Provence embraces every glorious French stereotype: amazing food, beautiful buildings, rich history, fields of lavender and hidden truffles. This is a France untouched by time or trend, an idyllic countryside enshrined in film and literature and a beacon for travellers.
An increasingly mod way to
sleep, eat and dream in Provence is à la chambre d’hôte (B&B).
Many are on farms, wineries or a historic property and are highly sought after
for an authentic Provence experience. A feast of a homemade breakfast is
included in the price. Though there are many in the region, here are seven that
offer gorgeous respite from a hard day’s travel.
La Maison du Moulin
La Maison du Moulin sequesters you
in comfortable luxury in the midst of exceptional natural beauty. Picture a
tastefully restored old mill nestled within a wonderfully secluded domain, 3km
away from the history-laden town of Grignan. Much of its heritage, structure
and charm remain, with five handsomely designed rooms that look across truffle
fields and vineyards. The food is a plus – the truffle menu, served in an
atmospheric room, is a feast for the tastebuds. Madame also offers
award-winning cooking courses.
Down a meandering country road through orchards and vineyards, 7km north of the
Roman treasure-filled Vaison-la-Romaine, L’Ecole Buissonniere is the
pride and joy of hosts Monique and John. They transformed this former farm into
an impeccable B&B, with three airy rooms opening onto gardens filled with
chirping birds, and at night a glittering sea of stars. Breakfast is served
beneath a vine-trailed trelly.
Le Mas de la Romane
Here is Provence bliss surrounded for miles by vineyards, olive groves and
lavender plantations, with stunning views of the Lubéron. At Le Mas de la Romane, Christine and Jérôme
have restored the large 19th-century stable to perfection and love having
guests. The décor is classically French provençal: rustic yet smart. The two
rooms are full of character and the bathrooms are seductive and contemporary.
Breakfast in a courtyard garden heady with blooms – on homemade jams – and
daydream by the neat pool. Provence at its bucolic best.
It is like stepping through the looking glass into another world, one of
refined French taste and Provençal elegance, where heels click on terracotta
tiles and rooms are beautifully arranged. No lavender fields in sight; the
enchanting La Bouscatière is smack
dab in gorgeous Moustiers-Ste-Marie, a town dubbed the Etoile de Provence
(Star of Provence). Built into a cliff, this enchanting historic mansion –
complete with old beams, stone walls and original fireplaces – screams harmony.
Relax in the splendid garden, savour dinner in the much-lauded restaurant,
attend jazz sessions (in summer). If only the dream could last forever… but
beyond are earthenware workshops, vibrant markets, fabulous museums and
canoeing on the Verdon. Perfection in Haute Provence.
lies at the heart of lively, artistic, much sought-after St-Rémy. Chantal and
Lazare, the charming hosts, have renovated this lovely 1930s pavilion with a
happy respect for the spirit of the place and for the landscape that envelops
it. Inside, rooms are individually decorated with rich designer fabrics and are
coordinated in cooling creams and earthy hues. Beds are voluptuous and the
quiet rooms look onto the garden, an oasis of calm with an inviting
timber-decked pool. Homemade pastries and cakes are served at breakfast. A very
pleasant place in which to hang your Provençal hat and make sure you are around
on a Wednesday – market day!
A great base for delving into the cultural depths of Aix-en-Provence: step
outside to a parade of pedestrians, boulangeries, cafés, museums and monuments.
Within the spacious mansion, all is calm and intimate. L’Epicerie is the fabulous creation
of Luc, a born-and-bred Pays d’Aix lad who worked in theatre and cinema before
nesting there. Luc’s passion for antique pieces graces the whole house,
cleverly mixing with modern, and dabs of colour brighten the neutral colours
that so suit Provence. But it is the breakfast room, which recreates a 1950s
épicerie (grocery store), complete with straw-filled barrow and lacy whites
hanging up to dry, that steals the show.
Le Mas Perreal
Mas Perreal is an idyllic place for lovers of solitude, lovely hilltop
villages and fine dining. Languishing in vineyards and cherry orchards on a
vast 17-acre domain, minutes from the picturesque town of St-Saturnin-lès-Apt,
this lovingly restored B&B features five rooms furnished with period
antiques and Provençal fabrics. There is a charming simplicity, a soothing,
serene mix of country antiques and modern bits and pieces. On hot summer days,
relax by the heavenly pool or enjoy the big garden and revel in distant views
of the Luberon range. Elisabeth, a long-time French teacher, offers cooking
lessons to guests. If you can bear to break away, there are some delightful
hillside villages to discover.
The article 'Provence's most atmospheric B&Bs' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.