The Magic of Provence

The south of France is a magical destination throughout the year. Swathed in hues of yellows, greens and purples, Provence is a delight to discover during a summer vacation or a festive break. Luxury travel expert, Jules, stayed at the charming Hotel Crillon le Brave on the ultimate provençale escape.

I could say that my beautiful house in the south of France has the most wonderful views. The inconvenient truth is, however, that those from Crillon le Brave are even more wonderful.

I could also say that certain hotels are like people, you meet them and they leave an impression. Yet there are those hotels that become like great friends, those you cannot resist seeing over and over again. That is true of Crillon le Brave. There is something so magical about this hotel, which I’d argue is not so much of a hotel but more of a family home, built with a love that oozes from every pore of its glorious golden stone.

The fact that most of the staff are still in residence, two years since I first visited, is saying something. Very rarely are staff so in love with the place they work in that they instil in you that same love and excitement, but here they do. From the moment you arrive, you feel as if you are being welcomed into your own home, if that is possible in such a sumptuous but delicately designed gem of a hotel.

Since that last visit on a magnificently crisp October day, I have always wanted to return to see what it was like at the end of summer. To witness the sun set at a different angle, to see the fluffy clouds of a summer’s day frame the famed Mont Ventoux and to soak up the glorious cobalt blue skies of Provence.

It did not disappoint. The nearby market at Bedoin, brimming with people fighting to buy the ripest of white peaches, the most magnificent of melons, a portion of paella bubbling alongside plump roasting chickens or refreshing local pastis was like something from the chronicles of Peter Mayle. A real market full of everything you dreamt of Provence. Back at Crillon, basking in the noonday sun by the swimming pool, listening to the gentle chink of glasses in the restaurant above me confirmed I was living the dream.

Here, even the smallest room is beautiful. Their suites are truly majestic and I’m sure Crillon would not be unhappy with the moniker ‘fit for a princess’. To sit on the terrace of Suite 40 watching the shooting stars overhead after a delicious dinner was truly one of my great memories of the summer, if not for many years. The design and execution of truly good taste is hard to find and impossible to describe. You need to come yourself to really enjoy their sublime décor and mesmerising views.

Why are some places just perfect? As the hands-on General Manager Sebasien Pilat would say, it is in no small part thanks to Crillon’s extraordinary équipe who make the guests feel so special.  Julyan and Maxence’s welcome is unbeatable. Coralie and Jessica made sure we lacked for nothing whilst dining in Le Grange enjoying the fabulous fare of Jerome Blanchet, their renowned chef. Benoit, the sommelier, made sure every course had a suitable match from their cellar and is famous for his wine and cheese tastings in the cave. We tried all the menus including the rustic Bistrot 40K and the gastronomic delicacies served up in Restaurant Jerome Blanchet. If you wanted to go further afield there are two small restaurants in the village within minutes of the hotel which is always a welcomed option.

Everyone made us feel so at home and it is a combination of the Crillon family and so many 0thers that make your stay there so memorable.  Nothing is too much trouble. A kayak trip? A challenge to try and beat the 1 hour 19 minute ascent of Mont Ventoux by cycle, a simple if not achievable request but easily sorted. Visits to local cheese and wine suppliers, wine tastings, a tour of the famous Isle sur la Sorgue antique market, a walk through the vineyards to Bedoin or a simple game of Boules on their pétanque ground can all be arranged if simply lazing by their pool is not adventurous enough! October brings the autumn and truffle forays into the nearby countryside with knowledgeable locals. You can do as little or as much as you wish exploring this wonderful part of Provence and the Crillon le Brave team are there to help.

I think, above all, it is the real impression of how relaxed life is here that crept over us. It is the wonderful ability to turn up at 2:30pm and be presented with a wonderful plate of cheese and charcuterie with a cold bottle of rosé in front of the view that defies many restaurants in the world without even a demur. Snacks served throughout the day make life so easy to live without watching time. Breakfast is served on their terrace until 11 so no rushing for that last freshly baked croissant either, the pace of life is just delicious! Here you can forget your watch and live your day by the sun, watching as the shadows lengthen to mark the end of another perfect day.

At Crillon le Brave, it is hearing in the distant realms of sleep the chiming of the village clock tower and feeling that you are somehow cradled in the most wonderful hamlet, surrounded by ancient stone and history, as you drift back into the arms of Morpheus in your four poster bed. It is opening the curtains to look out over the surrounding vineyards and the iconic Mont Ventoux with Cyprus trees disappearing into the distant hills of the Luberon. It is watching the sun set over the golden stone as the sky turns deep purple and the swifts dart overhead before the first stars cover the night sky.

Whilst hunting for truffles during my stay in October, I thought the autumnal colors cradling the beautiful hotel at last light was the ultimate way to experience Crillon. But at the end of a perfect summers day, I found myself wondering whether my first love affair was as good as this one. But I guess that is what is so special about coming back to the same lover, it is always a different experience and I long to return at Christmas and New Year when the ground is hard and the sky is an even deeper blue. Imagine hearing the church bells ring out on Christmas Eve and seeing lights twinkle out over the village before they serve their famous Christmas dinner. One day I hope to see in the New Year as the last stars dwindle into the first day of January. Or visit in spring when Provence is covered in blossom and the vines wake from their winter sleep. Every season is wonderful here. I just need to return.

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