When in Aix-en-Provence: stay at the magnificent Château de la Gaude

To experience true Provence, there’s one place that luxury aficionados need to stay at: it’s the remarkable estate of Château de la Gaude. Ten minutes from the centre of Aix-en-Provence, on Route des Pinchinats, the property, gardens, hotel, winery, art park, bar, and restaurant go beyond any expectations. It’s simply one of the most beautiful and luxurious locations in the world.

Listed as a historical monument since 1963 but recently reopened, Château de la Gaude is a must-see for its architecture, beauty and modernity.

Nestled in typical Provence-land composed of cypresses, lavender, olive and pine trees, Château de la Gaude is originally a gorgeous 18th century country house now transformed as a stunning hotel, restaurant and wine shop. While the restaurant opened in early 2019, the hotel fully welcomes guests since July this year. 

Interestingly, Château de la Gaude also famously served in Yves Robert’s movie My Mother’s Castle, a screen adaptation of Marcel Pagnol’s eponymous book. The first few scenes of the 1990’s movie show Château de la Gaude’s iconic maze garden and its grand entrance as they were before its extensive renovation. A partnership between Bamboo editions, Nicolas Pagnol – grandson of Marcel Pagnol – and Château de la Gaude made it possible to realise a comic strip adaptation of My Mother’s Castle. Wine bottles produced by La Gaude even appear in some of the illustrations. 

The only winery located in intramural Aix-en-Provence, Château de la Gaude boasts 23 hectares, 17 of which are vineyards, an olive grove and underground galleries that feed the nearby basins and fountains. In the 12th century, a water source was found on the estate. It used to serve the entire city of Aix-en-Provence, Aquae Sextiae in latin, which derives from its hot springs. Rosés poetically titled Garance and Mademoiselle, and produced on the property, are excellent.

Close to Cézanne’s city, the estate has impressive views over Sainte-Victoire’s mountain, probably the most significant symbol of the South of France. In the Middle Ages, the Pinchinats district used to host textile workshops. Today, this is the most bourgeois area of Aix-en-Provence. It retains magnificent properties and estates such as the neighbouring Château de la Mignarde. Design agency Fernandez and Serres is, for example, also located in this prestigious area of the city.

Following in Cézanne’s footsteps, several creative minds have stayed at Château de la Gaude since it opened in July 2019: interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch, painter and sculptor Philippe Pasqua and street-artist Brusk. Pasqua’s paintings and sculptures which are often compared to works by Jenny Saville, and highly influenced by Francis Bacon, are displayed throughout the property, in suites and conference rooms. The works depict the human body with intensely expressive facial emotions in intimate pauses. The artist is also known for his series of large-scale sculptures made out of precious metals. The Château de la Gaude’s gardens feature some of these works including an impressive nine-metre tall silver shark and a golden skull and butterfly sculpture positioned on a tall plinth, near the reception and wine shop. The art collection further includes works by Icelandic pop painter Erró and French artist Robert Combas. The links with contemporary art are natural since the Blaise family also owns and manages gallery Garance Montador located in St. Tropez. They regularly attend Art Basel Miami Beach  too. Some of the works on view are part of the collection of Albert de Monaco, commissioned for the oceanographic museum. Creatively, the property was also chosen for the advertising campaign of a prestigious jewellery brand. It’s easy to understand why: the beauty of the landscape and gardens is one its numerous assets. 

Recently bought by the Blaise family, Château de la Gaude hotel has seventeen beautiful bedrooms and suites. The property celebrates luxury, “art de vivre”, gastronomy, and creativity. “Our boutique-hotel (soon ranked as a 5-star hotel) conveys feelings of warmth and ideas of rebirth. Indeed, its 17 elegantly-decorated rooms and suites are scattered all around the castle, giving it the atmosphere of a small village. Our fully-refurbished lounges known as l’Orangerie and la Chapelle, numerous terraces, typical French gardens (listed as cultural heritage), and our future outdoor swimming pool (from 2020) all add up to reach the perfect balance between modernity and the traditional.” said the Blaise family.

“Château de la Gaude is the quintessence of « la bastide provençal ». The various leisure and production functions are perfectly preserved. The domain offers admirable proportions and rigour traits in its construction. The stunning French-style garden, listed as a historical monument, is an invitation to long walks. Uniting the beauty of this historical estate and modernity through art, gastronomy and design was our main source of inspiration.”

Inside, architect and interior designer Olivier Frémont has created splendid and large spaces. Rooms and suites feature superb white marble bathrooms, with luxury Guerlain toiletry products and the greatest attention to details and comfort. The maze garden is used as a symbol throughout the branding of the property, from staff’s brooch, coasters and roof marquetry. Bernardaux et Christophle tableware are used to serve the delicate breakfast pastries. Artefacts such as vintage suitcases, wooden sculptures of aeroplane, and elegant sofas help convey an “at-home” atmosphere.

Concerned with environmental issues, Château de la Gaude takes green issues very seriously: “Our hotel tries to take many initiatives to protect our planet: while we try to limit laundry at the hotel, the Chef only uses local products and sustainable fisheries. He tries to apply the zero-waste rule in his kitchen. Even our sculptures hide a message to protect the planet: the art pieces of Philippe Pasqua, “Who should be scared” and the gigantic sea urchins remind visitors that men should take responsibilities to protect the environment.” the Blaise family continued.

Asked about the future plans of the property, they added: “The precious location and unique estate allow us to have important futures plans for the development of our hotel: while our 200m2 spa, our swimming pool, fitness centre are scheduled to open in summer 2020, a 300m2 private villa with a private chef to fulfil guests’ will is also part of our plan. We will also offer guests a guided walkthrough of  the art collection and a wine tour of our vineyards and storehouse.”

The vineyard spans more than 60 acres of the castle grounds and is designated AOP “Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence”. “Thanks to its history, its potential and the human resources invested in this project, the vineyard intents to rival the most prestigious wines in France and the Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation. To get this project off to a start, we had to spend several years renovating the estate, to get this beautiful Provençal country house back up to scratch, after more than fifteen years of neglect. This quirky estate, in part due to its layout, has given us the possibility of developing luxury wine tourism. This is why we have decided to create a boutique-hotel where our guests can enjoy art, gastronomy and wine all at the same time.” Wine tourism is a growing part of the local economy which attracts clientele and visitors from around the world.

“Our biggest challenge is to achieve excellence and to exceed all guests’ expectations. While waiting to be classified as a 5* star hotel, our Chef Matthieu Dupuis-Baumal also seeks the best by being on the top list of the Michelin guide and to facilitate gastronomy’s rebirth.”

Matthieu Dupuis Baumal,  formerly based in Les Baux de Provence, along with his team, travels around the world to bring back exceptional flavours and gastronomic savoir-faires. Him and his team recently travelled to Japan and Brazil. Homard de Petit Bateau or Carré d’Agneau de Provence will make you want to try the entire menu. “Our best asset is the combination of gastronomy with art. In addition to our vineyards, Matthieu Dupuis Baumal rises to the challenge of dazzling your eyes and taste buds with his modern cuisine inspired by his travels yet filled with the seasonal flavours and colours of Provence. Paintings and sculptures spread through the estate are crucial, to embellish this already very-complete space.”

Three ways to reach Château de la Gaude: through the A51 and A8 highways, and by the N296. It’s also a-15 minute ride from the TGV station and 25 minutes from Marseille Provence international airport.

Before leaving this paradise, the Blaise family made interesting suggestions of places to visit in the area: “A welcoming city all year long, thanks to its street markets, its numerous fountains and its deep connection with the painter Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence is a delight for its architectural treasures such as its numerous hôtels particuliers, bastides, and old alleys. Indeed, museums such as the Hotel de Caumont and the Musée Picasso (to open in 2021) are definitely on our top-thing to do in the area. In addition, Lourmarin located in the Lubéron, is one of the surrounding villages recalling the picturesque charm approved by the greatest Impressionist artists, making it possible to enjoy both cultural and nature-related activities.”

With its strong art collection, its excellent wine and tasting shop, its breathtaking hotel, enchanting listed gardens and views over Sainte Victoire, Château de la Gaude elevates luxury to new levels. The quintessential Provence dream, the property and estates marvellously honour and value Cézanne’s wonderful region.

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