Baumanière in Provence

Menton, Provence, France
Photo by RudyBalasko/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The manoir building in Baumanière is situated close to the spa and has seven rooms, six suites and one Prestige Room, some of which open onto a private garden or terrace.

The manoir building in Baumanière is situated close to the spa and has seven rooms, six suites and one Prestige Room, some of which open onto a private garden or terrace.

The scent of lavender on a warm southern breeze, a sparkling pool surrounded by olive groves, a glass of rosé in the sunshine… Provence quickly conjures images of the good life in France. Perhaps no other place is more emblematic of this than Les Baux-de-Provence, a fabled destination where artists flock for the warm weather and the unique quality of light. Recognized as one of “the most beautiful villages in France,” Les Baux is also a favorite hideaway of celebrities, who snatch up second homes in the hamlet. Beneath the backdrop of the village’s majestic rock outcroppings is l’Oustau de Baumanière, which has hosted a long line of A-listers like Picasso, Chirac, Cocteau, Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, and even the Queen of England during an official state visit.

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The Michelin two-star Oustau restaurant is known for its terroir-driven cuisine.

The Michelin two-star Oustau restaurant is known for its terroir-driven cuisine.

It all started in 1945, when Raymond Thuilier transformed a sheep bergerie into a restaurant (with a gas pump) on the Nationale 7, the route connecting Paris to Nice on the Riviera. Baumanière quickly became a must-stop for travelers, and scored three Michelin stars in 1954 (Baumanière joined Relais & Chateaux in 1954). Clients would repeatedly ask Thuilier to open up guestrooms, and soon the 16th-century house was morphed into a gastronomic inn. Over the years, the estate grew to include additional buildings (and the Cabro d’Or hotel) dotted across 35 acres. Today, Baumanière is owned by the founder’s grandson, renowned Chef Jean-André Charial, and his wife Geneviève. The couple display great pride and passion in preserving the hotel’s spirit.

Carita, one of the five buildings in the Baumanière estate, has apartments large enough to accommodate families traveling with children.

Carita, one of the five buildings in the Baumanière estate, has apartments large enough to accommodate families traveling with children.

Luxury Travel Advisor recently traveled to Provence to check out the new developments at this five-star favorite, and we found that it’s still a reference for Provençal luxury after more than 70 years. The food alone is “worth a detour” (as Michelin describes two-starred establishments), but beyond the sublime cuisine, Baumanière is an elegant retreat for travelers looking for authenticity. Tended by seven gardeners, the estate is luxuriant with vegetation — tall cypress trees, a kitchen garden, fragrant lavender in the summertime — and the peaceful quiet is punctuated only by the song of birds.

In 2015, l’Oustau de Baumanière and the Cabro d’Or were merged into one luxury property with a joint reception area and three swimming pools. Guests can choose between 55 rooms and suites located in five different buildings. Each is tastefully decorated by Geneviève, who personally picks the fabrics, antiques and art. She also curates the boutique, where you’ll find a lovely selection of fashion items, local artisanal crafts, wine and gourmet products. Note: The gastronomic restaurant and the spa/reception are a little over half-a-mile apart.

No. 61 Prestige Room in the Oustau building is an upstairs room with access to a pretty, landscaped terrace overlooking Camargue marshlands.

In the oldest part of l’Oustau — Jean-André’s favorite building — No. 2 hasn’t changed since Queen Elizabeth spent the night in 1972. It has a huge fireplace, timber beams and terracotta-tiled floors. A signed black and white photograph of the Queen graces the wall. No. 61 is another top pick. These upstairs rooms have access to a pretty, landscaped terrace, where you can see all the way up to the Camargue marshlands on a clear day. In Mas Flora, a large Provençal farmhouse near Reception, we liked No. 47 with its terrace overlooking the gardens. In the “Carita” house, No. 22 is a large apartment that’s perfect for a family traveling with children. For celebrities requiring extra security, there’s a separate five-room house (La Guigou) that’s far removed from the others and has inspiring views from its elevated perch. This is where Bill Gates stayed.

Pictured: No. 61 Prestige Room in the Oustau building is an upstairs room with access to a pretty, landscaped terrace overlooking Camargue marshlands.

We asked Geneviève about her favorite room; and she said it changes seasonally, but, right now, it’s No. 50 in the “Manoir” building. Situated close to the spa, the Manoir has seven rooms, six suites and one Prestige Room, of these some open onto a private garden or terrace. For VIP bookings, contact Nathalie or Mathieu ([email protected]; 011-330-490-543-307) in Reservations. 

Restaurant Cabro d’Or , helmed by Chef Michel Hulin, is set up on a shaded terrace and offers scenic views.Baumanière was in the news for teaming up with Sisley, the venerable French luxury cosmetics brand and spa. Sisley signature facials and anti-aging treatments are administered by expert therapists, who’ve been certified in an intensive Sisley training program. Guests can choose a massage, a body scrub, or a facial with divine and local, olive-based products called “Une Olive en Provence.” Situated in what was once the hotel founder’s house, the nature-inspired spa has six treatment rooms, which open directly onto the gardens. It’s even possible to enjoy an outdoor massage in the shade of the arbor. For assistance with spa reservations, contact Marie ([email protected]; 011-330-490-542-467), the spa manager.

Pictured: Restaurant Cabro d’Or , helmed by Chef Michel Hulin, is set up on a shaded terrace and offers scenic views.

Bien sûr, many travelers make pilgrimages to Baumanière to dine, and though it’s garnered two Michelin stars, the terroir-driven cuisine won’t leave you in a food coma. In fact, Charial, who is famous for his vegetable dishes, explains that the Americans following the Michelin Guide from Paris to the South would be so satiated toward the end of their journey, they’d ask for lighter cuisine. Charial is deeply connected to the Provençal terroir, making his own biodynamic wine (L’Affectif at the Domaine de Lauzières) and tending to his organic vegetable garden, from where green peas are plucked for his famous “Les Petits Pois” dish. Today, Charial oversees four different restaurants (including Le Strato Hotel in Courchevel 1850), so he recruited talented Breton Chef Glenn Viel as his right-hand man. In fact, many of France’s top chefs have fine-tuned their skills under Charial’s tutelage in the Baumanière kitchens.

Restaurant Cabro d’Or , helmed by Chef Michel Hulin, is set up on a shaded terrace and offers scenic views.

Baumanière is luxuriant with three pools and vegetation comprising cypress trees, a kitchen garden and fragrant lavender. Shown here is Piscine in L’Oustau.

Note that the hotel can arrange tours of local olive oil mills like Moulin Castelas, the best in the valley. Top Tip: In the summer, you can order a gourmet picnic basket, so, you don’t have to leave the pool.

The menu changes seasonally; you might start with an amuse-bouche of red mullet foam served with sea salt-studded focaccia, then swoon over a lobster starter paired with mango ravioli and topped with caviar. Other stand-outs include the Mediterranean red mullet with tomato-basil vinaigrette, roasted rack of lamb with asparagus, and sole served with confit lemon. To cap off your gustatory revelation, order the crêpe soufflé, an original recipe invented by Baumanière’s founder. In the warmer months, choose a seat on the terrace to revel in the scenery (and the sunshine). And, as you admire the beautiful tableware, including plates from a local artisan in Arles, you’ll see that the restaurant showcases both culinary and artistic terroir. 

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