Sitting down to write this, I’m ashamed to admit, I feel slightly torn. Because La Mirande is like nowhere else I’ve ever had the good fortune to stay. And a big part of me wants to keep it as my little secret, my little escape, a place almost too good to share. Like an enormous warm chocolate fondant, lathered in fresh cream, ‘one spoon only, please’. But despite such selfish temptations, I can’t deprive you of what I have absolute conviction will be one of your favourite stays anywhere, ever.
So, here (with some reluctance) is a second spoon. Now, let’s scoop into the delightfully decadent world of Hotel La Mirande.
Our spoons are actually a very good place to start. Picture this. A courtyard of dappled light, delicate wallflowers, aromatic shrubs and tree-shaded tables; the quiet gaze of the hotel’s neighbour, Le Palais des Papes, brushing your shoulders as you stir your jasmine tea, then delve into a breakfast of cool, thick yogurt, poached pears and plump, robust homemade muesli. Surely this is how every day should begin? And it’s so gloriously quiet. No cars, no crowds, just the calming clang of church bells and the merry murmur of guests.
The waitresses in their traditional monochrome dress are impeccably presented, and impeccably mannered, inviting you to indulge on the terrace or in the delectably decorated dining room. A catwalk of condiments, seasonal fruits and patisseries parade the length of the room. Elegant windows beckon morning rays towards pristinely laid tables, the beautifully embroidered chairs and intricate curtains the most charming feast for the eyes.
Indeed, you’d be forgiven for feeling that you’ve stepped back in time - and, in many ways, you have. This is a building that retains all the richness of its elaborate past. Public baths during the Roman Empire, later a cardinals’ palace, then Hôtel de Vervins under Louis XIV – if only these walls could talk.
Yet in many ways the hotel’s owners have done just that. Through their renovating and redecorating they’ve endowed La Mirande with a voice so faithful to the 18th century that, with simply one step inside, your conversation with the past begins.
The bold bienvenue of the courtyard basking beneath an extravagant chandelier, sweeping spiral staircase, uneven corridors, wallpaper so divine I wish I could spin it into a ball gown. Each room is uniquely decorated – which absolutely befits La Mirande. To replicate would be to quash its personality – and in a building so beautiful, that would be a sin.
As would leaving any last morsel of dinner here. Led to our table by the fabulously glamorous owner, the lady under whose watchful eye La Mirande was reborn, we began a meal that can only be considered culinary theatre – the seven course Menu Mirande. To describe every course and leave you salivating would be cruel – so instead I’ll tempt your tastebuds. With this:
Crispy octopus, prawn tartar and razor clams cromesqui
Honey lacquered pigeon with smoked beetroot
Lamb from Alpilles
Freshly caught fish with potato ravioli and spider crab soup
Chocolate puffed tart with coca and whiskey sorbet
Perhaps I should stop there.
An immaculate, and most memorable performance created by chef de cuisine Florent Pietravalle (who paused his cooking to come and greet us personally), the sommelier interspersing each course with his charm, knowledge and the most delightful of wines.
On certain days of the week you’re offered a different experience entirely. Descend the staircase into the old servants’ kitchen and you’ll be transported from the 18th to the 14th century. Here you’re welcomed to the table haute - a long, chunky wooden table surrounded by copper pans and colourful jars of goodness. Guest chefs cook right in front of you – delighting their audience with stories, recipe secrets, and, it goes without saying, beautiful cuisine.
Taking a moment to explore, I can only compare it to being like a child on an Easter egg hunt. Every vault, every tapestry, every room brimming with history was like stumbling on chocolate upon chocolate.
Sleep came easily here. Only the sight of the sunshine-glazed rooftops could tempt me out of bed. And, I admit, the promise of breakfast. Our deluxe double room was sumptuous, spacious, abundant with character – from the statement mirror, that is at once both your reflection and a television, to the charming cherry tapestry. Two sinks, a big bath, separate toilet and a little corridor leading to the wardrobes, where hung my spotty summer dresses, impatient to do some exploring of their own.
Et oui, this did include skirt-twirling on Le Pont d’Avignon, ice-creaming in the squares and camembert-ing on shady church steps.
I didn’t want to leave. I could live here very happily indeed. But alas, all good things…
And so we bid farewell to La Mirande, and to its fabulous staff, who made our stay so incredibly special. They did this by sharing their passion for the hotel, and sharing the hidden secrets of their city. No hesitation at all. What can I say, they’re better people than I am.
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