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L'Estelle en Camargue
Rte du Petit-Rhône D38
13460 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France
+33 (0)4 90 97 89 01
www.hotelestelle.com
reception@hotelestelle.com


Wild and Free
Discovering a Port in the Stormy Landscape of Southern France
by Sophie Gayot

So often bypassed for the familiar beauty of Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Cannes or Saint-Tropez, the Camargue is Provence's secret treasure. While other regions play up their gentility and sophistication, the Camargue revels in its raw, feral temperament. It is a world of wild horses, robust cowboys, gypsies, bullfights and flamenco. And in the midst of this untamed mosaic: L'Estelle en Camargue, an intimate oasis whose simplicity and unpretentious elegance pays tribute to the tempestuous surroundings.

This quiet inn resides on the outskirts of scenic Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. At the point where the Rhône River meets the Mediterranean, the seaside resort village is the site of annual pilgrimages to honor saints who fled Palestine centuries ago. It is a natural destination for seekers of refuge, as you will discover at the edge of a secluded marsh, where L'Estelle en Camargue feels as if it has been set down into the landscape, and the landscape allowed to grow up uncultivated around it.

Secluded marsh area
Pretty, regional style

Once a farm, the property now offers a collection of bungalows whose twenty bedrooms are done in a pretty, regional style. The buildings wrap around a striking swimming pool and adjacent pond, and are reached by walkways and bridges that cross the water. Rustic elements such as exposed log beam ceilings are paired with cheerful Provençal hues and bucolic—yet stylish—furnishings. There are all sorts of comforts, including TVs, but chances are you'd rather spend your time on your private terrace watching the real show: the surrounding wilderness.

The presence of palm trees and terrace dining lends a resort atmosphere, while two gourmet restaurants—Le Petit Gourmet and Le Bistrot—ensure the kind of upscale culinary experience expected from a classic French relais. Fine wines, evenings filled with music and a setting in Camargue Regional Natural Park, surrounded by marshes and sand dunes, provide a unique blend of indulgence and adventure that sets L'Estelle en Camargue apart.

An oasis in the wilderness

 

(Updated: 10/10/07 AK)


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