A weekend in Provence, courtesy of Le Vieux Castillon and La Maison d’Uzès
Words by Amira Arasteh
The charming medieval towns of Uzès and Castillon du Gard make Provence worth visiting outside of the lavender fields. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still on my bucket list but wandering through quaint streets, eating French cuisine and drinking good local wine is part of the area’s charm too.
The H8 Collection boasts two properties in its collection that are located in these peaceful towns – La Maison d’Uzès, a guesthouse and proud residence of a two Michelin-starred restaurant, and Le Vieux Castillon, a picturesque hotel near the iconic bridge.
This part of Provence truly makes the perfect weekend getaway; a few days away from the buzzing streets of the city is just what the doctor ordered. Le Vieux Castillon offer guided bike tours across the scenic French countryside, leaving the sleepy streets and going all the way to Le Pont du Gard.
Many say this beautiful bridge should be regarded as a man-made wonder of the world. It certainly is impressive – and the guides (both on and off the bikes, when you arrive at the museum) are fountains of knowledge. Walk across the bridge, sit by the river and even dine in the nearby restaurant – soak up the beauty of the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site however you choose to.
The bridge was built in the 1st century to channel water from the Eure springs near Uzès to Nîmes and the impressive Roman aqueduct draws people from all over the world, who are visiting Provence. With its three storeys of arches, the bridge forms a symbiosis with its picturesque natural surroundings.
Other activities the hotel offers include wine tasting. Local wines are a large part of the region’s culture. We all know the French are famous for their wine and it is certainly something you should take advantage of when holidaying in the area.
Not only can you learn about how the wine is produced, it’s a great place to pick up a bottle or two at a fraction of the price it would cost normally. I recommend Domaine Deleuze Rochetin for the beautiful wines – the white being my particular favourite but the red is what you need if you enjoy a smokier taste – and the kind demeanour of the knowledgeable owners and sommeliers.
Don’t forget to make the most of the pool and gorgeous views from it; countryside for days and not a siren in earshot. It’s pure bliss and you and your body need it. If you need a break from the pool (said no one ever, but okay), book in for a treatment at the small spa on the property.
Its size means its quite an intimate setting and the ideal place for a couple to indulge in some R&R or girlfriends to catch up as the wonders of the spa pool and hammam steam room. A fan of L’Occitane en Provence? It’s their spa that is at Le Vieux Castillon and you can choose from the popular aromas of cherry or orange blossom – and much more – for your scrub, massage or facial to truly unwind.
Uzès has a myriad of fine restaurants to choose from throughout the day. If you are looking for a cute cafè to have a simple coffee – or a decadent chocolate lollipop swirled about in a cup of frothy milk as I chose to – there’s a variety of spots to choose from.
After lunch or dinner, take a stroll around the main square and find yourself at Le Comptoir 7, a hole-in-the-wall style of restaurant, with good food and even better wine on the menu. Offering seasonal dishes, I highly recommend the seafood risotto, the duck magret and the classic French plate – Tartiflette (perfect should you be visiting in the cooler months).
La Maison d’Uzès is home to La Table d’Uzès; its two Michelin stars showcasing dishes such as locally-sourced artichoke and courgette, pulled duck in apricot gelatin, beef and potato soup and fig and chestnut desserts. This is the main attraction of the smaller guesthouse – as well as being right in the centre of Uzès itself.
The hotel also has a L’Occitane spa, should you feel you deserve a massage after a long day of wandering the cobbled streets and eating your way through delightful French cuisine. It is the ideal choice if you’re thinking of visiting this region of Provence during the winter months as it is open all year round.
The town is also home to some stunning landmarks, such as the Tour Fenestrelle – a gorgeous remnant of the old cathedral – and Le Duché, home to the 17th Duke of Uzès, and what has been the home residence for his family for the past thousand years.
Currently, the castle is used as the Duke’s summer home. We were lucky to spot him when we visited – let’s say subtlety wasn’t our strong point but he was friendly and didn’t seem to mind us. Who would have thought I’d be fan-girling in Uzès?!
If you’ve got more time, definitely enquire at the Uzès Tourism Office as they have a selection of guides and translators who can give you a tour, as well as taking you to spots like the medieval gardens, where you can climb the King’s Tower and see all of Uzès. They can also take you to do more niche activities like visiting truffle plantations to go hunting for the tasty champignons.
Le Vieux Castillon
Address: 10 Rue Turion Sabatier, 30210 Castillon-du-Gard, France
Phone: +33 4 66 37 61 61
La Maison d’Uzès
Address: 18 Rue du Dr Blanchard, 30700 Uzès, France
Phone: +33 4 66 20 07 00
Le Vieux Castillon closes 4 Nov 2019 and reopens late March / early April 2020. La Maison d’Uzès is open all year round