Once upon a time, there was a splendid villa in the region of Provence. It was a unique place, surrounded by vineyards, close to Aix but still far from everything. This Villa member of the prestigious Chateaux Hotels Collection is now a guest house which affords a rare lifestyle.
This beautiful, 17th Century house was built for the Counts of Provence and is worthy of a picture postcard. Aix-En-Provence is just 10 minutes away, with Marseille about 30 minutes and Avignon 40… In the past, Villa Beaulieu was called Château Beaulieu and it still seems far from the modern world. You do not see it immediately, because this little castle which is more like a Tuscan villa stands in the crater of the only volcano in Provence, forming an estate of 300 hectares, including 140 hectares of vineyards.
Thanks to the altitude, the air is cooler and the weather is usually very clear. Villa Beaulieu is accessed by a small road through hills and forests and when you finally get close to the house, you can just see its pink towers surrounded by beautiful, old trees. To tell the truth, everything about this house and the surrounding area represents a perfect picture of what anyone would imagine Provence and the south of France to be like. It feels like being in a dream but with your eyes wide open.
All around, one can see vineyards and many old-fashioned, French gardens. It all contributes to a feeling of elegance and serenity that seems like a gift from the universe. One should also not forget the lakes and the fountains which change according to the wind direction and add a romantic touch to the setting.
Villa Beaulieu is the perfect place to enjoy a discrete and refined lifestyle. Everything about it is impressive and luxurious while the vineyards create a feeling of calm. We noticed that each of the rooms was like a ripe grape—neither too bitter nor too sweet—just perfect. Each room is named after one of the Counts of Provence who lived there and has its own unique decor. The rooms range from 30m² to 75m² in size and offer magnificent views of the 22 hectares of French gardens and the Chaîne des Alpilles mountains which are not far away. The decor of each room is like a subtle harmony of the refinement inside and of the charm outside the house. There are 6 prestige rooms, 3 suites and 2 junior suites for guests. They each have their own style: Napoleon III, Louis XIV, Spanish style, traditional style, or the 18th Century Venetian feel of the Guillaume de Jullien room with its impressive history and so many interesting details.
Villa Beaulieu is not a restaurant but there is a kitchen on the ground floor where we went to take breakfast. For people who do not want to seek out a fine restaurant, it is possible to eat there but reservations are required. The Major-domo called David will cook for you. We must say that David is really good cook. His typical French meals, all made with local products, are simple, light and served in the orangery overlooking the garden or in the inner courtyard. Obviously, we dined there with some of the local wines, like the ‘Villa Beaulieu’ red and white, or the ‘Bérangère’s Cuvée’. All the French wines are produced locally and have the elegance and strength of the volcanic soil. All we can say is that both the food and wines are authentic and unfussy.
The Villa Beaulieu continues to be a place where one could just meditate and feel free. The close proximity of the Lubéron mountains and the valley of the Durance river undoubtedly contribute to this gentle atmosphere. However, the feeling of isolation afforded by this vast area is another reason why everybody feels better there. To sum it up in just a few words: you are alone between the vineyards and the olive and almond trees. It is its own little world.
The house is furnished in same the style that it always has been. There is a small lounge for taking tea. The music room is dominated by a beautiful, Italian harpsichord. The library is full of books and objets d’art collected by the owners, the Guénant family. You will find a lot of typical, antique furniture in the Villa Beaulieu but it is not like a museum. It is more like an impressive house with carefully chosen works of art combined with a sense of style. It is chic and elegant with a real sense of aesthetic harmony that is synonymous with well-being.
To complete the whole experience, there is a hammam built into one of the towers. You can relax here with a massage or have one in your room if you prefer.
Where to go and places to visit:
Those who feel the need to move around can explore the 300 hectares of surrounding area, by walking or taking a bicycle with a guide and even a picnic basket. Those who would like an aerial view have the option to try a flight in a microlight. There is a swimming pool to relax by or take a swim and for more vigorous exercise, you will find a tennis court.
We discovered that the fountains and aqueducts in the region were built by the Romans who fell in love with this land 2000 years earlier. Many people think that Baulieu fed most of the Sextius Baths of Aix during this period. We also learned that many people enjoy taking the Range Rover ‘Wine Safari’ through the vineyards with a member of the Guénant family, Bérangère, and an oenologist to learn all about the wines. We should mention that Bérangère will also be pleased to give you some advice on the walks to take, including visits into Aix or discovering the South of Lubéron, Cadenet, Lourmarin or Ansouis.
The elegant and ‘chic’ detail:
The invisible outdoor Jacuzzi will make you dream. It is at the top of a tower and provides a 360 degree panorama of the vineyards and the Alpilles. It is just a pleasure for the eyes.
What we love:
The intimate elegance combined with unspoilt natural surroundings and the highly original decor. We love the family atmosphere, hospitality and the delicious food.
We are less satisfied with:
It was difficult to remember the names of some of the rooms: Augustin Pyrame de Candolle, for example…
Chief editor of the french mag www.voyagerluxe.com