Wednesday 7 December 2016

10 Best: French fancies

Lucy Fennings

Published 03/07/2010 | 05:00

Boutique guru Lucy Fennings selects her favourite bijoux boltholes from the new ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ guide to France.

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Les Servages d'Armelle, Les Carroz d'Araches, Rhône-Alps

You'll pass dozens of wooden chalets as you wind your way up the mountain roads here; they might all look charmingly Alpine, but Les Servages d'Armelle is by far the best of the bunch.

In this remastered haven, you'll find the best bits of a traditional chalet (pine, log fires, fir and peak views) plus terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows.

King-size beds are positioned so you can see the snow-topped sights outside; terraces are angled to allow in fresh Alpine air. The restaurant might not offer the hearty fare needed for a day of action on the slopes, but the fine-dining menu will satisfy all other gustatory demands.

Details: Ten rooms, including three suites, plus a self-contained chalet; from €190. Breakfast, €21pp.

Le Lodge Kerisper, La Trinité-sur-Mer, Brittany

Settled into the architectural footprint of a former farm, Le Lodge Kerisper has the kind of easeful atmosphere that more experienced hotels spend years trying to achieve. This laid-back, shore-side hideaway instantly feels like home.

Weathered furniture and whitewashed wood nod to the lodge's près-de-la-port location. There's not a shred of pretension -- children are greeted by their first names and families sit next to couples in this welcoming, windswept setting.

You'll feel like the place is yours to potter around, whether it's a sneaky dash to the bell jar of pick 'n' mix sweets in the bar or claiming your own spot in the garden for a read or a snooze.

Details: Twenty rooms, including three suites; from €95. Breakfast, €15pp.

Le Couvent d'Hérépian, Hérépian, Languedoc-Roussillon

Hérépian, a sleepy backwater near Béziers on the fringes of the Haut Languedoc national park, is home to Le Couvent d'Hérépian, where balconied boudoirs look out over the village and the Monts d'Orb.

Despite an above-standard quotient of quilted cotton bedspreads, polished stone floors and lime-washed furniture, this is no Provençal cliché: wrought-iron chairs on the balconies inject a healthy dose of the 21st-century, and a many-layered limestone bar in the cellar recalls a mocha millefeuille.

Deep in 17th-century stone vaults there's a striking spa, where treatments use freshly prepared products.

Details: Rooms -- 13 suites; from €120. Breakfast, €15pp.

Hotel Pastis, St Tropez, Côte d'Azur

St Tropez has a reputation for fabulousness that is more vivid than ever -- Chanel's recent show there was literally traffic- stopping, as Karl Lagerfeld and crew stormed the port to parade his Cruise collection.

A fitting bolthole, then, for the wannabe Tropezian would need to be stylish, fashionable and chic without a hint of pretension or vulgarity.

Enter Hotel Pastis, a restrained homage to modern living, 20th-century design and the Provençal spirit, owned by two ex-Londoners. Inside, white walls create a blank canvas behind colourful Hockneys and Lichtensteins. Outside, a heated pool is punctuated with aluminium box-hedge planters and sun loungers.

Kick back with cocktails -- the zinc-topped bar stores an appropriately good stock of Ricard.

Details: Eight rooms, plus a poolside family room for four; from €175. Breakfast, €20pp.

Hôtel Récamier, St-Germain, Paris

This bijou pied-à-terre is a Continental mash-up of modern-classic style and cherry-picked global whatnots: spindle-legged floor lamps, rough-textured wall coverings and soft-hued graphic-print fabrics are given new life with eye-popping tomato-red, sage-green and oceanic-blue highlights.

Bronze Ife portrait busts from Africa and mango-wood sculptures add the finishing touches to the lounge, where afternoon tea is laid on each day. Cosy bedrooms overlook tranquil Place St-Sulpice, and you're within walking distance of chic boutique shopping and languid strolling among the clipped lawns and fountains of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Don't miss the in-room beauty treatments and the petit gym.

Details: Twenty-four rooms; from €250. Breakfast €10-€18.

Baudon de Mauny, Mont-pellier, Languedoc-Roussillon

The seventh-generation owners of this townhouse have taken Louise XVI features and added 21st-century design nous to create a refined period piece.

Soaringly high ceilings, delicately detailed plasterwork and grand marble fireplaces have been restored and complemented with Cole & Son eccentric wallpaper prints, including coy pink flamingoes and brazen butterflies.

Walk-in Italian rainshowers are concealed behind bed-head room dividers; modern lamps flank doorways, and retro-classic chairs and tables add visual interest.

Step outside and discover the cobbled backstreets of Mont-pellier's old town, with chic tearooms and quirky boutiques selling everything from menswear and manga to mid-century curios.

Details: Five rooms; two suites, two junior suites and a superior double; from €160. Breakfast, €15pp.

Le Logis de Puygâty, Charente, Poitou-Charentes

There are farm stays, there are French farm stays, and then there's Le Logis de Pûygat, a regally rustic, 15th-century manor transformed into a boutique B&B, just 20km from Angoulême.

Owners Pierre and Max have forged a delightful decorative style that we're going to dub 'artisanal agricultural chic': recycled stone troughs and artfully rusted farm tools are the perfect foil for the crystal chandeliers hanging from restored oak beams, and clever details include hayracks for headboards in each of the four bedrooms.

Their table d'hôte offers refined country cooking (sit fireside and try deliciously handled classics such as magret de canard), but there are gastronomic pleasures galore beyond the farmstead's hearth. Charismatic chef Thierry Verat's restaurant, La Ribaudière, is nearby in Bourg-Charente; and Cognac, with its well-known eau de vie distilleries, makes a great day trip.

Details: Four rooms, including one suite; from €120. Continental breakfast, €12.50pp.

La Bastide de Moustiers, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Provence

Gastronomic getaways don't come much more seductive than this laid-back Provençal inn, set in countryside near the Verdon national park.

Stumbled upon by the great chef Ducasse himself on a motorbike tour of Provence, this former potter's house has been transformed into a magically restful and airy countryside retreat.

Hand-embroidered linens add femininity to stone walls and wooden floors, and a limpid pool beckons from behind a screen of cypress trees and lavender bushes.

Most of the produce used in the restaurant is freshly plucked from the sprawling kitchen gardens, planted with dozens of tomato varietals, peppers, verveine, beans, courgettes and mint.

And what dishes they create: a daily-changing selection of light, seasonal delights inspired by the southern terroir. Ravishing.

Details: Twelve rooms, including one suite; from €190, including breakfast.

Château de Saint Paterne, Saint-Paterne, Normandy

This family-friendly stay close to the Norman border proves not only that a man's home is his castle, but that a man's castle can be your home, too.

A historic luxury château, it may have grand grounds and lofty proportions, but it couldn't be more welcoming.

Behind the fairytale façade of Château de Saint Paterne, heirloom paintings hang against striped silk wallpaper, and antique chests stand on the original red stone floor.

Outside, the vast lawns are dotted with trampolines, wicker chairs and an outdoor pool.

Dinner here provides a fairytale ending to every day: owner Charles-Henry delves deep into his imagination to rustle up interesting and unusual dishes for the set menu. Typical offerings might include beetroot and caper gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, or apricot tarte with rosemary ice-cream.

Details: Ten rooms, including six suites; from €135. Breakfast, €13.

Arguibel, Guéthary, Aquitaine

This contempo-cool maison d'hôte is a grown-up surfer's paradise, perched between the Pyrénées and seaside in the Basque fishing port of Guéthary.

Once you've witnessed the joyful explosion of colour inside, the exuberant red and white timber of Arguibel's exterior seems relatively restrained. Bedroom walls in hot pink, acid turquoise and lime green present the perfect backdrop for pieces such as a patchwork-upholstered day bed, Philippe Starck furniture and Mat & Jewski lighting.

Arguibel's riot of outré furniture and bold hues could have been a disaster, but the fearless approach of owners Mariannick and François Brasserre ensures that heady contrasts are exhilarating, not excessive.

Details: Five rooms, including two suites; from €110. Breakfast, €15pp.

For bookings, contact 1800 812 925 or mrandmrssmith.com . Room rates are per double room, per night, based on a couple sharing. Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France (Spy Publishing,

£19.95/€24.95) is available now in good bookshops. It features 32 handpicked hotels, each has been personally visited by Mr & Mrs Smith, then anonymously reviewed by in-the-know tastemakers.

Irish Independent readers can get 25pc off the cover price. Visit mrandmrssmith.com/shop and enter the promotional code ‘IRIND’

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