This review is for the benefit of anyone who is thinking of booking Les Blayons in Bonnieux, Provence, and would like to see some real-life pictures of the place cos the ones on the cottage-booking websites aren't all that.
People, Les Blayons is absolutely wonderful. Don't worry about the fact that it doesn't have a pool - you'll be too busy marvelling at the view, relaxing on the vine-covered terrace and cooling off in the fabulous modern rain shower to notice. Les Blayons is quite simply the best cottage I have ever rented in France. And it's ridiculously well-priced - because it doesn't have a pool, it's around a third of the price of a normal rental in this part of France.
What's special about Les Blayons is that it's an old Provençal cottage that has been thoughtfully converted by the French owner (who did all the work himself) in a stunning modern style. In a land of 'rustic' conversions (read - roughly slap some plaster on the walls, don't bother to update the bathroom, and throw some ugly patterned throws over an equally ugly patterned sofa), this is highly unusual.
Here's the exterior - so far, so normal:
Here's a view of Les Blayons from the (huge) garden - check out the massive glass windows, which are really the first clue that this place is far from run-of-the-mill:
And here's the interior:
The kitchen and living area are open plan, with a double-height cathedral ceiling. It's extremely spacious, and thanks to the tinted windows that keep out the fierce Provençal sun, and the clever design which channels the wind through the house, it's cool and airy.
The modern open stairs leading up to the bedrooms and bathroom are built into the natural exposed rock of the house's foundations:
I don't have pictures of the bedrooms and bathroom, but both bedrooms are spacious (you could comfortably fit four adults into this house, plus a couple of dogs and children) and the bathroom comes complete with a walk-in contemporary rain shower and polished concrete floors, wall and integral sink.
Let's head out through the huge sliding glass doors onto the vine-covered terrace:
Les Blayons is wonderfully peaceful - there are neighbours quite close by, but we barely even noticed they were there.The garden is massive, and enclosed on all sides - however, the bottom of the garden only has a low wall between you and a steep drop, so constant supervision is essential if you're travelling with dogs or children.
Here's Les Blayons at night - the pergola comes with lovely red and green string lighting for romantic evening alfresco dining:
And of course, let's not forget the location - step outside the front door, and this awaits you:
Les Blayons is situated right at the top of Bonnieux village - it's a charming five-minutes walk down a shady woodland path to reach the village, and then another equally pleasant five minutes to walk down the steep stone steps to reach the centre of Bonnieux with all its cafes, shops and restaurants.
I would suggest taking a couple of eager Jack Russells with you to pull you back up the hill when you return to Les Blayons following an expedition to the village's delicious boulangerie/patisserie, laden with baguettes, pain au chocolat and lemon tarts.
We loved Les Blayons. We're going back next summer. If you would like to book this piece of perfect Provençal style, you can do so via French Country Cottages - it's reference F84120. Oh, and ignore the instructions from the owner saying "Bonnieux doesn't have street names cos it's too old, so here are some random inaccurate instructions based on following really easy-to-miss local landmarks instead" - Les Blayons is situated at the top of a street called Chemin Maurice Rouet, so just programme this into your sat nav (don't even think about driving in France without sat nav) and it will take you straight there. Bonnes vacances!