Paris might be the most stylish place to be right now but forget the city, it's all about escaping to the country and Provence is the hottest spot on our chillout list.
What's The Plan?
Start your holiday straight after work and head over to the super luxe St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in Kings Cross on Friday night. Luxuriously indulgent and super convenient (you can actually see the Eurostar from your bedroom window) this is the place to stay before popping across the channel the next morning.
What Are The Rooms Like?
Ginormous. Towering ceilings, wall encompassing gothic mirrors and thick, brocade curtains with oversized tassel pulls are the epitome of decadence - and we haven't even mentioned the bathroom yet. White marble from floor to ceiling with baths big enough for two mean you won't want to leave in a hurry. We recommend staying in the older Chambers section of the hotel where bedrooms look out straight onto the station platform, quite the view if we do say so ourselves. Oh and guests in Chambers suites are automatically granted access to the exclusive Chambers Club aka the ideal secret spot to while away the evening with a cocktail from the bar. Our fav touch? Their new Eurostar VIP complimentary transfer service. Think skipping security, queues and escaping the crowds. Yes please.
It's Friday Night, Where Are We Eating Dinner?
Woah there, you've already forgotten about the bathroom? Well we haven't. Scrub up for dinner with one of the hotel's soothing Bath Rituals. Sit back, relax and let one of the Chambers butlers run you a hot bath complete with tea lights, body scrubs and mood lighting. Top tip: remember to press the Do Not Disturb button by the door, you won't want to be interrupted for quite a while.
Ok, We're Relaxed But Now We're Hungry…
No worries, take a trip down to the ground floor to the Booking Office restaurant and bar. Previously the ticket hall of St Pancras station, the Booking Office is pure old school glamour. Authentic copper goblets full of botanical punch and traditional English fayre take you back to a time of Victorian indulgence - the perfect pit stop for a fabulous Friday night out. We dined out on a couple of deconstructed Preservation Martinis and indulged in the Champagne Punch Bowl where, yes this actually happens, a waiter pours a whole bottle of champagne into the bowl at the table. Fancy. And want to know a secret? Having recently acquired a late night license, the Booking Office is now open until 3am. Classy, cultured and ready to party? You can keep your Tiger Tiger, make ours a double at the St Pancras, ta very much
Right We've Hopped On The Eurostar And Got The Train To Provence, Where Are We Staying?
The five-star Renaissance Aix-En-Provence Hotel, obviously. Built in January, the Aix-En-Provence is brand new, and you can tell. Honestly, everything is super swish. From the amazing contemporary interiors to the bang on air con and two in house restaurants, you won't want to leave Aix any time soon.
So Where Exactly Are We?
Located just outside the old town of Aix, the hotel neighbours the epic architecture of the new theatre and dance centre. Literally a five minute walk away from town (we're not lying we promise), the hotel is the perfect place to trundle back to after a night's eating and drinking. This is France after all.
There's Loads Of Art Around, What's With That?
This is one arty hotel. With over 400 pieces of art by local Provencal artists, you'll be hard pushed to find a more cultured hotel. From sculpture casually placed in the reception (which incidentally smells amazing - the Renaissance signature scent no less) to full on wall installations and hand drawn murals, not to mention unique lithographs next to each room number, Aix is practically an art gallery with beds. Make a game of it in the downstairs event space where walls are covered in aluminium houses with just one painted straight onto the brickwork. It may have taken a while but we found it, and no, we're not telling.
Time For A Nap, What's The Room Like?
You're in luck, the room is amazing. Think Mad Men meets the future and you're somewhere close. Light, airy and rejuvenating, the white and yellow colour scheme merges all things Scandi cool with pure Provence. Printed carpets mimic traditional Provence tiles whilst oval mirrors reflect the almond shape of their local delicacy, Calisson sweets. And don't even get us started on the bed. Large enough for three, this is plushy personified. It's a miracle we ever left the room.
And The View?
Peer out of your window and you'll see the bridge connecting the hotel to the rest of town. An architectural wonder, this is more than your usual flyover. Lean out of your window at night and you'll see the bridge lit up with a full waterfall running down it's face as cars drive underneath. Trust us, your Instagram will love it.
Time For a Dip Before Dinner?
Yes. When there's a pool and sauna like this, the answer is always yes. Completely peaceful, we had the pool to ourselves almost every visit. The specialist Hammam room aka sauna boasts a starlit ceiling that after a few ten minute sessions will have you trying really hard not to completely relax and fall asleep. Which we definitely didn't do…
It's Dinner Time Now, Right?
Hell yes. Book yourself into super swish Le Clos, the hotel's gourmet Mediterranean restaurant that intimately seats just 40 people. The more formal of the two hotel restaurants, Le Clos serves pretty much the best posh food we've had in a while. An amuse bouche of Truffle Croque Monsieur followed by Cepes Mushroom Ice Cream to start were both surprisingly delicious. We highly recommend you try mushroom ice cream, right now. Served with all the panache you would expect from a top quality white table cloth restaurant, each dish was truly delicious. Cloche after silver cloche grandly revealed each tantalising course. And just between us, the Chocolate Sphere with Cocoa Nib Ice Cream was to die for. You might not be able to move by the last course, but we can guarantee you'll be one happy customer.
If You've Got Room For Breakfast…
Check out the hotel's more casual (but no less delicious) restaurant Le Comptoir du Clos. Sink into a chair on the sun drenched terrace and enjoy a late brunch. But this isn't any old brunch. This is the brunch to end all brunches. Everything you could imagine from cheese boards, to coconut smoothies, to mini filled tortellini, to almond and raspberry cake to fillets of seabass with roast tomatoes to a chocolate fountain….the list goes on. We would genuinely stay here just to have an excuse to eat brunch everyday. Forget soggy croissants and foamy eggs, Aix does brunch as we always dreamed it would be.
It's Been Half An Hour Since We Last Ate, Time For Lunch?
If you've still got room for something a little lighter on the palate (or like us you haven't actually managed to leave the sun spotted terrace since breakfast) go for the salad of Beef Tomatoes and Mozzarella Foam. Super fresh and delicate with pearls of balsamic vinegar bursting on the tongue, just what we needed after an overindulgent evening the night before. Courgette and Strawberry Salad and Veal with Broad Beans and Parmesan Crumbs were close seconds on our must eat list. Yes, there was a list. And yes, we had pudding, again. Well, when in Provence….eat all the dessert. Created by their in house pastry chef who, at the tender age of 23, is turning heads with his contemporary twists on classic puddings. Our fav? The Chocolate and Passionfruit Magnum of course.
We've Got A Bit Of Time Before We Head Home…
If you're feeling sleepy (and you may well be after that much good food) lounge the time away in the forever sunny Provencal garden at the back of the hotel. Or for the more adventurous, wander down into Aix old town and peruse the winding streets full of Provence soap and lavender. Check out the local vineyards, not forgetting to try their famous rose wine and pick up some homegrown olive oil to take with you on the trip home. And, most importantly, remember to soak up the sun, all 300 days worth of it.
Sounds Amazing, How Do I Book?
By George Driver/@iamgdriver