Steeped in ancien régime elegance and tranquillity, this restored stone mansion in a cobbled street behind the Palais des Papes is the best (and priciest) hotel in Avignon.
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La Mirande feels as though it has been around forever, but in fact it opened its doors as a hotel-restaurant in 1990. In Roman times a spa stood on the site and, in the 14th century, a cardinal's palace.
In ruins, the building was restored in the 17th century as the Hôtel de Vervins, with a baroque façade created by the architect Pierre Mignard. It later became known as the Hôtel Pamard between the 18th and 20th centuries.
Restoration began in the late 1980s, with the aim to recreate the atmosphere of an aristocratic house of the late 18th century before the French Revolution.
The current name comes from La Mirande, one of the rooms in the Palais des Papes, where the Pope's representatives held receptions for Avignon's great and good, as well as for high-ranking officials from out of town. The five-star hotel has 27 rooms, 21 of which offer views of the Palais des Papes.
Each room is decorated differently and not all of them are quite as vast as the one in the official hotel photo.
But they do share an overall style that's a mix of Provence and chic period Paris, with parquet or terracotta tiled floors, marble bathrooms and upholstery in toile de Jouy or traditional "indiennes" printed fabric. The television is concealed (slightly distractingly, when you try to watch it) behind a mirror.
The best bargains are rooms 37 and 38 in the deluxe category (i.e. the cheapest one - though it's not that cheap). They both have charming little sheltered terraces. No 38 in particular is much in demand, we're told.
The deluxe rooms have bath-showers while the grande deluxe ones have free-standing showers. All have separate WCs. The relatively recent restoration means the rooms feel fresh, not musty. When we visited four of them, new beds had just been delivered.
At the back of the hotel, the gorgeous garden terrace planted with orange, fig, palm and pomegranate trees and flowering shrubs is particularly lovely by candlelight as night falls.
The restaurant had one Michelin star until 2012, when the star was withdrawn. It, too, is pricey, of course, but there's a very reasonable set lunch during the week.
Breakfast (not included, as usual in French hotels) comes in a swish Louis XV style dining room with Venetian glass chandeliers which opens on to the garden, like the adjacent Chinese-style sitting room.
On some nights more informal meals are prepared by the chef as you watch in the former kitchen in the basement, pictured above. Cooking lessons are also offered.
Parking is, as ever in Avignon, a problem, but a small car-park has space for seven vehicles. There is an extra charge for this. Wi-fi access is free, however.
Visited November 2011
Where: La Mirande, 4 place de l'Amirande, 84000 Avignon. Tel (+33) 4 90 14 20 20. Book a room at the Hotel La Mirande