Jardins Secrets

Nimes, Provence, France Book from Book from £223 per night

Opulent 18th-century hideout with succulent gardens, a shimmering pool and grand rooms, right on the doorstep of historic Nîmes
Stepping through an unassuming green door on an unimpressive city street, you find yourself breathless in an enchanted garden. There’s a banana tree in the corner, oranges and lemons grow in another. Bougainvillea streaks across the walls, a shield of bamboo shuts out the world beyond. Flanked by crisply dressed loungers and stone urns, the salt-water pool is shaded at one end by olive branches, fat with fruit; you can pick and swim and eat at the same time. Breakfast is taken on the shaded wooden tables on a brick terrace; at night lanterns illuminate the garden and pool.

As for the interior, it's luxury to the power ten: cavernous claw-foot baths, enormous beds wrapped in the crispest linen, gilt-framed mirrors and chandeliers in the bathrooms. Murals, numerous salons, a sweeping staircase, oils on the walls, smouldering logs, three grand pianos, Toile de Jouy fabrics, Farrow and Ball paints, and marble fireplaces. The sounds of songbirds fill the halls, and the air is heavy with scents from the spa. This is what we imagine a desert oasis founded by 19th-century royal explorers to be like.

Highs

  • Nîmes is packed with history, and it’s only 5 minutes’ walk to the perfectly preserved Roman temple and amphitheatre
  • We could have spent hours lazing in the lush, peaceful garden with its cool pool
  • Wildly opulent interiors and bedrooms designed with incredible attention to detail
  • It radiates history and grandeur, and makes a wonderfully romantic bolthole
  • The spa, which can only be booked in its entirety, is simply magical

Lows

  • It's often full, so it’s worth booking ahead in the summer months
  • Breakfast and light meals are pricey, but there are plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby
  • The train station is 500m away; occasionally you hear a train pass
  • Some find the rooms to be a little dark and stuffy, and the decor is not to everyone’s taste

Best time to go

Nîmes is an all-year city, but it's extra hot and extra busy in July and August.

Our top tips

Take a trip out of town to Pont du Gard. It’s a staggering, World-Heritage-listed Roman aqueduct that spans a gorge so high (over 40m) that it had to be built over three levels. Your jaw will drop. Loop back down the Gorges du Gardon, stopping off to walk, swim in water holes, ride on horseback or mountain bike, or to kayak - all wild and wonderful stuff.

Great for...

City Style
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 14
  • Breakfast (+ walk to off-site restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Deluxe Madame

Rooms

The effervescent style and scale of the 14 rooms and suites is quite something; sparkling 18th-century elegance flows throughout, the difference between them is size. Colours are regal: reds, greens, golds and blues.

Each room flaunts high ceilings, soft light, and a lavish embroidered elegance throughout. You'll find draped crowns above the beds, sweeping curtains, crystal wall lights and bowls of dried roses. The huge beds come smartly attired with pure white cotton, woollen blankets and quilted bedcovers. Fling open the windows and you feel you can reach out and touch the tops of olive trees.

One of the huge Deluxe rooms has murals on the wall, a walnut armoire, a wood and marble floor, and 19th-century radiators. We stayed in a Suite room, and loved the velvet, emerald-green walls and terrace overlooking the gardens. The 2 Standard rooms are smaller, but far from small, and just as opulent.

Bathrooms are exquisite: expect the deepest claw-foot baths with big fat cymbal shower heads above, thick white towels and bathrobes, and, of course, the obligatory chandelier.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Hypoallergenic bedding
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Slippers
  • Toiletries
  • Wake-up service
  • WiFi

Eating

In summer you eat breakfast (extra charge) in the garden. The tables are scattered about so you have a little corner to yourself. In winter, tables are set up in a former chapel. Whatever the season you get croissants and pain au chocolat, as well as baguettes. There are lovely jams, freshly-squeezed juices, cereals, bowls of fruit, pots of tea and coffee, and eggs if you want them.

For snacks and light meals, you can request a platter of fresh crudités or a platter of French cheeses, accompanied by a basket of bread, a bottle of wine and some fresh fruits. Prices are fairly high, but the choice of settings is unbeatable - a candlelit salon, in front of a roaring fire, in the orangery or in a secluded spot in the gardens.

Otherwise, you can eat your way around the world in Nîmes, so take to the streets and follow your nose. There are a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants a stone’s throw away, as well as quaint French bistros hidden through the cobbled streets of Nîmes’ old town. If you want to sit and drink coffee, head to Le Café Carré and gaze upon La Maison Carrée, an impressive Roman temple.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Nîmes is a hive of Roman architecture in wonderful nick. The amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved in the world, while the Temple in Place Carrée is the only fully-preserved Roman temple in the world
  • Head to the northwest corner of town and visit the Jardins de La Fontaine. They date to the 18th Century and are one of the finest public gardens in Europe. Marble and white stone statues and urns are all built around a spring that was the centre of a 1st-century Roman shrine
  • Continue up to Uzès, one of France’s best-preserved medieval towns; market day is Saturday
  • Head northeast to Avignon for the 15th-century Papal Palace and the famous bridge; southwest to Arles for all things Van Gogh and a super little provincial town; or south to the long, sandy beaches of the Camargue

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome, but this is a more grown-up place, with lots of delicate antiques and an atmosphere of romance.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

8/10
Room
8/10
Food
10/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

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