The Best B&B in the World: The Villa Lafabrègue in Prades, France

It’s bitterly cold in much of the U.S.A., so why not do a little armchair traveling with me to Prades, France, where last summer, I came upon the most charming B&B I’ve ever stayed had the pleasure of staying in.

What follows includes an overview of my trip, as well as an independent, unbiased review of the Villa Lafabrègue; I did not make it known to the innkeepers that I might be writing about their wonderful spot. I received no special treatment, no special rates, etc. #notsponsored!

The terrace of of our room.

The terrace off of our room at the Villa Lafabrègue in Prades, France

I don’t know about you, but I’m often skittish about staying in B&Bs. Some can yield wonderful experiences; others can bring a creepy over-familiarity that makes you almost wish you’d stayed at a Marriott. I’m thinking specifically of American B&B owners who want to give you a little too much information about their renovation, antiques, grandkids, divorce—whatever. And what is it with American B&B owners making everyone sit at one big table for breakfast? Too often, someone is going to monopolize the discussion, and way too often, it’s the innkeeper. I’m just not a fan of being a captive audience in the a.m.

View from our terrace. I could have sat there for days.

View from our terrace. I could have sat there for days. The highest peak shown is the Pic du Canigou, which was once believed to be the highest peak in the Pyrenees. It’s not, but it’s still a beautiful thing to behold.

European B&Bs are generally much better, but even in France, I’ve had my share of nutty innkeepers. Not long ago, our host at an otherwise lovely Chambre d’Hote (B&B) in Narbonne stood at our breakfast table for about 20 minutes telling us why we shouldn’t book a room through TripAdsivor (it cuts down on her profits). Seriously. She got in a loop about the subject and simply would not move on. I kept thinking, “We’re paying 30 euros for breakfast so we can listen to your problems? Stop it!”

And so….last summer when Dave and I were in our wonderful vacation rental in Collioure, we decided to take the 1 Euro Train up the Têt Valley to Prades for a night. (Yes–the train costs just 1 Euro, but it’s a bit tricky to figure out how to get the cheapest tickets; I’ll post on this at another time).

My favorite corner of France. Pyrannées Orientales. The trip from Collioure (the sea) to Prades (the mountains) is an easy train ride of about an hour.

My favorite corner of France. Pyrenées Orientales. The trip from Collioure (the sea) to Prades (in the foothills of the mountains) is an easy train ride of about an hour.

Trouble was, there was only one place with a pool that had a room available for the night. And it was a B&B. Nevertheless, we rolled the dice, and, as it turns out, it was the best B&B in the entire world. Or, at least the best B&B I’ve ever stayed in.

Our journey started in Collioure….

The train station in my little town, Collioure, France.

The train station in my little town, Collioure, France.

We changed trains in Perpignan, which, happily, is just a great little train station. Salvador Dali called it El Centre del Mon–the center of the world (he claimed he got his best ideas while sitting in the waiting room there). Now the completely modernized station calls itself that.

Perpignan train station: The center of the world.

Perpignan train station: The center of the world, according to Salvador Dali. And just a pleasant little station, according to me. I’ve never minded layovers here.

Of course, the journey up the  Têt Valley in the train was a great part of the fun—chugging (not speeding) by the scenery of fields, trees, mountains, dotted by stone outbuildings. Yes–France at its unspoiled best.

View from the train, up the Têt Valley, between two mountain ranges.

View out of the window from the train, up the Têt Valley, between two mountain ranges.

About one hour from Perpignan, we landed in Prades. Our B&B was an easy 10-minute walk. A word about Prades: There is a cute town square, a lovely medieval church, and a handful of shops, cafés, and restaurants in the center. However, a lot of the commerce has moved to the outskirts, so some of the streets leading away from the town center felt sadly vacant.

Do not let that stop you from going to Prades, however, because the town center does have its charms….and you’re going to want to spend most of your time hiking and exploring the surrounding area anyway!

Medieval church tower in Prades.

Medieval church tower in Prades.

It’s always exciting coming upon new lodgings for the first time….you’re wondering: Is it as nice as pictured? Is it everything we’d hoped for? It’s especially a thrill when you find that it is. Frankly, there’s nothing like the first glimpse you have of a place that you later fall in love with. It’s like kissing someone for the very first time. Enchanting.

Our first glimpse of our lodgings.

Our first glimpse of the Villa Lafabregue. Check out the terraces. It wasn’t long until I was sipping a glass of wine right up there.

We stayed in the Canigou room: Charming, spacious, and tastefully furnished. We liked the room even more, of course, when we saw the terrace, and the view from the terrace.

Me. Pretty darn happy on our spacious terrace overlooking the Canigou.

Me. Pretty darn happy on our spacious terrace overlooking the Canigou.

Oh. Did you notice that I’m drinking a glass of wine? One of the many things I loved about the Villa Lafabregue was that they have an “honor bar”: In the common area downstairs are these Beautiful Bar Stools and a fabulously well-stocked refrigerator, with mineral waters, sodas, wine, beer, etc. There’s a basket with cookies and crackers and potato chips and other snacks. You simply write down what you consumed. So civilized!

We took a swim in the pool; hung around the gardens a bit, then went into Prades for dinner. That evening, we sat on the terrace, finishing up our evening with a bottle of Badoit, and stared at the mountain range as it receded into the dark night. It was magical!

More pleasures were to come. In the morning, we had breakfast in the sunny breakfast room. They put out a nice spread:

Somewhere in that sweet spot between "Continental" and "Full English."

Not just continental, but not a “bacon-and-egg” thing, either. A sweet spot in between, with meats, cheeses, pastries, fruits, cereals, hard-cooked eggs, juices, and more.

And get this. You know how some hoteliers and B&B owners will give you the evil eye if you take so much as a cracker out of the dining room with you? The owners (Kate and Nick Wilcock) actually invite you to make yourself some lunch sandwiches from their generous spread. How kind is that? It’s a great idea if you’re going to go hiking that day–pack yourselves a couple of sandwiches.

Frankly, as many B&Bs as I’ve stayed in, I’ve never come across such generosity.

Canigou Room

Canigou Room

We did not pack a lunch, however; instead, we decided to go for a hike (the gracious owners have all kinds of maps for you to borrow), then have a little lunch at a cafe. Here is a list of the hiking around this spot.

When it was time to leave, Nick Wilcock offered to drive us to the station. Even though it was a short walk, it happened to be a very hot day, so we took him up on his offer. We were so touched that he took the the time out of his workday to do this for us.

Did I mention that the owners are British? In my view, that’s neither here nor there–nice French hoteliers exist, too, of course. But I got the sense that being from somewhere else in the world, these two really had a deep understanding of what a non-native visitor to France would really appreciate–and they supplied it at every turn.

I know I’ll be back. And I give it my highest recommendation.

Villa Lafabregue —
Owners: Kate & Nick Wilcock
15 Avenue Louis Prat
66500 Prades
Pyrenees Orientales, France

Tel 04 68 96 29 90
Intl 00 33 4 68 96 29 90

Prices for a double room, including breakfast: 65 to 85 Euros


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9 comments to The Best B&B in the World: The Villa Lafabrègue in Prades, France

  • DeeDee

    You make it look and sound spectacular! (And I know what you mean about B&B owners. Some are amazing, but others, not so much.

  • Greg

    Great review – nice pictures! Do you usually fly into Paris when you go to France?

    • Wini

      Sometimes I fly to Paris, stay a day or two, then take a train to the south. More often than not, however, I fly somewhere closer to the South of France such a Toulouse (a fabulous city!). Last year, we flew into Barcelona, which is a 1 hour train ride from Perpignan (which is about 20 minutes from where we stay in Collioure). That TGV from Barcelona, which debuted in the last couple years, has changed our lives, making Spain so easy to get to from France, and vice-versa.

  • Rick

    What a great corner of the world. Thanks for telling us about it.

  • Karl

    As a European, it surprises me that American bed-and-breakfasts would have everyone sit together at a large table for breakfast. Why this custom?

  • Amy

    The price surprises me. A similar place in the US, with that kind of view, would cost at least twice that.

    • Wini

      B&Bs in France are generally less expensive than in the US. Also, this place is way off the beaten path, so that explains the great price, too.

  • Wini: Thank you SO MUCH for all the info. here! We are just getting plans together to go to this part of the world. Went to Barcelona last fall with daughter, and now husband I are planning to go there in the fall. We had wondered about the train to Avignon, or anywhere near Uzes which is our final destination. Want to avoid flying into CDG. So we would then return to Barcelona to fly home. Your info. confirms that this is our plan!!!
    I SO agree with you about American B&Bs. We generally avoid, but then you never know. Can’t stand the communal table in the morning, and they look at you as though you are totally weird when you request a table for two!
    You won’t, by any chance, be in Coullioure in the fall???

    • Wini

      Oh darn. No, I will not be in Collioure in the autumn. It would be great to meet up!

      I really enjoyed Uzes! I rented a little apartment there in 2000. It’s a lovely town, and great surroundings. Enjoy. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Barcelona. Sounds like a fabulous trip.

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