SECRET RO­MANCE

Chic & Country - - Content - Pho­tos: A Font/ RBA Styling: I Coll / RBA

An in­ti­mate haven for the ro­man­tic trav­eller.

Whether your re­la­tion­ship is go­ing full steam ahead or has hit

the rocks, a ro­man­tic es­capade could be just what it needs.

Christophe and Annabelle Valentin are happy to open the doors of their small and cap­ti­vat­ing ho­tel in the cen­tre of Old Nimes, in Provence, which is un­doubt­edly one of the most ro­man­tic ar­eas in the south of France. Hid­den be­hind high walls, Jardins Se­crets is on the site of an orig­i­nal 18th cen­tury coach house which was the for­mer fam­ily home of Annabelle's grand­par­ents. It has been trans­formed into a lodg­ing full of de­tail and charm and it has a spec­tac­u­lar clois­ter and equally spec­tac­u­lar gar­dens stocked with bougainvil­lea, jasmin, old rose trees, or­ange trees and olive trees. There is a beau­ti­fully at­mo­spheric foun­tain and an en­chant­ing pool.

In­side the ho­tel there are chan­de­liers and sump­tu­ous up­hol­ster­ies along­side stained glass, paint­ings and re­li­gious im­agery. Ev­ery­thing com­ple­ments ev­ery­thing else, and there is a sense of or­der, au­then­tic­ity and calm sit­ting along­side the so­phis­ti­ca­tion and “clean­li­ness” fol­low­ing its in­tense restora­tion. The ho­tel is full of 18th cen­tury trea­sures and the luxury of the sa­lons con­trasts with the sim­plic­ity of the kitchen. Annabelle ex­plains how the good taste, so clearly on show through­out the ho­tel, is as much a prod­uct of their pro­fes­sions as any­thing else: “I met Christophe

whilst we worked to­gether in var­i­ous in­te­rior de­sign mag­a­zines, he as a pho­tog­ra­pher and me as a stylist and jour­nal­ist” she says.

While trav­el­ling around the world, they picked up fur­ni­ture and ob­jects. “We love beau­ti­ful and spe­cial things, and all our finds have their place here” she ex­plains. In ad­di­tion to the gar­den and an in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion full of per­son­al­ity, the ho­tel oozes hos­pi­tal­ity in each of its de­tails. “We like to wel­come and take care of each per­son as if it were the most im­por­tant job in the world” she con­fesses. The ro­man­tic and charm­ing style is never corny or over­loaded. It is mea­sured and sub­tle: a vase here, a wall lamp there or a chair in the right place. On sunny days, life takes place out­side. The pool, sur­rounded by leafy gar­dens, is the focal point. In the win­ter, the fire­place pro­vides the nec­es­sary heat for the in­te­rior. An­tique arm­chairs and so­fas in­vite con­ver­sa­tions in the com­mon ar­eas, while in the rooms, mar­ble, free-stand­ing bath­tubs, van­ity ta­bles, silk fabrics and bro­cades trans­form the bed­rooms into lux­u­ri­ous boudoirs. Four-poster beds, bou­quets of roses and an­tique porce­lain take us to times of splen­dour and exquisite­ness. And, as Christophe re­minds us, “Don’t for­get - all this is in a place so hid­den and secret that you al­most for­get that you are in a city cen­ter. All you see is the gar­den and the only noise you hear is the splash of wa­ter and the birds singing in the gar­den.”

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