La Maison Pavie

Dinan, Brittany, France Book from Eur95

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A chic little B&B with an Asian twist, set in a historic house in the heart of half-timbered Dinan
You’re never far from history at La Maison Pavie. It occupies a 15th-century house opposite a honey-hued basilica in central Dinan; wander inside and you’ll find ancient wattle-and-daub walls, stone hearths and delightfully wonky floors. Even the furnishings take their inspiration from the building’s past, with the travels of famed explorer Auguste Pavie (born within its walls in 1847) forming a continuous decorative thread. Oriental antiques are dotted around the 5 rooms and suites, all named after Far Eastern cities visited by Pavie, and Asian figurines preside over the dining table. But don’t be fooled into thinking a stay here means stepping back in time: this is one stylish B&B indeed, stuffed full of 21st-century comforts and contemporary classics from the likes of Philippe Starck and Paola Navone.

Dinan itself is one of Brittany’s gems, a busy market town whose half-timbered buildings, cobbled lanes and medieval ramparts look like they’ve been lifted straight from a swashbuckling Hollywood blockbuster. There’s a pretty port to potter around, fabulous restaurants and boutiques to indulge yourself in, and beautiful beaches within striking distance. At the end of the day, head back to the B&B and sink into a fireside sofa, then slip upstairs to your raftered room, where snazzy showers and heavenly beds await. We loved it, and we can’t wait to return.

Highs

  • An imaginative fusion of old and new: perspex ‘Ghost’ chairs sit by carved tables, sleek shower heads hang from gnarled beams, and the lounge’s 18th-century panelling is painted a striking petrol-blue
  • Tasty breakfast goodies include just-baked bread, sweet brioches and excellent coffee, and you can pre-book 4-course feasts for dinner
  • Fantastic hosts, who know when to chat and when to be discreet
  • Great-value rates that include plenty of little extras - free tea and coffee, bottled water and delicious Breton biscuits, even a pre-paid pass for a secure car park nearby
  • There’s a lovely little garden for summer drinks (bring your own wine and they’ll chill it for you)

Lows

  • You’ll need to negotiate a steep, narrow staircase to reach rooms on the upper floors, though Jérôme and Camille will help with luggage
  • Best suited to couples - there are no twin beds, and the open-plan bathrooms mean you’ll need to be on very good terms with your travelling companion
  • The house's period charm makes for a few creaks and groans - plus occasional bumped heads
  • You can hear the church bells, but they only toll from 8am to 7pm
  • Central Dinan is tricky to negotiate by car, with tight streets and a complicated one-way system that bamboozled our sat-nav

Best time to go

Dinan is wonderful at any time of year. Choose spring or summer for lazy days on the river (though be prepared for crowds during school holidays), or autumn and winter for crisp walks and cosy evenings by the fire. In July the Fête des Remparts sees medieval-style banquets and jousting along the town's streets, and come December the multitude of boutiques and delis make Christmas shopping a treat.

Our top tips

From May to October, you can hop on a ferry for a scenic 3-hour float along the river between Dinan and Saint-Malo. Both towns are best seen from the water, and you’ll pass through pretty villages, flower-filled meadows and locks along the way. Timings vary according to the tide and it’s often not possible to sail to Saint-Malo and back again in a day, so take the bus there, enjoy a long lunch, and catch the late-afternoon boat back.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 5
  • Breakfast (+ dinner on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Standard Room - Champassack

Rooms

It’s a steep climb up to the 5 rooms, but you’ll be rewarded with a cool, uncluttered space and beautifully preserved original features. But, while the stone walls and soaring rafters may be historic, the furnishings and fittings certainly aren’t: there’s a hint of Indochina in the funky Paola Navone chairs and log-like tables, and contemporary treats include spine-friendly UPD mattresses, snazzy clocks-cum-heating controls that resemble steel wands, and sleek in-room showers and sinks (thankfully, toilets are tucked away behind doors or partitions).

The 2 Standard Rooms on the second floor, Kampot and Champassack, are small but swish, with state-of-the-art rain heads hanging from beams in the glass-enclosed showers. A rung up the price ladder - and a little larger - is the Superior Room, Vinh-Long, which features a striking gold and black mural and a slate-lined double shower. It sits on the first floor next to the communal lounge, but as this is closed from 10pm you won’t find your slumber disturbed by night-owl guests.

We were lucky enough to stay in one of the 2 suites, Angkor, a cavernous space spanning the width of the house, with views over Place Saint-Sauveur to the front and the garden to the rear. A fireplace occupies one wall, beautiful panelling another, and the bathroom sits on a raised platform designed to resemble the bow of a ship. The other suite, romantic Luang Prabang, is perched at the top of the house, with a fabulous four-poster bed, a freestanding bathtub and a walk-in shower.

All rooms come with hairdryers, flat-screen TVs, unlimited WiFi access and - rather inexplicably - a stuffed toy sheep. You also get free bottled water and buttery crêpe dentelle biscuits - a lovely touch.

Features include:

  • Wifi internet
  • Satellite tv
  • Wifi internet
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Toiletries
  • Hairdryer
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Complimentary biscuits

Eating

Breakfast is served in the first-floor dining room, where funky wicker lights dangle above a chunky table piled high with newspapers and glossy interiors mags. It’s a tasty spread of baguettes, brioches, cheese, ham, eggs, fruit, cereal and yoghurt, and Jérôme and Camille will ferry fresh juice and coffee to the table in quirky cups that resemble eggshells. There’s also a Nepresso machine and a selection of Mariage Frères teas which you can use to make a brew at any time, day or night (though you can’t take hot drinks up to your room).

If you fancy staying in one evening, Jérôme can whip up 4-course dinners by prior arrangement (see Rates). We sadly missed out on the chance to sample his culinary creations, which are based around whatever seasonal produce he finds in the market that day, but we’ve heard great things from past guests.

Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants on the cobbled streets fanning out from Place Saint-Sauveur. We wandered up rue Sainte-Claire to Le Cantorbery, a friendly little place where meat and seafood are grilled over an aromatic wood fire. Here, we tucked into a huge platter of juicy prawns with aioli, followed by wonderfully tender steaks and a bottle of the latest Beaujoulais. We rounded things off with a coupe colonel (lemon sorbet doused in vodka) and a deliciously light Cointreau soufflé with candied orange peel.

If you want to splash out, head to Les Trois Lunes on rue de la Lainerie, where innovative twists on classic French cuisine (veal carpaccio with fine herbs, sesame-dusted tuna tartare, foie gras with spiced chocolate and caramelised apples) are served up in contemporary surroundings.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Communal dining
  • Food and wine
  • Walk to restaurants
  • Free tea and coffee
Eating: Dining room
Activity: Dinan port

Activities

  • Explore delightful Dinan: climb the 15th-century Tour de l’Horloge, stock up on cider and salami in the delis, and take in panoramic views from the Jardin Anglais. All the main sights are just a short stroll from the B&B, and Jérôme and Camille can provide maps showing suggested walking routes around the town

  • Then wander down the steep, gallery-lined rue du Petit-Four to the port, where a pretty stone bridge crosses the River Rance and boats bob along the quay. There are plenty of waterfront restaurants for a spot of lunch before you clamber back up the hill

  • Visit Saint-Malo (a 20-minute drive away), whose citadel commands a spectacular position at the mouth of the Rance estuary. Amble along the ramparts and breathe in the sea air, then tuck into moules-frites and a glass of vin blanc at one of the bistros on Place Chateaubriand

  • At low tide, venture across the causeways that snake out from Saint-Malo to the tiny island of Grand-Bé and the Fort National fortress

  • Laze on the beach at Dinard, a smart little resort town just across the estuary from Saint-Malo, or find a secluded spot along the unspoilt Emerald Coast, which stretches west towards St-Brieuc

  • Indulge yourself in the oyster-obsessed town of Cancale. It’s packed with restaurants serving mountainous heaps of molluscs, as well as striped canvas stalls where you can buy them for a fraction of the cost you’d pay elsewhere

  • Head an hour or so south to admire the mighty medieval château at Fougères. It’s one of the largest castles in Europe, with 13 towers ringed by a moat-like river

  • Or meander north-west and hike along the dramatic Côte du Granit Rose, which is lined with bizarre pink-tinged rock formations

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Food and wine
  • Hiking
  • History religious
  • Museum
  • Nightlife
  • Swimming
  • Shopping

Kids

Children are welcome here, though it's a sophisticated place that's most suited to grown-ups - particularly as the steep stairs mean you'd need to keep a close watch on roving little ones. A baby cot (free) or extra bed (small charge) can be added to the Superior Room and both suites.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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