French Secrets

Places to stay on Porquerolles are limited and the position of Le Mas du Langoustier, the farthest point from the village, adds to its privileged sense of isolation (a hotel bus picks you up at the dock and runs an hourly shuttle service into the village). Built by the widowed Madame Fournier in the 1930s, with harmonious modern additions,

Le Mas is a low ochre pile arranged around a courtyard, where the scent of lavender blends with pine and sea-salt breezes (Jo Malone, take note). Here, the patina of age and personality is scrupulously preserved; fans of five-star luxury may prefer more attention to finish for their money, but Le Mas fits perfectly with Porquerolles’s genteel horror of showing off. Rooms are decorated rather than ‘done’ with Colefax-y curtains and cushions. Sweetly amateurish watercolour paintings and old family portraits make for a welcome change from lifeless corporate art. Pink marble bathrooms with matching pink towels and bathrobes are scarcely state-of-the-art. but as you lie like Barbara Cartland in rose-tinted bubbles, you’re not minded to miss the rainforest showerhead. It’s a little like being the house guest of a great-aunt who breakfasts in Dior but believes that too much mod-connery thins the blood. The same hearty philosophy applies at the poolside as well (no chilled-towels or ice-bucket nonsense here).

A short walk down a sandy track from the house, and enclosed by high hedges, this is not a pool for posing. Dress code is more Speedo than string and kids splash and shriek to their hearts’ content. Mums streched out with novels on their faces send dads to organise swimming races (with generous handicaps for competitors in water wings) and giggly girls give marks for the boys’ underwater handstands. Like a small, immaculate Sisyphus, a toddler in a Petit Bateau playsuit pushes a toy bus again and again up a grassy bank. Unlike Sisyphus, he is hugely amused each time it rolls back, and has to sit down to laugh harder.

For those who prefer swimming in the open sea, Langoustier also has a fantastic stretch of beach that is only accessed by hotel guests who make it this far off the beaten track. The cove on the southern side of the peninsula is dotted with sunbeds on line black sand. The more exposed, north-facing strand (La Plage Blanche) is a white- on-white installation of fantastically sculpted driftwood and banks of sea grass that flutter like prayer flags, dried by the wind.

Inside One Of The Rooms

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