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five luxury hotels in Provence

five luxury hotels in Provence

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Old Nov 1, 16, 1:19 pm
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five luxury hotels in Provence

After leaving Paris (see that report here), we spent five nights in Provence, staying in four different hotels and doing a site inspection at a fifth. We spent our days in the Luberon driving tree-lined country roads, visiting quaint hilltop towns, and exploring the destination.

Here’s the deal when considering where to stay: Provence is not Paris. You’re “in the provinces,” and there’s a trade-off that you need to consider before making decisions about where to stay. What are you looking for?

You can find modern, up-to-date accommodations with large rooms and state-of-the-art bathrooms, but you’re giving something up in the process. Alternatively, you may prefer provençal authenticity with all the trade-offs that are involved when you stay in a small, family-run property with lots of local flavor.

My premise is simple: either choice qualifies as “luxury travel,” but you need to think about the kind of luxury you want when touring in the country.



La Mirande

We spent our first night at the Virtuoso hotel in Avignon, La Mirande. My wife Claire absolutely loved our stay in room #40, a Grand Deluxe. We were not able to inspect any other rooms as the hotel was fully booked, but each room at this hotel is unique, both in shape and furnishings.

La Mirande is the archetype of a quaint, charming, authentic Provençal hotel. Our Grand Deluxe was a comfortable, spacious-enough bedroom with a Queen bed. It’s well located in Avignon, right next to the Papal Palace, originally built in the the 14th century as the Cardinal’s residence. Our bedroom had a tile floor (typical in Provence as it helps keep things cool in the summer) and one tall one window, draped with lush satin curtains with tasseled tiebacks, that looked out over the garden with a view of the papal palace. There was an old chandelier in the center of the ceiling, an antique writing desk and bed tables, even a soaking tub right in the bedroom.



The bathroom facilities included a step-in shower with good water pressure, a WC, and dual vanities. The breakfast buffet was extremely good, and the bed was so comfortable… I slept soundly until 7:30 a.m. (two hours past when I normally get up!).

A word about driving to the hotel. Driving in Avignon is a challenge, as the streets are — well — not really streets. They are pedestrian walkways, and it’s barely possible to drive your car down them. Waze was virtually useless, but the traffic officer manning one of the barricades let us through so we could drive up to the hotel. Once you reach the front door of La Mirande, the staff parks your car for you. Next morning when we checked out, our car was ready and waiting for us to leave for our day of touring.

We met the owner while admiring some of the art on the breakfast room walls, a personable and gracious hostess. I introduced myself as a Virtuoso travel advisor, and she deputized me as her ambassador… in which role which I’m pleased to serve! Years ago, I spent a night at Hotel d’Europe in Avignon, but I truly preferred my stay at La Mirande. My sense is that Hotel d’Europe tries to be something that it’s really not (more formal and sophisticated). La Mirande simply embraces its inherent charm as a small 26-room hotel.


La Coquillade

Our next two nights were spent a La Coquillade. If you’re looking for a true five-star resort, this would fit the bill. La Coquillade has a spa, two large pools (see one below), tennis courts, biking, and fine Relais & Chateaux dining. It’s quite well located for touring the villages of the Luberon (Gordes, Roussillon, etc.).



A new property in its second season, it was developed on the site of a small Provençal village from the 1860’s. Existing buildings were renovated (see above), and new buildings in the same style were constructed to provide additional space for rooms, restaurants, lobby, etc. The resort reminded me of Pelican Hill in Laguna, California; fans of Pelican Hill should be happy at La Coquillade.

We stayed in a mid-category Superior room in one of the original buildings. It was really a full suite with a comfortable but minimalist room decor. Bedroom walls were painted two shades of olive green, and the living room was painted with two shades of tan. I found the electrical switches quite confusing, and though the desk was in a separate office space, it was fully visible from the bed (making it impossible to work at the desk in the morning without waking your partner). A good bathroom provided two vanities and a WC, but the shower was in the tall bathtub. (I suspect this problem does not exist for rooms in the newly constructed buildings). Here’s an example of the choice I explained earlier. Despite the relative inconvenience of a shower in the tub, I still preferred to stay one of the original buildings of the village.



The food was wonderful. We ate in the more casual Bistrot both evenings and had the Bistrot Menu the first night. We both enjoyed the haricot salad and the monk fish (which was prepared perfectly).

I did find the hotel’s service somewhat lacking. (1) The butler who brought us to our room did not seem engaged with us but was perfunctory in explaining the room’s features. (2) The gym is in the spa, not accessible unless you purchase a daily Spa admission. (3) When I checked out after our early breakfast the day of our departure, I requested that our bags be picked up at 8:10 a.m. Well, 8:10 came and went with no butler, and I had to phone to remind them of the request. A butler did come immediately to our room, but 8:10 means 8:10 in my book. It’s a young property, and I imagine these service issues can be resolved.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for true five star luxury in the heart of the Luberon, La Coquillade is a possibility you should consider.


La Bastide de Marie

I would contrast La Coquillade with a “charming” property in the middle of countryside, La Bastide de Marie. We had a site inspection planned in the middle of our stay at La Coquillade and, after a short drive, arrived at noon on a sunny day. Well, to be more accurate, Waze directed us to the back gate of the vineyard, but due to the wonders of cell phones and modern technology, they opened the back gate for us and we drove in. In a couple of minutes, we arrived at the main building and knew immediately that we’d arrived at someplace very special. La Bastide de Marie is an old stone building covered in ivy, surrounded by a lush, green lawn, with 19 acres of vineyards ready for the harvest.



We were treated for lunch to the tasting menu, each course being paired with house wines from their own vineyard — a rose, a white, and a red. The lunch was WOW! The first course was a green pea and mint velouté with goat cheese. Next came risotto with chanterelles, this followed by a fabulous grilled sea bass served with vegetables roasted with olive soil, rosemary, and sel de mer … a revelation. Finally came a beef fillet with roasted new potatoes, perhaps the best beef I’ve ever eaten. As if that were not enough, we split two desserts — the best chocolate ice cream and a peach tart. Not a bite was left on either of our plates. (We just ate salads for dinner that evening back at La Coquillade).

La Bastide de Marie has 14 guest rooms and two pools. The rooms were charming and authentic but did not pretend to offer the luxury of a five star city hotel. “Roulotte” is a tiny gypsy caravan, just 17 square meters in size — cute and bohemian. We saw two Classic rooms — Jaune Mimosa and Miel d’Orange (each rooms is decorated in the color suggested by their name), small rooms but nice. We saw one Bastide room (their mid-category), Vert Filleul and one Suite, Gris de Sauge, whose living room had french doors opening into the vineyard.



If you’re looking for utterly charming and authentically Provençal, this bastide (country house) hits all the right notes. We’d love to come back to stay. (If you’re looking for state-of-the-art five star luxury, Bastide de Marie would not be your choice).


Domaine de Manville

We spent our fourth night at Domaine de Manville, a new property that opened in June, 2014. Developed on a property that was an agricultural complex with an adjacent 9 hole golf course, it took seven years to obtain the required permissions and complete the construction. The result is stunning.



We were upgraded to a Junior Suite with Terrace. The room had a very pleasant contemporary interior with traditional French design accents, using a restful color palette of soft plum, beige and off-white. There was a LOT of living space — a 12x18 foot living room with desk, seating area and powder room; a large walk-in closet; a full bathroom with tub, large step-in shower, dual vanities, and toilet. The bedroom was about 14x18 with a King bed and another sitting area. The room had extremely high ceilings and tall, tall windows that admitted lots of light. Loved the space!



Domaine de Manville has 30 rooms plus nine villas (of which eight are 3BR villas and one has 4BR). Lead-in classic rooms are about 30 sqm, and Deluxe rooms are about 40 sqm. The Villas are large, contemporary homes with full kitchens, a large dining area, an extremely large living room, and either 3 or 4 bedrooms. The nine villas share a common heated pool.

The hotel is a very successfully adaptation of its older, historical buildings into a pleasant contemporary resort. Of the properties I saw, Domaine de Manville comes closest to combining true five-star luxury with a Provencal setting — but it’s contemporary, not quaint.


Villa Gallici

Villa Gallici is a city hotel, Aix-en-Provence being a small city with a population of about 140,000 about 30 kilometers north of Marseilles. Located on the north side of the city, Villa Gallici is walking distance from the center of town. The hotel was home for our final evening in Provence.

We stayed in #18, a Deluxe Room decorated in classic French decor. Elegant without being overdone or gaudy, I thought our room was beautiful. The chair rails, door trim, and baseboards were gilded gold. Padded silk wall covered the walls above the rail and wood panels below. Ornate draperies framed the windows, and the floors were parquet. Now owned by Baglioni (an Italian hotel company), the styling shared a family resemblance to the Luna Baglioni in Venice.



Our deluxe room was quite compact, although the nice garden terrace made it seem larger. The bathroom had dual vanities, but the shower was in the tub. A WC had both a toilet and bidet. To use my computer, I had to unplug the coffee maker which was sitting on the desk to free up a power outlet under the desk.

The grounds were beautiful with manicured lawns and flower gardens. The hotel offers guests a large pool and a lovely spa. Breakfast, however, was so-so; the eggs from the buffet seemed overly salted.

Villa Gallici is a great hotel, but my advice is to book at least a Junior Suite.

Last edited by DavidO; Nov 1, 16 at 9:37 pm
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Old Nov 1, 16, 3:54 pm
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Thanks for this report. It has fueled my desire to return to Provence. Photos were stunning.
Wonderful report.
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Old Nov 1, 16, 4:35 pm
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Old Nov 1, 16, 4:52 pm
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Thanks for this report! My husband and I were in Provence last September. We stayed in a lovely but rustic B&B, but we had rented a tandem bike and were cycling around the Luberon. One day we rolled in to La Coquillade for lunch on the tandem, sweaty and in full cycling gear. They didn't even bat an eye, seated us at a lovely spot and treated us very well. It should be noted that this hotel is very cycling friendly, as it is owned by the owner of the BMC bike company. They loan out BMC bikes for guests and also do organized rides, so if you're looking for a luxury cycling holiday in Provence, this is probably your best bet.
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Old Nov 1, 16, 5:15 pm
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Plenty of inspiring reporting. Maybe October next year. Or, is that mistral time?
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Old Nov 2, 16, 1:41 am
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Oustau de Baumanière

The first place to consider when going for "luxury" hotels in Provence is Oustau de Baumanière - the reference for good living and two Michelin starred food for decades, set in an absolutely unique location at Les Baux de Provence.

And yes, l'Oustau is also Virtuoso member and you can claim there your entitlements .
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Old Nov 2, 16, 10:57 am
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It was great to read the reviews and learn about some new properties. We've stayed at Bastide de Marie. As David says, rooms vary considerably. We booked late, and the only option was the two floor Mauve room. My notes about the stay.

Le Bastide de Marie – weakest of our stays,. We were given Mauve room and thought it unsafe. You enter on the ground floor directly into the bathroom with its tub and two sinks. Go up a flight of stairs to the bedroom, then up two stairs to the sitting area, then down a big step to the toilet. I’d never want to stay in that room again. Rate was half board; there is no other alternative. We got a special good Mon/Tues/Wed that knocked 100 euros or so off the bill. Service was incredibly good. Loved the main building with a massive lounge. Service was impeccable at dinner. Food was good not great.
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Old Nov 3, 16, 3:23 pm
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The best hotel in Provence is by far the recently renovated Bastide de Gordes. Lead by 'Hotel Les Airelles in Courchevel', it's our best experience in France. The service is above any expectations !
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Old Nov 4, 16, 11:25 am
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If anyone has stayed there, can someone speak to how La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence, slightly east of the inns reviewed, would match up to (or fall short of) the inns reviewed.
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Old Nov 6, 16, 10:42 am
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David,

Surprised you didn't stop by Bastide de Gordes. My wife and I just stayed there in Sept, booked by you actually! When I get back to my main computer I can post some pictures. Upgraded from a valley view deluxe room to a Jr Suite with a deck. Amazing hotel, great in every aspect. Due to the room sizes I would say you wouldn't want anything less the Jr. Suite.
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Old Nov 7, 16, 11:41 am
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Originally Posted by eamus View Post
If anyone has stayed there, can someone speak to how La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence, slightly east of the inns reviewed, would match up to (or fall short of) the inns reviewed.
These days, La Colombe d'Or is more of a museum than somewhere to stay. It is a great place for lunch, sitting beneath the parasols on the terrace (order the crudités), and it is a great place to peruse the amazing pieces of museum-quality art that dot the property. But, the rooms? No way can they compare with anything that David O wrote about.

The hotel is right off the village square - a nice walled enclave, for sure, and once outside, you can stroll across the road and watch the locals play boules, or climb the hill for the shops and restaurants of Saint-Paul.

If you want to be near Saint-Paul, then a better option, with more of a resort feel would be Le Mas de Pierre, which is part of Relais & Châteaux and is a short walk up the hill to the village.
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Old Nov 7, 16, 4:18 pm
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What´s about Terre de Blanche and Saint-Martin?

Last edited by offerendum; Nov 7, 16 at 7:21 pm
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Old Nov 8, 16, 8:03 am
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P.S. Is La Coquillade Virtuoso. Couldn´t find it on the homepage.
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Old Nov 8, 16, 8:19 am
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
P.S. Is La Coquillade Virtuoso. Couldn´t find it on the homepage.
La Coquillade is NOT currently Virtuoso.

Didn't visit Terre Blanche because of time factors. We were also visiting actual tourist STUFF in Provence :-)

I did see Chateau Saint-Martin, and I will include a report on that in a report (still to be written) on the luxury hotels of the Riviera.
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Old Nov 8, 16, 12:52 pm
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Originally Posted by DavidO View Post
La Coquillade is NOT currently Virtuoso.

Didn't visit Terre Blanche because of time factors. We were also visiting actual tourist STUFF in Provence :-)

I did see Chateau Saint-Martin, and I will include a report on that in a report (still to be written) on the luxury hotels of the Riviera.
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