This is one of those places that just oozes charm. The setting is hard to beat – in the hilltop village of La Cadière d’Azur, overlooking the vineyards of Bandol, the family Bérard have created a magical hotel and spa out of an intriguing ensemble of old bastide townhouses. Just 10 minutes from the coast and equidistant from Marseilles and Toulon, the Hostellerie would make a great stop-over if you are heading East or West exploring the coastline – or to enjoy the local delights of Bandol, Cassis and Sanary sur Mer.

With 37 rooms and suites there’s plenty of choice, and all are stylishly furnished in a pleasing mix of classic and contemporary Provençal furnishings. Terracotta floors, comfortable beds, modern bathrooms are enhanced by warm, neutral decorations with accented touches of Provençal colour. Many rooms have beautiful views overlooking the outdoor pool and vineyards or towards the dramatic medieval hilltop chateau of Castellet. Note that the rooms are spread out across different buildings and although there is an elevator in the main building there are also various stairs and corridors to negotiate to get around to the pool, parking and restaurants. This adds to the sense of privacy and creates a pleasant ambiance but may not suit all guests.

This is a family-owned hotel where the family are much in evidence. On arrival at reception you are likely to encounter the vivacious Danièle, who with husband René first arrived in the village in 1969. Front of house and Spa are managed by Danièle and daughter Sandra, while father René and son, Jean-François, are in charge of the culinary arts.

The Michelin-starred restaurant is worthy of a detour in its own right thanks to the efforts of René and Jean-François (awarded Maître Cuisinier de France in 2008). In their restaurant with panoramic views overlooking the vines, they serve up classy, creative Provençal cuisine with a contemporary twist. For more relaxed dining there’s also the Bistrot de Jef  –  with a classic unpretentious Bistrot menu and friendly service.   Keen cooks and wine connoisseurs can tap into their enthusiasm for transforming the finest quality local produce into a fine dining experience.  Chef René runs a cookery school set in a local bastide complete with garden and potager and Danièle offers a chance to discover and taste the wines of Provence.

Finally, to complete the “art de vivre” experience guests can enjoy the delights of the AromaSpa. Inspired by the thermal baths of ancient Rome, this beautiful, intimate spa is designed to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony – natural stone walls, trickling fountains,  trompe l’oeil wall paintings, frescos and mosaic tiled spa pools are the background for the extensive range of therapies and treatments available.

Great ambiance, lovely rooms, superb spa, fantastic food  – highly recommended.

Hostellerie Bérard & Spa, 7, rue Gabriel Péri, 83740, La Cadière s’Azur. Tel : +33 4 94 90 11 43. [email protected]. Doubles from 105 euros per night, off season. Rooms with views from 169 euros off season to 216 euros per night peak season. Hostellerie Bérard is part of Châteaux & Hôtels Collection and can be booked on chateauxhotels.com.

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