Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus

Aigaliers, Provence, France Book from Eur115

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Beautiful B&B and apartments with a courtyard pool, in a sleepy hamlet close to magnificent Uzès
Those looking for a chic place to chill in beautiful countryside will find it here. Anna Karin and Olivier (respectively a model and photographer) escaped Paris in 2000 for life in the country. They now have 3 cats, 2 children and one exceptionally welcoming home, which doubles as a B&B. It sits in a tiny hamlet, dates to the 12th century and comes with a small pool in its courtyard. It’s the kind of place where everyone who visits thinks, “let’s run away to Provence and run a B&B like this!”

Interiors are lovely: beautiful colours, a magnificent stone staircase, the décor a contemporary take on old French country style. Sweet-smelling wood burns on roaring fires, one of which is lit for breakfast in winter; vines shade the courtyard table, where you dig into your croissants in summer. Despite the urge to linger in your gorgeous room or apartment, make sure you don’t. Uzès, Nîmes and Pont du Gard are all close, but take a day to explore the north, too (fabulously beautiful, madly neglected): Mont Bouquet, the stunning hilltop village of Lussan and the magnificent Gorge de l’Ardèche all await you.

Highs

  • The pretty shaded courtyard is draped in roses and perfect for long, lazy breakfasts in the sun
  • When we revisited in 2016, we found Anna Karin is warm, friendly and relaxed, a vibe very much reflected through the B&B
  • The bedrooms and apartments are stylish, rustic and original (this is not ‘off-the-shelf contemporary’), with irresistible prices
  • The pool is perfect for hot afternoons
  • You're near Lussan, a stunning hilltop village to the north

Lows

  • You’re in the sticks and may need to drive out for dinner
  • The house is very child-friendly; if you’re looking for absolute peace, this might not be for you
  • Perhaps a plus for pet lovers, but do be aware that you'll often find the family's cats wandering the grounds

Best time to go

Les Sardines really is a house for all seasons and, while hotels can feel empty in mid-winter, here you’ll find roaring fires and life being lived around you. Come whenever you can and, if you love nothing more than pottering through ‘undiscovered’ French landscapes, visit in off-season to have the place to yourselves.

Our top tips

Don’t miss the north (most people do, so it's all the more special as a result). Start with Mont Bouquet, where you can walk, ride, climb, cycle and paraglide. Keep on going and you'll come to the pretty hilltop village of Lussan, then head up to the stunning Gorge de L’Ardeche, where a winding road weaves through blistering country with rocks to climb, kayaks to paddle and caves to explore.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B & Apartments
  • 5 rooms + 3 apartments
  • Breakfast only + self-catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 3 gorgeous B&B rooms are rustic-Provencal with a hint of fresh Swedish design. Extremely comfortable beds wear smart, embroidered linen, and you get interesting art, old radiators and shuttered windows.

Blue is the biggest with a chandelier hanging from its high ceiling. We stayed in Green and loved the linen-draped doors that open over the rose-filled terrace below. That said, petite Pink is astonishingly good value, only slightly smaller than the others and very pretty!

The 3 apartments all have open-plan sitting/kitchen areas. In the main house, The Small Apartment is accessed via open stone stairs. From the living area, glass doors slide open onto a terrace, and there’s a double bedroom overlooking the front of the house.

The Large Apartment is similar in layout but almost twice the size. There’s a simple, soothing white double bedroom, a rustic bathroom with a sink carved from a chunk of stone, and a private terrace.

The Little House is in a small tower on the far side of the courtyard. Old stone steps lead up to the front door, where there’s space for a table and chairs. Inside is a small but ever-so-pretty duplex studio - old walls harbour a contemporary interior with glass steps rising to a galleried bedroom and pebbled shower room.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfasts here are gloriously lazy. We spent a few hours happily munching away, slurping coffee and chatting with other guests in the rose-scented gardens, dappled sunlight filtering through the vines. A bountiful self-serve table is laid with freshly baked pastries and pretty homemade cakes, plus a fabulous selection of local produce including meats, cheeses, fruits and scrumptious jams and jellies; jugs of freshly squeezed fruit juices round things off. When it gets colder, you eat in front of a blazing fire in the dining room instead.

For other meals, the apartments have their own kitchenettes (with a microwave, hob and fridge, but no oven or freezer) and there are a few good-value local restaurants. We ate at L’Auberge d’Aigaliers, a charming no-frills kind of place with a pretty terrace, just a 10-minute walk away.

Further afield, try Le Tracteur at Samillac (8km) for simple food brilliantly cooked by lovely people. There’s also lots of choice in Uzès, not least a small profusion of cafés and bistros in the central Place des Herbes, where you can eat in the sunny square or in the shade of the medieval vaulted walkways.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Uzès, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in France, is 7km down the road. Its hallmark is a network of beautiful vaulted stone walkways that snake around the city and its market is one of the best in Provence
  • Head south into the Gorge de Gardon for a good walk in sublime country. Then nip across to the Pont du Gard, the magnificent 3-storey Roman aqueduct dates from 50AD
  • Nîmes is a hive of Roman architecture. Its amphitheatre is the best-preserved in Europe, while the only fully-preserved Roman temple in the world sits nearby in Place Carrée
  • Spin west from Nîmes and discover the Languedoc wine fields at Pic Saint Loup, a commune of 13 villages and 36 producers who are creating great (and much under-rated) AOC wine
  • Explore magnificent Arles for all things Van Gogh (he lived here for a while), and Avignon for its spectacular architecture
  • But most of all, make use of your little slice of Provencal heaven - laze by the tranquil pool or read in the pretty shaded courtyard covered in climbing roses and cats snoozing in the shade

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Though not exclusively family-oriented, Les Sardines is very family-friendly - Anna Karin’s own son was often splashing around in the pool during our visit.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The apartments have more space, sofabeds, kitchenettes and private balconies, making them popular with families; though The Little House is not recommended for small children due to its steep stairs. The double rooms can be booked in conjuction with an Annex twin room to make a family-sized suite. All rooms can hold a baby cot.

Babysitting:

Available, by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

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

Kids Activities on site:

Fenced swimming pool with lots of inflatable toys

Families Should Know:

The property has steep staircases so children should be supervised

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes
  • Shops: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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