SL Gold Hotel Review: Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa

The inland area of Provence known as the Luberon has been one of our favourite French holiday destinations ever since Peter Mayle encouraged us to follow in his footsteps in ‘A Year in Provence’. Dotted with picturesque hilltop villages, it’s about an hour’s drive from Marseille airport and is the ideal place for an autumn break – the scorching heat of summer has subsided, the crowds have all but vanished, yet the sun shines and the skies are blue. In the heart of this beautiful area is the Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa, a family owned Relais & Châteaux property that epitomises Provençal charm, tranquillity and sophistication. Here’s why you should book in now…
COQUILLADE PROVENCE RESORT & SPA

The Lowdown

As you approach the resort up the long, cypress-lined drive, the first sight of this charming, yet rather grand, village-style hotel is picture-postcard heaven. Legend has it the hamlet at the heart of the property was built in the 11th century by Cistercian monks from the Sénanque Abbey – they certainly chose a spectacular spot on this hillside overlooking the Luberon Natural Park. Today, Coquillade (named after the iconic Provençal coquilladou lark) is surrounded by acres of vineyards, perfumed lavender fields and forest, and has just undergone an extensive multimillion-pound renovation. The wow factor is there from the moment you enter the large reception area – expect contemporary art on the walls, locally sourced antiques, a showpiece arrangement of flowers on the table in the centre of the room, and quirky touches such as a six-foot red and white squared Tintin rocket. Facilities include a tennis court, two swimming pools, pétanque, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness centre, a cycling centre and a heliport.

The Rooms

The 63 elegant and superbly appointed rooms and suites are dispersed around the property – some are housed in pretty, 18th-century renovated bastides (country houses), others are within newer cottages built a few years ago. All of them share the same chic Provençal décor and crisp white bedlinen, and have a garden, veranda or roof terrace. The larger suites have outstanding views over the valley, their own sauna, jacuzzi, double rain showers and large dressing room. For the autumn and winter months, all the rooms have underfloor heating.

Eating & Drinking

With three restaurants and a bar, you have plenty of choice when it comes to mealtimes. For a pre-dinner cocktail, Bar Lalique, with its large outdoor terrace, or an open fire inside as the evenings get cooler, is the perfect spot. After which you have a trio of options: fine dining at Avelan; seasonal dishes that draw on local produce in Les Vignes; or there’s the more casual Cipressa for Italian cuisine – think pizzas, home-made pasta and an extensive buffet of antipasti and puddings (at lunchtime). At all three, the herbs, edible flowers and seasonal produce mostly come from Coquillade’s organic kitchen garden.

The Vineyard

The hotel is surrounded by its own 36 hectares of vineyards. They grow some 15 different grape varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Caladoc, Marselan and Chenanson, which go into the making of the award-winning red, white and rosé Aureto wines. These are named after winds that sweep through the south of France, so you get the likes of Autan, Tramontane, Maestrale and Tempesta. You can enjoy a guided walk around the vineyards, visit the cellar, learn about winemaking techniques and – of course – taste the wines, then buy them at the Aureto shop a few kilometres away on the main road.

The Spa & Fitness Centre

The spa is one of the highlights of the hotel. It is the largest in the region, with multiple steam rooms, a sauna, outdoor jacuzzis, hot and cold plunge pools, an indoor pool and five sumptuous and airy treatment rooms (two of which are doubles). The choice of massages, facials, scrubs and beauty treatments is extensive and, if you need to recover from a day of walking or cycling, there’s also a selection of sports massages to eliminate toxins and relax tired muscles. For a totally pampering experience, we recommend an Emotional Ceremony using Végétalement Provence products. Based loosely on Ayurvedic practices, by you sniffing three different oils (called Water, Air, Fire) your therapist will determine your dosha and tailor your full body and face massage accordingly. If you’re missing your gym workouts, bikes, treadmills, weights, Kinesis wall and a full line-up of classes in the fitness centre will keep you busy while you look out onto the terrace tucked amidst the olive trees.

Things To Do 

The hotel is open year-round, and there are plenty of activities at the hotel to choose from whenever you plan to visit. In the autumn, it’s still warm enough to laze by the Olympic-size pool with a good book or play a game of tennis or pétanque. However, a highlight of your trip (believe us) will be a cycle tour – Coquillade happens to have a dedicated cycling centre on site. But be warned! Unless you are a proficient cyclist, if you want to go any distance, we recommend an e-bike, as the hills in the area are a challenge. Whether you want the extra assistance or not, the centre has an array of top-of-the-range equipment to rent, and also offers a range of guided cycling tours.
 
One of the biggest draws of the Luberon is its enchanting hilltop villages, all of which are steeped in history – you’ll feel time has stood still for centuries. You could easily spend a few days, with no specific plans, simply going from one to the other by bike (or car). Start off with Roussillon, about 5km away, which is ranked as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It’s in the middle of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, which give the area its fiery colours and its nickname of the ‘Provençal Colorado’. Take a leisurely stroll exploring the narrow streets that climb through the village until you reach the main square and the church. Most of the houses were constructed 300 years ago, with their rustic façades painted in shades of orange, red and pink. A photographer’s dream! A must-visit here is the Ochre Trail, a breathtakingly scenic walk through the amber-coloured cliffs and canyons of a former ochre mine. You should also seek out the Mines de Bruoux where, deep below the radiant cliffs, lie around 50km of galleries, carved by ochre miners in the 19th century. 

Roussillon

Other villages close by and worth a visit include Gordes (stop off on the way up to admire it from below); Goult (unspoilt and picture perfect, it resembles a film set); Bonnieux (for its ramparts, the 12th-century towers and a wide choice of cafés and restaurants); Ménerbes (for the breathtaking views, some lovely boutiques, and lunch, dinner or just a drink at Bistro Le 5); Lacoste (have a coffee stop at the Café de France then head up to the ruins of the Marquis de Sade’s castle which has been restored by designer Pierre Cardin); Oppède-le-Vieux (for lunch at Le Petit Café – arrive early as they don’t take bookings). 
 
If you are after some unique finds in another idyllic setting, head to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a pretty town divided up by canals and shaded cobbled streets. Sunday is market day all year round and, as the regional capital of antiques, you’ll find some 300 dealers here – more than anywhere else in France outside Paris. It’s also a food market and flea market so you can buy everything from bread, cheese and olives to bric-a-brac, furniture and fine art. Aim to arrive by 9am to find parking and beat the crowds. It is also worth coming here during the week to browse the permanent antique shops, some very stylish interior and homeware shops (we love Un Vingtième, Mannissa, Maison Passion and Galerie Démesure), La Maison Jouvaud for the yummiest fruit tarts and patisserie, and Lilamand Confiseur for beautiful displays of candied fruit. A coffee and croissant in the main square at Le Café de France complete a truly Provençal experience.

The Details

To book, visit Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa. Rates start from €340 per room, per night including breakfast and access to the Aureto Winery throughout your stay. Bike rental prices start at €45. A range of guided cycling trips, such as a tour and tasting at local vineyards or discovering hilltop villages, start from €220 per person and include bike rental, a guide, lunch and drinks. 
 
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice and entry requirements to France before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information

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