Farniente is French for the lazy enjoyment of life says Lucy Pitts as she soaks up the ambience in uber intoxicating Uzes in the glorious Languedoc Roussillon region of southern France and samples the delights of two close to Uzes hotels which offer a holiday with a difference with their stunning spa facilities, gastronimic restaurants and a total chill out break…
If you’ve ever been to Uzes in the south of France, you’ll know that in the surrounding countryside there are dozens of enchanting little medieval villages clinging to the hills and grasping at the shade of the Garrigue. And if you’re in search of a truly indulgent and luxurious holiday, it’s worth taking a closer look at these outposts, because sleepy as they are, dotted amongst them are a couple of intoxicatingly lovely Chambres d’hotes, as I recently discovered.
L’Artemise “La douceur et la sérénité”
Leave Uzes via the twisting road to Bagnols and St.Quentin and take a steep and narrow track up to the towering walls of L’Artemise. The mesmerising views over the Eure Valley and Mont Ventoux (the tallest mountain in Provence) are what envelope you first here, as you climb the steps, past the exotic herb garden and natural spring, round the outer wall and into the lush and secluded, hill top oasis which awaits within.
This 16th and 17th century building was the former summer residence of the bishops of Uzes which gives you an idea of the opulence they enjoyed in days gone by and the first thing you’ll come to as you leave the harsh Mediterranean landscape beneath you, is a delightful covered courtyard overlooked by the 17th century columned balcony. It’s home to a gourmet restaurant and chef who’s previously been second chef at a Michelin star kitchen and just a stone’s throw from the spa, in the vaulted, cool, stone cellars of a former outbuilding, with a long, hot pool, steam room and range of treatments.
A host of idyllic and lofty gardens for each of the 8 rooms have a secret and intimate feel to them with ancient trees, hidden corners and panoramic views across the valley below and from there, you’re led to the most delicious of secluded pools, with an elegant row of four poster sun loungers tempting you to linger.
L’Artemise is the creative vision of current owners Pierre Beghin and Benoit Herault and what’s really apparent here is that they both have a passion and talent for exquisite luxury accompanied by a keen sense of tradition, style and history. Each of the rooms has been individually named and finished with bespoke furnishings, contemporary art and their own very unique style and there are all sorts of special extra touches, such as your own personal pool bag.
Subtle sophistication and a sleepy silence were my overwhelming impressions of my time here and whilst you feel like your both on top of the world and a long way from civilisation, you’re actually only a short and pleasant walk to Uzes and all the pleasures that enchanting town has to offer.
Le Castellas “charme et élégance”
Leave Uzes in the other direction and it’s not long before you come to the pretty hill top village of Collias, where tucked down a shady cobbled street you’ll find Le Castellas. Owned and run by the Aparis family since 1989, this is another cluster of 17th century buildings that have performed all sorts of tasks over the centuries including having been both a school and a post office and lots of the original features are still apparent today.
Each of the 15 rooms here are decorated in a different style, with everything from Baroque to Art Nouveau and with one room including a starry ceiling and another, a roof top bath! And from the rooms and even from some of the bath tubs, Le Castellas affords the most amazing views across the shimmering, tiled roof tops of the village to the hilly, green countryside beyond.
The hotel itself is a labyrinth of cool vaulted rooms, layered courtyards and hidden terraces with rich exotic planting including a banana tree, complementing some very contemporary sculptures. Carved from the soft local sandstone, with lots of emphasis on colours, textures and fabrics, hidden away in its folds are also a walled swimming pool, a wellness suite and a gourmet restaurant.
Collias sits on the River Gardon and the surrounding countryside and Gardon Gorges are the very definition of spectacular. And as the buzzing heat swirls around the narrow streets of the town, there’s something incredibly refreshing in this little haven of tropical tranquillity with its backdrop of the hills and desire to meet your every need.
These two pockets of luxury, elegance and style are definitely an embodiment of “farniente” a local word meaning the lazy enjoyment of life and they’re both ideal for soaking up all that is truly wonderful about the Gard region of the south of France and its warm, welcoming people.
Lucy Pitts is a reporter for The Good Life France and freelance copywriter who divides her time between the UK and the Vendée, France