Set in lavender fields, truffle woods, olive groves and vineyards, La Parenthèse is a perfect base for exploring Northern Provence, whatever the season.
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Tucked away along a little side track, this idyllic B&B is absolutely secluded in 1.6 hectares / 4 acres of its own grounds surrounded by open landscape: well away from the main road and very peaceful. Relaxation guaranteed!
La Parenthèse looks like a typical provençal mas (country house) but is actually just two decades old. So, while it retains that olde worlde rustic feel, it also offers modern creature comforts such as underfloor heating, double glazing and a nice big swimming pool with a jacuzzi and terrace shaded by olive trees and oleanders.
There are three rooms / suites, sleeping a maximum of eight people. All of them are on the ground level and suitable for disabled visitors. And they're all very nice too: decorated in tasteful, traditional style with good quality bedding and thoughtful touches such as mineral water and local nougat for you to graze on.
Adjacent to the dining / sitting room in the main house, it's a family suite with a little terrace, one double bedroom and a second room with twin beds. Between them is a large bathroom with a separate WC area and a high-pressure, walk-in shower.
The other two rooms, Le Cabanon and Le petit Mas, are in nearby outbuildings. The best of the three is probably Le petit Mas, which is slightly more expensive but also larger, with its own kitchenette and private terrace by the pool. It's available to rent as a gîte by the week in the high season.
For breakfast expect home-made jams, yoghurt, juice and fresh fruit salad, cheese and charcuterie plus a big basket of breads, croissants and pastries, including specialities which vary slightly from day to day. We sampled banana and chocolate loaf and a local brioche called pogne de Romans flavoured with orange flower water.
There's free, though rather slow wi-fi in the rooms and, if you plan to work here at all (though why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to?), you might be inconvenienced by the lack of decent desk space.
Still, you're more than welcome to hang out in the airy open-plan sitting / dining / kitchen room, pictured above, with its double-height ceiling and cosy wood fire (plus friendly dog). And there's always the pool terrace in summer.
As with all B&Bs, perhaps the most important ingredient is the hosts and here you're in excellent hands.
It's run by Eric and Isabelle, pictured, a husband and wife team who used to have a company making replacement parts for machinery. Then they decided to take what was meant to be a brief break which somehow ended up being permanent (hence the name, La Parenthèse). When you visit the place, you'll see why.
They'll greet you warmly, probably offering you a coffee or apéritif, and will have plenty of time to chat and share their tips about the region. They also provide evening meals upon request - an essential bonus if you don't feel like driving to the nearest restaurant - and can organise excursions or even take you themselves on a guided hike.
Their philosophy is that these sociable moments are what make a stay really memorable, as much as the sightseeing. You're made to feel instantly at home and it's likely that, if the other guests are up for it too, your stay will take on the flavour of a big house party. Isabelle speaks fluent English and German, so non French-speakers won't feel left out.
There's plenty to see as well, though. As elsewhere in Provence, the main tourist rush comes between May and September. But this particular region gets a "second wind" in winter with the arrival of the black truffle crop in mid-November: this season lasts until the end of February.
La Parenthèse is 4 km / 2.5 miles from the pretty village of Richerenches, which hosts the most important truffle market in France each Saturday.
Good to know: the Tourist Office for Richerenches, Valréas, Visan and the surrounding area has developed an extensive network of restaurants, truffle-growers, hotels, events listings and other truffle tourism providers under the umbrella label Truffe Emotion.
Eric and Isabelle offer weekend packages featuring markets, hunts, meals and everything else truffly plus, the chances are, the odd wine-tasting or two. Pictured: sampling Rhône wines with the locals at Richerenches market.
If you are visiting in November-December, you can also take in a trip to an olive oil mill to watch the pressing. In summer you'll just have to make do with the sun, the swimming pool, the lavender fields (tours of these are also available) and the rosé wine.
La Parenthèse is well located for other major attractions in the area such as Orange (29 km / 18 miles) and Vaison la Romaine (20 km / 12.5 miles).
Visited November 2015
Where: 1105 chemin des Rochettes, 84820 Visan. Tel: (+33) 4 90 46 11 56. Website for La Parenthèse
La Parenthèse is on the right as you drive from Valréas towards Visan, roughly two thirds of the way along the route - but note that the little sign to it at the turn-off is easy to miss, especially in the dark! There's a locked parking area in the grounds.
Photo credits (from top): © La Parenthèse, SJ for Marvellous Provence (three images).