Run with efficiency by Edouard Pellegrin, this 17th-century gentilhommerie offers that most attractive combination for travellers – solidly comfortable rooms and superb food. It is set conveniently on the outskirts of town, beyond suburbia, in a little wooded valley with a small stream running just outside. The bedrooms are mostly smallish, beamed, traditionally furnished and very comfortable; the bigger rooms, with lovely old rafters, are on the top floor. The tower has been converted into a charming suite with a sitting area downstairs and a smallish stone-walled bedroom up steepish stairs. Food is the thing here – regional, seasonal and served with panache in the colour-washed restaurant or the pleasantly shaded and tranquil garden. New chef Aline Jarriault has worked with the best and there is an innovative yet classic feel, matched by some tempting wines. Choose between the menu terroir and the menu gourmand – or pull out all the stops and work your way through the menu dégustation! As for Saint Maixent l’Ecole, it’s a pretty market town not far from Poitiers and La Rochelle.