Dispatch from France- Lunch in Provence at the Villa Gallici

Villa Gallici, Relais and Chateaux, Aix-en-Provence

When Marseille-Provence becomes the European Capital of Culture next year, the south of France will be the place to be. In anticipation of Marseille-Provence 2013, Luxury Travel Advisor has spent the last few days interviewing officials, meeting artists and researching the region’s accommodations. We found a glorious hideaway at the Villa Gallici, a Relais & Chateaux property in Aix-en-Provence. The city of Aix itself is a cultural hub with ancient stone buildings carved from pink and gold stone, and café terraces spilling onto sun-splashed squares.

On a hill above the historic city center, the Villa Gallici is a luxurious retreat with Florentine-style gardens dotted with tall cypress trees. This Relais & Chateaux property is the essence of rococo luxury, but there’s nothing stuffy about it. A friendly and discreet staff creates a familial ambience where guests feel right at home. There are only 22 guest rooms, some with private terraces overlooking the pool and garden.

Even if you don’t book an overnight stay here, we highly recommend lunch or dinner. A meal on the terrace, or in the elegant lounge, where the light streams through the windows and reflects patterns through your crystal wine glasses, is memorable experience that captures the essence of Provence.

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We took refuge from the powerful winds that swept through the region over the weekend, in antique armchairs in the lounge. There, overlooking the stately gardens, we tucked into our Sunday lunch with relish. Truffled potato gnocchi with purple artichokes and morel mushrooms; sea bass on top of finely chopped bok choy, accented with crispy fish skin; an enormous vanilla macaron filled with fresh pineapple and crème brulee. A meal like this-- where the service is carefully choreographed, and even the after-lunch coffee is a perfect ritual-- makes you realize why French gastronomy was recognized by UNESCO as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” For more information, visit www.villagallici.com or www.relaischateaux.com/gallici.

Photo of Sunday lunch via Twitter/MaryWNicklin

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