Meredith and I are firm believers that it’s hard to go wrong with a Relais & Châteaux property, and Hotel Crillon le Brave is far from an exception to the rule. With sweeping views of Mt. Ventoux, luxurious rooms, a warm and friendly staff, delicious food, and an unbelievable amount of Provencal charm, the hilltop property quickly climbed to the top of our favorites list, alongside quite a few of its sister properties. If Meredith’s constant exclamation of “Magical!” wasn’t enough of a sign of how much we enjoyed ourselves at Hotel Crillon le Brave, the severe cloud of gloominess that settled on our car as we drove away from the town surely made us realize how important it was to return one day soon.
It’s impossible to describe Hotel Crillon le Brave without mentioning its namesake town – the seven buildings of the resort make up a sizeable portion or the extremely small village. The town of Crillon le Brave has a lengthy history that dates back to the Roman Empire, but after both World Wars decimated its population, was little more than an abandoned ghost town by the end of the 1950s. Parts of the town were condemned and later demolished, and were it not for the impeccably well-constructed 16th-18th century stone buildings in the center of the village, we might not be writing this post. Fortunately, sometime in the 1970′s, people began to realize the value of a Provencal village at the southern foot of Mt. Ventoux, and slowly but surely the town began to be repaired, rebuilt, and updated.
Hotel Crillon le Brave began as a small property in the Maison Roche building in the center of the village, but quickly expanded to encompass six neighboring properties. In a style that only a 16th-century Provencal village could pull off, the resort is a pseudo-labyrinth of overlapping buildings, hidden pathways, seemingly-floating terraces, and private gardens, nooks, and crannies. We stayed in the original building, and enjoyed views of Mt. Ventoux from our window (but I’m pretty sure it’s much more rare to find a spot at the hotel that doesn’t show off the breathtaking panorama). Breakfast (both in the room and on the terrace) were in the typical, tasty French fashion – breads, butter, jams, fruit, etc. – and it’s hard not to enjoy a lazy fromage, charcuterie, and provencal tomates lunch above the pool with a glass (or two) of rose to wash it all down. Our dinners in Crillon le Brave were amazing. We spent our first evening enjoying the casual comfort of Petite Crillon, and our second evening with an outstanding meal of local fresh ingredients on the terrace at the hotel.
The quiet town is the perfect place for a short walk – Meredith and I discovered a wonderful hidden spot, beside a small church in town, where we would daydream about return trips to the village. We didn’t have the time, but the hotel also offers bicycles for those looking to explore the surrounding area. For us, it was hard to imagine a better use of our time than basking in the sun beside the fantastic pool. What a way to spend a few days – a person could get used to it.
Our time at the hotel and in the village came all too quickly to a close, and I’m beginning to realize that one of the hardest parts of Map & Menu is recounting our adventures, all the time knowing that it might be months or years before we have the chance to return. If that’s the case with Crillon le Brave, it’ll truly be a sad interim… now if only we could find a way to comfortably transport Orvis to France. Any ideas?