Somehow fitting the palatial size and style of a country chateau into a five-bedroom city-centre hotel, Baudon de Mauny in Montpellier is a century-old townhouse with a modern sensibility. Here, ornate 18th century plasterwork couples with playful Cole & Son wallpapers and eye-popping furniture is set in otherwise Arctic-pale rooms.
Get this when you book through us:
A box of locally made chocolates; guests staying two nights or more will receive a bottle of regional wine instead
12 noon, but flexible, depending on bookings. Check-in is between 4pm and 8pm, unless with prior arrangement.
Double rooms from $151.58 (€137), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.70 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast, €17.
Built in 1777 and named after its first owner, Baudon de Mauny has been in the same family for seven generations.
At the hotel
Library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD, iPod dock, bottled water. Note the Gypserie does not have a TV in the room, but one is available to borrow.
Our favourite rooms
Junior suite Les Gypseries has a mammoth-tubbed bathroom, floor-to-ceiling windows and walk-in wardrobe; a hand-carved bucolic scene and faux-fur bedspread may sound rustic, but it’s all swag-free and minimal. The two suites on the ground floor, Les Papillons and Les Pavôts, are ideal for long stays or family visits, since they share a full kitchen. Look out for Cole & Son wallpaper that inspired the rooms’ names, for example: the flamingoes in superior double Les Flamants Roses.
Some kind of flagstone-friendly footwear – flip-flops in summer, or slippers in winter.
Non-smoking throughout. Two-night minimum stay (one-night stays are possible, but incur an extra €50 charge).
Welcome in ground-floor suites Les Papillons and Les Pavôts. Babies can stay free in cots; extra beds are €40 for children up to 15. Babysitting can be arranged a week in advance for €15 an hour.
The closest airport is Montpellier (20 minutes); Nîmes (40 minutes) and Carcassonne (two hours) are also possibilities. The hotel can arrange transfers: €35–40 one-way from Montpellier (for up to three guests), €60 one way from Nîmes (for up to three guests).
Arrive at Montpellier and then continue through the streets on foot (15 minutes) or by taxi (10 minutes). Connections with TGV include London, Lille and Paris, but you can also get local trains direct to Marseille (one hour 40 minutes), Toulouse (two hours) and Bordeaux (four and a half hours). For information on trains in France, see SNCF (www.sncf.fr).
The hotel is located in a pedestrian-only zone in Montpellier’s historic centre. Head as far in as you can, then park up at the Corum theatre, which is 200m from the hotel. There’s also off-street parking on Rue Foch, 50m away. From the Musée Fabre, wander down Rue Montpellieret (which becomes Rue Glaize), turn right down Rue de l’Aiguilerie then take a left onto Rue de la Carbonnerie.
Worth getting out of bed for
Make time for the facelifted Musée Fabre. It may not be the place for Picassos or Monets, but is well endowed with art gems from the 1600s to the 1900s. The Halles Castellane, on the corner of Rue Saint-Guilhem and Rue de la Loge, is a covered food market, selling fresh fruit, flowers and, crucially, bread and saucisson. Montpellier is eminently flâneur-friendly: once you’ve explored the Ecusson (the lovely old centre), stroll further afield to grittier Cours Gambetta, the neoclassical housing estates of Antigone or studenty Rue de l’Université.
At 2 rue de la Carbonnerie, L’Heure Bleue is a trifold temptation, rolling a tearoom, art gallery and antiques shop into one (+33 (0)4 67 66 41 05). Carnivores and/or oenophiles should head to Le Comptoir de l’Arc at 2 rue Hôtel de Ville, which serves an exquisite steak tartare au pesto (+33 (0)4 67 60 30 79). Close to the Musée Fabre at 39 boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, Insense is famed for its foie gras crème brûlée (+33 (0)4 67 58 97 78). Make sure you book in plenty of time if you want to go gastro at La Maison de la Lozère at 27 rue de l’Aiguillerie; it’s one of the finest restaurants in town, and accordingly popular (+33 (0)4 67 66 46 36).
Saturday morning has never been so peaceful. Though a blazing sun is doing its best to bore its way through the window-masking muslin, our vast bedchamber is cool, calm and airy. All around us is white. The walls and lofty ceiling, decorated with frescoes of frolicking fauna, are the colour of milk; and everything, from the huge bed in which we are lying, to the curtains that ripple gently in the breeze of a Montpellier morning, is Arctic-pale. I feel as though I’m in John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ video. All we’re missing is a white baby grand.
My Yoko is just starting to stir. Mrs Smith extricates herself from the soft cotton sheets in which she’s spent the night, and begins her journey across several feet of cool flagstones towards the bathroom. I turn over and allow myself to fall back into the sort of blissful half-sleep you can only achieve when you know you’ve got nothing remotely pressing to do.
As Mrs Smith takes full advantage of the luxurious toiletries in the ensuite, where antique charm meets contemporary cool, I look around the room through barely open eyes. Peacock-feather lamps stand next to a vase of lilies on a sinuous darkwood table, several small white circular rugs dot the floor, and a pair of scarlet Scandinavian-style chairs add a striking splash of colour to one end of the chamber. Such here-and-now touches somehow don’t diffuse the way-back-when feel; it’s like being able to step into the past, but without surrendering any modern-day sybaritic requirements. It’s amazing how laid-back and utterly at home I feel. If that loud rendition of a Belinda Carlisle song I can hear over the pitter-patter of the shower is anything to go by, I’d say Mrs Smith feels the same way.
‘Did last night really happen?’ she asks, emerging from the salle de bain draped in a huge, white fluffy towel. It seems unbelievable, now we’re ensconced in such tranquil surroundings but, yes, alas, last night did happen. Somewhere between checking ourselves into this beautiful 18th-century townhouse in Montpellier’s ancient centre, and returning to our chambre d’hôte around midnight, we’d ended up in a slanging match with a furious chef out in the Place du Marché aux Fleurs. On paper, our choice of restaurant was perfect – alfresco tables, a supposedly new take on French cuisine, a quasi-celebrity chef – but an unsolicited side order of aggression left a none-too- sweet taste in our mouths.
Thank goodness, then, for Baudon de Mauny, just a short walk away from the Place du Marché aux Fleurs. Just to walk through its heavy, centuries-old wooden front door into the silent cobbled courtyard that leads to its grand stone staircase is – if you’ll permit me another Lennon moment – an instant calmer. And by the time we’d reclined awhile on the antique scarlet sofa in the first-floor salon, glasses of velvety Faugères red in hand, our anger had completely disappeared.
The next morning, after a late breakfast of pastries, fresh bread and fruit, we leave the hotel behind and head once more into the beautiful streets of the old town. Bathed in sunlight, its elegantly crumbling mediaeval buildings glow nobly, while its corkscrew alleyways provide all the shade a freckle-cheeked closet ginger such as me requires. Although Mrs Smith, with enough Italian genes in her lineage to withstand the Mediterranean glare, is all for joining the locals and stretching out in the Jardin du Champ de Mars, I manage to lure her into the excellent – and air-conditioned – Musée Fabre to see an exhibition of surprisingly gynaecological 19th-century paintings.
By dusk, we’re drinking champagne cocktails outside a parkside bar off Rue Foch, watching leather-faced old men smoke on benches while their wives drag four-legged pompoms up and down the paths. Then we wander into the cobblestoned heart of the old town and secure an outside table at Le Grillardin where, on first inspection at least, no one seems to be demanding their money back or threatening to inflict GBH on the chef. Our meal – which includes a wonderfully sticky and salty salad of pig’s trotters, and garlicky, herb-infused cuttlefish – is superb. And, despite the presence of a roaming band of reggae-murdering trustafarians in the Place de la Chapelle Neuve, the experience is 100 times finer than the disaster of 24 hours ago.
Back in our soothing, all-white chamber at Baudon de Mauny, I lounge on the bed and flick through an hilariously translated local-history book – ‘Saint Roch of Montpellier went alone in a wood and could have died if a dog had not brought him bread every day with a friend hand’ – while Mrs Smith takes full advantage of the free WiFi to email a picture or two of this fair city to her friends. There are guests in Baudon de Mauny’s other four rooms – it’s just that, thanks to the hotel’s laid-back ambience, we never see them. Everyone’s getting up when they want, lounging in the salon when the mood takes them and generally being as relaxed about everything as we are. Like John and Yoko, we only have to imagine all the people.
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