Shabby-chic with a heavy dose of breezy Southern French style, hotel Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus is a mélange of marine touches and country elegance. The owners – a former photographer and model – have turned this country hamlet dating from as early as the 12th-century into boutique hotel heaven, with simple but elegant rooms filled with restored antique fireplaces and terracotta tiles that lead to florally fragrant gardens.
Get this when you book through us:
A complimentary bottle of wine, an aperitif and a box of local, seasonal goodies
Five, including three ensuite rooms and two apartments with basic self-catering facilities and a terrace.
11.30am, but flexible depending on the next guests.
Double rooms from $107.22 (€100), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.15 per person per night on check-out.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR110.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Rates include a generous Continental breakfast.
At the hotel
The B&B's big on vintage furnishings and character, but not obsessed by 'amenities'. If a plug-in kettle, tea bags and no TV offend, this may not be the place for you. (There's free broadband internet). Apartments have kitchenettes and terraces.
Our favourite rooms
With its high ceilings, vintage furnishings and wrought iron furniture, the blue room is beyond tranquil. Linen drapes hang from copper poles; a roll-top bath with linen curtains creates a room within a room, and a unique bathing experience. The green room is also a favourite, with its spacious bathroom and pebble mosaic floor detail amongst terracotta tiles. The larger apartment has the most private terrace, a small white bedroom and a stunning bathroom where old chandeliers jostle for attention alongside the polished concrete walls and dark purple linen floor-length curtains.
Steps lead up from the courtyard to a sun-warmed pool, where a raised sunbathing platform offers shade to the loungers below.
Pack a relaxed demeanour – this place is for chilling. (Also bring shampoo/conditioner – general smellies are not provided).
Pets are welcome, to the tune of €10 a day.
Little ones aged 12 and under stay free. Babysitting can be arranged at €7–€10. There is an extra cot available at no extra cost.
There is a small sitting room with comfy antique sofas hidden with cushions (fight the cats for a space).
Crumpled linens for stretching out under Tuillerie trees at twilight.
As a chambre d’hôte, there is no restaurant or room service (hey, it's a licence issue), but a delightful breakfast is served in the little dining room, or, if the weather obliges, on a rustic wooden table in the courtyard.
There's no bar; however, the two apartments have fridges ready for you to chill your locally sourced wines.
The airport in Nîmes is an hour away by car; Avignon’s is an hour and 10 minutes. Montpellier and Marseille are other local options.
The closest train station is in Nîmes (45 minutes away), linked with London, Paris and Lille by the Eurostar (www.eurostar.com).
The hotel is in the hamlet of Gattigues, a 15-minutes drive Uzès. Several towns are within easy driving distance; Nîmes (40 minutes), Avignon (50 minutes), Montpellier (one hour and 25 minutes), Marseille (one hour and 55 minutes), and Toulon (two hours and 45 minutes). From the A9 (Paris–Barcelona), take the Remoulins/Pont du Gard exit, following directions to Uzès-Alès on the D981 for 10km. Once past Uzès, continue on the D981 toward Alès, turning right onto the D115 to Guattigues.
Worth getting out of bed for
Float around in a wicker basket propelled by fire; go hot-air ballooning. A one-hour flight across the region costs €220 a person, with Les Montgolfiers du Sud (+33 4 66 37 28 02). Paragliding is available at the nearby village of Seynes (+33 4 66 83 17 07). If the water’s warm, take a canoe out at Gardon (45 minutes away) – try ABC Euro Canoe (+33 4 66 22 45 33) or Kayak Vert(+33 4 66 22 80 76).
If you need a (speedy) taxi anywhere, try local 24-hour taxi company Taxi Lamri (ask for Alain) on +33 (0)6 45 16 21 34. The Pont du Gard visitor centre gives a fascinating insight into the Roman occupation and buildings in the region; follow up with early supper at Anne-Sophie l’Huître et la Vigne (+33 (0)6 08 05 63 57), an absolutely charming tapas and oyster bar in a modest stone building set among the vines a 10-minute drive from the Pont du Gard on the route de St Hilaire.
For some brocante browsing in Uzès, the streets off Place aux Herbes are crowded with second-hand/antiques shops, artisan jewellers and craft studios; there's an excellent (but packed) market on Saturdays – and a quieter, food-only one on Wednesday mornings.
This is a great base for exploring the whole region, so day trips to Nîmes, the Camargue, Avignon, Orange or Arles are all options.
Here's where to ease hunger pangs when in Uzès...
Les Trois Salons, 18 Rue du Docteur Blanchard (+33 4 66 37 19 31) offers a gourmand menu and has a stunning courtyard for alfresco dining. With white linen and parquet flooring, there are three rooms, each with differing decor and ambience; the middle room is panelled and has an open fire. Work your way through the collection in the wine cellar at L’Authentic in nearby mediaeval village Saint Siffret – Place de L’Ecole, 30700 Uzès, Saint Siffret (+33 4 66 22 60 09). Le Tracteur at Sanilhac-Sagries (+33 4 66 37 19 31) is also worth stopping by for a nibble.
Spoil yourself with a trip to L'Amphitryon (+33 (0)4 66 37 05 04), a sweet courtyard restaurant on the Place du Vieux Village in postcard-perfect Castillon du Gard, a 25-minute taxi ride away. Traditional-with-a-twist French dishes created with seasonal, local produce, plus fantastic regional wines and cheeses.
It’s just as well I'm a bit tiddly after our Côtes du Rhône wine-tasting session on the way to Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus today, because – according to the newspaper headlines about Cern we spot in Uzès while foraging in its famous food market – today is, potentially, the End of the World. We shove a few extra bottles of Lirac into our shopping basket (in case the case of Gigondas we already have in the car isn’t enough to quell our fears about Armageddon).
‘Bonjour! Bienvenue! Can we help you with your cases?’ Owners Olivier and Anna Karin greet us with outstretched arms from the threshold of their blue-shuttered, honeyed-stone house. ‘Which ones?’, we laugh, happily (or, in my case, a bit drunkly). 'Ha ha!' Hellos completed with a flurry of kisses, hugs and (from their daughter Clementine) bicycle donuts, we’re shown to our chamber in this charmingly petite maison d'hôtes in Languedoc-Roussillon.
The Blue Room has me cooing like a parent over a new baby the instant we're over its terracotta-tiled threshold. And it's not just the wine talking: I love this shabby-chic decor – the kind of elegant thrift shopping and clever repurposing of furniture and fabrics we’ve all had a go at (or fantasised about). Only, when you or I or Laurence Llewelen-Bowen attempt this look, it's like we've run amok at a boot fair covered in glue, collecting broken porcelain, unloved linen, wonky candlesticks and three-legged tables in our wake. Where my efforts to remodel a china saucer into a decorative lampstand feature ressemble a scrawny Blue Peter advent crown, Anna Karin’s dedication, imagination and naturally stylish touch have transformed all manner of objets trouvés and hand-me-down treasures into a beautifully relaxed French village house (with a good dash of her native Swedish calm for good measure).
I woudn't be surprised if you told me Anna Karin and Olivier had single-handedly kickstarted the make-do-and-mend movement themselves. Copper-piping taps, reclaimed creamware tiles, river stones for shower flooring and restored antique fireplaces meld to form a pretty rendition of the vintage French vernacular. This enterprising, modish couple (he’s a photographer; she’s a former model) have restored a ramshackle country hamlet variously dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries into a welcoming and private home. With a pool. And a lovely courtyard. More than anywhere else, this boutique B&B merits use of the well-worn phrase, ‘staying here is like staying in the house of a good friend’ – it doesn’t just feel like that; it is that.
Downstairs in the breakfast room, there's a small fridge for guests' use, where we stash our haul from Uzès market: goat’s cheeses, heritage tomatoes the size of Lennox Lewis’ fists, cornichons, pâté, butter, cured meats, salad leaves, rillettes… I could go on, but this is probably a bit like your deli shopping list, only you'll be paying about £107.49 more for yours than we did. And it won't be as fresh.
Another couple have spread their (remarkably similar) offering out across one end of the linen-covered, flower-dressed table, so we decide to join them for a candlelit picnic supper. Turns out they live about 10 minutes down the road from us in London, which rather takes the wind out of our 'smug tourist' sails. Small world, eh? An ever-decreasingly small world, if the Large Hadron Collider experiments at Cern described in today's paper go to plan (accelerate electrons towards one another at improbably high speed, wait – ooh, nine months – for them to collide, cower under physicist’s desk as they create antimatter and subsequently a black hole that sucks all life into it. Maybe).
There is a gratifying clap of thunder and bolt of lightening. (If you’ve ever read Asterix in French, you’ll know from the Soothsayer book how scary French thunder is: it goes Brou-ha-ha-haaa, which of course in English means, 'Stop making such a fuss dear, this will all blow over in a bit.') We crack open another bottle of soul-soothing red as the romantic sound of a late-summer storm becomes our background music for the evening.
Deeply refreshed after a blissful night’s sleep, we awake to a joyful ray of light streaking through the shutters and the jovial sound of the breakfast table being laid under the wrought-iron pergola in the courtyard garden. Anna Karin crunches tantalisingly back and forth across the gravel, bearing steaming jugs of coffee and tea, juice, home-made confitures, fresh croissants and bread, cheese, yoghurts, a delicious home-baked cake decorated with real flowers, and a platter of fruit. Sunbeams catch the steam of the coffee – it’s so idyllic. If this is what the end of the world looks like, I’m happy to ride it out here for a few more days…
At a loose end for the day, we're packed off by Olivier to see renowned annual photography exhibition Les Rencontres d'Arles, and he books us a table at L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel for lunch first. 'Would you like the 10-course or the 16-course menu?', asks the gorgeous Arlesian waitress. ‘Um, just the 10 to start off with, we can always order more if we’re still hungry.’ Ten mind-blowing, mouthwatering courses later and we can barely lift ourselves out of our seats, never mind navigate the amazing exhibition venue – a reworked SNCF train depot.
Back at base, we stay up with our hosts in the salon, cosily tucked in among the cats and the cushions, nursing our lovely wine and talking about life, the universe and everything. Olivier is very French, very philosophical and very good company. Unfortunately, this doesn’t turn out to be the early night we anticipated. But, hey: it's not the end of the world…
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