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  • Shelley Dark

2. Crillon-le-Brave

Such bliss to arrive after thirty-six hours of travel!

Thank goodness for the TGV from Paris which travelled at its usual grande vitesse (the countryside was almost just a blur) to deliver us to Avignon on Monday afternoon just after 5pm. I've never been happier to see a driver with a sign with our names on it! We sank into the seats of the car with a sigh of relief.

At about 6pm we arrived at our hotel in the tiny village of Crillon-Le-Brave.

So here we are in this tiny little hill-top village in Provence, forty kilometres north-east of Avignon.

It's named after Le Brave Crillon (1541-1615), one of Henri IV’s fiercest generals during the wars of religion that ravaged France in the late 16th century. L'Hôtel de Crillon in Paris is named after the family as well. This village was once a Roman town, and its fortune varied over the centuries. A lack of water forced its inhabitants to abandon it, and by the end of WWII it was just a ruin, almost deserted. Lately there's been a resurgence of visitors buying houses and doing them up. There are strict building codes and power lines have been put underground.

Hôtel Crillon-le-Brave is very impressive. It opened in 1989 and is made up of several stone houses with pale blue shutters. The oldest houses date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We're in Maison Décor. The hotel joined the Relais and Châteaux group in 1995. Most of the interior design has been done by English hotelier Judy Hutson and later by designer Penny Lydon of Chalkhouse Design. This is the hotel map so you don't get lost. We're still getting lost!

It isn't dark here until around 9pm. Although we were exhausted, after check-in we buzzed around the village with our cameras like crazy people, gripped by a sort of post-trip frenzy. The Mistral, a strong wind which blows at any time of the year in Provence, was whipping our clothes. It was surprisingly chilly.

Not all houses have been renovated - this had a sign warning trespassers. But by this time we were making no sense at all to ourselves or each other, and we fell into the deepest sleep on a bed made of fairy clouds. Deep enough to be up full of energy at dawn.

This is the view from our window as the first rays of sunlight touched the vineyards.

The view of dawn just outside our bedroom door. The old church is on the right.

The hotel gardens are very pretty with healthy roses, virginia creeper-covered walls.

Elderberry is flowering profusely.

Valerian grows wild everywhere here, from pale to darkest pink and white.

This is part of the hotel garden.

Its terraces flow down the steep hillside.

And everywhere, the buzzing of bees on blossoms..

The church bell rings automatically on the hour. It gave us an awful fright when we were just about to go into our room after breakfast!

Our suite overlooks the little town of Bédoin and Mt Ventoux, a mountain in the alps which separate France from Italy. It's famous as the site of a very gruelling stage of the Tour de France. The summit is covered with cloud.

The colour scheme is neutral with touches of apple green - very restful. The floors are terracotta.

The desk where I've set up my computer.

There's a very large bathroom, with separate walk-in shower, and claw foot bathtub.

I could spend a day or two reading here, glancing out of the window now and then..... Sipping a rosé...

We have pretty views in all directions.