Hotel des Colonnes

Riez, Provence, France Book from Book from £75 per night

Cheerful and eccentric B&B with just 3 rooms and a sun-dappled garden, in an authentic French village near the dramatic Verdon gorges
Géraldine greets you with sparkling eyes, Namibian bracelets jangling on her wrists. She is all ebullience and energy, grabbing your bags and pouring rosé before you can protest. Hotel des Colonnes is her baby (along with Betty, the French bulldog and unofficial hotel mascot, who rarely leaves her side). After a whirlwind tour of the downstairs spaces — the leafy garden, communal kitchen, art-filled salon and her boutique, which is choc-full of goodies from gold-trimmed bikinis to vintage sewing bobbins — she sweeps you up the stuccoed staircase to your room (one of 3) where you can sink into bed or ogle the décor, which is equally eclectic. In our suite: a pair of 18th-century dolls’ feet under a bell jar on the mantlepiece. Tin toys. Taxidermy. There’s a down-the-rabbit-hole feel to the entire experience, yet the mod cons are there when you need them: rain showers, WiFi, TV.

There’s plenty to captivate you in the area, too. On the doorstep, Riez has a traditional market twice a week. Further afield, you can kayak through cliff gorges, swim in aqua-colored lakes, photograph lavender fields and wander the winding streets of Provençal villages that dot the countryside. Return home to Geraldine's wonderful home cooking or dine out in friendly village bistros - she'll point you to the best ones.

Highs

  • A perfect pit stop between the chic Mediterranean coastal cities and the classic Provençal villages of the interior
  • Ideal for sports and nature lovers: kayaking, river-rafting, rock-climbing, hiking and swimming in the dramatic Verdon gorges
  • Excellent prices for this part of France
  • The effervescent ‘esprit’ and cheerful guidance of Géraldine. She will take very good care of you
  • Picnics and meals on request: delicious Provençal fare. We had a zingy heirloom tomato salad and an irresistible pissaladière tart, thick with olives and anchovies

Lows

  • With only 3 rooms and a gregarious hostess, it may be too intimate and sociable for some
  • Not for minimalists — or for those who don't like taxidermy
  • Riez isn’t postcard-perfect, but it's authentic and less touristy
  • Some guests complain of noise from the main square on mid-summer nights, though we didn’t experience any
  • A late check-in time (4.30pm)

Best time to go

We visited in June, which was utterly lovely. Géraldine recommends coming in June or September, when the weather is good and the area isn't overrun with tourists. Her busiest period is from July 10 through the third week in August.

Our top tips

Géraldine is an extraordinary hostess — down-to-earth, warm, ebullient, funny — and she’s connected to a coterie of like-minded independent hotel owners in the area. She is happy to help you fashion a personalised itinerary, sending you into the welcoming arms of her buddy-boutique hoteliers throughout Provence, such as Metafort in Méthamis or Maison Felisa in St Laurent des Arbres.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 3
  • Breakfast + meals on request
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: December - March
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Room 2

Rooms

At the top of the house, the 3 guest rooms may be painted in soothing Gustavian hues, but their feeling is anything but traditional. The whimsical decor is extraordinary — a night table made from a drum; a headboard fashioned from a wooden door; modern wire sculptures on taupe-colored walls. And antique knicknacks abound: dolls’ heads, statuettes, taxidermy. Open a closet, and you'll probably find vintage postcards pinned to the back of the door.

But there’s calm when you need it, too: jute rugs, linen sheets, and gorgeous ensuite bathrooms, fashioned entirely from pewter-colored poured concrete. Opium-fragranced soaps are handmade, stamped by a lady in the village. These are the details that count.

We stayed in the vast suite (Room 1), which has an airy sitting room in addition to 2 sleeping areas; it accommodates 4-5 comfortably. Rooms 2 and 3 are considerably smaller, but still a decent size and just as unique, overlooking the street.

Features include:

  • Communal kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Toiletries
  • TV

Eating

We ate breakfast in the garden at a sun-dappled picnic table, under a trellis of thick green leaves. Coffee came first — hot and strong — followed by baskets of fresh-baked goodies, homemade jams, juices, and the ripest local fruit.

Most guests eat lunch and dinner out, but Géraldine is delighted to share her cheerful communal kitchen, where you can warm up the savoury tarts or roast chickens you purchased at the Riez market earlier in the day. Or let Géraldine do the work. She’s happy to pack you a picnic or to rustle up one of her specialty ‘planches,’ a lip-smacking collection of local cured meats and cheeses along with earthy tapenades, salty nuts and crusty baguettes or soft fougasse breads. Need something more substantial? She made us a zingy heirloom tomato salad and an irresistible pissaladière tart, thick with olives and anchovies: traditional Provençal fare at its simplest and best.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander Riez’s wonderful open-air market (Wednesdays and Saturdays) and try cured meats, fragrant cheeses and local honeys
  • Kayak, canyon or raft through the spectacular Gorges du Verdon
  • Take a picnic to the stunning Sainte Croix lake and swim in its aqua waters; or ask Geraldine to recommend secret swimming spots
  • Wander a local lavender field
  • Explore quaint villages, including Moustiers Sainte Marie, one of France's most beautiful, celebrated for its ‘faïence’ (tin-glazed) pottery
  • Browse in Geraldine's unique boutique for a memento of your stay: brightly striped fabrics sold by the metre, deckchairs, straw bags, rugs and hammocks in a riot of exuberant colour

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Rafting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are welcome and will get a kick out of Colonnes' quirky decor and hide-and-seek worthy nooks and crannies. But it's a high climb to the top floor, where the guest rooms are located, and every surface is covered with (breakable) knicknacks; not the easiest place to have a wandering toddler. Guests are welcome to use the kitchen to whip up meals/snacks (oven, microwave, fridge).

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Each room can fit an extra bed or baby cot but we'd recomment the airy 2-room suite for families (Room 1). There's a generous living area attached to the large bedroom, which has a comfy queensized bed. Down a short hallway is the second bedroom with twin beds and charming children's decor (think vintage pull-toys and a plastic bunny lamp). The double-sinked shower bathroom is also ensuite. There's a mini-fridge in the outside hallway where you're welcome to store any necessities. A baby cot/extra bed is also available.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot
  • High chair

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

Kids Activities on site:

  • Games
  • Dressing up box of costumes
  • SUPs to borrow

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Mini ranch with ponies, rides from 15 mins for little ones to whole family day out
  • Pédalo and boating at Lac de Sainte Croix
  • Canyoning in the Gorges du Verdon

Families Should Know:

Lots of breakables everywhere! Géraldine has a very friendly French bulldog who rarely leaves her side.

Distances:

  • Airport: Marseilles (1 hr 30)
  • Shops: on the doorstep
  • Hospital: opposite
Kid Friendly:

Location

Hotel des Colonnes is in Riez, a large village in the middle of the Park Naturel Regional du Verdon, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

By Air:
Fly into Marseilles Airport (108km / 1hr 30). Although Géraldine can arrange a transfer from the airport, we'd recommend you hire a car to explore the region. You can park for free in Riez.

By Train:
There’s a TGV station at Aix (97km / 1hr 15), and you can hire a car from here too.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Marseilles Provence 108.0 km MRS

Other:

  • Beach 120.0 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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