On arrival to La Bastide de Marie, nestled between Bonnieux and Menerbes, I was hit by the heady scents from Cyprus-trees and lavender bushes that lead the way towards the enchanting 18th century stone farmhouse. The setting could not be more perfect, for surrounding the hotel is a jigsaw of vineyards, lavender fields, olive groves and ancient hilltop villages as far as the eye can see.
Once inside the ‘bastide’, created by the gifted hotelier-designer Jocelyn Sibuet, I instantly fell in love. The limestone walls, the mix of local French antiques and contemporary designs simply oozes charm and authenticity.
Even more endearing is that there are no room numbers on any of the doors, which makes it feel more like a home than a hotel. Each bedroom is also uniquely decorated in Madame Sibuet’s simple yet inspiring style. There is an incredible sense of calm that floats around La Bastide and time, it seems, has so little importance. From sunrise to sunset you can relax on the stone terraces, lounge by one of the two pools or indulge in an organic spa treatment.
While every holiday should involve an abundance of relaxation, Provence is an attractive destination for those with a sporty streak. Keen walkers can explore the pleasant trails, while cyclists can journey to the local villages of Bonnieux or Gordes and indulge their heavenly food and antique markets. Or, for the more fanatical cyclist, you can attempt to climb Mont Ventoux, one of the famous stages of the Tour de France.
If you have had a yearning to visit the Luberon Valley then you have probably read A Year in Provence. Peter Mayle’s wonderful autobiography illustrates the many delights that Provencal living has to offer, but more than anything, he makes you aware of the area’s impressive reputation for gastronomy.
Along with La Bastide’s flawless interiors, manicured gardens and very own vineyard, it also boasts an impressive menu. The food is as natural and unforced – like the hotel itself – using local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and game. My particular favourite was the lunch menu; the fresh artichokes drenched in olive oil and sweet, sun-dried tomatoes, are like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.
In the evening you can sit on the stone terrace overlooking the vineyard with a glass of Pernod or the estate’s latest vintage and be amused by Madame Sibuet’s Siamese cat, once he arouses from his high noon slumber in one of the plant pots of course.
There really is no need to leave Provence, but if you have a hankering to see the sea, Cassis is just over an hour drive away and well worth a visit. The hillside town has a beautiful harbour and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to take your fancy, but Cassis’s hidden bays are ultimately the main attraction. I say ‘hidden’ because the carved inlets of Calanque d’En Vau and Calanque de Port Pin are rather difficult to reach. You either have to climb the chalky sea cliffs or hire a boat or canoe to seek out these two outstandingly beautiful bays. Once there, you can bathe in the sun or frolic in the warm, translucent sea.
To make a booking at La Bastide de Marie, please visit the website HERE.