Sleepover: Au Moulin de la Gorce
A bed for the night in France
You'll find Au Moulin de la Gorce in the village of La Roche-l'Abeille, in the Haute-Vienne region of Limousin in south-western France. Deep in the green hills of Haute-Vienne, the 16th-century gabled mill and cottage annexe stand in spacious, tranquil grounds shaded by willows, oaks and pines. Guests take tea and aperitfs on the terrace overlooking the private lake. Birdsong and the splash of an oar are the only sounds that will break the peace.
Its central location half an hour's drive from the A20 autoroute makes it an ideal stopover for travellers going backwards and forwards to southern France. It's also the site of a famous battle between the Catholic and Protestant armies in 1569. As the legend tells it, the Catholics were driven off by a flock of bees who lived in rocks near by, hence the name La Roche-l'Abeille.
The comfort factor
Very high, as you expect from a member of the Relais & Chateau group. In a pretty, stone cottage next to the millrace, our room was quite small but felt bigger thanks to French windows opening on to a private terrace. A comfortable bed, luxurious linen and the musical sound of rushing water soothed us to sleep. All mod cons - TV, air conditioning, mini-bar - are provided. There are also two family rooms and an apartment that sleeps up to four guests.
A surprisingly trendy suite with power shower and stand-alone, egg-shaped basins balanced on ceramic units. High-class Pascal Morabito smellies found their way mysteriously into our sponge bags.
The food and drink
Good because we're talking serious French food: exquisite, delicious and definitely not to be rushed. Start with canapés and champagne served by the lake, then move into the handsome, beamed dining room, where every surface is adorned by Limoges china, and tables overlook the scene from a mezzanine floor. Chef Pierre Bertranet has one Michelin star but surely deserves more for an imaginative yet unpretentious menu which marries local specialities such as Limousin beef with flavours from further afield. Must-eat dish is scrambled eggs with truffle shavings served in egg shells with toasted brioche - you'll never want a buttered soldier again.
Wine lovers must try the Château Tour des Gendres, an unusually excellent local Bergerac. Leave some room for the cheese. Including 10 goats' cheeses, the trays are so heavily laden it takes two of the black-suited waitresses to carry them to your table. Then finish with petit fours, one of myriad coffees and tisanes, and a Cognac in the cosy sitting room. The following morning, you'll somehow manage to squeeze in fresh pastries, and eye-poppingly strong coffee. Dinner menus excluding wine are set priced €40 (£26), €48 (£32) and €59 (£39). The children's menu costs €23 (£15). Breakfast costs €14 (£9.30).
The hotel is run by owners Pierre and his wife Isabelle, whose immaculate manners have rubbed off on their staff. Guests are generally Europeans driving through France.
Walking, fishing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking. We contented ourselves with rowing around the hotel's lake before dinner. In Limoges, the Musée national Adrien Dubouché (00 33 5 55 33 08 50) is first stop for porcelain lovers.
No wheelchair access. Children are welcome and pets tolerated.
Prices for double rooms range from €103 (£71) to €155 (£103) per night.
Moulin de la Gorce, 87800 La Roche-l'Abeille. (00 33 5 55 00 70 66;
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