Château de Fonscolombe is just 20 minutes’ drive from vibrant Aix en Provence, but the 12th-century château and its 30-acre park feel like another world
Imagine a luxuriously restored Provençal château just south of the Luberon; its 18th-century Quattrocentro magnificence brought back to life surrounded by a beautiful estate. More than 180 rare and mature trees breathe life – and tranquillity – into the sumptuous park, formerly the home of the de Saporta and Fonscolombe French noble families.
Three centuries of history are imbued in these walls and grounds – even Britain’s Queen Mother once stayed here and planted an Atlas cedar tree whose canopied branches continue to provide shade for guests. Her historic former bedroom – replete with canopied four-poster – is available for guests and enjoys stunning views over the surrounding parkland.
The 18-month restoration was carried out by the late and much-missed Hélène Martel-Massignac – the Château’s owner and former Caravelle Group CEO – together with a team that included architects Corrado de Giuli Morghen, alongside Arnaud Behzadi and Vincent Bastie from Artefak. The refined interiors are the work of talented Cathy Crinon.
The team has faithfully preserved the heritage of the château, while adding modern comforts such as air conditioning – in the new wing – and a dedicated spa on the lower ground floor where I enjoyed a sublime massage from Nicole.
There are 13 historical rooms and suites in the main house, with a further 37 rooms and suites in the newer wing with a classic yet modern design. My suite is beautifully appointed with windows looking out onto the gardens, two bathrooms and an elegant lounge area. The bed is divine. Extra special touches are the exquisite bouquet of flowers waiting for me, alongside a chilled bottle of Château de Fonscolombe’s own rosé. Each day there’s a thoughtful gift of chocolates and fruit.
I’m given a tour of the historic salons on Château de Fonscolombe’s ground floor: exquisite wallpaper, centrepiece chandeliers, artfully crafted doorframes and mirrors just some of the decor highlights among cosy seating areas. The furniture is partly original 18th century and adds a subtle sophistication to these grand, light-filled rooms.
There’s even a full-size billiard table – and a baby grand for ivory tinklers – while double-height impressive French doors open out onto a terrace with 180-degree views of the surrounding estate. The vistas are magical: Magnificent centuries-old cypress, oak, Lebanese cedars and plane trees stand sentinel among the extensive grounds, providing welcome respite from the Provençal sun for reading and dozing. To my left the al fresco tables for the l’Orangerie restaurant which has 120 covers (inside and out) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
All my meals here are superb – a creative amalgamation of Provencal and international cuisine – and an inventive menu using local provenance where possible. Choose from succulent delights such as langoustines and fine tarte for starters, followed by a range of mains including lamb and mullet. The cheeseboard is delicious and includes local varieties such as Banon, Tomme de Provence, and Brousse du Rove, while desserts comprising flavours of chocolate, honey and ice cream are not to be missed. There are also various tasting menus that combine the best the Château has to offer.
I can confirm the breakfasts are Château de Fonscolombe are to die for: a generous smorgasbord buffet of charcuterie, breads, cheeses, yoghurts, juices, cereals, fruit and a variety of hot options including fabulous omelettes.
The Orangerie’s outdoor seating area continues next to a large ornamental pool that’s home to sunbathing frogs, a few fish and a splendid central fountain. You can enjoy lunch and pre-dinner apéros under the shade of a centuries-old cypress tree. I devour a tasty tapas menu here on my last evening. And in fact spend much of my stay under this beautiful tree, journaling and day dreaming. If only trees could talk…
I’m delighted to discover that these wonderful beings are also home to hundreds of bats. Don’t worry, you’ll never see them as the lights are purposefully dimmed in the park at night so as not to disturb these beautiful creatures. What you will see however, are their colourful yellow nesting boxes thoughtfully provided by the Fonscolombe gardeners.
Château de Fonscolombe is blessed to have its own vineyards producing red, white and rosé. The red, in particular is better than some St Emilion classics I’ve tasted. The Merlot, Chardonnay and Cab Sav plots are cultivated without the use of pesticides giving the Fonscolombe label ‘Organic Wine’ status. These Bouches du Rhône IGP varieties are available to purchase online at: fonscolombe.fr/en/winery.html.
I recommend taking a tour of the estate’s wine cellar located in the main house.
If you feel the need to work off the fabulous food and wine, dive into the pool for a few laps or borrow the Château’s bike for a spin around the local vineyards. You can also visit neighbouring Château de Paradis and enjoy – as I did – a tour of the cellars and a superb wine tasting.
Perhaps your beloved will be inspired by the romance of the setting at Château de Fonscolombe and pop the question. If so, there’s a chapel here in the park – a truly incredible setting for a marriage – just off the path to the swimming pool which is set well away from the main house. Sun loungers are plentiful and there’s a snack bar here to keep you fed and watered the whole day, manned by very helpful staff. Indeed, the wonderful people who work at Château de Fonscolombe are one of the main reasons for the hotel’s success: I have rarely met such a welcoming and friendly team. Nothing is too much trouble and they all ensured I had a wonderful stay. The Château is also a great place for children, who are well catered for – there’s even a children’s menu.
Although many guests choose to stay at the Château for the duration of their stay, such is the magical allure of this tranquil luxury hotel and park, a short drive south and you’re in beautiful Aix en Provence. And just north of Fonscolombe you can take a slow drive around the Luberon visiting the hilltop villages of Bonnieux, Gordes and Roussillon. Then head west to Avignon and Isle Sur La Sorgue and enigmatic Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. The Côte d’Azur is also within easy reach from Château de Fonscolombe – just take the A58 south then head east on the A8 all the way to Cannes and beyond.
“Château de Fonscolombe was going to be a family home,” General Manager Cedric Cauvelier tells me over cocktails in the Orangerie. “But Mme Martel decided to open it to the public and so it became a 5-star hotel just last year.”
Thanks to its luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, an incomparable setting and world-class service, Château de Fonscolombe has become a media darling and popular with international guests, as well as weekenders from across Provence and farther. The Château is also a popular wedding and seminar location.
“We have 60% occupancy, which is unusual for a new opening,” Cedric reveals. “Most of our guest are from France, the United States, the UK, the rest of Europe, South America and many Asian countries.”
Originally intending to stay for just two nights, I extended my sojourn at Château de Fonscolombe by a further two days, willingly held captive by the hotel’s beauty and tranquillity – and its superb cuisine. I left recharged, happy and vowing to return. And I’m sure you will too.
Where & How
Cost: Prices from €325 for a Classic Room including breakfast. Every first Sunday of the month Brunch menu at €65.
Where: Route de Saint-Canadet, 13610 Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, France
How: Please email email@example.com, phone+33 (0) 442 211 313 or visit fonscolombe.fr to make a booking.