonderful day in Paris cruising the Champs Elysees and visiting some favourite haunts, before heading out to Le Mans on a wonderful drive, Fleetwood Mac blaring (I’m sure you can guess which one … think F1). The Ferrari excelled on these roads, feeling like a formula one car, but with touring comfort.
We arrived at the impressive Chateau de la Barre, along a stunningly picturesque winding drive, and were greeted by our delightful and gracious hosts, Comte et Comtesse Vanssay, whose ancestral home it is. A wonderful dinner with local food and wine followed, with some fascinating dinner companions, followed by digestifs in the drawing room, redolent with a palpable sense of history. Guy gave us a wonderful tour of the Chateau, and Marnie shared their  plans for renovating the chapel and creating a spa. A wonderful opportunity – not to be missed, we would urge you to visit.
The return drive to Calais gave us the chance to have some fun with the car – launch control! This James Bond style button in the centre console sends maximum torque to the ground for a spin-free, high performance start in all conditions. It controls both the wheels, torque and the engine so you just push your foot down and it gets you going as fast as road conditions and simple physics will permit. Marvellous, especially when next to Porsches at traffic lights!
We boarded the ferry with ease, whisked ourselves up to the quiet calm of the club class lounge, and with a glass of champagne the miles simply evaporated
On to Great Fosters in Egham, Surrey, built as a royal hunting lodge in 1550 and now sympathetically converted into a luxury hotel. It consists of the beautiful Grade 1 listed main house and the Coach House along with the Cloisters,  stunning ornamental gardens and outside pool and has played host to many international icons and celebrities as well as royalty.
We stayed in the historic Panel bedroom, which features original wooden panelling and a majestic four poster bed, and the most wonderful, if slightly surreal loo, but we won’t spoil the surprise!
Sadly the Tudor Room was closed for dining (it was Sunday evening), but we were comfortably looked after in The Estate Grill, the hotel’s very new contemporary restaurant. Throughout the hotel, from reception to the restaurant, all the staff are attentive, friendly and professional.
We indulged in a final glass of champagne in the cocktail bar, to the dying strains of Dancing Queen, from the wedding taking place in the Tithe Barn, then we wound our way up the historic staircase, caught a glimpse of the blushing bride, and closed the door on a wonderful weekend.
The Ferrari FF is majestic, exciting and thrilling, brilliant on even a mundane drive and the last word in sport meets touring for the petrolhead connoisseur.
St James Paris
Great Fosters Surrey de la Barre Le Mans…
Ferrari FF