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Inside the L'Occitane Hotel in Provence

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: Mane, Provence, France
March 13, 2012 at 3:02 PM | by | ()

There are many toiletry brands we lust after when we stay in hotels, but if we had to pick the one we get most excited to see, it’d be L’Occitane. So when we found out that L’Occitane has its own hotel – with a spa! – in beautiful Provence! – we booked a night straightaway. Le Couvent des Minimes is In a 16th-century convent, nestling in the hillside below medieval village Mane. It sounded perfect. We booked a superior room (the lowest category) on the spot.

Check in
Check in was easy and the welcome was nice – we were given a tour of the hotel ground floor (restaurant, breakfast area, bar) before being accompanied to our room. The only black mark – when we asked to arrange a tour of the L’Occitane Factory, half an hour down the road in Manosque, the lady was clueless. She didn’t know what time the tours were, what language they were in, or whether they’d have any space the next day (as it was closed Sunday, when we arrived). Slightly odd, considering this is the official L’Occitane hotel. Surely we couldn’t be the only ones inquiring about factory tours?

Room reaction
The first room we were allocated, was tiny but delightful. Two cute single beds, windows on two sides – the entrance to the hotel and the field that fills with lavender in summertime – and a nice big bathroom (bigger, in fact, than the bedroom) with a huge shower area, separate bath, and another window to let the light flood in. Just what we expect from a spa hotel.

But disaster struck – the WiFi didn’t stretch to our room. After much kerfuffle (see below) we were moved to a room down the corridor. On the plus side, it had functioning WiFi. On the minus, it was, if possible, even tinier. There was barely space for our luggage, and though there was a tiny desk, there was no room for a chair – instead, there was a leather poof. The single window overlooked the internal courtyard, and there was no window in the bathroom, which was also smaller than our first room. No separate shower this time – it was slotted in over the tub. And, though it looked promising, like a rainfall head, it was the worst shower we’ve ever had – the water only came out of one corner, so the flow was a dribble – impossible to wash your hair under. Oh, and we tried to use the bath, but the handle came off in our hand the minute we touched it.

Amenity madness
Surprisingly for a spa hotel, the toiletry allowance was stingy – just one small bottle each of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. Not abnormally stingy, admittedly, but considering L’Occitane owns the hotel, you’d think they could afford to be more generous (like the unlimited Cowshed products in Soho House hotels, for example). What’s more, the box of L’Occitane goodies on the housekeeping trolley was padlocked – padlocked!!! If you really distrust your guests that much, keep the trolley within view at all times, but seeing it padlocked left a real sour taste in the mouth.

The spa, of course, is the big amenity for this place, but don’t expect to get in free if you’re staying – entry costs €25 for guests and non-guests alike. You get free entry if you book a treatment, though.

Internet Connect
WiFi is free, but we’re guessing the hotel only has one router for the entire property because on both our phone and our laptop, WiFi only worked in the area around the central courtyard, extending to the bar, restaurant, library and the rooms directly over the courtyard. Even in the lobby, we had no bars.

Not that staff would admit that. In fact, as we asked to switch room because the WiFi didn’t work, we were told by management that there must be a problem with our laptop – and our phone – because the WiFi worked fine all over the property. Odd that the problem disappeared as we moved to the center of the hotel no?

Public areas
Absolutely beautiful, as you’d expect from a former convent. The bar spills out into the cloisters, there are two restaurants (which move outside in summer) and, our favourite bit – a small library with sunken seating area, shelf upon shelf of books (French) and DVDs, a roaring fire in winter and free cookies and cakes in the afternoons. We spent the best part of our 24 hours between the library and the bar seats in the cloister.

As for the spa – the reason we’d come here – it was a disappointment. First up, there are only six treatment rooms and, during our stay, there only seemed to be a couple of therapists on duty – so there was no availability the day of arrival. We snagged the last two slots the next day for a facial and a massage, both of which were perfectly good but not memorable. There’s a nice footbath with L’Occitane bathsalts before each treatment, which was nice, though.

Otherwise, the “tisanerie” was a platform of daybeds overlooking the pool, with two herbal teas to choose from –not as exotic as we’d expected. The sauna part of the spa we didn’t get to experience, as we didn’t want to pay for entry on day one, and on day two, the only time we could have gone – in between treatments – the spa closed down for lunch. Judging by the rest of the place, though, we’d assume it’d be nice to spend time in if you had a treatment, but not good enough to shell out €25.

What we liked
The building as a whole – it’s a gorgeous conversion of the old convent – the location, overlooking a lavender field (this would be blissful in summer) and the lady in the spa who gave us 20% off products, just because. Our first room may have been small, but it was perfectly formed.

What we didn’t like
WiFi problems, lack of spa availability and the exorbitant price for extras - €25 for spa access, for example, and €25 per person for breakfast – a price we’re grudgingly learning to accept in Paris, but not in a country French hotel where breakfast is virtually always free. We saved that €50 to put towards a massage, and got croissant and a coffee for a couple of euros at a boulangerie in town.

Summing up
Le sigh. We were unbelievably excited about staying at the L’Occitane hotel so it was always going to be tough to live up to expectations. But there were too many snags to make us recommend this unequivocally, and we didn’t appreciate all the extra charges, We got a great deal - $150 on a flash sale via Jetsetter, and we’d definitely recommend it for that price – but at the going price, which starts at $260 and up, it’s a nuh uh. For that price, you can do better.

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