At the foot of the Luberon mountain, hill-top Domaine les Roullets in Provence is a rural, rustic chambre d'hôtes with history at its heart. Formed from the remains of a Roman garrisson, this luxury B&B boasts mediaeval marvels and a 700-year-old tree on its well-groomed estate. The grounds are pristine, the decor subtle and stylish, but it’s the 360-degree views that’ll show you why the Romans made a fuss of it.
10.30am. Check-in is between 3.30pm and 7pm (it is closed between noon and 3.30pm), so guests need to let the hotel know when they plan to arrive. Guests can use the pool and facilities after check-out; it may be possible to arrange early check-in.
Double rooms from £191.33 (€220), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates (except those staying in the Two-Bedroom Cottage) include a buffet breakfast.
Guests can also stay in the two-bedroom self-catering villa set in rose- and lavender scented gardens. The villa's private patio is topped with an inviting corner sofa that's perfect for alfresco breakfasts and lounging away sunny afternoons.
At the hotel
Extensive grounds, including vineyard, orchard, olive orchard and truffle forest; pool house with lounge and summer kitchen with a communal fridge; free WiFi throughout; boules pitch; Blu-ray library. In rooms: flatscreen TV, preloaded iPod and iPod dock, free bottled water and Rituals bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For the best view, it has to be Chambre Ventoux, which – on a clear day – showcases the mighty sight of Mont Ventoux from its terrace. The terrace also offers optimum temperature control: it gets sun in the morning and shade when things get a little sticky in the afternoon. Indoors, the split-level suite has a living and work area downstairs, a bedroom on the mezzanine, stone walls, a black linen sofa and a kitchenette. If you like your decor a little quirky, go for Chambre Luberon, which has a huge leather headboard, 19th-century armchairs and furnishings made from reclaimed wood.
There is a lengthy heated pool in the gorgeous grounds, flanked on one side by sunloungers and parasols, and surrounded by olive trees and rose bushes. There’s also a shade-providing canopy.
Bring a spare case to load up on the domaine’s organic Côte du Luberon reds and rosés. Don't forget your swimwear.
In-room treatments and massages can be arranged courtesy of the nearby Lotus Institut.
Under-16's are not allowed in the bed and breakfast part of the property but are welcome in the Two Bedroom Cottage.
Escape the summer sun in the tree-canopied courtyard just off from the pool to enjoy the view out to the serene village of Oppède-le-Vieux.
Luxury linens, cooling cottons and cashmere.
There’s no restaurant at this modern maison d'hôtes, but a generous breakfast buffet is laid out every morning, at different locations around the estate (one of the terraces, for example, or in the kitchen or salon on the occasional rainy morning). Expect fresh fruit, various breads and pastries, and home-made jams, as well as a daily-changing hot choice, such as pancakes or eggs. You're unlikely to be without a delicious meal – there are plenty of palette-tempting places to eat nearby.
An honesty bar is set up in the Orangerie, where there's also a Nespresso machine. Help yourselves to beer, soft drinks and bottles of the domaine’s own wine.
Breakfast is served between 9am and 10am. Guests can pour themselves drinks at any time.
None, but there's a fridge stocked with drinks and a 'summer kitchen' area where you may prepare yourself a simple deli platter, sandwich or salad with whatever you've sourced locally.
This luxury B&B is located at the foot of the Luberon mountains in the rural heart of Vaucluse, Provence.
The easiest airport to get to is Marseille, 55km away. BA flies direct from London (www.ba.com). You can hire a car from here - Avis (www.avis.fr) has a desk at the airport. The smaller airport in Avignon is closer, roughly 30km from the hotel; Flybe flies there from Southampton (www.flybe.com).
During the summer (and, from 2013, spring), direct Eurostar trains will take you from London to Avignon in roughly seven hours (www.eurostar.com). The drive from the TGV station to the hotel should take half an hour; you should be able to jump in a taxi outside the station. Alternatively, there are car-hire desks, or a shuttle bus can take you into central Avignon in 10 minutes.
A car is a must for exploring this rural area (and for getting to and from its fabulous restaurants). The hotel is well off the beaten track, approximately 15 minutes off the A7 motorway (affectionately known as the Autoroute du Soleil; www.aprr.fr). Take exit 25 for Cavaillon, then the D29 towards Maubec for 5km, continuing straight at the roundabout past Oppède, towards Ménerbes. After the Le Four Neuf intersection, you’ll see the domaine to the right. If your SatNav doesn’t pick up the address, try entering ‘Chemin de Bouisserettes’ instead. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
You can't ask for more than a pristine patch of Provençal perfection: from this wine estate set in a national park at the foothills of the Luberon, the Vaucluse and its environs (including their many and various opportunities for gourmandising and gadding about) are yours for the taking.
Explore this sunny spot by bicycle, calling in at frozen-in-time villages, such as Ménerbes, Oppède-le-Vieux, Gordes, Bonnieux or Roussillon, or head for the bright lights of Avignon, Marseilles, St Remy, Arles or Aix-en-Provence. The closest beach is at Cassis. Arrange a tour and tasting at the hotel’s organic vineyard. The Luberon National Park is an ideal place to get hiking or horse-riding amid the lavender fields and woods.
There are many, many fantastic restaurants within a 15-minute radius of the Domaine – and many more beyond that. In Isle Sur La Sorgue, we like Le Vivier(+33 (0)4 90 38 52 80) for Michelin-rated fine dining on a river-facing terrace. For more haute cuisine, head to Le Gourmet et La Coquillade(+33 (0)4 90 74 71 71) in Gargas, or Restaurant Edouard Loubet(+33 (0)4 90 75 89 78) in Bonnieux.
Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’ has been read. Ridley Scott’s ‘A Good Year’ has been watched. And a long list of recommendations from clients is all packed – we are officially prepared for Provence. Well, so we thought. What we hadn’t been ready for was the downpour…
Fragrant wild thyme growing out of dry stone walls, red poppies and blue irises everywhere – still, the smells and colours hit our senses in a wonderful explosion of happiness as we drive down the sweeping track to Domaine Les Roullets. Through grandiose gates, we pass tall Roman Cypress trees on our way to the beautifully restored Provençal sandstone house, where we are given a warm welcome from owner Thomas and his Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Vlek.
Thomas shows us two rooms. One is nestled in the gardens above the pool: dark slate floors, an exposed rustic wall and a large freestanding bath dominate. The other is smaller, but with a lighter, more Provençal feel. Considering the weather we plump for the latter, as we can easily access the living room which has a great mix of new and old. Freestanding concrete stairs spiral upwards and an enormous, modern, white leather sofa sits comfortably alongside antique chairs. There’s a table filled with a selection of wonderful silver and crystal, a fireplace big enough to sleep in, and a smattering of African art, as well as the most wonderful view of the Luberon.
We settle in to our room, unpacking our optimistic summer clothes into the walk-in closet. The bed is wonderfully firm with crisp linen and old-fashioned sheets (no duvets here), with everything beautifully embroidered with the Domaine Les Roullets insignia.
While we could have stayed here all afternoon, it is time to explore… we head outside to see if the beautifully manicured trees really are bonsai olives. Yes, they are, just on a larger scale. Mrs Smith, not a fan of traditional bonsai plants, declares these creations a marvel. Noises above are screeching buzzards circling above the organic vineyards.
An old metal gate, with an ancient vine twisted through it, and a white wisteria dangling fragrantly above leads us towards the pool area. Sofas, dining chairs and tables, sun loungers and giant beanbags are dotted around. Sadly we have to walk straight past – the heavens have opened again – but it’s no loss to have to shelter in the renovated barn. It’s light yet cosy, there’s mellow music on the MP3 player (there are pre-loaded iPods in the bedrooms too), plump sofas to sink into, loads of wonderful design books to get lost in and a log fireplace.
The early flight is catching up with us, so we return to our room, to find a bottle of hotel’s own red wine, two glasses and a corkscrew waiting temptingly on the small terrace table. Listening to sounds of water, we sit and savour the delicious wine. Thomas and his partner Rudolph have their own small vineyard where they are producing organic red and rosé wines.
It’s not difficult to do a great breakfast in France with the wonderful produce. But it is the attention to detail that makes the one at Domaine Les Roullets so exceptional. Villeroy & Boch floral crockery is paired with matching wild flowers, picked from the gardens. Other pretty plates, each referencing a different fable by Jean de la Fontaine, are paired with vintage copies of the poet’s work. You could stay seven days without seeing the same tableware twice. The coffee is excellent, the yoghurts are declared by Mrs Smith to be the best ever tasted, and boiled eggs are dressed in cute hand-embroidered hats. Pancakes with homemade jam have us set up for the drive to Vaison La Romaine.
There are plenty of markets in the area to choose from, but the one at Vaison La Romaine came highly recommended by a client, it proves well worth the drive. There is no restaurant at Domaine Les Roullets, but the fridge in the orangery where we can store food, and a summer kitchen, means guests can prepare their own feasts. And that is another beauty of this place: how often have you come across lovely local produce on your holiday and not been able to take advantage of it? Mrs Smith’s schoolgirl French has soon procured us tomato tapenade, oozing Camembert and Roquefort-filled saucisson. Tucked into with gusto with a local Luberon wine – it’s so simple, so good.
The light and colour of Provence is magnificent, and for us the real beauty comes in the small hilltop villages of golden stone. We stumble upon them, exploring their narrow alleys and tasting their food and wine. Our favourite is now Oppède-le-Vieux, which you can get to on a sense-tickling walk from the hotel, through woods amid the sound of cuckoos, and past villas to lust after. In its classic French village square we pause for a superb lunch at Le Petit Café. An amuse-bouche of chilled sweet pea soup, topped with a sweet pea petal the colour of Mrs Smith’s wedding bouquet confirms that this is somewhere very special.
Throughout our stay, the sandy pétanque pitch at Domaine Les Roullets has been calling. I entice Mrs Smith to join me there with a bottle red wine, however it isn’t long before her eyes are gazing wistfully at the lavender-filled gardens. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture them in full bloom. We will return when they are, to spend more time in these idyllic surroundings that Thomas and Rudolph have created. Forget about a year in Provence, what about forever? Even with rain.