by Sherelle Jacobs, The Telegraph, May 11, 2018
A Gallic idyll, Bastide des Virettes is an ocean-facing four-bedroom Provencal country house, hewn from yellow limestone brick and shaded by ancient olive trees. Life here revolves around the magnificent pool, carved out of the rock face, and the outdoor terrace, where languid lunches are accompanied by ice-cold rosé, and more formal dinners unfold to a backdrop of chiffon sunsets against the purple-hued sea.
A two-floor farmhouse-style manor house, Bastide des Virettes is flamboyantly furnished. Hefty antique doors are gilded and hand-painted with Grecian portraits; chandeliers are either sculpted with peach-coloured roses and candles or are black and elaborate, like something out of Game of Thrones.
Everywhere you look there are curiosities, from artistic arrangements of vintage crocodile-skin luggage to chintzy palm-tree-shaped light sconces and antique grandfather clocks. The walls come to life with frescoes of twisting grape vines and classical scenes.
It’s spacious enough to feel charismatic rather than cluttered - there’s plenty of elbow room for striding like seigneur du manoir through the cool stone-floored halls. A full package includes a private chef who cooks three meals a day. A Scott Dunn host lives off site but is on hand throughout the day to serve the poolside cocktails and snacks, organise your pre-dinner aperitifs, and generally oversee the housekeeping. A cleaner visits in the morning to preen the bedrooms.
A 15-minute walk from Tourrettes-sur-Loup, a sleepy medieval village that is all yellow-bricked alleys spurting honeysuckle, gingham-clothed cafés serving violet ice cream, and shops selling lavender soap. If it seems familiar that may be because the location starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.
Fortified walls at the village’s apex have staggering vistas of the French Riviera. There’s even a little Michelin-starred bistro, Le Clovis, where you can feast on foie gras stew, and black truffle-peppered white beans. Nice airport and the nearest beaches are about half-an-hour’s drive away.
What to expect
It’s tremendously peaceful. Although there are other houses on the hill, the hedges and tracts of land between them ensure the utmost privacy. Meals - cooked by a Scott Dunn private chef - are sumptuous but healthy, avoiding that unpleasant holiday feeling of being stuffed almost to the point of sickness.
Breakfast is a spread of croissants and pain from the local bakery, along with fresh smoothies, fruits and yoghurt pots. Lazy lunches entail nourishing salads, perhaps a chickpea, broccoli and sweet-potato platter, or quinoa-sprinkled greens - along with a protein dish, which is often freshly caught fish. Every dinner is a three-course fine-dining experience.
Standout dishes during my stay included pork belly with caramelised onions, and brownie with raspberries and homemade salted caramel ice-cream. After meals we would occasionally gather to watch a film - the property includes a Netflix-equipped Apple TV - or we’d avail of the board games and books that are available for those who prefer screen-free pleasures.
Four rooms sleep up to eight people, and although they vary in size, each has their own character. Think Louis XV-style throne chairs, gold-brushed headboards, distressed 17th-century sideboards and balconies that look out to the glittering sea.
The master bedroom has a sprawling terrace with steps leading directly to the pool, and huge en-suite bathroom clad in coloured marble, with his and hers sinks, marble rain shower and extra deep tub. Note that not all rooms are en suite - the two smaller rooms have a shared spacious bathroom between them. Bamford toiletries are a nice touch.
The terrace: its child-friendly heated swimming pool (with a shallow area and a child alarm), with rock-style waterfall, steaming hot tub and sea views, is undoubtedly the focal point. The gardens, dotted with citrus and palm trees, also host a ping pong table and a boules lawn.
Not so keen
The master bathroom lacks any blinds. This can be rather awkward, especially as it leads on to the main wraparound balcony, which fellow guests use as a shortcut to get from their rooms to the pool.
Who it’s good for
Families will love the child-friendly pool and laid-back meal service, with special food menus for little ones. However, it’s just as good for all-adult parties.
No particular facilities, and it’s a bit small for a wedding.
The property is a 30-minute taxi transfer from Nice airport.
Price and how to book
From about £14,400 per week in low season to about £23,200 in high season including private chef and host, and based on full occupancy (020 3131 2630; scottdunn.com).