Alegria

Aups, Provence, France Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Family-friendly retreat with 5 self-catering suites (sleeping 2-4), tucked away in an olive grove in hills close to the Gorge du Verdon
While the tourists are down on the coast getting stuck in traffic, you’ll be up in the hills gliding serenely through blistering scenery, stopping to explore pretty villages, harvesting a picnic from local markets, then dropping down to the beaches on Lac de Sainte-Croix for lunch in the sun. Later, you’ll jump in a kayak and paddle into the awesome embrace of the Gorge du Verdon, and as you float along in silence with walls of rock soaring into the sky, you will wonder why you didn’t shun the tourists traps years ago. What’s more, if you have children in tow, they won’t be shouting for ice creams or complaining it’s too hot. On the contrary, they’ll be wide-eyed with wonder for this magical patch of unspoilt France.

As for this rather trendy guesthouse, it sits on the edge of a pretty village; a lovely market passes through twice a week. You’re surrounded by 200 olive trees and you can breakfast on your own patio or on the swimming pool terrace with the sun coming over the hills. Five big, contemporary suites have lots of style. Expect walk-in showers and bathrobes, comfy beds and iPod docks, then sofas inside and deckchairs on private terraces. Best of all are the friendly owners Cindy and Dieter. They know this land inside out and can guide you to its secrets. There’s a boules pitch in the garden, hammocks in the olive grove, an honesty bar on the terrace; you can even take home a bottle of their olive oil.

Highs

  • The swimming pool flanked by an olive grove – heaven in summer
  • The Prestige Suite, with its private roof terrace, enormous bed and free-standing bath
  • The truly amazing Gorge du Verdon – make sure you hire kayaks and paddle in
  • The Lac de Sainte-Croix – launch your pedalo from one of its sandy beaches
  • Popular with food and wine tourists, and perfect for romantic R&R, but families are very welcome, too

Lows

  • It’s a little bit pricey in July and August, especially given you’re not in a tourist hotspot, and there's a 7-night minimum stay
  • There are no meals provided here, but you can walk into Aups in less than 10 minutes, and each Suite has its own kitchen island for whipping up simple dishes
  • If you're heading to the water, you'll need to bring your own beach towels or pay a small supplement to borrow them from the B&B
  • Don’t expect the concierges services such as you find in a hotel

Best time to go

Alegria is open from April to mid October, with a 7-night minimum stay in high season. Although quite remote, some of the holidaymakers down on the coast do come up to investigate, more so in July and August, so book ahead in summer. The big Saturday market also pulls a crowd. We'd say April-June and September-October are the loveliest months.

Our top tips

Watch out for animals on the road. You’re up in the hills, they do things differently here! But seriously, it's not uncommon to come across shepherds herding 300 sheep down the road. It's quite some sight, too.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 5
  • Accommodation only
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 11 Dec 2016 - 31 Mar 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Pool house
Room: Prestige Suite

Rooms

The 5 Suites are scattered about, all with private garden entrances. None have TVs (there’s one in the dining room), but they do have iPod docks and free WiFi. Each has its own signature colour on a feature wall and its soft furnishings. All come with walk-in showers, plus bathrobes and Italian oils; the Prestige Suite also has a free-standing bath. Some have terracotta-tiled floors, Cindy’s art hangs in all Suites. Comfy beds and lovely linen come as standard, so expect to sleep well wherever you end up.

All bedrooms are big, however, the romantic Prestige Suite is definitely the best room in the house. It’s also the most private with a fabulous roof terrace, where you can sunbathe on pink-cushioned loungers. A wall of glass floods the room with light, while the room itself is open to the eaves, giving a lovely sense of space. This room sleeps 2 adults.

The Junior Suite (sleeps up to 5) has a bedroom, a big bathroom and a smaller one, and a small separate sitting room with a sofabed, so it would work well for a family; there's space for a rollaway bed too. On the plus side, this room is a little more private, being on the first floor. It also has its own patch of garden.

The 3 Deluxe Suites are all big with a nice open-plan feel, and can also sleep up to 4. One comes in deep yellow, another in red, the last in turquoise. All have comfy sofa beds for children, painted beams and good lighting. All have fairly private terraces with deck chairs and hammocks, where you can sit in the shade of an olive tree.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar
  • Ipod dock
  • Kitchenette
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Each Suite has a custom-made kitchen island, where guests can prepare their own breakfast and light snacks. The kitchen island includes a fridge, a dishwasher, a toaster, a Nespresso machine and a kettle. There's also a guest salon which has a hot plate and microwave for heating up food if required. Typical French breakfasts are served in the local bakeries located just 250 metres away. Shops are just a minute away for groceries, you can shop ahead online. Basics supplied include dish soap, sponges, tea towels, bin bags, salt, pepper, sugar and Alegria's own olive oil. Weekly rentals also receive tea and Nespresso coffee capsules.

No other meals are served at Alegria, but you’ll find an honesty bar in the pool house. There’s Belgian beer, French rosé by the glass, tea and coffee, then chocolate and ice creams.

Dinner in Aups or the surrounding villages is no hardship. We had a good steak at L’Aiguière, just above the square, where you eat on the terrace in summer. Le Caillou offers French food with a Moroccan twist; the service is friendly, the food well priced. Le Provençal does exactly what it says on the can, serves earthy Provençal fare at excellent prices. If you find yourself up at the lake and want a good lunch, go to Café du Midi at Bauduen for its great views and tasty food.

Features include:

  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Toaster
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Hang out by the pool, snooze in a hammock, try your hand at a game of boules, or chill out with a massage in your room
  • Head north to Lac de Sainte-Croix, where you can catch the sun on sandy beaches, have a stab at windsurfing, or hire a pedalo and potter about on the water
  • Don’t miss the awesome Gorge du Verdon, which empties into the northern end of the lake. You can explore on kayaks. It’s 25km long and absolutely out of this world
  • Head into the hills with your walking boots or mountain bike; the scenery here is fantastic. Private guides can be arranged
  • Aups has an excellent market that passes through on Wednesdays and Saturdays – delicious local cheeses, honey from the hills, fabulous charcuterie… resistance is futile. Join the locals and stop for lunch at one of the cafés on the square. The town’s famous truffle market takes place every Thursday from November to February
  • Check out the villages around you – Moustiers up in the hills or unmissable Tourtour, one of the most beautiful in France, a great spot for a good lunch
  • Head south to the 11th-century L’Abbaye de Thoronet, either simply to behold its wonders or for concerts and exhibitions
  • Check out local Côte de Provence vineyards, which occupy much of the land to the south. You can visit caves and sample the local nectar
  • Brave the crowds and head down to Sainte Maxime, then take the ferry across to St Tropez and check out the old town and the big boats in the harbour
  • Or follow the coast round from Le Lavandou to Hyères, where lovely beaches dot the coast. Bormes-Les-Mimosas is worth seeing, too
  • Cannes, Nice, Aix-en-Provence and Grasse can all be visited easily in a day

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Concerts
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Pedalos
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are very welcome and there are baby cots, sofabeds and extra beds available, but the family friendly rooms only have a shower, which won't suit all. Under 2s stay for free, 2-14 year olds are charged a small supplement, 15+ year olds a larger supplement.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Deluxe Suites have sofas that can be made up for a child, plus space for a rollaway bed or baby cot. The Junior Suite has a separate sitting room with a double sofabed, plus space for a rollaway bed, and two bathrooms. Each Suite has a private terrace with hammocks, and kids can securely play there.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chair
  • Baby bath
  • Steriliser
  • Toys
  • Bathroom booster seats for toddlers

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

  • High chairs
  • Plastic cutlery and crockery
  • All Suites have a kitchen island with fridge for basic self-catering, supermarkets are 1 minute's drive away

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • Petanque
  • Board games
  • Treehouse

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Sandy beaches, windsurfing, kayaking, rafting and pedalos at the Lac de Sainte-Croix
  • Hiking and cycling in the Gorge du Verdon for older kids
  • Park with playground for smaller kids and grotto to explore in nearby village (7 mins drive)
  • Nearby river for swimming in summer

Families Should Know:

The swimming pool is fenced and there is a swimming pool alarm; of course toddlers always need supervision around pools. The property is gated

Distances:

  • Airport: 75-90 minutes (Marseilles, Nice, Toulon)
  • Doctor: 1 minute
  • Shops: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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