Lucie Loves... Travel & Lifestyle // Could this be the best hotel in Montpellier? One for the wine lovers: Our five star luxury escape to the Domaine de Verchant hotel & spa.
When was the last time you allowed yourself a little luxury hotel break?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’ll know I’m a sucker for fancy hotels. After a month and a half of living in a sleepy French town, our feet were itching to see something other than the four walls of our own petit maison (read all about our French adventure here.) I'd spied an email about the Domaine de Verchant 5-Star luxury hotel and spa nestled amongst my blog emails and decided to try and arrange a review visit.
The journey from Mazamet to Castres and then onwards to Montpellier was a fraught one. I’m not gonna lie... at several points on the journey I thought about stomping my foot, crying and throwing a tantrum. But, at the age of 32, I don't think I'd have gotten away with such behaviour lightly!
A series of unfortunate events unfolded one after the other... First off... we missed our 9:38am train... which meant we had to wait until 11:38am to catch the next one...
Secondly, I was wearing my brand new – what shall henceforth be known as – devil shoes. I had never worn these & OtherStories buckle loafer babies before. Nope! It was their debut outing... stupidly... I didn’t wear any "secret" socks... and by the time I’d lugged my suitcase to the train station... to catch our replacement bus... I found myself stood in the ticket line with holes in the backs of both of my feet, blood oozing in that I could cry-it-hurts-so-much fashion. I swear I would've paid 10 times the price of a pack of Compeed blister plasters right then, if there was such thing as a Compeed blister plaster tout on train station platforms.
Once on our replacement bus to Castres... it turned out that the car hire place was closed for lunch... for TWO HOURS?! JEEZ! If anyone knows how to do “out for lunch” it’s the French! We hobbled on, in search of food. Me, limping like I’d done myself an injury, stumbling along, with gritted teeth. Rich, striding ahead, silently.
After scoffing a couple of burgers at an unexpectedly good burger joint in Castres called La Grange (which appears to now have permanently closed!?) we finished our meal, necked a couple of espressos and continued our quest to find Hertz Downtown car rental... but... Google Maps led us to a back alley in the centre of town!? Alas! No Hertz Downtown car rental... perhaps Downtown means something different in French?
I double-checked the postcode on my booking... Ok, just an 8-minute drive away... But there's no Uber in Castres... and I haven't got a clue where to hail a taxi... it's a 40 minute walk. 40 mins, I think – that’s a doddle! A chance to get those 10,000 steps a day in...
We trudge silently uphill, downhill, way out of the city centre and onwards, through French suburbia. Through blustery winds, and unseasonable March heat. All the while seeing my iPhone battery drain to 4%... and still no sign on the horizon for that evasive yellow Hertz symbol...
Finding ourselves now truly in the sticks, we look at one another and notice that our point on the map has overshot the left hand turning it was instructing us to take. We double back, past the obvious established junction in the road, complete with tarmaced surface.... instead, turning off onto a small, muddy beaten track. At this point it’s worth noting that we are not wearing off-road, rough terrain walking gear. I’d swapped my devil shoes for Adidas boost but Rich still had his smart leather boots on, chinos and a shirt.
Weather: inclement. Underfoot: moist and boggy. We turn off the main road and take on the track, spying a rather bemused looking French family eating lunch and a few WTF builders gawping at us in astonishment. Just two stiff upper-lipped Brits, stoic, determined not to give in, unwilling to be defeated.
With 4-minutes left on Google Maps until we reach the end destination, we start to despair. Where the hell is this taking us?!
And then I see it!!! The yellow Hertz flags, waving at us in the distance. We navigate the last bit of sludgy path, swinging around the trunk of a tree, Jungle Book style, to avoid ending ankle-deep (as opposed to just sole deep) in the gloopiest mud imaginable.
We look to the right, searching for a cut through... and finding nothing. Just a wire perimeter fence around an industrial estate. We have to climb the fence, there's no other option.
You & Me Vs Fence.
On closer inspection, the fence is spiky and a bit too high to swing a leg over... we use my fancy suitcase as a footstool... it starts to buckle slightly under my weight... oh god! How is it gonna support Rich's 16 stone?!
I go first, throwing my squishy cardigan onto of the spiky fence, to stop me from impaling myself... cue Rich’s turn... assuming he can lean over and pluck the suitcase footstool up over the fence... he can’t.
Local Samaritans come to our aid. We spot a family strolling towards us, and wave at them hysterically, gesticulating at the discarded suitcase turned footstool, whilst garbling in broken Frenglish, in a bid to be reunited with our goods. Merci beaucoups deployed. We turn a corner. Metaphorically and literally, and find ourselves in front of Hertz. Is it a mirage? Pinch me!
Nerve endings frayed, I plonk myself infront of the desk at Hertz and sign anything and everything that the lady gives me. She talks at me in speedy French, but I'm too tired to tell her I can't understand a word she is saying... I also have no battery left on my phone to use Google translate. Balls!
Finally! The keys to our sky blue Fiat 500 are in my hand – we're on our way to Montpellier via the Millau Viaduct – the world's tallest bridge! After a short stop off at Millau, to take a few snaps of these fete of Structural Engineering, we drive onwards to our decadent retreat for the night: the Domaine de Verchant.
It was dark when we eventually arrived at the hotel, which happens to be set in 17 Hectares of its own glorious vineyards. Even at night the illuminated grounds and peaceful setting provide a very breath-taking welcome. It's located on Montpellier's doorstep and is just 10 minutes to the city centre by car, if you fancy a stroll down the medieval streets.
We checked in at reception and were shown to our Deluxe Terrasse room, which was practically palatial in size and came with a bottle wine from the Domaine de Verchant's own vineyard, which we cracked open and enjoyed whilst getting ready for dinner at the hotel's restaurant.
We really wish we'd arrived earlier on the in the day – but due to the aforementioned logistical complications we missed out chance to make the most of the hotel's heated pool, lush green grounds and sumptuous spa. However, we made a promise that we'd rise early the next day – wine or no wine – to have breakfast, and spend a few our pampering ourselves and making the most of the luxurious facilities.
After sprucing up for dinner we walked down the charming staircase and out across the courtyard, gravel crunching underfoot, and made our way to the "The Beach among the Vines" restaurant.
It was a fairly quiet Wednesday evening when we dined in chef Jérôme Bartoletti's restaurant La Plage by Verchant. The service was attentive but not overly fussy. The wine pairings by Chef Sommelier, Cyrille Bajolet were unique to each course and very well matched. We were very impressed with the food and quality of the dining experience, but were keen to find out what it would have been like if they had a full house.
I asked Carine, the Hotel Manager at Domaine de Verchant a few questions. Here's what she had to say about this stunning hotel:
Q. We stayed at the Domaine de Verchant on a Wednesday evening in low season, which meant that the hotel was fairly quiet. We were very well attended to by all of the hotel and restaurant staff. How busy does it get during the summer/peak seasons and how do you ensure you maintain those 5-Star service levels?
A. It’s incredibly important to us that our guests receive the same level of experience and service all year round. Our staff are trained to be welcoming and attentive, with very high standards. This ensures that day after day, we offer a five-star service.
Q. Is the restaurant always a seasonal set menu?
A. Our renowned and creative Chef Damien Cousseau lets his imagination run wild and creates a wonderful a la carte menu that is updated three to four times a year. He also offers a variety of seasonal set menus including the Creation Menu, which features four dishes that he changes on a regular basis, depending on his mood and what’s available locally that day. Finally, we have our wonderful Tasting Menu that showcases the very best produce from the Mediterranean.
Q. What wines are produced on site? And where can these purchased outside of the hotel?
A. Surrounding the château, the Verchant vineyard cultivates red Syrah and Grenache vines from the Mediterranean, and Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Bordeaux to produce three wines: the 1582 red, rosé and white; and two reds, the Marcelle and Quintina.
Q. What tours are available for guests staying at the hotel?
A. Private beaches - Just a 15-minute drive from the Domaine de Verchant you can find the Mediterranean with its charming, completely protected coastline and marinas... Its long beaches of fine sand, ideal for lazing about or going for long walks, playing water sports or enjoying a drink on one of the many private beaches...
Golf - The region also guarantees golf lovers the chance to play on high quality courses all year round: Golf de Montpellier – Massane and Golf de Fontcaude just ten or so kilometres away; Golf de la Grande Motte 20km away; Golf de Nîmes Campagne 60km away
The Pont du Gard and Les Baux de Provence - One hour from the Domain, this architectural structure was built over 2,000 years ago. The Pont du Gard is a site unique to France, as it is the only three-tiered Roman aqueduct still standing today. Discover this marvel that has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, while enjoying the charm and authenticity of the Gardon Valley.
The Port of Sète and the Bassin de Thau -25 minutes from the Estate, the waters of a mollusc-rich lagoon lap against the towns of Sète, Balaruc-les-Bains, Bouzigues, Mèze and Marseillan.
Q. Can people visiting Montpellier and the surrounding area pay to visit the spa for the day? If so, how much would this cost?
A. Yes indeed, Verchant Le Spa is open to hotel guests, members of the private club and also external visitors in the form of a Half Day Discovery Experience that costs 130€ or a Day Spa costing 190€ for one person or 350€ for 2 people.
Q. Can people hire out the whole hotel and how many does it sleep?
A. Yes, they can. The hotel has 26-rooms, which can accommodate up to 56 people (we can add extra bed in some rooms too) making it perfect for weddings and special occasions.
Q. What are your most proudest about the Domaine de Verchant?
A. A verdant setting on the doorstep of Montpellier, it’s a privilege to work at the stunning 16th century old stone château and incredibly inspiring to see the property transformed into the modern day hotel it is today.
By the time we arrived at the hotel we were feeling pretty famished and would probably have eaten anything. Fortunately for us, the food we ate at Domaine de Verchant was out of this world! Some of the best we'd both ever tasted.
The following day, we rose early, grabbed a quick bite to eat overlooking the pool in the breakfast room. Feeling indulgent, I ordered the Croque Monsieur with truffle oil from the menu, which was cooked to order, and grabbed a bowl of fruit and some juice from the breakfast bar.
We then made our way to the spa. We were handed robes and slippers and instructed to put our things in the lockers provided, before being given a tour of the facilities. On a sunny day, I can't imagine a more idyllic sun terrace in the South of France to relax by the pool, overlooking the vineyard. It's truly magnificent.
After checking out of the hotel, we drove the short distance to Montpellier. I first visited the city back in 2006 when I went Interrailing. Isn't it funny revisiting a place? So many memories flooded back to me. It was like stepping back in time and being 20 again.
If you're thinking of taking a trip to the South of France this summer, do check out the Domaine de Verchant. It's by far one of the best hotel experiences I've ever had. Even if you just took a 3-night mini break in a hotel this luxe, you're guaranteed to feel rejuvenated when you check out.
Another thing to note... If you're visiting any festivals in the south of France this year, such as Worldwide Festival in Sète – it's worth extending your trip and visiting Montpellier whilst you're in the area.
Photography © Lucie Kerley