Four Hotels and a Mistral!
Where to stay in the South of France
A much used quote is….“It is better to travel well than to arrive”.….well, that may indeed be the case for many journeys, but not when you arrive at some of the hotels I stayed in when I was in Provence, Ardeche, Gard and The Rhone Valley recently, where it was infinitely better to arrive in such charming and comfortable surroundings. On a recent press trip to the South of France, we, me and the group I was travelling with, stayed in four different hotels, all of varying style and quality. From a minimalist “Boutique Hotel”, a charming eighteenth-century Provençal mas (farmhouse) where the Mistral howled outside my bedroom window, to a listed seventeenth-century town hotel with roof top views, we were offered the opportunity to lay our heads on various different style pillows, as you will read in today’s post entitled Four Hotels and a Mistral! Where to stay in the South of France.
Each hotel was vastly different from each other, and would suit most visitor’s needs, both in comfort and in pocket. Our first hotel was the boutique hotel, Hôtel Burrhus, which was situated in the charming mediaeval town of Vaison-la-Romaine, in Provence. The hotel is situated on the edge of a busy market square, so expect a bit of noise, especially on market days, and as I discovered from talking to my fellow travellers, each room varies in style, comfort as well as convenience to other rooms. If you have heavy baggage, as we all did, be prepared for a long walk up myriads of stairs, not only from the street level to the hotel itself, but to your rooms too. My room was to the front of the hotel and was large and airy with two large windows, and a bath, as well as some unusual lighting features – see below! But, I do know that other rooms were tiny, with no view, and were consequently extremely hot with air-conditioning that didn’t work.
The breakfast at Hôtel Burrhus was served on the terrace overlooking the town and was very good, with local cheeses, ham, saucisson, fresh fruit, croissants, pastries, local bread and baguettes, confiture, eggs, cereals and yoghurt being offered at a help-yourself buffet area. Vaison-la-Romaine is a charming town, with a history that goes back to Roman times and beyond, hence its name; located in the Haut-Vaucluse region, Vaison-la-Romaine is situated between the Alps and the Mediterranean, and the town boasts a wonderful weekly market, which I enjoyed walking around before breakfast when I was there. From bowls of glistening black olives, bunches of fragrant lavender to large crisp lettuces, juicy crimson tomatoes, baskets of herb infused saucisson and wheels of locally produced cheeses, the market was vibrant and filled with the colour and flavours of Provence…….
………but, it was time to move on and experience another hotel. After a wonderful day up in the mountains in the hillside village of Brantes, where we foraged for edible flowers and herbs with Les Aventurières du Goût, we checked into our next bed for the night at Domaine des Clos, Beaucaire, in the starkly beautiful Camargue region of Provence. The Domaine des Clos is an eighteenth-century Provençal mas (farmhouse) and it captivated my heart……it was my favourite hotel on the whole of our five-day trip, just the sort of place I could stay for a week’s holiday, where tranquillity and beauty are in abundance, but large towns and cities are just on the doorstep.
Lovingly renovated and restored by owners David and Sandrine Ausset, they run this beautiful hotel comprising individual bed and breakfast rooms, family suites and apartments with their two children. Sandrine is an exceptional cook, and we enjoyed an excellent evening meal there on arrival with matched Costières de Nîmes wines. I was given the charming Chambre Jaune, (Yellow Room) situated in the bed and breakfast block, where there are four other rooms, a salon and a very well equipped kitchen. My room was large and comfortable, it was furnished with antique and vintage French furniture…….with en-suite bathroom and toilet as well as a separate dressing room and luggage room, there was a television and writing desk for your entertainment and correspondence, as well as free Wi-Fi.
After a pleasant and enjoyable dinner, and with the Mistral now blowing a cool (and yet very welcome) cauldron of air all around us, I took a turn around the Domaine’s secluded gardens at dusk…….nightingales sang, the statues and garden art installations loomed in the half-light, and the region spoke to me through the cold wind……it was a moment where all modern-day thoughts were eliminated, blown away with the region’s infamous weather conditions, where yesterday becomes more important than today……it was a strange feeling, and not an uncomfortable feeling, but typical of how the Mistral makes you feel apparently, thoughtful and in tune with the past.
Although the Mistral continued to blow throughout the night, and it moaned and whined through my bedroom window, I found it strangely soothing, and had a wonderfully restful night’s sleep. After a relaxing bath, I made my way down to the terrace for breakfast. Breakfast at Domaine des Clos is quite an affair; guests can opt to inside the dining area, or sit outside on the terrace.
We were served warm, croissants (under a rather amazing and very quirky cloche), a selection of home-made jams, (of which I can heartily recommend the courgette, lemon and mint confiture) assorted bread and baguettes, fresh fruit, yoghurts, cereals, Danish pastries, fruit juice, cheese and hot drinks. The breakfast is “À volonté” which means an unlimited serve-yourself style buffet. Sandrine and David joined us for breakfast and shared their renovation tales, which was (and still is) a life-long project and a labour of love.
I was very sorry to leave this beautiful place, it spoke to me on so many levels, and I have decided to go back with my husband for a short break soon. Our day was planned for us, and we set off from Beaucaire for the UNESCO site and ancient Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard and subsequently onto our third hotel in Tournon-sur-Rhone, Hôtel Azalées. Situated near a main freight train line, the hotel suffers from excessive noise as the freight trains go past; it’s part of the Logis Hotels group, but as a regular guest of Logis Hotels, it’s not in the style of the usual beautiful, old and historic buildings, but is more like a Travelodge, which was disappointing. We were faced with a mountain of stairs again, and as our rooms were on the third floor, it was an exhausting trip. My room was clean and functional with a tiny en-suite shower, but, it was adequate for one night’s stay.
However, what the hotel lacked in charm and character, was more than made up with their restaurant, which is listed in the Michelin Guide. We all enjoyed a few aperitifs outside the hotel before dining in the restaurant; my meal was excellent and the wine menu was also imaginative and well priced. One word of warning for all you who may travel by car, the car park which is opposite the dining room terrace is very small, and if you are dining o the terrace, the view is of the car park with all its associated noise and fumes! Our breakfast was pleasant, with the usual buffet of pastries, cakes, cheese, ham, cereals and fruit, as well as some hot dishes of local sausages and eggs.
After a day enjoying a steam train ride, a trip to the vineyards on a Segway, as well as several wine tasting sessions, we checked into our final hotel, Hotel de la Villeon, also in the town of Tournon-sur-Rhône. Hotel de la Villeon is an elegant and very tastefully decorated hotel that is situated down a quiet street near the waterfront and castle. The hotel is located in a 17th-century grand town house (mansion), with stone staircases, a vaulted cellar and the most amazing hanging gardens. Inspired by the 18th-century period and its curiosities, the décor is a subtle blend of tradition and modernity, where comfort means pleasure and relaxation, and I must say that I was equally smitten with this hotel as I was with the Domaine des Clos, albeit in a town house kind of way!
With only 16 guest rooms, it has a feel of total exclusivity and decadence. The bar is located to the rear of the building and opens out on to the courtyard; it features bold contemporary decoration inside a vault that was carved into the rock face and where a pool is supplied with water from the spring that supplies the high terraces and hanging gardens. We were all taken to our rooms, and hallelujah! This hotel has a lift! So no humping of cases up several flights of stairs. Each room is unique, having been designed and laid out in keeping with the historical nature of the building. I was the lucky one, as I was given the only room with a balcony, that looks out towards the Heritage hillside vineyards and over the red-tiled town houses.
The room types are set out into eight categories: COMFORT – They are bright and cheerful and will instantly inspire you to relax. The 3rd-floor guest rooms all feature skylights, each one complete with a blind, and some of which are “bulls-eye” windows. HISTORICAL – They are equipped with trumeau or High-Relief mirrors, and Hungarian point flooring or floor tiles according to the rooms. ROMANTIC – Once inside, one is instantly transported into the most mellow romanticism thanks to the panoramic view over the Hermitage’s estate. From the balcony, one can see the dome of the Saint-Joseph Collegiate Church, the town’s Museum-Castle and the Hermitage vineyards bordering the Rhône River – this was MY room! AUDACIOUS – It is laid out upon two levels, creating an aerial volume while providing the gentlest, most peaceful kind of stay. Located on the 3rd floor, it boasts a luxury bathroom complete with a bath……..
……..INSPIRATION – This is one of our suites where the architectural heritage has been listed as a Historical Monument. Located on the 2nd floor and overlooking the courtyard, it provides a direct view over the gardens and the hotel’s centennial wisteria. HIDEOUT BENEATH THE ROOFTOPS – The antique tiling and the attic ceiling featuring oval-shaped skylight windows bring the finishing touches to the warmth of this quiet and peaceful room. LA VILLEON – The walls and ceiling are decorated with wainscoting. The room’s rounded angles are adorned with plant motifs, as are the tops of the doors and the fireplace’s concave cheeks and their white marble ribs. And finally, GODDESS – Located on the 2nd floor of our residence, this 31.6m² suite is delicately poised between the gardens and the terrace. It has its own independent entrance and a private terrace lined with wisteria, all the better to instantly transport you away.
My room was delightful, with crisp linen and a well-stocked bathroom with Molton Brown toiletries and a bath as well as a shower; there was a welcome plate of sweetmeats and chocolates, as well as bottles of water and a personalised welcome letter. There are various reception rooms where one can sit and read, as well as the dining rooms, which are exquisitely decorated and furnished to the era of the building. Breakfast was taken on the terrace and was a full French breakfast that comprised assorted cheeses, charcuterie and ham, fresh seasonal fruit, yoghurt, local freshly baked bread, baguette, bread rolls and croissants with confiture, fruit juice and hot beverages.
All of the hotels we stayed at were very different to each other, as you can see, but, they will suit different types of traveller, and as you will see from the extra information and tariffs below, they will also suit different budgets too. With thanks to: Valerie from Provence Guide, Jessica from Inter-Rhone, Carole from Vacances Gard and Lucile from Ardeche Tourism. Karen
More information about this area of France can be found here:
Read all about my FULL itinerary and schedule here:
And all about my day with Les Aventurières du Goût here:
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the above tourist boards and I was not asked to write a post; all views and opinions are my own and are not representative of any of the aforementioned tourist boards.
(current as of August 2015)
Room rates from €58 to €64 per room per night
Breakfast €9 extra per person
Room rates from €105 to €135 per night
Breakfast €10 extra per person
Dinner €28 per person (pre-booking required)
Suites and Family Suites from €125 to €195 per night
Apartments from €550 to €1900 per week
(All-inclusive prices per week inclusive of water, electricity, heating, gas,
house linen and housecleaning upon departure)
Rooms from €69 to €92 per night
Breakfast €9 extra per person
Rooms/Suites from €143 to €297 per night
Breakfast extra €18 per person
Recipes from Provence: