French Fancies

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

The boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith are back, with a brand new guide to the most stylish and seductive places to stay across the Channel. Smith editor Lucy Fennings rounds up a top-10 selection of bijoux boltholes, pied-à-terres and romantic rural retreats from their latest travel tome.

The first of this two-part extract features five fantastic stays in Paris, Provence, the French Basque Country, Brittany and the Languedoc.. . Log onto CD Traveller tomorrow for five more of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourites.


Hôtel Récamier
Saint-Germain, Paris

Style Globetrotting glamour
Setting Sophisticated Saint-Germain

This bijou Parisian pied-à-terre is a Continental mash-up of modern classic style and cherrypicked global whatnots: spindle-legged floor lamps, rough-textured wall coverings and soft-hued graphic print fabrics are given new life with eyepopping tomato red, sage green and oceanic blue highlights. Bronze Ife portrait busts from Africa and mango-wood scultpures add the finishing touches to the lounge, where afternoon tea is laid on each day. Cosy bedrooms overlook tranquil Place Saint-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. In-room beauty treatments and a petite gym help keep Left Bank ladies looking suitably groomed.

Rooms 24.
Rates €250–€420, including tax. Breakfast, €10–€18.


La Bastide de Moustiers
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Provence

Style Alain Ducasse inn
Setting Lavender, herbs and olive trees

Gastronomic getaways don’t come much more seductive than this laid-back Provençal inn, set in countryside near the 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, inventive, seasonal delights inspired by the Southern terroir. Ravishing.

Rooms 12, including one suite.
Rates €190–€400, including breakfast and tax.


Guéthary, Aquitaine

Style Daring design kaleidoscope
Setting Coastal Basque hillside

This contempo-cool maison d’hôtes is a groovy, grown-up surfer’s paradise, perched between 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 daubed in hot pink, acid turquoise and lime green present the perfect backdrop for high-design pieces such as patchwork-upholstered day bed, Philippe Starck furniture and Mat & Jewski lighting. In less confident hands, Arguibel’s riot of outré furniture and bold hues could have been a disaster, but the fearless approach of owners Mariannick and François Brasserre ensure that heady contrasts (orange cushions on turquoise sofas; stripy carpet alongside chequerboard floor tiles) are exhilarating, not excessive.

Rooms Five, including two suites.
Rates €110–€270, including tax. Breakfast, €15 each.


Le Lodge Kerisper
La Trinité-sur-Mer, Brittany

Style Castaway cabin
Setting Portside perch

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.

Rooms 20, including three suites.
Rates €95–€290, excluding tax. Breakfast, €15 each.


Baudon de Mauny
Montpellier, Languedoc-Roussillon

Style Château in the city
Setting Old Montpellier’s narrow streets

The 7th-generation owners of this centuries-old townhouse have taken Louise XVI features and added lashings of 21st-century design nous to create a refined (but never fussy) period piece. Soaringly high ceilings, panelled walls, delicately detailed plasterwork and grand marble fireplaces have been restored and complemented with Cole & Sons’ eccentric wallpaper prints, including coy pink flamingoes and brazen butterflies. It may be an heirloom, but there’s nothing historic about this property’s fixtures and fittings: walk-in Italian rainshowers are cunningly concealed behind bed-head room dividers; modern lamps flank doorways and retro-classic chairs and coffee tables add visual interest. Step outside and discover the cobbled backstreets of Montpellier’s charming old town, with chic tearooms and quirky boutiques selling everything from menswear and manga and mid-century curios.

Rooms Five: two suites, two junior suites and a superior double.
Rates €160–€250, including tax. Breakfast, €15 each.

Copy compiled by Associate Editor Lucy Fennings. Room rates are per double room, per night, based on a couple sharing.

Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France (Spy Publishing, £19.95) is available in good bookshops now.


Featuring 32 handpicked hotels, each has been personally visited by Mr & Mrs Smith, then anonymously reviewed by in-the-know tastemakers. Each guidebook also includes a free BlackSmith card entitling you to a year of travel and hotel benefits, from shopping discounts to free champagne and spa treatments.
To book any of the hotels listed above, or any of those featured in the Mr & Mrs Smith collection, visit or  call their Travel Team on 0845 034 0700.

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