To stay at the château is to experience life as it was enjoyed by the aristocrats that built it. Once filled with visiting nobles, the salons offer the same leisurely atmosphere and distractions as they did in their heyday, including an antique billiards table, a piano and backgammon sets. If it’s peace and seclusion you’re after, try the library, home to a set of original Victor Hugo novels. Outside, you can follow in the footsteps of courting nobles by taking a turn around the French gardens, which are perfumed by Provencâl flowers and shaded by rare trees. When you do venture beyond the hotel’s grounds, be sure to make the trip to Ventabren, a historic hilltop town crested by the ruined château of Queen Jeanne. The steep cobbled streets, stone water fountains and 17th-century church are have been painstakingly preserved over the years, and the town also lays claim to the largest stone aqueduct in the world, a triumph of 19th-century engineering that rises 83 metres from the valley floor. For art and 18th-century architecture, visit the Caumont Art Centre in Aix-en-Provence, a gallery housed in the town’s most sumptuous hotel particulier. In summer it's given over to the work of a single artist; in winter, touring collections adorn the walls. Aix also hosts several popular markets, where traders sell authentic Provençal goods. Ripe fruit and plump vegetables are sold at the bottom of the Cours Mirabeau every day; on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, local crafts are on sale in the Espace Cézanne and antiques can be bartered over on Avenue Victor Hugo. You’ll see references to Aix’s most famous resident, Cézanne, all over the city. His hillside studio – which he worked in every day for the last four years of his life – is in Les Lauves, a 15-minute walk north from the city centre.