A revamped five-star hotel built into the ancient ramparts of Gordes, a picturesque town perched on a rocky hill in Provence, in the south of France. Go in the autumn to enjoy panoramic views of vineyards in the valley below it, turning from green to orange as the harvest approaches.
And the general vibe?
The palatial La Bastide de Gordes is replete with Napoleonic era portraits, intricate ironwork twisting around curved stone staircases, and staff dressed in traditional ‘costumes’ of long socks, tweed waistcoats and bowler hats.
Built into ramparts on the side of a gorge, the main building was a post office in the 1950s, and the hotel slowly acquired its neighbours to create a higgledy-piggledy collection of stone buildings, now connected by manicured terraced gardens. The hotel was recently refurbished, its Louis XV-style interiors spruced up with contemporary touches to create a classic yet unstuffy base for exploring the surrounding vineyards and fairytale towns.
Elegant French couples sprawl under white parasols next to the slick, tree-lined pool. Families in their Sunday best clink Champagne glasses beneath an awning of pale green leaves on the Orangery’s terrace, and wedding parties take photographs against the backdrop of Gordes’ stone houses.
Which room should I book at Bastide de Gordes?
The 40 bedrooms vary significantly in size, from cosy (but still spacious) rooms, to huge suites spanning separate lounges and private terraces. All have soft, atmospheric lighting, art acquired from across Italy and France, starched white linen and luxurious bathrooms with double sinks, huge towels and Hermès toiletries.
Some are hung with elaborate wallpaper, others are wood-paneled with ancient books crammed onto mahogany shelves. You might tread on squishy carpets or parquet floors. Chaise longues await at the foot of many of the beds, while some rooms come with writing desks or red velvet chairs.
Modern luxuries are subtly tucked away, the most impressive being a huge gilt-framed mirror that transforms into a TV.
What’s good to drink?
The mild, Mediterranean climate of the Luberon provides perfect conditions for growing pale pink rosés, elegant whites, and light and fruity reds. Bastide de Gordes works with local producers to offer an almost overwhelming wine list (its vast range of choice is made accessible by a well-informed sommelier). We also recommend going French and ordering a Kir Royale as a lightly sparkling aperitif.
And to eat?
The classic Louis XV style décor continues through to the hotel’s Citadelle restaurant, complete with an oil portrait above a large stone fireplace, stone-tiled floors and more wood paneling. We preferred the more contemporary feel of the Pierre Gagnaire restaurant (pale sage wood ceilings, creams and muted tones). If the weather’s good enough, dine outside on the terrace under the pergola, to soak up the views while you eat (a picture-perfect, flower-strewn wedding breakfast was taking place here on our visit).
Our classic French menu kicked off with little warm baguettes, to soak up fruity Les-Baux-de-Provence olive oil, before a classic ratatouille of finely chopped black olives, aubergine, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper, topped with crunchy croutons and tender octopus. For our main course, we tried a John Dory fillet with braised fennel, artichoke and an intense artichoke purée. Finally, an impressive Grand-Marnier Louis Alexandre soufflé delivered a boozy hit, with rich Bourbon vanilla ice cream.
What’s the breakfast like?
Breakfast is impressive. Start with some Cantaloupe-like melon from nearby Cavaillon and an array of thinly sliced charcuterie before moving on to pâtes à tartiner – homemade hazelnut spread, floral honey and hand-churned butter to slather onto warm baguettes, brioches or made-to-order crêpes. There are freshly squeezed juices and a full silver coffee service is brought to the table for a luxurious start to the day.
On Sundays, an epic brunch is served on Orangery’s pretty terrace, fringed by glistening orange trees in huge terracotta pots and dressed for the occasion with white linen tablecloths.
The buffet includes gigantic grilled prawns, little pots of yogurt, marinated vegetables, roast meats and all shapes and sizes of bread. There’s a dedicated dessert area split between three tables – peruse the homemade tarts (lemon meringue, crust-topped apple, perfectly pretty strawberry), stock up on hearty puds (rum baba and crème brûlée), or pick from the silver tiered pastry stand brimming with mini viennoiserie.
What else is there to do at the hotel?
The atmospheric Sisley spa is built deep into the cliffside, with an indoor pool, a sauna and hammam and even a fancy shower, with settings such as ‘spring wake up’, ‘monsoon’ and ‘sea breeze’. Shuffle along in your slippers and robe to the outdoor terrace to sip on artisan teas and nibble on dried fruits and nuts while looking out over the gorge.
Is La Bastide de Gordes family friendly?
There’s a separate children’s pool, which is still super swish, plus a games room complete with pin ball machines, proper arcade games and table tennis. Small portions can be arranged in the Citadelle restaurant. There are various suites that accomodate children, and travel cots and children’s beds can be supplied in most rooms.
What can I do in the local area?
If you want a clichéd slice of Provençal life, settle in to a seat in the local tabac, preferably on the tiny balcony that clings to the side of the cliff edge. Order a pastis to follow suit with the regulars and sit smugly to watch the killer sunset view.
Make the most of the Eurostar baggage allowance and stock up on bottles from one of the nearby vineyards. We loved La Citadelle, a smart estate 15 minutes’ drive from La Bastide de Gordes. Take part in a wine tasting in the courtyard overlooking the vines – from dry and floral viogniers to the fresh and crunchy fruits of the Cabernet Sauvignon. La Citadelle is very proud of its on-site corkscrew museum, but we suggest clambering up the hill at the back, instead, to bask in the heady scents of the terraced herb gardens.
The concierge says…
Drive 15 minutes to the town of Roussillon to gawp at the dramatic red cliffs and landscapes. Pop in to tiny wine shop and bar ‘Au gout du Jour’ for a tasting and to stock up on more bargains to take home.
Make sure you book a table out on the Orangery’s terrace for Sunday brunch; the view is stunning and the sun is shaded by a pretty awning of trees, so tables get snapped up quickly.