This review is taken from our guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: France.
Does anyone know where all the French have gone? During the two and a half hours it takes us to travel from the port of Saint-Malo to southern Brittany, we saw only about 12 other human beings – most of them loitering on the edge of forests with guns, baskets and intent. Reassuring it was, then, when we found ourselves arriving in La Trinité-sur-Mer, a small but bustling sailing town, huddled around a harbour abob with proper-job sailing boats. When you see 100ft catamaran masts, you know you’ve landed on the planet of serious sea adventurers. You may also know that, wherever sailors go, fun follows and, with any luck, so does a bit of old-fashioned, non-threatening trouble.
For those of us who have spent time in Devon and Cornwall, La Trinité-sur-Mer has a pleasing familiarity. The slate-roofed white houses jut at right angles to one another, perched on gentle slopes looking over the water. Vast mature yew trees peer over the town as if to say: ‘Keep calm and carry on, crazy sailors...’
Le Lodge Kerisper stands 100m from the port itself, up a short lane lined with the perfectly manicured gardens of its neighbours. The property is a proudly maintained 19th-century maison longère and a cluster of old stone outhouses, centred around a grassed contemporary garden and timber-clad pool area.
As we arrive at the hotel, we are warmly met by Philippe, one half of the owner couple, who immediately offers us a coffee. A shot-in-the-arm espresso is just the ticket: we are travelling as four on this occasion, with Small and Even Smaller Smith along for the ride. And we want it all. We want a hotel that can accommodate our children while also allowing us to behave as though we are here simply to enjoy ourselves.
It’s a good start: Le Lodge Kerisper has the kind of atmosphere that many hotels spend years trying to achieve. There’s not a shred of pretentiousness – children are greeted by name, and families sit next to couples.
We feel instantly at home, as though the place is ours to potter around – whether it’s a sneaky visit to the bell jar of pick ’n’ mix sweets in the bar, or claiming our own spot in the garden for a read or a snooze.
The interior has it just right. Old grandfather clocks sit alongside photos and paintings of Jim Morrison and Steve McQueen. It’s homely and stylish, with a zinc bar, whitewashed panels and linen-upholstered sofas – nothing so uptight that we have to walk around pinning the small folks’ arms down. But it is also slick enough for us to feel we are away. The walls of the reception/ bar/lounge – summery sitting room or cosy cabin, depending on the season – are adorned with various framed finds, from old-fashioned measuring tapes to fishing paraphernalia, with lamps fashioned from old pop bottles dangling over the bar. The old wellies and oilskins give it a somewhat seasidey look, but there’s a dash of metropolitan cool in the mix, too.
Le Lodge is restaurantless, but they do serve a cracking breakfast. As a diehard carnivore I am often underwhelmed by the promise of Continental, but this one is varied and super-fresh and a great way to start the day. The lack of in-house dining means getting out and about and, with children, this is no bad thing, so we lunch at the local Le Quai on crab rillettes and moules frites. Then we make our way to the Côte Sauvage, where we promise Small a run on the spectacular surfer’s beach and set about collecting as many pebbles and shells as can be stuffed into poncho pockets.
Returning home with suitably rosy faces and tired legs, we retire to our suite for family bathtime. The decor is simple, with white walls, oak floors and old French mirrors, and it has a natty arrangement whereby the bathroom and wardrobe corridor are accessed from both rooms, creating a brilliant sprint circuit for Small and Even Smaller. (Never let it be said that we encourage near-exhaustion in our children to get them to go to bed earlier.)
The other advantage of the circuit is that the wardrobe corridor has sliding doors and accommodates exactly the width of a travel cot. So if, for any reason, you have an Even Smaller in your bedroom but don’t want them in your room all the time, you can shove their cot in a cupboard and reason that it’s a corridor, which isn’t quite so bad.
Though there are a handful of easy-going créperies in the town, and a few restaurant gems further afield, we decided to take up Philippe’s offer of having a fruits de mer platter at the hotel. After a somewhat ‘Manuel’ moment with Yann the barman, who told us we couldn’t have our romantic supper in the bar because of ze selfish odeurr, we did as we were told, moved to the breakfast room and prepared for an off-the-scale fruits de mer experience.
The only question remaining was what wine should accompany such a feast. We gazed limply at the slender wine menu (just two reds and two whites). Like all the best barmen, Yann detected our hesitation and offered us a generous taster of each; after some showman swilling, we settled on a top-rate creamy Chablis and forgave the list its brevity.
As we cracked our crab claws, wrestled all manner of crustacea from their shells, and sipped wine far superior than any we’d drink at home, we felt visited by our former wit and sparkle. And for a moment there, we felt like we were back in the old days, pre-family, the two of us hanging out and living life just for ourselves. A la vôtre, Le Lodge Kerisper.