Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle is a ten-room Provençal inn owned by one of the great French culinary masters, Alain Ducasse. For some of you, that’s likely all that needs to be said. We can remind you that Ducasse holds some twenty-odd Michelin stars, and point out that the inn adjoins a lovely 12th-century Benedictine abbey, and inform you that it’s recently undergone a very tasteful sprucing-up, but frankly you could stop reading here, safe in the assumption that the place is everything you’d expect Alain Ducasse’s Provençal inn to be.
The rooms are unfailingly tasteful, done in a restrained French countryside style — not too traditional, certainly not outré, just right for the setting. They’re perhaps slightly airier, a little less frilly than the local norm, though not without their adornments. The better rooms come with flowing silk drapes and centuries-old antique furniture, while the smaller mansard-roofed rooms skew a little more modern.
Meanwhile the grounds are nothing short of beautiful, a couple of acres of gardens and vineyards, fruit trees and ancient cypresses, all more than stroll-worthy. One of the great pleasures of travel in Provence is that the culinary experience extends beyond the dining room, and here you could easily spend all day visiting the local markets, sipping your way through the vineyards and sniffing around the hotel’s herb and veggie gardens. There are nearby golf courses and charming little villages and abbeys, plus a lovely secluded pool with a view of Candelon Mountain, but mostly one comes to eat.
And here we arrive at a foregone conclusion: the hotel’s restaurant is excellent. In fact to call it “the hotel’s restaurant” is perhaps a bit unfair; the hotel is as much the restaurant’s as the other way around. In any case, its Ducasse-trained chef makes outstanding use of the local bounty, producing simple dishes whose brilliance turns on their impeccable execution. Everything comes from the hotel grounds or within thirty kilometers. Food that’s local and seasonal tends to taste better wherever you are, but fresh local food in Provence, at Alain Ducasse’s ten-room country inn — that’s the kind worth traveling for.
How to get there:
The hotel is located approximately 40 miles from Marseille.