Compiled by Lucy Fennings
BEST FOR…A WEEK’S WORTH OF ACTIVITIES
Le Mas de la Rose, Orgon, Provence
STYLE: Fine-looking farmhouse.
SETTING: Van Gogh country.
This low-ceilinged, beamed farmhouse is a rural dream come true; a 17th-century smallholding converted into a luxury maison d’hôte, it is Provençal in feel, but minus any overly cheerful hues. Walls are limewashed, and all this French loveliness sits in the middle of an estate that can only be described as astonishing. Bordered by rocky hills, the grounds bursting with lavender, pine and cypress trees (not to mention a tennis court and golf range). The pool has a sandy-looking edge – and there’s a Jacuzzi set into one of its curves.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Room 6 is light and spacious, overlooking the front garden, and Room 9 has a jasmine-scented private patio; Room 14, the honeymoon suite, has a vintage roll-top tub in the bathroom.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… testing your gustatory skills with a wine and olive-oil tasting at the Valdition estate, next door.
ROOMS: Eight, including three suites.
RATES: €180–€350 (around £165-£320), including tax. Breakfast, €22 (around £20).
BEST FOR… PLAYING AT LIVING LIKE ROYALTY
Chateau de Saint Paterne, Alençon, Normandy
STYLE: Stately and sexy.
SETTING: Lush Loire.
Nowhere provides a more fitting setting for your own romantic dramas than this gorgeous French fairytale castle in the heart of the Loire, where medieval King Henri IV once laid his head. Every room is dressed with individually-sourced vintage props – a floral garland here, a needlework footstool there; perfect for prompting improvised love scenes. Beat your partner two sets to love on the tennis court, sip appley pommeau by the heated outdoor pool. Owner Charles-Henry de Valbray is a self-taught chef, author of two cookbooks and prepares a great set dinner.
BEST BOUDOIRS: With a vast wooden bed and a wall covered in a hand-painted 19th-century backdrop from Barcelona, the superior suite L'Orangerie is theatrical, seductive and soundproof.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT…laying eyes on the gorgeous stone-cottage scenery in the romantic village of Saint Céneri-le-Gérei.
ROOMS: 10, including six suites.
RATES: €135–€240 (around £120-£220), including tax. Breakfast, €13 (around £11.50).
BEST FOR…COUNTRY PURSUITS
Le Logis de Puygâty, Poitou-Charentes
STYLE: Magnificent medieval manor.
SETTING: Cognac country.
Poitou-Charentes is a coast-to-country destination par excellence, with beautiful beaches, riverside vineyards and a slow-paced, sunny attitude. The exterior of Le Logis de Puygâty, a 15th-century fortified manor 20km from Angoulème airport, looks authentically austere – monumental stone walls, beautiful proportions, a fine turret – but the interior design is right up to date. Owners Max and Pierre have used simple, rough-hewn materials and lots of wood, steel and animal skins to keep an artisanal feel.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Pierre d’Arceluz has a lofty ceiling, wooden beams and a swathe of white fabric above the bed, suspended from hooks. For seclusion, book the separate guest cottage, Maison d’Amis.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT…visiting Cognac – its famous eau-de-vie distilleries make a fun day-trip.
Rooms: Four, including a suite and a one-bedroom cottage.
Rates: €120–€250 (around £110-£225), including tax. Breakfast, €12.50 (around £11).
BEST FOR… FRESH-AIR FANATICS
Arguibel, Guéthary, Aquitaine
STYLE: Daring design kaleidoscope.
SETTING: Between Pyrénées and sea.
Sitting on the dramatic Atlantic coast between St-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz, the Basque fishing port of Guéthary wouldn’t look amiss on an Alpine mountainside, with its traditional timber-framed architecture and steeply pitched roofs. There’s an easy seaside atmosphere here, and fishermen still sail out daily to haul in nets of sardines. What a refreshing surprise, then, to stumble upon Arguibel. Outside, its bright-red balconies are the very picture of Pyrenean perfection, but inside, this boutique B&B is a paean to design and colour. Furniture by Philippe Starck and lighting by Mat & Jewski set the contempo-cool tone at this grown-up surfers’ paradise.
BEST BOUDOIRS: The Paul-Jean Toulet suite is a turquoise tour-de-force, lavished with outré accessories and delectable design details in bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. Double French doors open onto a balcony dressed with a dining table.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… booking a board meeting on the beach with the Quiksilver Surf School (www.surfecole-cotebasque.com).
ROOMS: Five, including two suites.
RATES: €110–€270 (around £100-£245), including tax. Breakfast, €15 (around £13.50).
BEST FOR…SERIOUS R & R
Le Couvent d’Hérépian, Hérépian, Languedoc-Roussillon
STYLE: Vaulted mod-convent.
SETTING: Postcard pastoral village.
When you dream up images of perfect French country stays, we’re sure they often look a lot like Le Couvent d’Hérépian. Quilted cotton bedspreads in fresh whites and blues? Check. Polished stone floors, lime-washed furniture and tabbed linen curtains? Mais, oui. But this heavenly 17th-century convent is no Provençal cliché; it also has a striking underground spa (right) and elegant interiors that are conducive to quiet reflection and relaxation – a style its designers have dubbed ‘austere luxury’.
BEST BOUDOIRS: The four south-facing suites on the upper floors each have private balconies looking out over the village of Hérépian and the Monts d’Orb.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… treating yourself to a spa treatment: all products are freshly prepared, organic and made with locally sourced ingredients, including camomile, olive and lavender.
ROOMS: 13 suites.
RATES: €120–€370 (around £110-335). Breakfast, €15 (around £13.50)
BEST FOR…FOODIE-FORAGING AND ANTIQUE-BROWSING
La Maison sur la Sorgue, L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Provence
STYLE: Worldly townhouse.
SETTING: Pretty market square.
A sweet whitewashed townhouse in one of the most attractive market towns in the South of France, La Maison sur la Sorgue’s interiors showcase objets from the collection of its well-travelled owner, lending an air of lived-in informality that puts guests instantly at ease. An internal courtyard shaded by a huge sycamore tree and cooled by a teak-lined pool is scattered with wrought-iron furniture – the perfect place to sip pastis on a balmy evening.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Chambre à la Loggia is large and loft-like, with crimson walls and a huge private terrace overlooking the gardens and market square. Just down the steps, book the Suite des Ombres (the Shadow Suite) for spectacular light effects involving the shutters at sunset.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… picking up a shabby-chic bargain: L’Isle is the third-most-important world hub for vintage furniture and fleamarket finds, with treasures from every era. There are 12 permanent markets and 40 boutiques, and 300 dealers crowding in at weekends.
ROOMS: Four, including two suites.
RATES: €190–€310 (around £170-£280), including breakfast and tax.
BEST FOR…SERVICE BY THE SEA
Le Lodge Kerisper, La Trinité-sur-Mer, Brittany
STYLE: Castaway calm.
SETTING: Portside perch.
If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, this family-friendly, spa-enhanced seaside stay is a great place for frazzled parents and stressed-out city slickers to kick back and unwind. The interiors are nicely quirky, and feel-at-home touches include help-yourself jars of jelly sweets and bikes to borrow. Walls are adorned with various framed finds, from old-fashioned measuring tapes to fishing paraphernalia, and lamps fashioned from bottles of pop dangle over the bar. Cycle or walk just 1km along the coast to find some of Brittany’s finest stretches of strand.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Book a room with a terrace, so you can enjoy the sea air and make the most of the outdoor feel of this beach house. Suite 8 has a big south-facing terrace; Room 9 is up in the eaves, so it feels tucked away and cosy. Suite 16 is the perfect pick for families, since it’s on the ground floor and opens onto the garden.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… sailing into the sunset – the annual Spi Ouest-France regatta in April will ‘wet’ your appetite for ocean-going activities: the Société Nautique de la Trinité-sur-Mer (snt-voile.org) in the port can organise sailing classes and boat hire.
ROOMS: 20, including three suites.
RATES: €95–€290 (around £85-£265), room only. Breakfast, €15 (around £13.50).
BEST FOR…A STYLISH CITY STAY
Hotel Keppler, Paris
STYLE: Bijou pied-à-terre.
SETTING: Off the Champs-Elysées.
The chic 16eme-arrondissement is an ideal address for a Parisian bolthole, within trotting distance of the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées. Perhaps surprisingly, given its proximity to such high-powered shopping, dining and wining, Hotel Keppler is not only fittingly fashionable, but also luxuriously tranquil. Designed by interiors guru Pierre-Yves Rochon and dotted with antiques, this contemporary-classic getaway mixes French sophistication with home-from-home warmth. Leisurely breakfasts are taken in the lower-level winter-garden room, and the private hotel bar has an incredible cocktail menu.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Room décor blends classic with contemporary, putting toiles, checks and animal print against strong colour and dark wooden flooring (below). We like the black, white and yellow Executive Rooms, with TVs in the bathrooms. The Superior Suites have balconies and Eiffel Tower views, but the Penthouse Suite with its rooftop terrace is the crème de la crème.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… a large bag of shopping from Colette, a box of Ladurée macaroons and a tummy full of Angelina’s famous chocolat chaud.
ROOMS: 39, including five suites.
RATES: €220–€1,000 (around £200-£900), room only. Breakfast, €22 (around £20).
BEST FOR…A REFINED RURAL RETREAT
Moulin Renaudiots, Autun, Burgundy
STYLE: Danish-Dutch designer pad.
SETTING: Water-edged woodland.
This restored, vine-clad water mill goes against the grain of classic Burgundian boltholes, eschewing country charm for beautifully curated interiors that strike a triumphant balance between old and new. Every tiny detail – from artworks including a series of miniature ‘Hopes’ (those iconic graffiti odes to a booming Barack Obama) to an immense and beautiful collection of glassware and china – has been carefully chosen and artfully arranged. The hotel-owning design duo behind Moulin Renaudiots have left no stone unturned in their quest for perfection: even the driveway is immaculately ordered, with symmetrically planted trees, blossoming lavender and roses, and not a grain of gravel out of place. You can expect your stay to be as near to perfect as possible, too.
BEST BOUDOIRS: Light-filled St André has a working fireplace, and direct access to the garden and pool; spacious Arroux has an upstairs reading nook with a vintage Ercol settee; and St Andoche has an open bathroom with a freestanding bathtub, and wonderful views.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… making full use of the Morvan forest on your doorstep: hike, fish or canoe your way through the wooded lands and lakes. Wine-tasting country lies an easy drive away.
RATES: €110–€150 (£100-£135), including breakfast.
BEST FOR… GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL
Chez Odette Williers, Champagne-Ardennes
STYLE: Mood-lit modern maisons.
SETTING: Forest-fringed village.
There’s been a café-bar in Williers since World War II, when the eponymous Odette served up kirsch and Picon to prohibition-hit, border-hopping Belgians. Odette’s long gone, but today’s owner never lets his guests forget the landlady’s legacy: black-and-white photos depicting villagers of yesteryear adorn the walls of the bar-bistro – still an essential end-of-day stop-off for a glass of something revivifying. Nine bedrooms across two restored farmhouses blend original features, such as fireplaces and exposed beams, with modern design: sleek wood-panelled walls, moody aubergine and chocolate hues, abstract sculptures and ingenious office chairs fashioned from green wicker. It’s an unexpectedly sophisticated atmosphere for such a remote spot; perfect if you want to run away to the country without leaving the luxe behind.
BEST BOUDOIRS: No 9 has everything going for it: peaceful privacy, far from any bustle, dark-wood walls, a working open fireplace, deep-set bath with separate shower and wonderful views of the village and fields beyond. No 5 has exposed beams and a spacious, barn-like feel. No 1 is ideal for families – huge, with bay windows.
DON’T GO HOME WITHOUT… visiting the brewing base of the famous Orval Trappist ale at L’Abbaye d’Orval, just across the border in Belgium.
ROOMS: Nine, including two suites.
RATES: €170–€260 (around £155-£235), including tax. Breakfast, €19 (around £17).
Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collections: France (Spy Publishing, £19.95) will be available in good bookshops from June.
Featuring 33 handpicked hotels, each has been personally visited by Mr & Mrs Smith, then anonymously reviewed by in-the-know tastemakers. Each guidebook also includes a free BlackSmith membership card entitling you to a year of travel benefits.To pre-order your copy, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com/shop.