Airelles Gordes, La Bastide, France

Airelles Gordes, La Bastide, France

If Gordes is the darling of Provence, then we’ve fallen head over heels for its most romantic hotel, Airelles Gordes, La Bastide. Gazing across the Luberon Valley from medieval ramparts, its lavender-strewn terraced gardens, clubby bar and vaulted spa draw bon vivants summering in the South of France.

is to the Luberon what Padstow is to Cornwall
or Broadway is to the Cotswolds.
Lauded as Provence’s most beautiful village, it’s paraded on
Pinterest boards and plenty of fridge magnets. With its
16th-century stone buildings, lavender fields and vineyards
tumbling down the steep gorge, the praise is rightfully earned.

Despite all the attention, it retains an air of Provençal charm.
Local farmers and artisans peddle pickled jams and hand-forged
silver rings in the square every Tuesday; everyone greets each
other personally and the boutiques shut for long, leisurely lunches
and are (mostly) closed all day on Sunday, unmoved by crowds
gathered on the cobbles.

Built on 12th-century ramparts clinging to the Luberon Valley,
the 10-floor Airelles Gordes, La Bastide, is a higgledy-piggledy
collection of cappuccino-coloured buildings – one a former nunnery,
one a fire station, another a police station – decked with floral
fabrics and antiques plucked from local flea markets. Walls are
strewn with ancestral portraits, the kind whose eyes seem to follow
you after one too many glasses of rose. Velvet drapes frame
shuttered windows, ornate ceilings are dressed with 100-piece
chandeliers and the corridors are regularly sprayed with the
hotel’s signature scent. The terraced gardens are the showstopper,
where lavender, olive, orange and cypress trees give way to valley
views. It’s bold and theatrical – but it works.

And the jewel in Airelles Gordes, La Bastide’s crown? The staff.
Identifiable by their 18th-century costume bodices, jodhpurs and
bowler hats, they’re discreetly attentive. They’re on-hand should
you fancy a hot air balloon ride (you do), if you’re searching for
in-bloom lavender fields (likely Sénanque Abbey) and to let you in
on the best Provençal towns to visit – those being Roussillon for
its ochre-cliffs, St Remy for art and Avignon, via Château
d’Estoublon vineyards, for the Les Palais des Papes. Ditched the
budget flight and drove to Provence? Your car will be washed,
polished and stocked with cold water and fresh towels. By the time
you leave, you’ll feel as if you’ve been initiated into the royal


Bedrooms? Pfft. We wouldn’t use such a commonplace term; these
are boudoirs, darling. Forty of them to be precise – all
individually decorated, natch – plus one private villa that sleeps
10 and is screaming to be included in a family reunion.

Our abode was regal and ridiculously romantic with valley framed
by wooden shutters and paisley-print curtains. A rouge-panelled
dressing room opened up onto a spacious room furnished with antique
chairs, Napoleon portraits (there’s no escaping them) and a
plucked-from-the-clouds king-size bed, while subtle design touches
such as the porcelain light switches and the smart TV hidden behind
a gilded mirror added to the character. It’s a little chintzy,
maybe, but with such incredible attention to detail that it’s hard
to not fall head over heels.

Eschewing the identikit marble tiles that luxury boltholes
usually rely on, bathrooms are clad in repurposed tiles and come
stocked with an array of lavender-scented products and miniature
Sisley, the crème de la crème of toiletries – use indulgently; the
plumping night cream is a saviour if you’ve fallen asleep all day
in the Provencal sun. The shower overlooked the valley which is a
nice touch.

What’s for breakfast?

A lot. Pile plates with dainty croissants, pain au chocolat and
other buttery, baked goods before attacking the smorgasbord of cold
meats, cheeses, fruits (including Instagram-worthy acai bowls) and
a selection of hot food. Creamy scrambled eggs and veal sausage
give the Full English an upgrade. It’s largely self-serve, but feel
free to ask the kitchen for eggs any way you like. We had two
fluffy omelettes whipped up within minutes one day and perfect
poachies the next. Not that we were demanding or anything…

What about lunch and dinner?

It’s probably more fitting to ask what’s not for lunch and

For lunch, head to the hotel’s Italian trattoria La Bastide de
. It’s situated in Gordes overlooking the market square
and is an affordable option should you not want to embark on a meal
with all the trimmings for lunch. The Italian food is top-draw – my
critic was a Naples native who awarded the mozzarella, parma ham
and rocket pizza with a clean plate. We skipped afternoon ice cream
in favour of the Nutella calzone. If you’re like me and have a
tendency to eat Nutella straight out of the jar, I strongly advise
you follow suit. Insanely good.

Dinner can be taken at Clover Gordes, a farmhouse-style
restaurant (think: restored sofas, wooden sideboards and vintage
glassware) with chef Jean-François Piège at the helm. Rustic yet
refined, it serves a locavore menu featuring blue lobster and wild
squid carbonara. Alternatively, make the most of La Bastide’s
valley setting by dining al fresco at La Citadelle. On our visit,
the La Crau lamb and pork belly atop a bed of spelt and wheat
risotto – from nearby Sault – were faultless. The Louis Alexandre
souffle (share; it’s huge) laced with booze was a worthy substitute
to a nightcap.

Le TIGrr is the
hotel’s other outpost. It’s a ritzy, Asian-inspired sushi bar in
the village dressed with rocky banquet seating and rattan-adorned
verandas. You’ll find other outposts in St
and the crowd it draws is fitting. Expect Rolex-clad,
linen-blazer types who have swapped their Moncler for Jacquemus and
are spending summer in the South. Regardless, the setting is
gorgeous and sushi superb – don’t skip out on the lobster rolls or
the signature prawn tempura rolls.

Is there a bar?

Of course. You can pick from a plush cigar-room stocked with
oversized Remy Martin bottles and a green-lit bar that wouldn’t
look out of place in a pâtisserie, or soak up views from the pretty
terrace. We might sound like a broken record but those vistas
really are magnetic. Order from the wine list – the sommelier is
impressively knowledgeable – or embark on your own cocktail flight.
We’d recommend the Provence, vodka-based and infused with lavender
liqueur. Come 6pm, it gets quite lively here – but don’t start
jumping on the tables. Ibiza house hits might sound like they jar
with the countryside setting but we enjoyed the buzzy soundtrack
serenading sunset.


The phrase “rosé
all day
” was likely invented to describe the activities (or
lack thereof) that take place around the pool. Flanked by manicured
lawns and towering cypress trees, it’s a pretty place to plonk
yourself for the afternoon and make your way through the
region-focused wine list. Elsewhere, you’ll find a dedicated
children’s pool equipped with retro arcade games and a vintage
ice-cream cart.

If the rosé hasn’t induced an afternoon siesta, a trip to the
spa certainly will. Modelled on the nearby Sénanque Abbey, it’s a
three-floor warren of vaulted stone with long, stark corridors
leading to a hammam spa, indoor pool and treatment rooms with (you
guessed it) more staggering views of the valley.

Things you should know

On Sundays, L’Orangerie hosts the most extravagant brunch
banquet we’ve ever had the pleasure of getting our shellac mitts
on. Forget your poxy avocado-on-toast job served with flat cava,
this spread is so vast that even Marie Antoniette would have pulled
up a velvet pew and approved. Expect gigantic prawns, platters of
roast meats and enough breads to get Paul Hollywood excited. Follow
with homemade tarts, crème brûlée and rows of miniature
viennoiserie. Take your (vintage) fizz out to the terrace and sip
beneath the orange trees.

Within a short walk, you’ll find…

Head right out of the hotel and you’ll be sashaying into the
centre of Gordes. Like most Provençal towns you’ll find several
boulangeries – Artisan Boulangerie makes a mean framboise tart – a
pharmacist, a church and boutiques lined with bottled lavender oil.
Worth a visit is Territoire, a deli of sorts stacked
floor-to-ceiling with jars of black olives, tins of aubergine
caviar and rainbow of olive oils – all worth wasting your liquid
carry-on allowance on; the balsamic vinegar with lemon will
transform even the humblest of two-day-old salad.

Turn left out of the hotel’s door, around the corner and follow
the kerb-slung Fiat 500’s with their hazards on to find the Gordes
viewpoint. People venture from all over the Luberon region to snap
a photo in front of the valley that’s dotted with cypress trees and
stone villas. Avoid sunset when you run the risk of being knocked
off the cliff edge by someone taking a selfie. We opted to go at
sunrise where we had the whole place to ourselves.

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