Friday 3 August 2007

L'Auberge des Lavandes, Place General De Gaulle, Villecroze, Provence, France

Although it is run by a middle-aged Norwegian couple, this hotel and restaurant, housed in a 19th century terracotta building with bright blue shutters overlooking a picturesque village square, is dripping with French style and character. The winding stair case leads up to en-suite bedrooms (53 Euros for a double) with high ceilings containing an eclectic mix of aging, distressed furniture and Impressionist prints. Make sure you have dinner in the ground floor restaurant, which has tables in the square. Both the starters, such as fish soup or pate, and the main courses (lamb, trout or fillet of pork in a cream sauce) in the 20 Euro menu use high-quality ingredients prepared and cooked with precision and skill. But the highlight of the meal has to be the sumptuous deserts, such as the moist, light chocolate cake containing an inner reservoir of rich chocolate sauce, a fine creme brulee and a tangy apple tart. Get to bed early, as a deafeningly loud machine is sometimes used to clean the square from 6am in the morning. By the time you eat your simple breakfast (5 Euros for bread, coffee, jam, baby bell cheese and orange juice), your head should have stopped ringing and you will be able to soak up the idealized Provencal ambiance. 8/10