Saturday, April 13, 2013

Camargue Days 2013: At Home on the Range

In 1950, Jacques Bon bought what was then a vast sheep farm in the Camargue, with a pretty 350-year-old bastide (country home) on it. Lucille, an architect, came into Jacques’ life in 1983 and the couple married in ‘87. They renovated the property completely in 1992 and opened the beautiful country house hotel Le Mas de Peint two years later. Today the family business includes the five-star hotel and its restaurant; a 500-hectare rice and alfalfa farm; and a ranch called Manade Jacques Bon, which is home to 30 horses and 250 free-range, grass-fed bulls (taureaux). In total, the estate is 1300 acres and it’s quite unique and fabulous.

Jacques passed away  in 2010 but Lucille and their son, Frédéric, have firmly kept the reins. The vibe here is unspoiled nature with pampering nurture--a fabulous combination indeed. Hotel guests may enjoy a large pool, access to a private beach, massage, biking, riding, animal viewing by 4 x 4, bull competitions and shows, and special events such as live music and ‘’Journées Camarguaises.’’  

The ‘’Journées Camarguaises’’ are open to the public and the new season is about to begin. 

Called Camargue Days in English, they give visitors  a chance to learn all about the life of the ranch and the French cowboys (gardians),who look after it. This year, the event is being offered on six Sundays: April 21, May 19, June 9, June 23, September 15 and September 29. 

The full day of activities (10:30 am to 5 pm) includes a traditional ferrade (branding) and other demonstrations, an apero and lunch, live music and a course a la cocarde (a difficult competition in which gardians pluck ribbons from the horns of the bull). Horse back riding and tractor-drawn tours of the ranch are offered at an extra charge.

Prices are 38€ (adults); 19€ (ages 5 to 12); and free for kids under 5. To book: 04 90 97 28 50 or To see a menu, a map and more, click here.

If you want to experience Mas de Peint another way, you can just come for lunch or dinner. In summer, meals are served on a pretty candle-lit terrace, tented with billowy fabric that lets breezes in and keeps mosquitoes out. When the weather cools, chef Vincent Laisney hosts you right in his large, lovely old kitchen, with its gorgeous stove and marble buffet.

In low season (until late June), they serve lunch on Sat and Sun only: menus range from 41 € (main course and dessert) to 66 € (starter, main course, cheese, dessert).  From June to September, lunch is a la carte only, served every day. For dinner, the restaurant is open every night except Thursday year round, serving a la carte (main courses €16 to 28 €) and menus at €59 (three courses) and 66€ (four courses).  It’s best to book ahead because hotel guests snap up seats quickly. All the info you’ll need about dining appears on the Mas de Peint website here.

If you do decide to stay over, Mas de Peint offers eight rooms and five suites, all unique in design and decor, with one suitable for limited mobility. Rates range from €235 to €435 (high season) and if you want the most-popular room, ask for The Loft. Upscale tent accommodations have recently been added and they were a huge hit when a group from Hermès held a meeting here not long ago. But they have to be specially arranged.

If you'll be in Provence next weekend (April 19), Mas de Peint is offering two- and three-night Flamenco Packages with live gypsy guitar music; I've heard the group, Gipsy del Mundo, and they're terrific. All that info is here.

Mas de Peint is 1 km south of Le Sambuc on the route D36 in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, southwest of Arles. Their contact info is: 04 90 97 20 62,; their site is Directions: From Arles, take direction Stes Maries de la Mer. Turn left onto the D36, direction Salin de Giraud and La Sambuc, and go about 20 km until you see the sign.

Photos: (1, 2, 3) The gardians who look after the Manade Jacques Bon. (4) Jacques Bon, who passed away in 2010, on one of his beloved white Camargue horses. (5) Cowboys from central casting. (6) The hotel building is 17th century. (7) All 13 guestrooms and suites are unique in design and decor. (8) In warm weather, meals are served on this pretty terrace. (9) Chef Vincent Laisney's food is considered some of the very best in the region.


  1. I love the Camargue. Anyone who has the chance to go there and experience the "cowboy" life a little should take the opportunity. It's a culture all its own and the vast beauty of the flats is lovely. Let's go riding there this summer! xo

  2. Hi Julie. I love it! Its so wild and macho. Boys being boys. I produced this Camargue Lavender Pillow for especially for my collection. xo

  3. Hi Julie,
    You have your finger on the pulse of the region--Mas de Peint looks so inviting! I'd love to be on one of those horses!

  4. In Issue 3 of .fr France Travel Magazine we join the cowboys of the Camargue and their photogenic white horses. Beautiful features and photography - Download the free app on your tablet here:

  5. The Camargue is indeed a special place with a culture all its own among les gardiens - looks like a great location to take it all in!

  6. Hi Julie,

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