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Villa Baulieu - © Villa Beaulieu
Villa Baulieu - © Villa Beaulieu
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Villa Baulieu offers a unique château stay in the confines of a stunning and secluded rural French setting of the Aix-en-Provence countryside. Little prepares you for the magnificent architectural gem you will be greeted with as you diverge from the main road, winding your way down through the trees and out into the estate park and its pristine grounds. Great care has been taken over every detail, both interior and exterior, offering a luxury guesthouse where the quality and service are faultless. As well as boasting fantastic opportunities to immerse yourself in the wine culture of southern France, the villa provides the perfect place for a private, personal and relaxing stay.
Nestled deep within the countryside of Aix-en-Provence, Villa Baulieu is surrounded by luscious landscapes and acres of working vineyards. Its secluded setting makes for a peaceful and serene atmosphere in which little else can be heard besides the sounds of the blowing Mistral. The villa is easily accessible by both train and plane with Aix-en-Provence TGV (high-speed train) station located 20 minutes away by taxi and Marseille airport just a 30 minute drive away. Signs point to the main gated entrance from the main road which is located across from the estate's vineyard, Château Beaulieu.
Initially owned by the Counts of Provence, Villa Baulieu has been maintained by some of the greatest Provençal families in France. Today, the tradition continues with the Guénant family, the château's current owners, and is run by the daughter of the family, Bérengère. After seven years of redevelopment, in April 2013 the Guénant family reopened the seventeenth-century Tuscan style château as a guesthouse. Although it offers the height of luxury, this family owned manor house is not to be confused with a hotel, and is strictly a guesthouse. Room service and reception are therefore only available at certain times. The guesthouse's main season runs from April to October but the whole house can be rented for a group stay during winter.
As a member of the network Châteaux et Hôtels Collection, at Villa Baulieu you can expect the utmost quality and serenity. No expense has been spared when it comes to design and decoration. Restored with help of the French architect and interior decorator, Guy-Marie Kieffer, the château has been styled upon a typical Tuscan villa, offering unique and elegant décor in which traditional influences of Rome and Paris are combined. The entrance hall is a welcoming space with gold chandeliers and central marble table holding a stunning abstract bronze sculpture. The central stairway, beautifully decorated with 18th century ceiling murals of a Provençal and Italian influence leads you up to the two floors of guest accommodation. Around the house you will find a collection of rare antique furniture which is aesthetically juxtaposed by an equally stunning collection of contemporary art.
As well as spacious grounds and accommodation, the villa also offers a variety of interior spaces for guests to use at their own disposal. Located on the first floor, the Grand Salon is the largest social space and is often used for an evening aperitif. With views across the gardens and main entrance of the villa, the 18th century design offers a large central seating area interspersed by contemporary artworks and a concert piano at one end. On the ground floor you will find the sitting room and library. Here, guests can relax beside the grandiose fireplace, a new addition to the villa, and admire the 17th century harpsichord. The villa retains a homely feel with photos of the Guénant family dotted throughout the house (except for in the bedrooms).
The garden has been restored to its original formal 17th century English grandeur, comprising 30 varieties of roses and pristinely shaped boxwood trees. Behind this, the main stretch of lawn runs down to the estate's original ornamental pond. To the right of the formal garden is the swimming pool. Measuring 12 x 6 metres, the pool is refined in style with natural blue tiles and a narrow stone surround, offering a tranquil environment in which to relax, where the widely spaced wooden sun loungers give each guest their own privacy. Outside of the confines of the garden and vineyards, the grounds are dotted with olive and almond trees, offering a pleasant area in which to walk. As well as a pool, guests also have access to a tennis court, bowling pitch, hammam and Jacuzzi, idyllically located on top of one of the villa's central turret boasting a 360° view of the surroundings.
The service at Villa Baulieu is both personal and professional. Working alongside Bérengère, David, the butler, will be at your disposal for anything you may require, from a pool side beverage to transport to a local town. For those wishing to get out and explore the estate and its environs, activities on offer include, visits to Aix-en-Provence and other local towns, cheese and wine tastings, wine safaris, golf, horse riding, hunting trips and visits to the Granet Museum or Cézanne's famous studio. Bikes are also available at the villa for guests to tour the surrounding area and yoga classes can be organised upon request.
The villa has 11 rooms, including six Prestige rooms, two junior suites and three suites. Of ample size, the rooms range from 30 to 75 m2 and offer pleasant views across the estate and its surroundings. Together, the rooms present the different periods traversed by the château and its former residents with each room named after one of the château's previous owners. Each bedroom consequently offers its own unique style, with each fashioned upon a particular period, such as, Louis XIV French, 1850's English, 18th century Provençal and 18th century Italian-Venetian.
The rooms are impeccably clean and have thus far been kept in pristine condition. A number of the original mouldings and woodwork have been restored to their original qualities which together with the antique furnishings bring a truly authentic feel to the rooms. In each room you will find an insightful booklet on the history of the house and the history behind the furniture and décor of the room you are staying in.
Amenities are standard throughout, including air conditioning, satellite television, a telephone, Bose speakers complete with an iPhone dock, free Wi-Fi, a minibar and a Nespresso coffee machine. The bed will either be queen-size or king-size with some rooms offering four poster beds. All beds are dressed in high quality white linens, complement by cushions to match the room's décor. The suits and junior suites also offer sitting areas with a sofa and table and chairs for two. Massages are available in your room upon request (not included in the room rate).
The quality and adherence to detail continues into the bathrooms with marble work found throughout and similarly to the rooms, each manages to retain its own unique style. All bathrooms contain a large bath, a separate glass shower cubicle, two sinks or vanity units, bathrobes, slippers and L'occitane en Provence products. The toilet is separated from the main bathroom.
Breakfast and afternoon tea are included in the price of the room. Served in the villa's stunning kitchen, breakfast is homely affair. The table is laid with a variety of homemade, breads, patisseries, cakes and fresh fruits with a range of local jams. Tea, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice are served by David at the table. In contrast to most of the villa's 17th century interior, the kitchen is modern, offering a more neutral and minimalist design whilst still retaining touches of the villa's classic French charm. The natural green of the walls and modern amenities have been contrasted by the rustic red chairs and impeccably laid table with its traditional silverware and pastel coloured fine bone china. Although the guesthouse states that breakfast it served between the hours of 7:30am and 10:00am, guests can request to have their breakfast later if desired. Served between 3:00pm and 4:30pm, afternoon tea is a delectable affair. Taken in your preferred location, the service includes a selection of Kusmi teas and cakes, including some traditional Provençal favourites such as almond Calissons.
Although the guesthouse does not have a restaurant, lunch and dinner can be arranged in advance and Bérengère or David will propose a menu inspired by the current foods on offer at the local market. With David's extensive knowledge as a professional sommelier and cheese connoisseur, the food served at the villa is of a significantly high quality. Meals can be enjoyed in the villa's dining-room, the orangery or in the lower courtyard by the fountain. Picnics can also be prepared by David if you wish to take a bike ride or excursion in the surrounding area.