Up here on the hill, not easy to find, is a Templar hamlet and a millennium of history: an enclosed farmyard, a ruined medieval chapel framing the sunrise, a tithe barn with high oak timbers – and this modern house. José-Marie, an unhurried grandmother of generous spirit, loves the history, harvests her orchards and vegetables, and welcomes genuinely. Bedrooms and bathrooms are in plain, dated farm style but open the window and you fall into the view that soars away on all sides of the hill, even to Laon cathedral. Homely, authentic, simple and great value – but not for you if you need all the mod cons and aren’t keen on dogs. One guest said, “So relaxed, like staying with a dear family member”. Jose-Marie gives you a breakfast of fresh baguette, cheese and homemade jam, yogurts and muesli. Then head off to explore. Saint-Quentin, a listed art and history town is a half-hour drive, Reims with its grand cathedral and champagne houses offering tastings and cellar tours, is about an hour, and it’s an ideal stopover if you’re travelling from Calais to a southern destination.