April 30 2010
There can’t be many former Texan pastors and their Nigerian-born partners running bed and breakfasts in the heart of Provence. But Jim Watson and Ike Iloputaife’s Mas du Petit Grava, near the ancient Roman city of Arles where Van Gogh famously cut off his ear, has to be one of the finest run by any couple anywhere. A converted farmhouse set in seven acres, Mas du Petit Grava combines American hospitality – Ike too has lived most of his life in the US – with the glorious countryside that Van Gogh immortalised on canvas.
My family took over all five rooms to host our mother’s birthday last year and we couldn’t have wanted a more relaxed and idyllic setting. For a start, there is none of the hurried and mean breakfast hour that blights other B&Bs. No having to sustain a morning’s sightseeing on just a blob of raspberry jam and twig of French stick. In true American style, the breakfasts are leisurely and large enough to keep you going till the evening. When the weather is good they are served outside under a chestnut tree.
Along with the traditional croissants and breads comes a fantastic array of eggs, cereals, pancakes, fruit platters, yoghurts and compotes – many of which have been plucked, picked, reared or grown in the gardens and orchards. Ike will also do dinners for special occasions.
The five en-suite double bedrooms are spacious, comfortable and furnished with local antiques. A small cottage set apart from the main farmhouse can also be rented. There is a large swimming pool and a small gym, as well as bikes to visit the many delightful villages just a few miles from here. Mas du Petit Grava is a true delight.
€110-€130 per night, including breakfast. The cottage, which is self-catering, is €675 per week.