Man About the World: Les Baux-de-Provence

Courtesy Domaine de Manville

Our far-flung correspondent checks in at the standout, five-star Domaine De Manville hotel, located in a tranquil medieval village in a quiet western region of Provence.

There is probably no other region in Southern Europe that echoes all that is peaceful and tranquil better than Provence, a destination best known for its extraordinary ability to relax and renew those in search of a respite.

Just south of Avignon is the commune of Les Baux-de-Provence, where a medieval village and chateau overlook a valley of perfectly parceled olive oil groves and vineyards. Throughout this valley there are a small handful of properties that allow travelers to immerse themselves in the region’s charmed sensibility, and the two-year-old, five star Domaine De Manville is one of the finest. 

Born from a converted early 1900s farming estate, the property—which now includes an expansion of the original building as well as new villas—is one of the few golf and spa resorts in the area, and by far the best. The hotel is comprised of 39 rooms, suites, and villas, each with its own unique style. I recommend number 14, a lovely suite with a ground-floor terrace connected to their gardens and huge heated swimming pool. The spa is large yet intimate feeling, with an indoor sensorial pool, sauna, hammam, whirlpool, a relaxation area, and several treatment rooms. A dedicated team of therapists excels in a variety of treatments (facials, massages, etc.).

The onsite restaurant La Table is elegant and guided by chef Matthieu Dupois-Baumal, who previously spent some time in the kitchen with Michel Roux at the Michelin three-star Waterside Inn in Bray, England, and at Le George V in Paris. His creativity is found in fantastic, farm-to-table dishes, like an appetizer combining a Parmesan tart with asparagus and petit smelts in sea salt.

The Bar is a large indoor/outdoor space with beautiful leather chairs and couches well suited to  an aperitif—or two. The more casual Bistrot on the second floor of the hotel has an outdoor deck and is the perfect lunch spot. It’s there that I ate one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever eaten, prepared in the true Provençal style.

The course, which was originally built in 1989 with just nine holes, doubled in number when the land was converted into a resort. Much of Les Baux-de-Provence is protected (it took the Saut family eight years to get permission to build on the estate), so they carved another nine seamlessly into the environment for an ecofriendly course—noticeable by the rectangular sand traps, constructed to economize on the use of water and energy, limit pollution, and blend into the land and crop divisions. The course is beautiful, with backdrops of some of the most picturesque settings in France. At roughly 5500 meters this par 71 is not a long course but it has enough intricacies to challenge players of every level.

Domaine D’Manville is the perfect resort for couples and families alike. There is a great kids program called Kids Club that allows children to engage directly with their environment. (A morning nature hike included fruit foraging and jelly making, all on the property.) Outdoor activities are offered throughout the valley—with or without a guide—and include hiking, biking, and exploring of all sorts. I opted for the self-guided electric bike tour that made discovering the hills and valleys of this region easy on the knees as well as the eyes.  

Two fantastic touring and art experiences sit a short distance from the hotel: 10 minutes up the road lies the Chateau Des Baux-De-Provence, a medieval village and fort that towers over the entire valley; and just two minutes further is the Carriers de Lumieres. Carved out of a medieval structure, Carriers is host to a variety of immersive exhibitions that blend music and art. A retrospective on the works of Marc Chagall is currently on view, in which animated versions of his works are projected on the ceilings, walls, and floors with musical accompaniments by the likes of Mahler and other classical masters.  

But then again, no one would blame you if you decided to kick back on the property and do nothing at all, but soak in the restorative feeling of what it is to be in Provence.

Rooms, from $260; 13520 Les Baux de Provence-France; 33-04/90-54-40-20;