, 3 Rue Gaston Maruejols, Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon.
To find the Jardins Secrets hotel, you just pass through a small door to arrive at what is truly a "secret garden". It feels as though you are stepping into a fairytale land of fauns, flora and magic fauna. Well, we can't promise talking cats, nor miniature deities, but the enchanted garden is secluded and delightfully tranquil, even better when you consider this is the centre of Nîmes. And as the owners themselves told us, "we wanted the garden to encourage you to dream". The building was an old coaching inn. Bougainvillea trees crawl up the red façade of the building, and olive trees also help to give it shade, lending the house a Tuscan feel. Everything looks out on the garden, neatly delineated by the trees and plants. It feels such a joy to go for a dip in the shielded swimming pool here. Imposing earthenware pots covered with flowers surround it. There is an orangery adorned with roses and an old well, where the horses used to be watered.
The converted cloister leads to several lounges, which include a Napoléon III bar. There are murals, grand pianos, paintings galore and a fabulous sweeping staircase. One of the rooms along this cloister has been converted into a spa. Guests are advised to discover the ‘Source of Secrets', a Roman bath with Ayurvedic and organic treatments. The spa is available privately upon booking. There is also an classically-styled heated pool, hammam and massage room, thus completing the sense of mystique with plenty of relaxation.
There is an exuberant quality to the bedrooms, featuring masses of drapes, silk sheets, chandeliers and four-poster beds. This is opulence in spades. And when you've finished marvelling at the designer's fantasies, come down to earth to meet the functional luxuries like air-conditioning, hypoallergenic bedding, a flatscreen TV and wi-fi internet.
The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, but various recommendations can be made, such as Le 9, a simple but delicious Mediterranean restaurant and the Michelin-starred Alexandre 3. Breakfast is served.
The city of Nîmes is packed with history, including a perfectly preserved Roman temple and amphitheatre. A short drive down to the coast brings you to the famous Camargue national park with the equally famous white horses and flamingos.