Hotel Mas de Peint

near Arles, Provence, France Book from Eur245

Reviewed by Tom Bell
An ancient farmhouse in the deepest Camargue, with smart bedrooms, an inviting pool, white horses and superb dinners cooked in front of your eyes
White horses, black bulls: the Camargue is a wild chunk of floodlands and huge lagoons which attract millions of birds each year. On the eastern flank, this 1602 stone farmhouse is surrounded by its owners' 550-hectare estate. Roam free and lose yourself in simple beauty and magnificent silence.

The farmhouse is also a terrifically smart hotel, combining gorgeous French elegance with crisp English minimalism. There is a big pool for sun worship and a vine-clad terrace where you can breakfast with nature. Inside are yellow-washed walls, flagged floors, saddles on the walls, upholstered armchairs and a bull’s head mounted in the airy lobby. You'll find an honesty bar and a huge stone fireplace in the beamed drawing room. Bedrooms have uncluttered richness: excellent beds, smart linen, polished wooden furniture, pillows piled high. Most wonderful is the dining room, which is in the kitchen; your food is cooked in front of you, with a dollop of theatre thrown in for good measure.

Highs

  • The peace and beauty are addictive
  • Elegant interiors without the slightest hint of clutter
  • The dining room, where they cook quite confidently in front of your eyes - the reason so many people come here
  • There are horses to ride; the family are famous for their bulls; the birdwatching is excellent and wild sandy beaches are a short drive away

Lows

  • The Camargue is pretty flat, but if you like watery wilderness, you’ll love it
  • The restaurant is closed Thursday evenings, and weekday lunchtimes (though you can get light lunches). It's popular with outsiders so best to book ahead

Best time to go

Between June-September for the pool (which is unheated); in spring or autumn for the best migrating birds. Mid/late June sees a horse-riding festival, mid-July the lively 5-day 'Feria du Cheval' (parades and dressage), mid August the bull-fighting festival, all of them in Saintes Maries. There are Abrivado (bull-marching) festivals in March (Le Grau du Roi) and November (Saintes Maries), and a 3-day 'pilgrimage event' in late May (Saintes Maries).

Our top tips

Bring a pair of binoculars, plus more memory cards than you think you'll need - you'll be snapping away at the watery landscapes.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 5 Jan 2016 - 17 Mar 2016...
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Junior Elegance Suite

Rooms

All rooms wear the same clipped smile; some are bigger than others, but so are their prices. The smaller Standard Charm Rooms and their larger counterparts - Standard Elegance Rooms - both come with claw-foot baths, terracotta-tiled floors, bathrobes and big white towels in the bathrooms, though colours differ. Those at the back of the house come in green and may have a brass bed; those at the front come in rose and have raw beamed ceilings. Some have steps up to galleried bathrooms, others are furnished with heavy old chests of drawers. All rooms are dressed in crisp cotton, linen curtains, trim carpets and old rugs. You may get a big old armoire, you may find a beamed ceiling painted in French grey. Some have extremely pretty pencil sketches on the walls.

Move up to the suites, which are sprinkled about the farm - thus more private, and you get more space and a private terrace. Suite Duplex Le Pigeonnier, spread over 2 floors, has a sitting room with an open fire and doors that fling open onto a terrace decked with tables and chairs. Junior Charm Suite L’Alcove, up a flight of old stone steps, has huge terracotta urns on the balcony, a gilt-framed bathroom mirror and the biggest bed we saw in France. Junior Elegance Suite La Terrasse, on the other side of the farmhouse, has high ceilings, rugs on coir matting, greedy windows hungry for light, 1930s chairs that slipped out of a chapel and a stunning rattan bench, utterly contemporary in style, but which dates to the early 1900s. While the other Junior Elegance Suite (L'Atelier and Loft) are decorated in a similar, elegant manor.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Honesty bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

You can eat all over the place, and can pick and choose which meals to eat at the hotel. Breakfast will be brought to your room, or you can drop down to the swimming pool terrace, the drawing room terrace or, heaven forbid, you can eat in the dining room. Breakfast is traditionally French: hams, saucisson and cheese as well as freshly-squeezed orange juice, baskets of croissants, pain au chocolat and baguette; Madame makes the jams.

The hotel serves dinner every day except Thursday, and lunches at weekends only (although you can get light lunches by the pool on any day of the week, during the summer). If you want to eat formally, stick to the main house and it appears in front of your eyes with much panache. You’ll want to experience this once or twice. From mid June to early September you can also eat all three meals of the day (and any you can fit in between) on the big swimming pool terrace, either in the sun or under vine: salads, sandwiches, cote de taureau grilled on the barbecue (don’t miss it). Drinks are brought out by attentive staff and a violet wisteria adds colour in spring and summer.

Formal fare (make sure they know you want to eat in) consists of a three-course lunch and a four-course dinner; both are set menus with no choice. You eat in an elegant dining room; the kitchen occupies one wall and you can watch the chef at work. You might get oysters, fillet of bull, cheese and home-made mandarin ice cream. Expect great cooking and plenty of flavour.

If you want to eat out there are plenty of places to go. Head north a couple of clicks and you’ll find La Chassagnette, which everyone in the area spoke of glowingly. Keep going and you come to glorious Arles - less than a half hour drive - with a clutch of really good restaurants to choose from. Le Cilantro offers adventurous, clean flavours, while Chez Bob is the place for duck. You can also find simple bistros, pizzerias, brasseries - something to suit all tastes. The hotel will advise, book tables and give directions.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Ride. You can do so on Monsieur’s horses and set out from the hotel. If the Côte d’Azur dazzles in Goddard movies, the Camargue belongs in a Truffaut filmscape: flat and bleak on a bad day, wild and wonderful on a good one. There is no better way to see it than on the back of one of its white horses

  • There are miles of wide sandy beaches ten kilometres south. While you’re strolling about, spare a thought for the poor bronzed souls on the Côte d’Azur who are hobbling across crowded, pebbled beaches and stubbing their toes

  • The beaches are so good you can ride bikes across them. If you want to lie and bronze with the crowd, head over to Le Grau du Roi. The two roads of the Camargue pincer round the étangs (lagoons), but if you hire bikes, you can cycle across from Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer to Port-Saint-Louis-du Rhône (where the Rhône reaches the sea), a ride of about 20 kilometres, all along the coast

  • Head up to Arles. Van Gogh lived here for two years and painted over 200 paintings (busy chap). The town is glorious, unmanicured and all the better for it. A principal Roman base in the south, much remains including a staggering amphitheatre and the substantial remains of a Roman theatre. The Pont du Gard, the unmissable 1st-century aqueduct built over three levels, is a little further north

  • The fortress port of Louis IX at Aigues Mortes is worth a visit for its immaculately preserved city walls, though you'll be hard pushed to beat the crowds

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Older kids in particular will love the abundance of animals around. There are also beach and birding expeditions.
Children under 5 eat for free; children under 10 at reduced rates. Cots and extra beds available.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

This hotel has not yet been reviewed by guests

Rates for Hotel Mas de Peint