As promised, here’s the first of three posts on budget boutique hotels – this one focuses on Europe, where, despite the euro’s strength, there are still many bargains to be had, and where the good life is easier to come by for less, if you know where to look…
So what do I get for my money? It’s not often you get to stay in a bona fide French château when you’re travelling on a budget, which makes this a pretty special choice. And that’s not all: this family-friendly, dog-friendly château has a lovely swimming pool, tennis courts, and its own nine-hole golf course – not to mention spacious suites with views across the Dordogne valley.
Worth getting out of bed for Just 10 minutes’ drive away, historic Bergerac’s mediaeval centre is host to one of France’s best markets (Wednesday and Saturday mornings); check out the region’s finest produce and pick up delicacies such as foie gras, truffles and wine for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home.
Any free extras? Get a free glass of champagne, a selection of regional amuses bouches and a bottle of wine from the vineyards of Château les Merles when you show your Mr & Mrs Smith membership card at check-in.
The bottom line From €120 a room a night, excluding breakfast (€15). Tell me more…
So what do I get for my money? This designer escape in one of Europe’s most underrated style cities has masses of mass appeal: zingy Missoni fabrics add refreshing pops of colour, a pewter-topped, leather-lined bar adds sparkle to the lounge, and original photography by some of Denmark’s top photographers adorns the walls throughout. A great base for exploring this fun, youthful city.
Worth getting out of bed forr If you’re not tempted by strolling and shopping, Copenhagen provides free bikes from May to December, so pop your DKK20 coin in the slot, head off on your travels, and return the bike to any of the 125 city’s bike drop offs/pick ups to be reunited with your coin. To rent a small motor boat and explore the harbour, contact Brian at Copenhagen Boat Rent on +45 25 38 92 19/20. For something a little higher-octane, including ocean racing, try a spin in a speedboat (www.ribalex.dk).
Any free extras? A copy of the Yellow Lounge double CD, The Avenue Feeling, for Mr & Mrs Smith members who show their Smith card at check-in.
The bottom line From DKK1,175, including buffet breakfast, tax and 10 per cent service charge. Tell me more…
SALINA, AEOLIAN ISLANDS
Style Family-run Aeolian farmhouse
Setting Il Postino country
So what do I get for my money? Set around a series of attractive stepped terraces bursting with scented lime trees, bougainvillea and honeysuckle, Hotel Signum is a charming Sicilian escape. The light and airy rooms are simply but stylishly furnished in traditional-style decor, and many have their own private terraces with fantastic views of the Mediterranean. There’s an infinity pool to lounge around, and tasty seafood and wine to indulge in.
Worth getting out of bed for Many of Salina’s beaches feature boulders, rather than sand. Steps from the hotel, Scario Tip is recommended. Near the town of Pollara, you’ll find the most magical bay in the Aeolian archipelago, famed as the backdrop to Il Postino. Descend a few hundred steps, and you can dive off the rocks into the deep plunge pools. The hotel can organise boat excursions around Salina and to the other islands; ask about snorkelling and diving, and the fisherman’s boats available for you to escape in à deux. Back on dry land, you could also head up into the mountains with trained guides.
The bottom line From €110, including breakfast. Tell me more…
So what do I get for my money? Perched on a rocky outcrop just feet from the Atlantic Ocean, this contemporary, pool-enhanced crib marries trad Portuguese villa with a modern wing that houses a slick restaurant and extra rooms – some of the bedroom views are pretty spectacular. The blend of old and new is a triumph: where the exterior is sleek white minimalism, the interior is wood-panelled and luxurious. The design savvy extends to the grounds, where muslin-draped day beds recall Café del Mar cool.
Worth getting out of bed for Inject a little low-cost, high-impact romance into your holiday: for the best sunset views, take a drive up the coastal road past Guincho to Cabo da Roca, and sit by Europe’s most westerly cliffs as the big Atlantic rollers crash beneath you. Carcavelos Beach (on the way to Lisbon) is a surf paradise, with a long sandy beach and decent-sized Atlantic waves; kitesurfing and windsurfing are becoming more popular here, too. There’s also a huge market in Carcavelos on Thursdays.
Any free extras? If you book as a Mr & Mrs Smith member, you’ll find a complimentary bottle of Portuguese wine and a fruit basket in your room on arrival.
The bottom line From €120 a room a night, including American breakfast buffet. Tell me more…
05 Demeure Monte-Arena
So what do I get for my money? A stunningly sleek chambre d’hôte in a building dating back to the 15th century, packed with fragrant lavender, crisp linen, stone fireplaces and hidden walkways. A secluded garden with plunge pool and fountain takes centre-stage at this tucked-away boutique B&B; and with only four rooms, exclusivity and elegance is everything.
Worth getting out of bed for The nearby mediaeval duchy of Uzès holds a justly famous Saturday market. Fresh-cut sunflowers, fish and seafood stalls, farm produce and ostrich eggs, local olive oils, honeys and cheeses, salami and cured meats from the mountains, linens and Provençal fabrics… go to buy, not just to browse; you can still pick up some great bargains. Have a browse online before you go; www.uzes-market.com
Any free extras? A complimentary organic essential oil fragrance when you show your Mr & Mrs Smith membership card at check-in.
The bottom line From €75 a night, including breakfast and tax. Tell me more…
If you like this, you’ll like… Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus, also near Uzès; Baudon de Mauny in Montpellier; Le Couvent d’Hérépian near the Haut Languedoc National Park; Le Trésor in the Pyrenean foothills.