In the centre of beautifully preserved Martel, step in from the quiet street, take a deep breath, feel the still magic of the place. The fabulous garden has endless secret corners and pathways running through high box-edged lanes. The several buildings that house the bedrooms were once a girls’ school, the delightful covered terrace was their playground, the old school house is now an oriental suite exuding opulence and space. Warm old stones and terracotta, fine fabrics and heavy rugs abound. We loved the lighter rooms, too, and the three simpler yet pretty rooms for smaller budgets: such a friendly touch. Bathrooms are original and fun: black and terracotta, a bit of gilt or candy stripe, a flowery frieze. All this, a perfectly lovely family (Madame still says “I’m so happy here,” and gets a kick out of each new decorative idea) and innovative cuisine, served on the terrace or in the intimate dining room by a big open fire. A ‘lovers’ table’ dressed with roses and candles can be set under the porch of the little chapel. Sophistication without self-consciousness – a rare treat.