When I first started planning my return trip to France seven years ago, my plans extended beyond Paris as I began to fantasize about Provence. In my mind, the fantasy included: a cozy, countryside stay on a farm or in a B&B; carefree hours spent frolicking in lavender fields; laying on a blanket amidst blooming flowers under a sunny sky while reading an engaging book; chirping birds lulling me to sleep for long, midday naps; and comforting dinners of rustic, Provençal cuisine accompanied by fresh baguettes (of course). This fantasy was everything I envisioned a quintessentially French vacation to be, and seven years ago I decided that my return to France just wouldn’t be complete without a stay in Provence.
When we decided to spend some time in Avignon this past March, the hunt was on to find a hotel; not just a hotel, but the perfect place to stay. I definitely didn’t want to stay behind the walls of the old city as I had my heart set on staying somewhere that gave me a true taste of life in the French countryside. After reading review after review, I decided on Domaine de Rhodes, a bucolic estate on Île de la Barthelasse, an island in the Rhône that’s a short five minute drive to the city center.
In the 16th century, the property was used as a hunting lodge but has been revamped in recent years to accommodate guests like me who are in search of the good life in Provence.
Upon arriving to the property, we wondered where we should check in. Not seeing anyone around, we knocked on the door of a house connected to the main property.
Francǫis, the lady of the house, warmly greeted us and showed us to our rooms. As she escorted us upstairs, she explained that a lot of the furniture, accessories, and trinkets in the B&B are family heirlooms; thus, please handle with care.
Jave and I had the room right off the main staircase. It was beautifully decorated and pleasantly quiet despite its location in the house.
The window was slightly open which allowed a cool breeze to flow through the room on an unusually sunny March day.
The en suite bathroom was immaculate with L’Occitane hair products on hand in case we needed them.
My parents’ bedroom was actually a completely private suite that included an adjacent bathroom and a day room that was the perfect place to chat over glasses of wine. I especially loved the carved headboard on their bed.
Before we caught our train from Paris earlier that morning, Jave cleaned out the fridge in our Parisian apartment and packed lunches for our enjoyment during the ride to Avignon. However, none of us were hungry during our train ride, so we decided that the outdoor table and seating area at Domaine de Rhodes was the perfect setting for an afternoon picnic.
As we ate, Francǫis surprised us with a tray of freshly squeezed apricot and pear juices – the perfect way to wash down our lunch.
After eating, we took a walk around the sprawling grounds and admired the plants and trees. The B&B sits on over two acres of land, so there’s plenty of room to roam.
While the property features a swimming pool, it wasn’t in use since the weather wasn’t quite warm enough.
Our nights at Domaine de Rhodes provided some of the best rest of our lives. The first night, the winds kicked up, and all of the howling lulled us soundly to sleep.
During our stay, we often saw Francǫis’ Spanish husband, Paco, tending the grounds. He always seemed to be trimming bushes, making repairs, and otherwise taking care of all of the maintenance that an estate of this size requires. Over breakfast one morning, Paco explained that the B&B was just opening up again following its winter season closure. As a result, he had a lot of little fixes to get through to get the B&B in prime shape for the high season.
Breakfasts at Domaine de Rhodes were memorable as they provided a chance for the ten or so of us guests to discuss our plans for the day, but more importantly, our lives back home. During our stay, we met an Aussie lady who was scoping out the area in preparation for her family’s move there. Her days were spent checking out available real estate and local schools for her kids. We also met an Indian couple from North Carolina who were taking a short vacation from their sabbatical in Belgium. But our breakfast conversations also gave us a chance to learn more about our hosts, Francǫis and Paco. We discussed marriage, aging parents, past travels, and much more. They were so gracious, kind, and welcoming, and their hospitality really made our stay at Domaine de Rhodes that much more enjoyable.
Our engaging morning conversations occurred over plates of fresh croissants, baguettes, boiled eggs, fruits, homemade jams (the rose flavored jam was the best), fresh juices, and coffee.
While I didn’t get to frolic in lavender fields or read a book in a field of flowers during our stay in Avignon, the part of my Provençal fantasy that I did fulfill was staying in a B&B like Domaine des Rhodes. The impeccable service, the relaxing atmosphere, and the beautiful estate itself were enough to satisfy my craving for a taste of the good life in Avignon, and the next time I’m in town, I wouldn’t think of staying anywhere else.
Check out the hotel’s website for rates and booking details.
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