Hôtel Crillon le Brave crests a 17th-century hamlet in the department of Vaucluse, a charming pocket of Provence swathed with vineyards and dotted with villages of ancient stone. Spread between nine Génoise-tiled houses, the hotel is a multi-generational mishmash of dwellings linked by small courtyards and charming alleyways, some with spectacular views of the surrounding hills. In the rooms, you’ll find quintessential Provençal features – wooden beams, terracotta floors and antique furniture – mingled with luxuries befitting a world-class hotel. Spend sun-kissed days tanning by the pool, luxuriating in the rustic spa, trying your hand at the local cuisine or sampling the region's fine wines and cheeses. Post aperitif, settle in to dinner on the terrace, watching the sun retreat across the flanks of Mont Ventoux, the bald Giant of Provence.
Double rooms from £252.75 (€297), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.80 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include buffet breakfast.
At the hotel
Gardens, spa, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV with Chromecast, Bose Bluetooth speaker, in-room bar with free soft drinks and locally-sourced treats, Bamford bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Every rooms is a unique rustic retreat, complete with terracotta floor tiles, exposed beams, fireplaces and antique furniture. If you like to do things your way, stay in the Two-bedroom Deluxe Suite, housed in a separate building and split between two floors. Pick a Ventoux room or suite for the best views of the peak.
Outdoor heated pool with panoramic country views.
Set in stylishly renovated former stables, Spa des Ecuries has three treatment rooms staffed by expert therapists. Original stone troughs filled with dried lavender recall la Belle France and organic rose, rosemary and chamomile-infused Bamford products ensure you'll leave perfumed as well as pampered. The menu spans Swedish, mum-to-be and tailor-made massages, reflexology, scrubs and facials, but walkers and Tour de France fans will love the special leg-and-foot sports massages; polish off the afternoon with an OPI mani-pedi treatment.
Plenty of suitcase space for wine (the hotel sells its own rosé and Rhône varieties like Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are readily available in the local area).
You can borrow bikes, book a cheese-tasting session and arrange beauty treatments.
For €30 a night, one small dog, weighing in at under 10kg, can stay with you. Dogs are permitted in Prestige rooms only (pet-friendly rooms must be requested in advance). See more pet-friendly hotels in Provence.
Welcome. A baby cot (free for under-threes) or an extra bed (€40 a day for under-10s, €85 a night for children aged 10-and-up) can be added to Junior Suites and upward. With advance notice, babysitting with a local nanny starts at €15 an hour.
At the front of the terrace in summer for views of Mont Ventoux.
Linen, sunglasses, not too outré.
Chef Anissa Boulesteix helms the hotel’s kitchens, creating Provençal menus inspired by the local markets and fertile Vaucluse terroir. Fine-dining restaurant La Madeleine puts local produce in the spotlight, showcasing delectable meat, fish and vegetable dishes in three-, five-, or seven-course tasting menus. The wines are equally impressive, many of them coming from notable nearby regions like Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. La Table du Ventoux is more casual, serving an à la carte or three-course menu that’s also rooted in the local landscape. The views of Mont Ventoux are unbeatable, particularly on the terrace, which has live music on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Order light goat's cheese salads, comforting ginger-spiced bouillabaisse or satisfying pork ribs; save room for roasted apples or decadent chocolate mousse.
You'll find the elegant bar on the ground floor of Maison Roche, the oldest part of the hotel. It's high-ceilinged space makes the perfect evening spot for relaxing over your Pastis (de rigueur in these parts of Provençe). You can also take your apéritif in any of the hotel’s many nooks and crannies, indoors or out: the terrace at La Table du Ventoux is pretty unbeatable in summer.
La Table du Ventoux serves breakfast from 7.30 to 10.30am, lunch from 12.00 to 1.30pm, and dinner from 7:00 to 9:30pm. Sunday brunch is from 11.30am to 1.30pm. La Madeleine is open for dinner from 7pm to 9.30pm.
The hotel is part of the hilltop village of Crillon le Brave.
The closest airports are Avignon (40 minutes), Marseille and Nîmes (both an hour and 15 minutes). Contact the hotel to arrange airport transfers.
Eurostar run direct services between London St Pancras and Avignon, which is under an hour's drive from the hotel. If you're flying to Paris first, take the TGV, which takes around two and a half hours.
Crillon le Brave is a small hilltop village around 40km to the north-east of Avignon. The hotel is 20 minutes out of Carpentras. From the north, exit the A7 at Orange Sud and follow signs to Carpentras, where you’ll need to take the exit to Bedoin, continuing in this direction until it becomes the D974. After roughly 28km you should see signs for Crillon le Brave. The hotel is at the top of the village, next to the town hall.
Worth getting out of bed for
Ask the sommelier to organise a wine-tasting tour to suit your palate: elegant (at a Châteauneuf-du- Pape winery, perhaps) or earthy (with a local garagiste). In October, you can attend a mini vendange at Château Pesquié in Mormoiron, hosted by Frédéric Chaudière, who will show you (hands-on) what grapes to harvest and when, and explain the fermentation and blending process, with an all-important tasting analysis. A full range of music, dance and drama festivals take place in the this area between June and the end of August. Leave your wellies and tents at home, these festivals take place, not in muddy fields, but, in ancient Roman theatres, former papal palaces, Gothic churches and mediaeval cloisters. This year's highlights include music concerts like Les Chorégies d’OrangeandLa Roque d’Anthéron, as well as dance and theatre productions such as Festival Vaison Dansesand Festival d'Avignon.
Le Vieux Four (+33 (0)4 90 12 81 39) on Bas de Crillon is the village’s other option for dinner, and a fine, informal one it is, too, with a terrace. Chalet Reynard, near the summit of the Mont Ventoux, is an Alpine-style pit-stop, popular with view-seekers and Lycra-clad cyclopaths. On market day in Carpentras, the best staging posts are Le Rich (+33 (0)4 90 63 11 61) on Place 25 Août, and the bars on Place Charles de Gaulle, near the cathedral. Bistrot de l’Industrieon Quai de la Charité in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is recommended on the riverside for a cold beer and a pizza on market day. Or, for a special occasion, book a table in the garden of Le Jardin du Quai on Avenue Julien Guigue.
Usually, our problem on holiday is finding the hotel in the village. This time, it’s different: Crillon le Brave is the village.
Salt flats, rivers and ravines traversed, we’ve at last reached our intended peachy-hued Provençal hilltop. But a bistro with postcard stands outside seems the only show of hospitality. We pull into the carpark by the mairie and admire the town hall’s pristine white woodwork and a proud red, white and blue flag. It’s perfection. ‘He looks like he wouldn’t tolerate anything less,’ says Mr Smith, gesturing towards the mustachioed statue of Crillon the Brave himself. After a gulp of the countryside view rolling out from the hillside, we seek out the luxurious hideaway that bears his name.
Seven houses clustered around the 16th-century church make up this hip hostellerie – there are just a handful of private homes in the village. Neon arrows are conspicuously absent. All we get to nudge us discreetly towards reception are subtle grey signs on the pale stacked-stone exteriors. Pretty chalky-blue shutters flung open to the panorama indicate which boudoirs are among the hotel’s 36 bedrooms. There’s one thing baffling Mr Smith, as we enter the hotel. ‘Why the abundance of fluoro Lycra?’ he asks, tilting his head towards some folk clad in eye-wateringly tight get-up. ‘Unusual sartorial choice for a boutique hotel,’ he says, clearly feeling like a bit of a cliché in his beige linen. Then we spot our fellow guests’ wheels. ‘Now that’s what we should do tomorrow!’ he declares, puncturing my hopes of fitting in a spa treatment at Spa des Ecuries with talk of gears, gradients and pedal power.
We’re not staying in the main house but in a separate enclave – it’s worth splashing out on a suite here. With keys in hand (and facial covertly booked), we are chaperoned by a kindly attendant through a maze of footpaths, which make hand-holding navigation necessary. (Not literally: it may be romantic here, but the staff don’t go that far.) A skip down some stone steps, over a cobbled terrace, and we’re at our suite. Unlocking a little iron gate at the end of an alleyway, it’s like having our own pied-à-terre in this charming hamlet.
Without a shred of nostalgia for metropolitan style, we admire the gentle, traditional furnishings. They perfectly suit a room that essentially acts as one giant window seat. ‘Just try and take your eyes off that view,’ says Mr Smith, as I gaze out over the pale terracotta roof tiles and rocky ramparts. Fluffy oak and cherry trees, neatly coiffed vineyards and bedheady fields give way to gently sloping limestone-topped hills. What is especially beguiling about the Vaucluse is how untouched it feels. On this balmy late-summer afternoon, we’re as far from the rat race as weekend-awayers can be. It’s impossible not to daydream about living here.
Taking our fantasies to the main terrace, we’re soon picking at pre-dinner olives and almonds, glugging crisp local rosé. The peaceful patio is set to become a glass-walled all-day bar in the near future, giving this stylish retreat a new hub where guests can breakfast or cocktail. Lights a-twinkle below, we ponder Crillon le Brave’s year-round allure; as we admire the farmland in the distance, our charming waiter tells us of cherries, strawberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, grapes dominating the restaurant menu in summer. We’re just in time for fresh figs, but we’d love to come back for truffle season in November and March.
Salmon tartare and a steak cooked perfectly à point are superb compensation for trufflelessness. Then, suddenly, in the candlelit restaurant that we thought was packed with couples and groups of cyclists, we realise we’re all alone. As the purr of voices drifts from one of the sitting rooms above, we resist the temptation to gatecrash a game of poker, and sneak back to our suite. Seven church bells gently prod me from my slumber, eight hours later, but a peek outside says the rest of the world has yet to start the day. I collapse back in bed to ponder a day of swimming, cycling and spa treatments. Following a lion’s helping of croissants, naturally.
The headline act of my lazy morning is that herbal treatment, care of the Babington House-inspired Spa des Ecuries. An expert therapist gently talks me through sweet-smelling unguents that rival the local lavender. An hour later, I muster just enough energy to roll from my towel-enveloped cocoon, down the few steps to the view-drenched pool. I listen to the sound of trickling water, and wonder what Mr Smith is up to. Rather than picture him whizzing through the hills on a bike, I suspect he’s logged onto the WiFi in our room, downloading music. He told me he wanted to create the perfect Gallic soundtrack for our cycle ride; hopefully by now he’s noticed the CD already provided in the room. Crillon has most things covered, leaving guests to do very, very little if they choose.
Bicycles aren’t my usual request from the concierge, but eventually I get my derriére into gear for that promised excursion. (We skip the skin-tight shiny threads. I don’t care how de rigueur Lycra is here – no one needs to see Mr Smith’s details.) A wobble or two later and we’re cruising... for all of half an hour. If only we could get our act together and seek out the antiques markets or gorges we’ve heard all about. But a glass of red on Crillon’s terrace beckons. What better endorsement of a hotel than having its guests race back there – to do absolutely nothing?