La Bonne Etape, Chateau Arnoux, France
by, 06-21-2013 at 08:04 AM (912 Views)
Our Euro road trip continues and leads us on to San Remo, Monaco, Nice, Marseille and many other cities on the French Riviera. After getting tired of the opulence that Cannes and Monaco are so well known for, we were ready to make our way to the humble setting of our Luxury Link property, in Chateau Arnoux - Saint Auban.
Fortunately, we had a GPS that would guide us there, since no Frenchman seemed to know where Chateau Arnoux is located. Unfortunately, we had not updated our GPS so we were taken on roads less traveled. Given the width of these roads, we were grateful that we never met up with anything other than a motorcycle.
We pulled up to this quaint village and were surprised with the location of this Relais & Chateaux property, just off of the main square on a secondary street. Parking was located across the street. We had just gotten out of our vehicle, when we were approached by Nicholas, a young pastry chef gone concierge, who quickly shared his passion for chocolate, greeted us and offered to assist us with our luggage to the upper floor where the reception area is located.
Nicholas took his time in explaining all that La Bonne …tape in Chateau-Arnoux, France - Hotel Travel Deals had to offer. He also invited us to tour the organic garden and to sample any of the vegetables straight from the vine. We were led to our suite through a slightly dark and a tad musty corridor.
The rooms decor was exactly what we enjoy seeing in this type of property. Antiques filled the room and the smell of lavender, from Nicolosi brand infusers, filled the air.
I can see how this property can be loved and hated alike. What others call old, we consider aged; we went in with an open mind and enjoyed our stay, comparing it to a visit to your wealthy French uncle in the country, that you just found out you had. The pink shell tile in the bathrooms is just as horrible as everyone writes about, but I understand that it is getting replaced in January when this boutique hotel closes for renovations.
This property is definitely geared towards foodies. In fact, it is almost expected of the guests to dine at their property during their stay.
The Maitre de Maison and Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux, Jany Gleize, a Michelin Star recipient, leads up his team in the main gastronomic restaurant. Since we had been traveling for over two weeks and still had a long trip home, we could not afford to dine in the gastronomic establishment. We had dinner one night, which was included in our package, at Au Gout du Jour and our evening fell flat as we went in with high expectations, since it was the sister restaurant of the well awarded and critiqued La Bonne Etape. It didnít even come close to what is to be expected.
Our included breakfasts were incredible! Not the largest variety, or the most elaborate of displays, but every item that we tasted had a story to tell. I can still taste the freshly baked, still warm croissants that would melt in our mouth, covered with local organic butter and homemade preserves, peach vanilla bean jam, bitter orange rind, garden strawberry and lavender honey to name a few. Pistachio sables, mini raisin escargots, pain au chocolat, the best fruit salad we ever had - couldnít quite put my finger on the secret ingredient but I believe it was a spiked strawberry compote, brownies, french cheeses of course and specialty cold cuts including a terrine, and much more. I do have to say that the beverage presentation was impressive. Our cafe latte was just perfect as was the lavender tea that we ordered to drink the aroma of the flowers that had brought us this far in to our endeavours.
To this day my wife still says that it was the best breakfast she has ever had. I regret not being able to taste the creations of Jany Gleize, but hope to one day return on a stand alone trip where I can splurge and dine, as one should in France, at the gastronomic restaurant.
Would I recommend it? Depends on what you are looking for! We found peace, tranquility, a dedicated staff and a great base to explore lavender country. It is not the Ritz, but that caliber of offering would not sit right in this location. I much prefer this 17th century villa.
If you make it to La Bonne Etape, do explore Parc naturel regional du Verdon, Sisteron, Manosque, Digne and our favorite, the Sault Lavender Festival.