La Crème de la Crème

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.

Here, their second extract for CD Traveller showcases stylish accommodation in Languedoc, Cognac, Normandy, the Alps and St Tropez.


Le Couvent d’Hérépian
Hérépian, Languedoc-Roussillon

Style Vaulted mod-convent
Postcard pastoral village

Hérépian, a sleepy backwater near Béziers on the fringes of the Haut Languedoc national park, is home to Le Couvent d’Hérepian, where balconied boudoirs look out over the village and the Monts d’Orb. Despite an above-standard quotient of quilted cotton bedspreads in fresh whites and blues, polished stone floors, lime-washed furniture and tabbed linen curtains, this heavenly convent is no Provençal cliché: modern wrought-iron chairs on the balconies inject a healthy dose of the 21st-century into the traditional decor, 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 made with organic camomile, olive, lavender and thyme.

Rooms 13 suites.
€120–€370. Breakfast, €15 each.


Le Logis de Puygâty
Charente, Poitou-Charentes

Style Magnificent mediaeval manor
Setting Cognac country

There’s farm stays, there’s French farm stays, and then there’s Le Logis de Pûygaty: a regally rustic 15th-century manor transformed into a boutique B&B, just 20km from Angouleme. Owners Pierre and Max have forged a delightful decorative style we’re going to dub artisinal 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 du canard) but there’s gastronomic pleasure 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.

Rooms Four rooms, including one suite.
€120–€250, including tax. Continental breakfast, €12.50 each.


Château de Saint Paterne
Saint-Paterne, Normandy

Style Fine food, fresh air
Setting Cusp of the Loire

This family-friendly stay close to the Norman border proves not only that a man’s home is his castle, but 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 fairy-tale façade of Château de Saint Paterne, heirloom paintings hang against striped silk wallpaper, and antique chests stand grand on the original red stone floor. Outside, the vast lawns are dotted with trampolines, wicker chairs and an outdoor pool. Dinner here provides a fairy-tale ending to every day: owner Charles-Henry delves deep into his imagination to rustle up interesting and unusual dishes for the set menu – typical dishes might include beetroot and caper gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, or apricot tarte with rosemary ice-cream.

Rooms 10, including six suites.
Rates €135–€240, including tax. Breakfast, €13.


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

Style Wood-lined wendy house
Foothills of Mont Blanc

You’ll pass dozens of wooden chalets as you wind your way up the serpentine mountain roads here; they might all look inviting and charmingly Alpine, but Les Servages d’Armelle is by far the best of the bunch. In this remastered hilly haven, you’ll find all the best bits of a traditional chalet – pine-panelled interiors, log fires, fir-and-peak views – plus open terraces, modern bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows to capitalise on those majestic mountain views. Your kingsize beds are positioned precisely 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 you need to sustain you for a full day of action on the slopes, but the elegant fine-dining menu will satisfy all other gustatory demands.

Rooms 10, including three suites, plus a self-contained chalet.
Low season, €190–€680; high season, €220–€800. Breakfast, €21 each.


Hotel Pastis
St Tropez, Côte d’Azur

Style Art lover’s villa
Bardot-fabulous port

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 against which colourful Hockneys and Lichtensteins can properly pop. Outside, a heated pool is graphically punctuated with aluminium box-hedge planters and lined with ranks of posing-perfect sun loungers. Kick back wtih cocktails after dusk – the zinc-topped bar stores an appropriately good stock of Ricard and other aniseedy liquors.

Rooms Eight, plus a poolside family room for four.
Low season, €175–€325; mid season, €275–€425; high season, €450–€650. Breakfast, €20 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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