La Mirande, Avignon, France
AN OASIS NEXT TO THE POPE'S PALACE
Elegant and aloof, Miranda sits in front of the entrance, giving the impression she still needs to consider very carefully whether or not to allow me to pass through the large glass door.
Miranda is NOT the house’s cat, even though she does give that impression at first sight.
Martin Stein, the owner of the HOTEL LA MIRANDE, explains that the cat chose this house two years ago, and uses it now and again as her home address, although she obviously has other addresses which she visits in Avignon. She looks as pretty as a picture with her fine grey fur, is well-fed (the Hotel is always prepared for her flying visits: food and a drinking bowl are constantly filled and ready), and she has fascinating eyes.
I was fortunate – she let me in, followed at my heels, and at once lay down in the lobby in an unmistakeable pose that said “please stroke me now”.
For an animal-lover like me, it was immediately the first bonus point for this establishment with its spectacular position directly alongside the high walls of the Pope’s Palace.
The City of Seven Popes and Two Antipopes! More than 700 years ago, they turned this village into a piece of Italy in Southern France.
And LA MIRANDE has been a cardinal’s seat since 1309, with underground passageways to the palace and to the city centre in case the cardinal or even one of the popes occasionally wanted to disappear incognito...
Italy meets France meets Great Britain could be an off-the-cuff description of the style of furnishing. On closer inspection, one discovers numerous details alluding to the history of architecture, either in the wallcoverings, lighting, antique cabinets, tapestries or fittings.
To describe Martin Stein as a “hotelier” would be inappropriate. Even “hotel-owner” fails to describe the person who is our host here. He looks rather like a man of letters, a museum curator or a professor of architecture. One might also imagine him to be a musician or an artist.
When he himself discovered this building as a young man together with his parents Achim und Hannelore, he had just completed his medical studies. He moved from Siena to Provence, and after three years of restoration work in Avignon had turned this former cardinal’s seat with its eventful history into a space for aesthetics and dignified lifestyle.
The opening of LA MIRANDE is now almost thirty years in the past, and I have the impression that Martin Stein is sitting in his personal dream of a lifetime that has become a reality. With his wealth of knowledge accumulated from numerous renovation and interior furnishing projects, he has been able to achieve the entire facilities and furnishings to suit his own taste – in consultation with his parents (his father was a building contractor) and in conjunction with artisans directly from Avignon, from Provence and from Italy.
The finest Carrara marble was custom-built in all the bathrooms of the twenty rooms in the main building, the fittings are entirely from a manufacturer in England and are nickel-plated in the Edwardian style of the “good old times”, lampshades and wallcoverings were specially made to order and wall papers - painted as replicas of historic originals, and even today Mr. Stein still searches flea-markets and antiques shops, constantly looking for unique items that might possibly be a better match in Room 20 or 38. No room is like any other, and one is well advised to inspect them all, either via the Internet or directly on the spot to find one’s own individual favourite room.
Despite all these valuables and treasures, one neither feels as if one is in a museum, nor do any of the antique objects disappear. This leads one to suppose that every awestruck and admiring guest to recognise that the man of this house has implemented the very highest standards.
A private palace full of elegance and beauty.
Candlelight fills the cosy bar with an atmosphere from the Stanley Kubrick film “Barry Lyndon”, and the dining room offers a tempting plat du jour, fish of the day or vegetarian dishes from the region, accompanied by the best Rhône Valley wines.
In the wood-panelled restaurant alongside, Michelin-star Chef, Florent Pietravalle, proves that he more than deserves the star for his cuisine, while Alex, Jeff und somelière Anne-Laure in a historic kitchen in the cellar conjure up seasonal delicacies cooked on a 19th century range – which is still wood-fired.
A journey to La Mirande would be worthwhile just for the breakfast!The hardboiled egg was in the hen-coop until a moment ago and should be ordered as a four-minute egg! There’s nothing fresher – it’s poetry!
It goes without saying that the various preserves are homemade, e.g. using quinces from the hotel’s own garden, all the jams and jellies are from its own kitchen
I’m not at all surprised that many years ago his brother-in-law created a cookery school here, which is more than fully booked, that the wine cellar contains absolute rarities, that Stein is an art-lover who organises regular classical concerts in his hotel, and that he arranges for contemporary artists from Avignon and the surroundings to exhibit here. That fits! And how!
And even the fact that the regal cat MIRANDA – if she happens to be residing in “her” palace again at the time – is lying on the most beautiful armchair in the garden vestibule in front of the wall with the chinoiserie as if to say “So what are YOU doing here?” no longer surprises me after four days in this unique example of a hotel!
I can’t blame her for it, and I know that my first question when I next visit this hotel will be “And how is Miranda?” The hotel’s “heart and soul” - Director Francis Lacoste – will certainly be able to enlighten me immediately!
Moreover, it will then be essential that I test the newly-opened ice-cream parlour in the neighbouring building. It was a gift from Monsieur Stein to - himself for the 30th anniversary in 2020 … furnished with Carrara marble of course, and offering 16 kinds of ice-cream - made fresh every day by Head Chef Jeff!
Perhaps I will bring MIRANDA a scoop of pistachio ice-cream ... we’ll see!
4 Place de la Mirande, Avignon, France; Tel.: +33 – 490 142 020
Ingrid Roosen-Trinks stayed at the hotel LA MIRANDE three times as a self-paying guest. Like all of our authors , she does not allow any hotel to invite her and pays for every booking privately.