Thursday, July 27, 2017

New Eco-Cabins for Wine & Nature Lovers

An irresistible new vacation compound opens this week just south of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, set to welcome travelers to the heart of Wine Country with beautifully secluded wooden cabins in a unique waterfront setting.

Called The Cabanes des Grands Cépages (cépages are wine varietals), the 25-hectare property is the branchild of Gaspard de Moustier and Emmanuel de La Bédoyère, who describe themselves as “entrepreneurs at heart, passionate about nature and authenticity.” Since 2009, the two men have provided nature-based holidays at three successful eco lodges around France.

At this new property on Lac de la Lionne, just ten minutes from Châteauneuf and 25 minutes from Avignon, ten just-built cabins nestle on the shore, float on the water or perch on stilts. Another ten will open by year end 2018. Designed to let you fully immerse yourself in the surroundings, the cabins were sited and built to allow for maximum sunlight and cooling breezes. Some have 100% eco-responsible Nordic baths on the terrace; most are around 25 square meters (270 square feet) and the largest sleeps five. 

To fund the 2.5 million venture, the partners received grants from the commune (county) of Sorgues (for site rehabilitation), the Vaucluse Fishing Federation and the CPIER Rhône Plan (2015-2020).

The backstory: Eight years ago, Gaspard was working at a bank and studying for a Masters in finance when he decided a life change was in order: he wanted to merge his passions for nature, tourism, and sustainable development by offering innovative, green holiday lodging to like-minded travelers. When an opportunity presented itself in the heart of his native Franche Comté, he leapt at the chance. The idea, he says, was to preserve the natural beauty of the 150-hectare property and contribute to the attractiveness of the region as a whole.  He launched The Cabanes des Grands Lacs (Great Lakes Cabins) in 2009.

Emmanuel, meanwhile, had been working at a merchant bank for seven-plus years when he decided, in 2010, to chuck it and take over his family’s farm.

The two men met in 2012 and realized they shared the same passions: for tourism and adventure, for preserving the land and respecting the environment, for deeper human connections.

Together they created the Cabanes des Grands Chenes (Great Oak Cabins) in Picardy, 60 km from Paris at the Château de Raray in a forest of 100-year-old oaks.

Buoyed by the success of these first two projects, they hatched a plan for a third, opening the Cabanes des Grands Reflets  (Cabins of Great Reflections) in 2016, in the heart of the Belfort territory, close to the Swiss border.

The owners say their lovely new lodgings are ideal for solo travelers, couples, families and business groups. To discover the region, guests can book wine tours, winemaker meetings, bike tours, nature walks and more. While there's no restaurant on the property, dinner and appetizer baskets highlighting regional products can be delivered to each cabin.

The website is currently in French only but English is coming by late August. 

For more info or to book:,, +33 (0)3 44 58 39 08.

Photos: (1, 2) Les Cabins des Grands Cépages opens this week near Châteauneuf-du-Pape with ten wooden cabins at the lakeside, built on stilts or dug out of the earth. Ten more cabins will open next year.  The Douglas-Fir cabins were designed to let guests fully immerse themselves in nature and the beauty of the site; you can swim, fish, hike, bike, drink wine, stargaze and finally get at that book you've been planning to write. For the moment the cabins have no WiFi but the main building does. (3) Owners Emmanuel and Gaspard have three other eco-lodges around France. (4)  Interiors are soothingly minimal; the largest cabin sleeps five. (5) Room with a smashing view. (6) Bathroom vignette with natural materials and fabrics. (7, 8). A cabin under construction and good to go. (9) Some cabins have Nordic tubs on the deck. (10) Food can be delivered in a pretty basket and all cabins have coffee makers. (11) Not a bad view to wake up to...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Drone Photography in Provence

This gorgeous shot of a Provence lavender field at harvest time, taken by London-based French photographer Jerome Courtial, has won 1st Prize (Nature category) in the 4th Annual International Drone Photography Contest He calls it "Summer Trim" and you can click to enlarge.
The contest is organized by Dronestagram, the France-based drone-photo sharing website, in partnership with National Geographic. They received 8,000 entries this year, with submissions split into four categories: Nature, Urban, People and Creativity. You can see all the 2017 winners here.

The shot was taken near Valensole in mid July last year, using a Phantom 4 camera drone. "We were just driving without a specific destination in mind," Jerome tells me, "and I was looking for nice compositions. I was especially keeping an eye out for tractors as they would provide a focal point. A lavender field from above would just look like a purple carpet without something else on it. That’s when we found this beautiful field and two tractors that looked like they were about to start work on it. I just had time to start the drone and follow them until they had achieved the composition I wanted!"

You can learn more about Jerome on his websites here and here. The first focuses on his main business, which is taking photos and videos for hotels. The second site provide lots of great tips for taking better drone photos.  You can also find him on FacebookInstagram and TwitterTo reach him directly:  

Interested in learning to fly a drone yourself? A small group of drone pilots in St. Remy is offering two-hour lessons for beginners, in a field adjacent to the hotel Château des Alpilles. According to licensed drone pilot and instructor Nathalie Freysz, drones are being used by farmers to check their fields, crops and animals; by property owners who want video for insurance or tax purposes; by homeowners to promote rentals or sales...and most of all, just for fun. The group uses Hexacopter DJI 550 drones equipped with GoPro video cameras; a two-hour lesson for two people costs 200€ and includes a souvenir photo or video. The classes can be booked on demand, year round, with group prices and multi-lesson packages are available. For more info: