If you are driving to the Domaine de Verchant, your first sight of the place will bring a sense of relief. Signposts are few and far between and the directions offered by the hotel’s website are sparse. But the estate, with its landscaped park and vineyards will quickly lift the spirits, and a warm welcome is guaranteed from the friendly staff.
Set on land that long ago belonged to the Bishop of Montpellier, the Domaine is a large country house that has been given the boutique treatment. On the ground floor, the public rooms have been designed to maximise the views and encourage guests to linger. Comfortable chairs protected by shady parasols are grouped on the terraces outside. Order a house wine and the waiter will serve you a glass of viognier, merlot or one of the three other grape varieties grown at the Domaine and made in the traditional manner.
Apart from the location, a major attraction is the newly opened spa, an indulgent area where no luxury has been forgotten. Try an aromatherapy massage, and you will be anointed with oils made from plants in the garden; take a sauna, then shower to the accompaniment of birdsong.
The Domaine de Verchant (Boulevard Philippe Lamour, Castelnau-le-Lez; 00 33 4 67 07 26 00; verchant. com) is deep in the countryside to the north of Montpellier, about 15 minutes drive from the city.
Time from international airport: Montpellier airport is 11km away, a journey which should take 10-15 minutes by taxi and will cost about €15. The railway station, 2km closer to the hotel, is on the edge of the city centre and linked to Montpellier’s efficient public transport system.
The 16 rooms and suites have names such as Buff Beauty and Neige d’Avril, all varieties of roses found in the Domaine’s garden. But don’t let that lead you to expect rustic chic. Step inside and admire the contemporary design and hi-tech fittings, although the emphasis throughout is on comfort and the rooms have plenty of space. Each suite has a terrace, and the largest has a circular bed.
Freebies: The usual bathroom products, in a range by Anne Simonin.
Keeping in touch: Each room is equipped with its own business centre, which includes printer, fax, photocopier and free internet access. All rooms have a flatscreen TV, and the suites have an iPod dock.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Rooms start at €190 in the low season, and from €250 May to September. The buffet breakfast is extensive and delicious – though, at an additional €25 per person, some less-principled guests may ponder plundering it for a picnic lunch.
I’m not paying that: The Clos de l’Aube Rouge (115 avenue de l’Aube Rouge; 00 33 4 99 58 80 00; aube rouge.com), a couple of kilometres north of the Domaine in Castelnau-le-Lez, is not as luxurious, but it does have a leisure club, offering pool, sauna and Jacuzzi facilities. Rooms start at a more manageable €78, with an extra €10 per person for breakfast.