If you're heading to the South of France this year, here are a few places you may like to consider staying.
LA PAVILLON DE GALON
Garden lovers will be in horticultural heaven at this lovely place (above), which is a garden disguised as a guesthouse. Owned and restored by French photographer Guy Hervais and his wife Bibi Gex, this former 18th-century hunting pavilion in the dramatic Luberon region is so beautiful that it was awarded a Remarkable Garden status by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. A wonderful experience, in any season.
Galon, Cucuron; pavillondegalon.com
If you are seeking the perfect Provençal guesthouse, this might just be it. A former mill in a stunning river setting, it's owned by Poppy Salinger, widow of John F. Kennedy's former media adviser Pierre Salinger, and her library is full of photo albums of JFK and Jackie in all their Camelot glory. The grand guesthouse has an intimate feel, thanks to all the personal photos and books, and Poppy is a sublime hostess who makes you feel like family the moment you walk in the door.
99 Chemin des Croupieres, Le Thor; bastiderose.com
HOTEL SAINTE VALERIE
It's difficult to find a reasonably priced hotel on the French Riviera, especially in summer, and even more difficult to find one close to the beach with a degree of style. Behind the pine tree-lined park on the beach at Juan-les-Pins, this quaint guesthouse is slightly Fawlty Towers, but has charm in (beach) bucket-loads.
13 Rue de l'Oratoire, Antibes; hotel-sainte-valerie.fr
DOMAINE DE LA BAUME
When Conde Nast Traveler starts crowing about a place, you know it must be special. This hotel, owned by "the Martha Stewart of France", is an 18th-century manor house near the pretty village of Tourtour, and sits so well in its surroundings it almost looks like a painting. (No surprise its former owner was painter Bernard Buffet.) With an ochre facade and sky-blue shutters, it looks blissfully at one with the open Provence skies and landscape.
2071 Route d'Aups, Tourtour; domaine-delabaume.com
And a few more...
HOTEL DE L'IMAGE
I loved the idea of this when I first read about it – a hotel created from an old cinema. Then I saw it and realised the owners had done a cinematic job restoring it. Easily spotted by the grand facade, it features an equally stylish interior that continues the visual theme with walls of interesting photography. The terrace is a chic place for drinks, and the pool has a view of the Alpilles.
36 Boulevard Victor Hugo, Saint-Remy-de-Provence; hotel-image.fr
HOTEL LE MAS DE PEINT
This one is for design lovers – the owner's wife is an architect and good lines are evident in everything from the building to the interiors. The kitchen garden supplies produce for meals and the in-house chef loves using its ingredients to create new and unusual dishes.
Le Sambuc; masdepeint.com
L'Hotel Particulier is the epitome of a Provence hotel, from the entrance (an elegant black door with gilt knockers and black Versailles planters either side) to the interior (all-white rooms with ornate fireplaces and touches of gold and black). The hotel was originally an aristocratic townhouse built in 1824 by the then mayor of Arles. It was converted to a hotel in 2002, and has never looked back!
4 Rue de la Monnaie, Arles; hotel-particulier.com
LA BASTIDE DE MARIE
Set deep in the heart of Provence, this splendid guesthouse makes you feel like you're staying with a very chic, very wealthy French aunt. Surrounded by vineyards and hills and a charming garden of pretty parterres and pencil pines, it's tailor-made for relaxing.
Route de Bonnieux, Menerbes; labastidedemarie.com
A graceful allee of plane trees leads to this serene Directoire-style mansion built for Napoleon's sister, Pauline Borghese, who was famous for her romantic escapades. It is still romantic, thanks to the care of its owners, who have created a superb guesthouse out of Pauline's old love shack.
Les Pinchinats, Chemin de la Fontaine des Tuiles, Aix-en-Provence; lapauline.fr
PAVILLON DE LA TORSE
Pavilion de la Torse looks like something you'd see in a French film about a couple who find an abandoned house deep in the countryside and lovingly restore it – a picture-book house with a facade the colour of egg yolks, shutters the shade of geranium leaves, and a garden of pure charm.
69 Cours Gambetta, Aix-en-Provence; latorse.com
Villa Gallici has flipped Aix's traditionalism on its head. This lavish hideaway is the kind you'd ask your lover to book for a sly rendezvous. Everything here is designed to be indulgent, from the discreet service to the dramatic interior design, which is a mix of Marie Antoinette-ish fabulousness and modern luxe.
Avenue de la Violette, Aix-en-Provence; villagallici.com.