How could anyone resist this wonderful place, and its even more wonderful owners, Beatrice and Eric? For the price of a standard quadratic 1980s space on the windswept 10th floor of some asbestos-ridden chain hotel with surly have-a-nice-day corporate cuties, we got a magnificent room in their nth century ex-winery with colossal bathroom (don’t toilets look small in these huge rooms?; it always makes me wonder what the loos are like in Buckingham Palace), a personal welcome like we’ve never experienced anywhere in the world, a wonderful breakfast in the stately dining room – and for an extremely modest price, a fabulous 4-course home-cooked dinner with local wine (and a shot of Banyuls, since we had visited one of the 4 places – Collioure – that produce this wonderful wine) shared with the owners. And – the most important thing of all – the company and the conversation. Don’t worry about language; it’s relatively easy with just a few words of French (though Beatrice did confide that conversing with a Russian family who spoke no other language tried their sign-language skills somewhat, and our very own French-speaking Canadian was, I acknowledge, a bit of a help during our visit). Eric, a lovely bear of a man, is urbane, humorous, and clearly has no time for M Hollande; Beatrice, a multi-talented lady, is obviously the business brains, but manages to run the place while making exquisite fresh warm home-made quatre quarts cakes for breakfast (Laura has the recipe in case you’re interested), and bowled us over with home-made foie gras, fondant chocolate cake, plumptious coquilles St Jacques, local cheeses and macaroons … amongst lots of other wonderful creations. (Other places on our trip through France were offering a breakfast croissant and a coffee for about the same.)
This is one of the most delightful places we have ever stayed, though Messrs Garmin and Tom Tom need to re-acquaint themselves with its location (we are grateful to the delightful anonymous local lady who helped us safely manoeuvre backwards out of a street that was only about 4 mm wider than the car). Beatrice and Eric were expecting a Michelin inspection before the end of the year, and since we stayed on 28th and 29th December, they could be forgiven for believing that the inspector was somehow sequestered within our motley group of myself and four ladies, three oriental and one Canadian. I reassured our hosts that we were not the inspectors calling, so can’t unfortunately help with that particular assessment. However, I hope I can persuade you to visit. We were the only guests at the time, so we were all accommodated in the main house; I can imagine that a full house in peak season might be a bit of a stress. So time your visit accordingly, and have a real treat.
One final comment relating to a mean-spirited aside from a previous guest who clearly didn’t enjoy their stay. It seems curious that when we visit a corporate multinational hotel we expect to pay up for every sip, every extra, every everything, and generally do so without complaint, regardless of the grinding mediocrity of the service, the zombie recitation of the corporate script for the zillionth time and the hypertension-inducing bun fights masquerading as ‘breakfast’. If you are ‘offered’ a special-hotel-minibar-sized micro-drink from your identikit Electrolux version 2.7.1, circa 1979, you will in general expect to pay for it. Why should it be any different in a French ‘B&B’ (when we were there, the price of the wines was clearly stated in writing)? Actually I’d much prefer to pay my money for the maintenance of this wonderful homely place and its lovely owners than to some rapacious corporate sharks and their shareholders trying to persuade us that in some parallel universe they offer a ‘personal service’ because they have taken over 27 other chains, including DoubleDecker™ at Rip-OffsVille®, and ‘proudly serve Starbucks’.
If you don’t like the food at la Domaine, you can always try the triple-starred Michelin establishment that’s apparently nearby, though I couldn’t remember the name, and its location is even more secretive than that of Beatrice and Eric. We didn’t bother and it wouldn’t have been as good.
This is no more a ‘B&B’ than a mega-sized skinny latte with fake-maple syrup served in a cardboard cup that lies when it says the contents are hot is a ‘coffee’. The classification of hotel-like establishments is due for a major overhaul, and that means we have to stop thinking of ‘B&B’ in terms of gaslit attic rooms with greasy breakfasts at £2 15s 6d a night (the £100+ ‘B&B’ in the UK is now standard), in the same way as a 5* concrete block with flunkies taking your luggage to your room in one of those ridiculous gilded cages, telling you how to switch on the lights and expecting a 5 euro tip is no guarantee of enjoyment, as we found to our dismay when staying at the Lyon Sofitel during the same trip. Give me la Domaine any time. We will return.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Class and charm. In a beautiful village in the Corbières, overlooking the vineyards, unexpected house by its harmonious volumes, view, pool, park. 50m to village shops .. Warm welcome of Béatrice, sculptor, painter, excellent cook, and of Eric called "Papa Bear". Children and pets are allowed, Parking, bicycles, fitness, fireplace, piano, organ ... Open all year. 5 Bedrooms with great bathroom adjacent, air conditioning, fireplaces, price included breakfast, wifi, tv (TNT). ... more less
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