10 Best: French B&Bs
Alastair Sawday shares his favourite Gallic guesthouses.
La Maison des Remparts
Built into the honey-coloured walls of a fortified village, this stylish refuge is decorated with a restraint that lets the ancient walls and beams tell their own story. The house is arranged around a secluded courtyard with an azure pool at its centre. Bedrooms and bathrooms are unashamedly beautiful. Bubbly Ludivine makes you feel right at home.
From €140 per night per double room.
Maison de Bibby
On holiday from New Zealand, Anna fell in love with this 12th-century house and a new life opened up. She sold her art gallery, with much of it ending up here. Anna brings an easygoing generosity to B&B – guests can join in cooking, and she may invite some locals in for dinner.
The drop-dead gorgeous house is quirky, too, with just two deeply comfortable rooms.
From €85 per night.
Essonne, Paris, Ile de France
Your exceptional hosts – an Argentine artist, an eccentric English photographer and their four excellent children – will open their arms and welcome you in. They found a near-ruin and turned it into an elegant, airy family house full of paintings, books and curiosities.
Up its own steep stair, your third-floor room is big, beamy, slathered in little ancestral portraits and graced by a great tin bath.
From €127 per night.
Villa de la Piece d'Eau des Suisses
Ah, Versailles. The gilded grandeur of the chateau, the tiny back streets of the old town, a discreet door opening to a rambling house warmed by cultured parents, well-mannered teenagers, friendly pets and the smell of beeswax.
Bathe in books, colour, art and a garden. This genuine family B&B is a rare privilege.
From €140 per night.
A sun-drenched corner of India on the French Riviera. Friendly Philippe and Claudia met in Asia and the influence is everywhere. Indian canopies and daybeds are guarded by sacred stone cows, living areas have a hint of Bollywood, and bedrooms are spacious and bright. Cannes and beaches are close by.
From €75 per night.
Chambres d'Hotes a Vallecalle
It's a rarity to find a budget place to stay on this pricey island. Welcome to the master house in Vallecalle, an eagle's nest with long, exquisite valley views. Paul Henri and Myriam live here; they're warm, witty and welcoming. Bedrooms are spacious and gracious, and the terraced gardens have oranges, olives, a hammock and, below, a river to bathe in.
From €63 per night.
Moulin de la Ronce
This is a very fine mill, built in 1555 and artfully transformed by Clement and Laurence. Expect the best: homemade jams, tea from Paris, eggs from the hens, and eco-luxurious bedrooms in uncluttered style. They boast age-old flagged floors, Philippe Starck bathtubs, colourful towels and splashes of art.
The waterside setting is timeless and the garden is thronged with weeping willows.
From €150 per night.
This is an architect-designed eco-house whose beauty lies in its simplicity. The garden is glorious, with carefully gauged scent and colour combos to attract bees, butterflies and other such beasties.
Bright-white bedrooms have their own entrance and are immaculate, paired with sparkling bathrooms. At the heart, there's an airy open-plan living room that guests share with owners Peter and Vincent.
From €60 per night.
Live la vie Parisienne in this stylish apartment with a family thrown in. The decor is sober and cool, and there's a personal touch in each room: grandfather's oriental screen; grandmama's decorative Hermes scarf in an elaborate frame; an antique mirror.
Philippe knows all the secret tips, while Nathalie (and two shy teenagers) will liven your breakfast in their living room with talk of art and music.
From €130 per night.
L'Esprit des Chartrons
In this delicious vintage townhouse in chic Chartrons, metres from the Garonne quays where Bordeaux's bourgeoisie once traded, 21st-century design blends with wine-soaked history. Bedrooms are named after famous local writers.
There are private terraces, swish Italian bathrooms, a leafy sun terrace and a stove-warmed salon for breakfast.
From €110 per night.
Wine & Water
As you sit on the sundeck of this natty B&B barge, sipping a fine burgundy and contemplating a lazy stroll or cycle into Chateauneuf, you may wonder if a more relaxing spot exists in France. Below deck, find a lovely open-plan saloon and a kitchen bar, where breakfast is laid out by Max and Bea. Cosy up in cabins with en suite Italian showers. With a party of six, book a cruise down the canal.
From €150 per night.
Alastair Sawday's new guide to 'Special Places to Stay: French Bed & Breakfast' is available at selected bookshops or online at sawdays.co.uk. Rates quoted are for double rooms