Together, the hotel's houses and château are known as Les Deux Abbesses (lesdeuxabbesses.com)named after Isabel and Gabrielle de Lafayette, two 16th century mothers superior (and ancestors of the Franco-American revolutionary, Marquis de Lafayette), who used Saint-Arcons-d'Allier as their summer retreat. They would be gratified to know that the village fulfils the same function today (the hotel is closed in winter), and relieved to hear that the original architecture has been respected. The rooms come appointed with antique Auvergnat furniture, Renaissance fireplaces, and even bread ovens. (If you would rather break bread than make it, candlelit dinners are served nightly in the château's wood-paneled dining room.)
Today, the village looks smarter than it ever has: where tractors once lay rusting, Ferraris and suvs now gleam, their owners ensconced in Les Deux Abbesses' luxurious embrace. "We have created a company that employs more than 20 workers, 90% of them local," says Hermet, "and we have worked toward the preservation of rural architecture." Along the way, they may also have created a blueprint for many other rural villages to follow.