I fling open the French doors and breathe in the scent of the sea, wafting off the Etang de Thau, a shimmering lagoon of brackish water, just below my expansive terrace. Total relaxation washes over me. I've unpacked my weekend bag at Port Rive Gauche, a new complex of luxury holiday suites in the ancient fishing port of Marseillan – a small, very pretty, French harbour town.
Just open this past spring, Port Rive Gauche is the latest addition to the portfolio of the award winning Garrigae Hotels & Resorts. It is a stylish renovation of what was once the port's wine store. The building has been fashioned into 11 chic self-catering apartments, each with a terrace and balcony from which guests can enjoy uninterrupted sea views.
Suites combine classic and contemporary French styling across four well-executed themes: neutral; nautical (blue and white, a nod to the maritime history); algae (to reflect the étang); and, last, an earthy palette reminiscent of the ubiquitous local oysters.
The two-bedroom suites each have a double and twin, with French windows overlooking the sea. There's a lot of living space, yet the furniture has been arranged so guests have to turn sideways to get around the end of the double bed. Bathrooms are a good size, with tubs, wet rooms and L'Occitane toiletries. The living areas are excellently equipped for self-catering and furnished with extra-comfy modern furniture (I liked my squishy, white leather sofa) and playful touches such as pebble-shaped pouffes and footstalls, and little dishes on a fishy theme.
The food and drink
Feeling so laid back you're horizontal? Then breakfast can be brought to your suite from one of the local cafés for just £6.50 per person. Otherwise, take a morning stroll along the quaysides – Côté Sud on Quai Antonin Gros on Rive Gauche does a good croissant-coffee combo for a few euros. Local restaurants celebrate the abundance of seafood – particularly the prized oysters straight from the lagoon. Le Château du Port on Quai de la Résistance (tel: 00 33 4 67 77 31 67) offers an impressive three-course menu for £25 a head.
On-site massage is offered (from £46 per half hour) and there's a tearoom. You could easily while away a weekend just exploring Marseillan, buying up wine and trendy homewares from the Philippe Epicerie. Boats – with or without skipper – can be hired and taken out on to the lagoon for swimming or fishing. The hotel has tackle for the use of guests, as well as bikes and helmets for adults and kids. Marseillan-Plage is five to 10 minutes away, while other beaches are a 3km ride.
Children are welcome. There are no ground-floor suites, but the building has a lift, although wheelchair users might struggle in the bathrooms.
A two-bedroom suite, which will sleep four, costs from £110 per night in low season.
Port Rive Gauche, Rue des Pêcheurs, 34340 Marseillan, France (0871 218 7066; garrigaeresorts.com)
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