Need to recharge your batteries in beautiful natural surroundings? The craggy wilderness of the Cévennes national park is just the ticket. Here’s our pick of restaurants and accommodations.
Owners Florence Kaiser and Bernard Dagan left their jobs in other parts of France after falling in love with the Cévennes (and each other) to open this beautiful and welcoming bed & breakfast, with two cosy rooms, where guests sleep in total peace and quiet and wake up to lovely views over the valley. Florence’s gourmet vegetarian meals are served on the artist couple’s own handmade pottery on a terrace overlooking the pool.
Les Vans – Lablachère
It’s plain to see why this charming salon de thé is a favourite among the locals. Besides its chic but homey atmosphere, filled with vintage finds and strewn with books and magazines, the menu features the kind of healthy seasonal comfort food anyone can love: good coffee and tea, delicious salads and small dishes and over-the-top desserts. Open from 10 am till 6 pm, it’s perfect for brunch, lunch or teatime.
La Feuille de Chou
Chef Didier Saint-André – Les Vans’ ambassador for local and a fixture at Les Vans’ superb Saturday farmer’s market – serves exactly the kind fresh local cuisine, traditionnelle et familiale, hungry travellers long for, paired with local wines and craft beer. Be sure to reserve in high season. Tel: +33 4 75 88 51 12
A top-to-toe renovation in 2011 transformed this picturesque 17th-century stone farm into a sophisticated 11-room hotel in a beautiful country setting. The natural swimming pool and private forest are just the thing for rest, relaxation and strolling in the open air. Rooms are spacious and contemporary – some with large private terraces – and the excellent restaurant focuses on local products and wines.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, this rustic café’s magnificent setting along the Route des Crêtes (RD35) and giant outdoor terrace recommend it as much as the home-cooked meals. Dishes favour seasonal and organic local produce and feature local artisans: sourdough bread baked in a wood oven and quality local meats.
This welcoming third-generation hotel is run by three sisters who give every detail a loving touch, from the cosy, wood-panelled rooms (with sleek modern bathrooms, some with terraces) to the exceptional dining room. The excellent wine list, which favours natural wines from every French region as well as local vintages, foreshadows the gourmet meal to come. Expect high-quality, locally sourced dishes lovingly prepared and graciously served – all for exceptionally reasonable prices.
This gourmet outpost with a soaring loft-like interior is open all day for a hearty lunch of local specialities like line-caught trout, a range of warm and cold salads, local cheeses and charcuterie, and desserts like chestnut cake or lemon verbena-infused panna cotta. Shelves are stocked with products from Cévennes-based artisans: chestnut biscuits, preserves, honey and crème de châtaigne, to local wines and craft beer, handmade woollens, pottery, gorgeous carved wood, jewellery and soaps.
To celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary, La Cocalière, one of the biggest and most spectacular caves in France, invites up to two guests to dine and sleep in a glass pyramid suspended in one of the cave’s soaring galleries.
Enjoy the cave’s sparkling crystals from your chic, all-glass room fully equipped with luxury linens, contemporary furnishings and lighting, and champagne on ice on demand. The price is steep (€690) but includes breakfast and a VIP tour of the cave.
What better way to fully experience this International Dark Sky Reserve than in a transparent bubble, pyramid or dome? Four perfectly private accommodations scattered throughout a 20-acre property offer unobstructed views of woods, valley and stars, each with its own terrace, Jacuzzi, and bathroom. Breakfast in a basket, fetched from reception, is included.
This welcoming hotel is set in an 18th-century stone farmhouse (and former silkworm farm) on a lovely property that offers plenty of quiet and all the amenities: cool, spacious rooms, a pool, a gastronomic restaurant and proximity to the area’s principle sights.
LES CÉVENNES ESSENTIALS
BY AIR Fly from London Gatwick or Heathrow to Montpellier, then drive three hours via the A75.
BY RAIL Paris-Nîmes by TGV (3h), then Nîmes-Alès (40 mins). Numerous trains between Paris, Lille, Lyon and the main cities near the Cévennes.
From France Today magazine
Lead photo credit : For a truly memorable experience, stay the night at La Cocalière cave-hotel. Photo credit © Benjamin Celier