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March 21, 2013

A Villa in Provence Like No Other

By Amy Tara Koch | Travel

Villa Baulieu
Photo © Châteaux & Hôtels Collection

We were headed to paradise. I was sure of it. After months of painstaking research, we booked a “villa” in Provence touting impeccable grounds and state-of-the-art amenities. The house, we were told, was an easy five minutes from Rognonas, a “charming” village close to Avignon. What we actually found was a dilapidated farmhouse with dark, dank bedrooms and decrepit pool and tennis areas. The bathrooms—so lovely in the photos—were nauseating (rusted hardware, smelly toilets, threadbare towels). And our “charming” village was boarded up as if it were still reeling from a World War II bomb raid.

We had been duped.

I swiftly contacted a Marseille-based travel concierge specializing in prestige properties in southern France. Within 25 minutes, the efficient Edwige Chevallier of W Travel France (33-4/42-03-15-82; wtravelfrance.com) reserved rooms at Villa Baulieu, a just-opened luxury bed-and-breakfast nestled within a 2,000-year-old vineyard near Aix-en-Provence.

More château than guesthouse, the villa has 11 rooms, each jaw-droppingly chic, a perfect marriage of period details (antique furnishings, silk window treatments, Murano glass chandeliers) and modern comforts like satellite TV, exquisite linens, air conditioning and up-to-date bathrooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford sweeping views of the vineyard and the Alpilles mountains.

Upon arrival, a butler—a bottle of the house’s rosé in hand—helped with our bags. Guests, he explained, have much of the grounds at their disposal. We were encouraged to lounge in the sumptuous drawing room, library, music room and rose gardens. (The property is called a B&B because it has no restaurant; breakfast and tea are included in the price, but other meals must be had elsewhere.) A cell phone was proffered in case we needed anything—from dinner reservations to time spent in the hot tub located in a spire on top of the villa—night or day. Other on-site amenities include a pool, a hammam and tennis and pétanque courts.

After a glorious night’s sleep, we realized the irony of our situation. Baulieu is in Rognes while the faux villa is in Rognonas. Lesson learned? In France, a few vowels can make a huge difference. Rooms start at $516; 13840 Rognes en Provence; 33-4/42-60-39-40; villabaulieu.com.

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