The Continental Europe volume of the Good Hotel Guide is out at the end of the month. Here, its editor Caroline Raphael selects places for all tastes and budgets
The Good Hotel Guide specialises in small, personally run hotels of character, and the Continent is rich in such places. Ever since our first edition, 25 years ago, which contained 300 hotels, Continental hotels have outnumbered British hotels in the Guide, a clear indication of our readers’ preferences. In 1978, 55 of the entries were French, 43 Italian.
The Guide is now published in two volumes, one covering Great Britain and Ireland, the other Continental Europe, with a combined total of 1,600 hotels. One thousand are on the Continent with 18 countries represented. France remains the favourite with 400 hotels. Italy still comes second with 131.
Why? Because of the softness of the light. All the major painters painted there years ago for that reason. In the early mornings the light can be almost pinkish. It’s an exquisite medieval village 12 minutes by car from Nice airport, right back in the hills in the South of France. There is a family hotel, La Columbe D’Or, and years back when the painters had no money the then owner took pity on them and provided free meals in return for a painting. All those paintings still hang in the dining room to this day – so when you eat there it’s like eating in the most wonderful art gallery. I discovered the village in 1982 and then for about 10 years we teamed up with another family and had every Christmas out there.
The best thing: The smells and the sounds. I can still smell the smells, like wood burning down in the valley accompanied by the echoes of barking dogs. Also, there’s such a wealth of galleries and museums in the region that from a cultural point of view it’s fantastic. Anywhere you eat, you eat very well. As you also have to walk everywhere up that mountain you still feel healthier, even if you are probably eating and drinking more than you would at home.