The gardens are vast, tranquil and beautifully well-kept, we spent hours moving from hidden corner to hidden corner with a book and coffee (sometimes wine), watching the light change over Provence’s rolling hills. A large heated pool sparkles somewhere among the trees, there's a separate one for families too. After a morning exploring picturesque Cotignac (awarded prettiest village in France in 2022), visiting its ancient cliff-side houses, cave dwellings and art studio-lined streets, we retreated back through the grounds to the restaurant, another successful restoration project undertaken by the owners. Here a top-rated chef works his magic using produce plucked from the kitchen garden, and you are able to enjoy course after course in private, homely dining rooms that are majestically French. Spend days reclining on a sunny pool lounger or sampling beer at the hotel microbrewery (yep, it has one of those too). We managed (with difficulty!) to drag ourselves away from this sanctuary to discover Provence's spectacular scenery – from mountain lakes and hidden waterfalls to historic hilltop towns and ancient vineyards – content with the knowledge we’d be cosying up in our sumptuous suite after a session in the steam shower. Bliss.
- The picturesque, nature-rich country estate is quite the setting, with striking cliffs on one side, and Provence’s rolling hills on the other
- We stayed in the Providence XL room, and loved the classic-yet-chic Provencal country styling, with modern art on the walls and a steam shower in the bathroom
- The tree-lined pools, perfectly placed in the lush green gardens
- A top location: in the heart of a charming Provencal village, bustling with art stores, cosy cafes and live-music venues
- Lunch at Jardin Secret was a treat – three courses made with ingredients sourced from within a 35km radius – each course light and bursting with flavour; no wonder it won a Green Michelin Star in 2023
- Parts of the hotel are still under construction (including some of the rooms) so you might see some building work within the grounds
- The restaurant is closed for lunch and dinner on Weds (Thurs too in mid/low season), but there are plenty of places to eat nearby and staff are happy to book you a table; the wine bar is only open mid-June to mid-Sept
- Finding the place is a challenge – bring detailed directions!
- The pools can be a little chilly during colder months
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique hotel
- 24 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open Fri-Tues only)
- All ages welcome
- Closed: Early Nov-early Dec
- Heated Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car recommended
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Tennis Court
- Bicycles Available
The 24 rooms and suites are spread across the three-hectare estate and are split into two areas: the main hotel and the MICO zone; the restaurant separates the two.
Those in the MICO Zone are a little more secluded, but wherever you stay, you'll be among beautiful surroundings, and you can expect garden views and a private terrace with most rooms. The beautiful styling incorporates wood and stone, and the vibe is classic Provencal chic. Bathrooms are sleek with feature tiling, some rooms even feature Japanese toilets and steam showers. There are no TVs in the rooms, but there are in-room tablets and radios that connect to bluetooth.
Troglodyte, in the MICO zone, is ideal for couples seeking something uniquely romantic; it's built into a limestone cliff and has a gorgeous, light-drenched living room located within a glass-enclosed terrace. At the upper end of the scale, the Providence XL suites have a luxury self-catering vibe: some have kitchens and cosy living areas with sofabeds – great for families or larger groups. We stayed in one of these (without a kitchen) and loved how restorative the spaces were. For maximum wow factor, book The Pigeonnier (MICO zone), set in an impressive tower-like structure and spread over three floors. They had us at 'cliff views' and 'hammam shower'.
- In room treatments available
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
A continental breakfast is served on the shaded terrace or cosy communal living room. Produce is plucked from the garden or purchased from local markets, so expect the freshest ingredients on your plate – we feasted on cheeses, croissants and fruits, as well as homemade kiwi jam, every morning.
Stroll across the grounds to the hotel restaurant, Jardin Secret. You'll find it nestled in the hills, surrounded by picture-postcard olive grove views. It's housed in one of the estate’s original 200-year-old buildings. Meals here are a fine-dining affair (they've rightly won a Green Michelin Star), but the energy is very laidback. The menu is set, with dishes changing daily - let them know in advance if you have dietary requirements. In a cosy private room with a fireplace and a wall of vinyl, we ate homemade gnocchi with greens from the garden, grilled monkfish with potatoes, and Provencal mushrooms, and a light Mille Feuille with vanilla for dessert. Lunch and dinner are served Friday to Tuesday.
There are other excellent food options in the village and surrounds (we enjoyed dinner at Le Clos des Vignes). Back at Lou Calen, swing by Didier’s Wine Bar for a nightcap. The manager (Didier) knows his stuff when it comes to decent local tipple (note the bar is open mid-June to mid-September only). Plans are underway for two more restaurants and another bar. Watch this space.
- Coffee / tea making
- Coffee maker
- Kids' meals
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian options
- Spend days swimming in the tranquil, tree-lined pool or snoozing on a sun lounger
- This is the perfect spot for unwinding. Make the most of the space and play tennis, or join a yoga class; do ask if there are any workshops and retreats during your stay – such as truffle hunting or cooking classes with Hugette, the former owner of Lou Calen (we sampled her food, and wow!)
- Visit the friendly on-site microbrewery, Tailleur de biere, and sample unique, seasonal beers. Or take part in a brewing workshop. Games nights take place here too, as do live music gigs
- Discover the fascinating Troglodyte caves of Villecroze, which date back to the Middle Ages (19km/25 mins)
- Rent an electric bike and explore the countryside
- Potter the streets of Cotignac, where there is art to see, shops to explore and cafes to people-watch from. Don’t miss the weekly market on a Tuesday
- Travel a little further to the teeny village of Sillans la Cascade (10 mins). A fairly tricky but short walk takes you to an incredible, clear-blue, 40m-high waterfall. Note that it gets slippy, so bring proper shoes
- Sun worshippers should head to the beaches of the vivid-blue Lac de Sainte-Croix (50 mins)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Shopping / markets
- Wine tasting
Children of all ages are welcome here and there's a dedicated pool for families plus a lagoon like splash pool for smaller ones. There’s lots of outdoor space to spread out and explore in. Younger ones will love the garden treasure hunts. You can even arrange a fun in-room tipi for an extra fee. The restaurant offers a children’s menu and high chairs.
Family friendly accommodation:
The Cassole rooms, with their private terraces and garden views, can interconnect. The largest of the Providence suites come with sofabeds and kitchen facilities. Bigger families should opt for a Trompine suite, which has a spacious living area and kitchen and sleeps up to 5 guests, including a baby. Cots are available.
- Baby cots
- High chairs
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Activities on site:
- Swimming pool for families
Kids Activities nearby:
- Canoeing on the Argens river
- Electric boat on Sainte Croix lake
- Rent e-bikes and explore
- Sillans and its waterfall
Families Should Know:
The main pool is adult only
- Airport: 1hr15m
- Hospital: 30 minutes
- Shops: 2 minutes
Lou Calen is a three-hectare country estate in Cotignac, a pretty village in central Provence.
Fly into Nice or Marseille (70-80 mins/100km).
Alight at Aix en Provence or Marseille.
From the Airport:
The easiest option is to drive. Car rentals are available from both airports; check out our car rental recommendations. It is about 1hr15m drive from Nice or Marseille airports, and a 1hr drive from Aix en Provence or Marseille railway stations.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
- Nice Côte d'Azur Airport 118.0 km NCE
- Marseille Provence Airport 100.0 km MRS
- Beach 40.0 km
- Shops 0.2 km
- Restaurant 0.2 km