So after we celebrated my sister’s birthday in St Neots, we hopped over the channel to France. We had a few days in Paris and a few days in Aix-en-Provence, which we experienced mostly through our stomachs and wallets, but of course you cannot help to be emerged in the old culture, the arts, the architecture and the beautiful language. The visits to Versailles, with its extensive gardens, the Palais du Papes in Avignon and the art museum in Aix-en-Provence were truly memorable.
Maybe it is just the beautiful backdrop of Provence that makes it special, but somehow I understand why guys like Van Gogh painted themselves silly – every view warrants a canvas.
After some “playing chicken” driving on the narrow Provence roads, on the “right” of the road with a “right” hand manual gear shift, we arrived with our side mirrors intact at our farm stay – Le Mas de la Rose – between Orgon and Eygalieres. It is located at the very heart of nature, with a 180° view of the stunning Alpilles mountains. Truly a tranquil setting that radiates life in earthy warm tones – vistas and aromas of life, love, nature, all connected. Le vrai joie de vivre! Oops there I go again… Amazing helpful staff who make you feel right at home too.
The guest house, built in a 17-century old sheep farm house, with its beautiful décor, pool and gardens, is located on a 25 hectare farm, planted with pines, olives and lavender. They have 16 acres under olives.
Close to the house is a half-acre organic vegetable garden beautifully laid out in a provencial style with paths, plant-covered pergolaed walkways, a little fountain and a healthy collection of heirloom vegetables. I had a lovely discussion with one of the gardeners – well as far as my rusty french could take it. Interestingly, even although they do not grow for mass production, they use companion planting on an inter-row basis, so it enables much easier maintenance together with a very neat and appealing appearance.
The vegetable garden supplies most of the vegetables for the on-site gourmet restaurant – but that’s not too difficult as they serve pretty small portions. If I could change anything, I would rather serve hearty wholesome provencial fare.
There is also a small vineyard and a gorgeous lavender patch nearby. The smell of the lavender here in Provence is just out of this world. They gardeners here reckon it’s Lavendin Grosso or Lavendin Abriel. Apparently it covers 10% of France’s surface. It’s so refreshing to walk through these lavender fields.
The farm has been assigned “parc naturel regional” status in 2015, which reflects their commitment to sustainable and renewable utilisation of their territory. This caters for amazing walks and gorgeous sunsets.
We also went for the obligatory, and most enjoyable, horse ride at the nearby Couroulus Horse Riding Centre, where Stephanie took us on the most amazing outride on really well-trained and well-kept horses. We all had such stunning horses. This seems to be a recurring theme – I can get used to this!
All in all, an amazing experience! It is a close call whether Le Mas de la Rose does agritourism or ecotourism, but what is sure is that they set a very high bar with respect to service, comfort and the beautiful environment in which they host you. Truly inspirational.