I was thrilled a few months ago when Mr & Mrs Smith asked me to review for them – they are without doubt my first port of call when searching for accomodation, they really do handpick the best, so I was really honoured to be asked to go and test out the beautiful Domaine de Fontanille in Provence.
Here is our full review…
“We were so excited in the build up to our weekend mini-break in Provence. We usually travel fairly regularly, but it had been a few months since our last trip away.
We left a very cold and grey Heathrow Airport at 7am, snoozed through most of the short flight to Marseille, before bounding off the plane into the warm Mediterranean sunshine. The weekend had begun! We collected our hire car and set off towards the Luberon to begin our 48 hours of rest, relaxation and delicious French food.
En route to the hotel, we made a pit stop for lunch in the beautiful village of Eygalieres – you would do well to find a more charmingly French village – picture perfect with a lovely selection of cafés and restaurants to choose from for lunch. We sat in the warm sunshine outside a lovely bistro, surrounded by locals enjoying a leisurely Friday lunch. Mr Smith enjoyed steak tartare, whilst I opted for the dish of the day, a local meat and vegetable broth, it looked delicious and hearty, but was actually quite tasteless. Never mind, the setting and company made up for it!
We decided not to join the locals in their second or third carafe of wine tempting as it was; we were too desperate to reach our home for the next two nights, the beautiful Domaine de Fontanille just outside Lauris. After winding our way through stunning countryside, hilltop villages and vineyards aplenty, we arrived at our destination.
Set on a 17th Century Luberon estate complete with its very own vineyard, the main house is a breathtakingly beautiful chateau. It was lovingly restored a few years ago, taking care to maintain all the original features, whilst adding a feeling of contemporary, understated luxury throughout.
We dropped our bags in our beautiful bedroom – soft, calming colours combined with elegant and stylish décor – it was the relaxing haven that we had hoped for and to top it off, the views from the windows were out of this world. We threw open the shutters to find stunning views over the most delightful parkland all the way to Lauris in the distance. Closer to the building were beautiful mature trees, a fountain and a very French terrace; perfect for soaking up the last rays of sunshine with a glass of rosé (from their own vineyard no less).
After a potter around the gardens and said wine and sunshine on the terrace, we headed inside to get ready for supper. For our fist night we had booked the much acclaimed and Michelin-starred restaurant, one of two at the hotel, Le Champ des Lunes.
After a delicious aperitif, we selected the middle option from the variety of tasting menus on offer; three savoury and two sweet courses. The chef who oversees both restaurants in the hotel is Jérôme Faure, who won his first Michelin star when he was 30. Still only 38, he is renowned for combining unusual flavours that are ‘designed to wake up the taste buds’. Our supper didn’t disappoint and included creative combinations from langoustine, red pepper, raspberries, tarragon and goats cheese to wild deer gravlax, beetroot (from the garden), rose and black cardamom, blueberry and caviar.
All the courses were all delicious and the flavours really did contrast beautifully. We were however a little full and struggled to finish our final course! We slowly climbed the stairs to our beautiful bedroom and collapsed into the huge, comfy bed. Gorgeously soft pillows and bed linen enabled us to drift quickly into a deep, calm sleep.
Breakfast was an equally gourmet affair – there was a chef’s menu option (four creative courses), but we were still rather full from the night before, so opted for simple croissants and toast and local jams. Our plan for the day was to explore more of the Luberon in the morning and then head back in the afternoon to enjoy the gardens and pool at the hotel and make the most of the gorgeous sunshine, possibly the last we would see of it this year!
After a wonderful day visiting Gordes and other beautiful towns, we returned for our afternoon of sunshine. I had also booked a facial (I find it hard to visit a with a spa and not try it out!), I’m a bit of a beauty addict I’m afraid.
The treatment rooms are up in the eves of the Château. I was met by one of the most glamorous women I have ever seen! Dressed in a beautiful pearl encrusted black sweater with immaculate make up, she was the personification of French elegance. The facial itself did not disappoint; it was one of the most relaxing and indulgent I have every experienced. She alternated warm flannels with beautifully cool creams and potions and gentle massage techniques. It was quite mesmerising and combined with the scent of the gorgeous Nuxe products, it sent me into a beautifully calm, meditatve state.
That evening we opted to eat in the more casual bistro style restaurant. In the summer it is set out on the terrace next to the fountain, but as we were there in autumn, we ate in the cosy library overlooking the terrace. The menu was a selection of gourmet small plates, designed to share. The highlight was the artichoke salad with lemon, poutargue and rocket, washed down with a delicious Cuvée Fonatinille white wine.
Our departure morning had definitely come around too soon! We were very sad to be leaving our beautiful room and views – waking up to the sun streaming through the parkland trees really was very special. But the time away had definitely done the trick – we headed back to the airport feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, as well as a little bit full!”
Photography by Patrick Butler-Madden
This post was in collaboration with Mr & Mrs Smith, but as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Following on from my Mallorca Notebook post a few weeks ago, I have had requests for some tips on Menorca. I have to confess that although a huge fan of the island (and hopefully buying a property there soon), we have only visited a few times, so can’t claim to know all the local haunts yet…I have however put together my initial findings, helped by the lovely Antonia from Tinker Tailor Online, who grew up on the island.
One thing I can say about Menorca though, is that is a very special place. Totally unspoilt, authentic and filled with beautiful beaches and restaurants serving local seafood, local wines and Gin &Tonic’s, so what’s not to like?!
Casa Ladico, Mahon – as some of you may know from this previous post, when we visit the island, we have mainly stayed at this gorgeous new boutique hotel in Mahon. The interiors are stunning and it’s the perfect place to hide away and cool down away from the hustle and bustle of the City. We love the attic rooms with terrace, so do request one of those if available.
Casa Ladico Hotel, Mahon
Ses Bruixes, Mahon – this is another lovely boutique hotel in Mahon – so pretty and the bicycle outside has been instagrammed many a time! We haven’t stayed here, but have had supper and a Gin & Tonic on their lovely terrace, which is so pretty with trees, fairy lights etc.
Can Xini, Ferreries – this is a beautiful, rural, boutique hotel in the middle of the island. We spent a couple of nights here and it was heaven! It’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees, so waking up to the birdsong was magical. The rooms are a little minimal for my taste (full blog post coming soon), but the setting made up for it.
Alcaufar Vell, Sant Lluis – Another beautiful rustic hotel, this time just outside Sant Lluis and close to some of the loveliest beaches on the island. It’s also only a ten minute drive from Mahon, so very convenient for exploring and for the airport!
The swimming pool at Can Xini
There are so many amazing restaurants on the island. A great place to start is in the port in Mahon. The marina is lined with lovely places to sit and eat whilst watching the boats go by. Our favourtie was C’an Vermut, a hipster bar serving excellent cocktails and modern style tapas.
The port in Mahon
Another place not to be missed (especially in the evening) is Cales Fonts in Es Castell on the outskirts of Mahon. Trebol is a really well known restaurant that has been there for over 30 years. It serves locally caught fish and seafood, all cooked very simply and the view is to die for. Request an outdoor table when you book.
Es Castell at night
Gastronomy at Alcaufar Vell – the restaurant at this previously mentioned Agrotourismo is lovely. The food is delicious and the setting pretty special too. A mixture of local and international flavours.
Cranc Pellut, Fornells – Fornells is one of the many lovely seaside towns on the island. It’s so pretty and again there are so many places to choose from. We can’t wait to try more of them out, but our initial find was Cranc Pellut. A traditional and elegant seafood restaurant with lobster and various paella options on the menu, we really enjoyed our lunch here overlooking the water.
Restaurant Tamarindos, Es Grau: Es Grau is the most gorgeous little village. The water is so shallow and calm, it’s the perfect place to spend the day if you have small children. Bar Grau is a lovely little bar right on the water, shaded by pine trees where you can sit and relax whilst watching them play. We had lunch a few steps away from Bar Grau at Restaurant Tamarindos, which again was a lovely place right on the water, serving local fish and seafood.
Beach at Es Grau
Finally, make sure you visit the fish market in Mahon. It’s at the top of the harbour in the city and has a great party atmosphere, particularly on a Saturday lunch time. Gastro tapas, music and plenty of cava and locally brewed larger!
Juice Stall in Es Grau
There are so many beautiful beaches on the island. We visited a number and all were breathtaking and very individual. Some of our favourites include:
Binibeca beach– quite small and easy access with a lovely chiringito (beach bar serving snacks).
Beach at Binibeca
Es Grau– as above, a lovely quiet and peaceful bay, perfect for teaching children to swim. There are a selection of restaurants and a gorgeous, rustic juice bar in the village there too.
Alcaufar – a tiny beach, but with rocks to sunbathe on as well. Very beautiful and charming. I felt like I’d gone back in time to the Mediterranean of old.
Macarella & Macarelleta – we walked from Cala Galdana as it’s hard to get much closer unless on a boat. It was about a 30 minute walk, but definitely worth it, as these beaches are breathtakingly beautiful!
So those are my highlights for now and just enough to get you by for a long weekend on the island.
I would love to hear your recommendations too as we’re heading back over in October, so will have time for some more exploring then!
A few weeks ago Patrick and were feeling totally exhausted – we had just reached the end of two big renovation projects and although we knew we had our Mallorca holiday coming up, we decided to take ourselves (and the dogs!) away for a night for a little R&R. We knew we wanted to be by the beach and didn’t want too far to drive, so opted for the Gallivant, just outside Rye in East Sussex. We had heard great things about the hotel and it didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for a dog friendly break by the sea, with a little bit of boutique pampering thrown in, then look no further.
Positioned just across the road from the dunes of Camber Sands, the hotel is a motel conversion – so simple in style from the outside, but the interiors and attention to detail throughout give it a more luxurious feel. From the cosy sheepskin covered chairs in the bar area, to the welcoming and well-equipped bedrooms with roll top baths and beautifully soft bed linen, the overall feel of the place is of relaxed pampering. The bathroom had full-size Bramley products, perfect for a soak after a long walk on the beach.
We arrived in time to take the dogs for a good beach run, before checking in for afternoon tea. We dropped our bags and with the beach being literally across the road, it took minutes to get the water’s edge. Just to quickly mention the road – being a former hotel, it is right by the road, but once inside our room we were totally unaware of any traffic noise and the position is super convenient for the beach. Back to that and the dogs were in heaven! They love nothing more than running and digging in sand, so we spent an hour or so running up and down before we were all exhausted!
Back at the hotel, we were just in time for tea, which was delicious and such a treat as I don’t eat cake very often (being gluten free it can be hard to find good options.)
After a long bath and some time relaxing in the room, (which were totally kitted out for our pampered pooches!) P and I headed over to the bar area for drinks and dinner. The food was outstanding – lots of great choices and as expected lots of lovely fresh seafood. We went to bed very full and happy!
The next morning we had breakfast and the dogs were allowed to join us for that in the bar area. We then headed into Rye to explore before heading home. Rye was so beautiful, as was Camber Sands. It was the perfect mini getaway and the dogs loved it too!
For this feature we were hosted by The Gallivant, but as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.
After lots of questions from my lovely Instagram followers, I’ve decided to put together a blog post outlining all our favourite places in Mallorca. You could be here a while, as I’ve been visiting the island every year since I was three and have also lived here on and off over the years, but I will try not to rattle on too long.
There are so many of places I want to share with you, but I will try to keep it as concise as I can – it’s been fun writing down all the mental notes I’ve been keeping over the years, thus the title. One small word of warning though, this may not be the most up to date guide, as we are guilty of sticking to the places that we know and love, so please do comment at the end of the post if you have anything to add.
So here we go – these are the places we love on the island and return to time and time again…
Pollensa & Puerto Pollensa
Pollensa is where my heart is on the island – my parents bought their first apartment in Puerto Pollensa when I was three. Back then the town was tiny – a beautiful, simple place, more of a fishing village than the sophisticated town it is today. Some of the old classics still remain though and ultimately the character along the Pine Walk and on the seafront is largely unchanged.
When in Puerto Pollensa, my all time favourite thing to do is to walk along the Pine Walk. Ideally early in the morning or just before dusk when it’s quiet and peaceful and the sea is calm. It’s a bit like a duck pond and the lapping of the water, combined with the boats bobbing and the shade of the palm trees is like nothing else.
View from the Pine Walk, Puerto Pollensa
The Il a Dor hotel has been there for many years – built in the 1920s, it was a favourite of Agatha Christie’s – she even wrote a Hercule Poirot book whilst staying there, Problem at Pollensa Bay. It’s the perfect place to sit and have a drink at sunset and also gorgeous for a morning coffee, though be warned if you aren’t staying at the hotel in the busy summer months, they will only serve you an early morning coffee if you agree to have the full breakfast – a buffet that costs 20 Euros. In the quieter months you can grab a coffee and a croissant at any time.
View from the Pine Walk
If you walk to the very end of the Pine Walk (past the hotel), you will be able to see the house that was used to film The Night Manager – it’s called the Fortress and is on the tip of the headland. I’m sure if you have seen the series you will recognise it – you’ll need to take a boat into the bay for a closer look!
The Fortress, which stars in The Night Manger, Puerto Pollensa.
Just past the other end of the Pine Walk (the town end) is a café called Capuccino that’s our other favourite coffee/drink spot by the sea. Capuccino is a Spanish chain of restaurants, but they always select unique and historical buildings and their décor is beautiful, classy and calming. The food is also great – I have a thing for their sushi rolls! It’s a great all rounder for any time of day.
Capuccino in Puerto Pollensa.
If we are staying in Puerto Pollensa for lunch then we have two favourite spots. The first is the very traditional Club Nautico (Yacht Club), which my parents have been members of for years – I spent much of my teens relaxing by the pool with friends and have such happy memories of those days. Nothing much has changed since then and it’s our favourite place to go for Paella. We particularly love the Paella Ciega de Marisca (blind man’s paella) – it’s filled with lovely seafood that already peeled for you and we just love the flavours in this version. They also do a mean Club Sandwich is Paella isn’t your thing.
The other restaurant, which is also very close to the yacht club and surrounded by sea and boats, is Stay. A gorgeous place for lunch or dinner with delicious food and a good selection of local wines (more on those later).
Calvario Steps, Pollensa.
We are lucky to always stay in Pollensa, where my parents have a house. The house is just off the Calvario steps, which are a must visit/climb whilst in the town. The steps are famous and the views from the top are simply stunning. You see across the town to the Puig de Maria. When the weather isn’t too hot it’s a lovely hike to the top of the Puig – there is a simple restaurant there (call ahead as not always open) and you can book to stay in very simple rooms overnight too. It is a lovely place to visit and the views from the top are outstanding – I thinks it’s even listed in the book, 1000 things to do before you die!
View of the Puig de Maria, Pollensa.
Back in town and our absolute favourite place to spend time is Trencadora. It’s a lovely, relaxed and super friendly Italian restaurant, run by Josie and her husband Marco, who is the chef. It is always a bustling place – the courtyard is beautiful and one of the only gardens in the town where you can sit to eat – always be sure to book as it is very popular. The food is delicious, authentic and good value and Sunday lunch has become a bit of an institution with the locals. I can’t recommend it enough – I always have the Penne Amatriciana – I often want to try other things, but it’s so good I find it hard to resist. They do delicious gluten free pasta, which is a real bonus for me and also the best gluten free pizzas I have tasted. Sometimes we get a ‘floating’ pizza to share with our main courses – I always want to have a slice, but can’t bear to part with my pasta! They also have a fab selection of local wines.
Coffee in the square on market day, Pollensa.
A quick diversion onto the local wines…. the wine in Mallorca is outstanding and a booming industry on the island. There are a number of vineyards on the island and the quality of wine they are producing is brilliant.
Some of our favourites include Can Vidalet, which is just outside of Pollensa – you can visit for tastings and they are happy to ship back to the UK. We love all of their wines, but the Blanc de Negres and Ses Pedres are particular favourites, though their Blanc de Blancs is delicious too and slightly fresher for those of you who aren’t into Chardonnay. Ask for Anya and she will take good care of you.
Another local vineyard, set in the mountains outside Pollensa, is Mortitx. Again a great selection of white, rosé and red. My favourite is the Mortitx L’Ergull.
And finally (there are so many more I could mention, but keeping it to our top three) is Anima Negre – they make amazing wine and their ÀN and ÀN/2 are two of our favourite red wines on the island. Really delicious and always a treat to drink. You will see all of these on restaurant menus in the north of the island and also for sale in independent delis and wine shops.
The Sunday Market & Il Gardino
In Pollensa, another institution and one of our favourite times of the week, is the Sunday market. We like to get there early (by 9am when Il Gardino opens on the square) – they have their own patisserie around the corner where you can buy the best croissants and pastries to have with your coffee at the restaurant. You can order simple croissants and pain au chocolats from the table, but if you want to choose from the full selection it’s best to pop around the corner yourself!
If I’m totally honest I’m more of a fan of Spanish coffee than Italian (sorry if that offends anyone!) and Il Gardino serves Italian. Directly across from it though it Club Pollensa and that is where I get my coffee – in my opinion it’s the best in town!
Il Gardino has delicious Italian food and is another favourite of ours for dinner. Make sure you book in advance (at all restaurants in the busy months), but especially here and Trencadora if you want to get an outside table. At Il Gardino their tortellini romantici is a must.
Son Brull Hotel
Finally for Pollensa, if you are looking for a meal that is a real treat – something to celebrate a special occasion – then I would highly recommend 365 at the Son Brull Hotel. Just outside the town, set in a beautiful historical building, this Relais Chateau is well worth a visit. They have a tasting menu at 365, which is always delicious and full a few surprises, as well as good a la carte options too. We don’t go every year, but when we do it’s always a lovely treat. It’s also a great place to go for a drink on the terrace, as it’s a stunning building and the setting is magical. They have a spa that non-hotel guests can visit for treatments too.
Around the Island
There are a few other places on the island that I want to highlight for you – if you are looking for a more traditional seafood restaurant (which are sadly slightly few and far between these days), we love Ca’l Patro – it’s family run and serves local, fresh seafood. It’s a simple place with quite high prices, but we love it there.
Situated in the centre of the island close to the town of Alaro, Es Veger is a rural restaurant to visit outside of the sweltering summer months. It’s a very rustic establishment on the top of a mountain! The drive up is slow and steep, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The restaurant only really serves local lamb and other meat (very fresh, you often see their sheep pottering around just outside the restaurant) and served with simple vegetables, aioli that will blow your mind (and stay with you for a few days) and delicious local wine from the José Ferrer vineyard down the road. It’s a real experience, but can be very busy. It’s always worth calling ahead to check it’s open before making the journey. There are also lovely walks and hikes from the restaurant through the mountains nearby.
The Cathedral in Palma.
Palma is an amazing city – a bit like a mini Barcelona and somewhere that I think has been long underrated. It’s now becoming a destination in it’s own right and so it should be! There are lots of cultural things to do depending on your interests, but here I wanted to just share a few of our favourite places in the city.
Just along from the Cathedral on the edge of the city centre, is an area called Portixol. There is a stylish hotel run by a Swedish couple call the Portixol Hotel (the also run the lovely Esplendido in Port Soller, which is also worth a visit). Both are hip, stylish and relaxing places with fabulous food. When we are in Palma we always try to hire a bike (or borrow one from our hotel) and cycle along the path that runs all the way along the seafront, past the amazing Cathedral and along to Portixol. Orginally a fishing village on the edge of the city, there are still lots of really sweet fisherman’s cottages along the seafront. We love to cycle along and stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the cute cafés or restaurants there. We don’t have any particular favourites, we tend to just stop wherever takes our fancy!
Cool, calm interior at Hotel Sant Francesc.
This area of Palma has been really on the up over the last few years – very popular with the Scandinavians and French, a lot of really sweet restaurants and cafés have now opened here. Like with Portixol, we don’t really have any favourites – there are so many to choose from, so just have a wander around and take your pick. A good place to start is at the covered market – we love it there – amazing food and always a lively atmosphere. You can get tapas and a drink at various stalls or just buy your food to take away and cook at home.
Palma Old Town
The centre of Palma is really beautiful – take time to wonder around the narrow streets and explore the shops. When it comes to stopping for some food, again there are so many amazing places to choose from! Some of our favourites include:
This beautiful hotel tucked away in a square in the centre of the old town is worth a visit just to see the cool, calm interiors (see previous post here). Both restaurants in the hotel are great and very different from one another. The rooftop is a lovely place to have lunch – sitting on the pool deck looking across the city is a gorgeous place to be! They serve mainly sushi and salads. For the evening book a table in the garden of Quadrat – again a lovely setting and delicious food, we really enjoyed the tasting menu here.
A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be some of the first guests at Mahon’s newest, and arguably most stylish, boutique hotel, Casa Ládico. Built as a stunning family home in the mid-nineteenth century by the Greek family Ládico, the building is located in the centre of the city.
Made from mares stone and listed for its architectural features, it’s exactly the kind of property I always fall for. Oodles of history, character and beautifully restored by its current owners, the hotel is a stunning example of a elegant Spanish family home. The refurbishment was carried out last Winter in a speedy six months and is a real success.
The large courtyard garden includes a generous size swimming pool, with plenty or room to bathe in the sun (or hide in the shade like me with a gin and tonic!). The design throughout is simple and stylish – I just adore roof terraces and town gardens – I love the feeling of other buildings around me, the gentle bustle of mediterranean city life and I also have a bit of an obsession with rooftop views!
Inside the hotel the simple elegance continues – soft, calm colours combine with a mixture of classic and modern pieces of to create a contemporary, but comfortable space. I love the crittle windows – they add the perfect modern accent to traditional architecture. There is a small indoor bar area and restaurant and lots of seating outside on the terrace. The food is wonderful – a fusion of international and Spanish and the barman on the first evening served us the best Gin & Tonic we have ever tasted…we would expect nothing less with Mahon’s history with the drink!
Upstairs the decor continues in the same vein – a cool, calm colour palette wraps the stairwell and the stairs are a stunning feature in themselves – the original stone and balustrade (we have learnt that the gently waved metal is a classic Menorcan style) lead the way to the top of the tall building, where our gorgeous bedroom was to be found.
We had an attic room with terrace – it was so pretty and waking up each morning to the rooftop view was heaven for me. And the blue skies of course helped make it the perfect start to the day!
Finally I want to mention the location – right in the centre of the historic part of the city, it’s a gentle potter to the market and main shopping streets and a 15 minute walk down to the famous harbour. Mahon is such a special city and what is truly unique is the distance from the city centre to some of the islands most beautiful beaches – 15 minutes to many! But I will save that for my next post…