Your heart misses a beat as you pass between the tall, stone pillars. Hundred year old plane trees shade the drive. At first glance, this four-square gentilhommière seems an unlikely hotel. The Château des Alpilles looks very, very grand.
But the owners, the charming Françoise Bon (mère) and Catherine Rollin (fille), don’t do grand. Since the family became the châtelaine in 1979, their sensitive restoration has resulted in a stylish mix of period décor and clubby, contemporary furniture. But it is the good ladies’ discreet informality and infectious good humour that makes for the hotel’s exceptionally homely ambience.
They seem to have got everything just right. At breakfast, choose between protéiné or vitaminé. And although it’s only just over a mile to St-Rémy, the temptation to stay put is irresistible. Mathias Bettinger’s Provencal cuisine wins praise, both for his simple lunches beside the pool (mid-June - mid-Sept) and, in the evening, for his daily-changing menu (no choice but there is a carte). As night falls, the magnificent trees are subtly lit and cicadas provide the musical interlude for romantic dinners on the terrace.
The 10 acre parc has shady nooks and (another delightful touch) each room is allocated one of the generously-spaced thatched cabanas on the lawns surrounding the pool. Even the smallest accommodations are sensibly sized, with high ceilings, original fireplaces and state-of-the-art bathrooms.
In a word: enchanting.