A converted 18th century oil mill, Le Moulin de Lourmarin offers an ideal location, an unusual building full of charm and character and a high level of personal service.
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Right in the heart of Lourmarin, this is an intimate boutique hotel: you shouldn't expect some of the features available at a larger establishment. There's no room service or all-night porterage at Le Moulin, for example (you'll be given a door code for the evenings).
And perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the lack of off-street - or even just reserved-for-clients - parking. You'll have to take your chances when you arrive; watch out, in particular, for Friday mornings, when there's a big market in the village.
You go down a couple of steps to enter a high, light, airy atrium, pictured below, with a contemporary, yet warm and traditional feel. Classical music plays in the background; it's a relaxing welcome.
On the upper levels, the hotel's 17 rooms and two suites are all differently decorated and irregularly shaped to wrap round the quirks of the building. Expect exposed beams and stone walls, blond wood, wrought ironwork and provençal fabrics in some sort of combination. Pets are welcome if they're "well-behaved", whatever that means.
Space, luxury and added extras vary depending on the category (there are four levels) but all the rooms, apart from the smaller, "pitchoune" ones, have a separate WC and a minibar.
Most desirable: Suite 301-302 on the top floor, which is acceded along a semi-private open walkway overlooking the roofs of the old town while the suite itself has super views across to the Château.
Wi-fi is often an issue in rural French hotels. We'd heard reports that, while this is available in the public areas at Le Moulin, it's apparently unreliable in the bedrooms. But, either because it has since been fixed or because there were few other clients trying to use it at the time, it worked perfectly for us on our visit.
The restaurant has, unsurprisingly, a bit of an olive theme going, with a big old olive tree in a pot, an 18th century olive press and mill stone and a bottle of olive oil on every table.
Both it and the hotel were formerly owned and run by Edouard Loubet, the youngest chef ever to receive two Michelin stars.
Loubet bought and refurbished Le Moulin de Lourmarin in 1992, but moved his operation to La Bastide de Capelongue over in Bonnieux in 2007, in part, the superchef has said, because of the difficulty of keeping a top-flight gastronomic restaurant going all year round in Lourmarin.
Today the restaurant at Le Moulin is simpler, more affordable, non Michelin-starred and closed in the early part of the week. Still, since there are plenty of other places to eat in the village, this is not a problem; we checked out L'Antiquaire, just up the road, instead.
When we visited in early April, breakfast was served in a corner of the lobby around a cosy old fireplace. At first we were disappointed to see a small table with a limited spread of fruit, muffins, pancakes and cereals.
But then a personal tray groaning with goodies arrived: fresh croissants and bread, yoghurt, fresh fruit salad, fromage blanc, apple compote and, most importantly, as much coffee as we could drink (there were no cooked options, however).
As at many French hotels, breakfast can attract a hefty supplement, though, so check first to see if it's included in your booking.
Visited April 2014
Where: rue du Temple, 84160 Lourmarin. Tel: (+33) 4 90 68 06 69 Book a room at the Hotel le Moulin de Lourmarin