Secret garden idyll in the heart of old Nîmes
PRESS THE BUZZER, step through the door and hey presto, you’re in another world. No wonder Jardins Secrets got its name – you’d never know this peaceful enclave in the midst of Nîmes
was there. Yet this 300-year-old family house set in fabulous gardens hidden behind the city streets is an out-and-out winner.
Shaded by palms and a froth of bougainvillea, the lush gardens of Jardins Secrets are the star of the show. Orange and lemon trees, lofty bamboo, urns laden with flowers and giant birdcages a-flutter with song underline that other-worldly feel
. Olive trees shade the stone salt-water pool, while wooden sun loungers invite slothful afternoons in the shade
Talented owners Christophe and Annabelle Valentin turned their atmospheric family home into a boutique residence a few years ago, creating a place of immense style.Ten further rooms have been added to this sought-after hideaway
in southern Provence this year.
Hit the Spot
Five minutes from both the TGV station and the Roman arena at Nîmes.
If we had to choose, Suite d'Edith is the most fetching.
You’ll hear the odd train rumbling into nearby Nîmes station.
Nîmes’ best-kept secret.
Bedrooms at Jardins Secrets are serious tempters. Huge, high ceilinged rooms come with silken drapes, regal shades, polished wooden floors
, striking prints, old-new furniture and shuttered doors or windows opening onto the garden. One has huge murals on the walls, a lavishly draped coronet bed and a period armoire.
Wide beds come wrapped in Toile de Jouy linens, while boudoir bathrooms sport chandeliers, clawfoot baths
standing elegantly on Montelimar marble floors, gilded mirrors and antique candlesticks. Fluffy robes and jars of bathtime goodies come as standard.
Strewn with old photographs, 18th century oil paintings and objets d’art, the three inter-connecting lounges are just as special. You’ll see marble fireplaces, a sweeping staircase, baby grand piano, eclectic art and a help-yourself honesty bar.
The gardens are the jewel here, and we wouldn’t blame you for idling away your entire stay in these lush and lovely surrounds
. Softly lit by lanterns at night, they are also the place for summertime breakfasts – beautifully served on fine china with home-made preserves (look out for the jasmine jam) and delicious fresh pastries.
Roman Nîmes is minutes away, so make time to see the famous arena and other ancient relics. There are plenty of places to eat out at night, and you’ll return to find Jardins Secrets’ much-feted chocolate cake awaiting in your room for late-night nibbles
Faultless attention to detail makes the place glow. Nothing’s-too-much-trouble service and a friendly, un-stuffy atmosphere are the icing on the cake.
Jardins Secrets was reviewed for Room for Romance by Raz Murray
Click on any picture to enlarge it and move through the gallery.
Only breakfast is served, but it's worth getting up for. And you'll find some delicious chocolate cake
in your room to stave off the munchies.
The aptly named Le Darling restaurant, in the heart of old Nîmes, should be just the place for a romantic tête-à-tête over dinner. Also close to the old Roman arena and only five minutes away is the elegant Le Lisita, serving excellent local cuisine.
See & Do
Exceptional breakfasts, with flaky-fresh croissants and homemade jams. That's not to mention the sinful chocolate cake left for pillowside nibbling later.
Dress the part
Careless French chic
Out on the terrace
Nîmes is packed with history, and the famous Roman amphitheatre – just five minutes away – should be top of your list. Around Nîmes are some truly spectacular spots including the famous Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, with its sweeping panoramic views. The old hilltop town of Les Beaux de Provence is also within easy reach and full of sun-filled medieval walls and ancient winding alleys, perfect for getting lost in.
Nîmes is famous for its pastry shops, so stock up on locally made almondy caladons
at Patisserie Villaret in Rue de la Madeleine. This pedestrianised street is packed with good shops, though for something strictly local to take home pop into Boutique Provençale in the Place de la Maison Carrée. There's even a shop in town dedicated to bullfighting – El Duendecillo.
There’s a spa, a hammam and a newly installed heated pool to ensure your troubles float away.
See the amphitheatre by moonlight and have dinner at one of the many small city bistros that are tiny on table space, big on atmosphere.
May and September
Soak up plenty of local colour at the Feria de Nîmes, staged at the amphitheatre.
Rue Gaston Maruejols, 30000 Nîmes
Garaged parking is available for EUR 20 a day
Nîmes mainline station – 200m
Around EUR 15 from Nîmes airport
Nîmes – 10km; or Marseille – 100km.
Rooms and suites
Six rooms, seven suites
Gorgeous rooms, all very individually styled, come with wi-fi and Frette linens.
That beautiful walled garden will make you feel you've truly escaped.
EUR 195 - 350
Open all year
Minimum night stay?
Breakfast (EUR 20) is served until 10.30am
Available morning and evening
French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Thai, Portuguese.
Yes – with accommodation available for up to 30 guests
Annabelle Valentin – owner