Thursday, January 10, 2019

Château La Roque: A French Country Fantasy

Once the calm of the winter season settles over Provence, I scurry around doing lots of recon for the season ahead: visiting beautiful new hotels, rental villas and shops...trying new restaurants and revisiting others...sampling the wares at wonderful vineyards...exploring pretty villages, markets and museums...driving country roads and making all sorts of super discoveries to share with my travel-planning clients.

For example, a few weeks ago I went to see the stunning five-room hilltop Château La Roque, in the Vaucluse village of La Roque-sur-Pernes where owners Chantal and Jean Tomasino could not have been more warm and welcoming! I was totally taken with their story of decamping from Paris, searching all over Provence to find the perfect property and undertaking the meticulous four-year transformation of a crumbling 11th century fortified castle—which dominates the village within its ramparts--into a luxury boutique hotel. They brought in skilled tradesmen and historians, carted away 500 tons of rubble and revealed numerous architectural and decorative details that had been hidden for hundreds of years. Learn more about the history here.

Then they created the beautiful interiors, mixing elegant and “important” pieces with eclectic art, antiques and fabrics found locally. Exquisite, one-of-a-kind chandeliers and wall sconces were custom designed by artisans in Avignon and the Luberon; a handmade, all-white bedcover came from a vintage linen shop in Isle sur la Sorgue. When I commented on how bright the large beautiful salon was, Chantal explained how, back in the day, windows and soaring ceiling vaults were sized and placed to provide--and then reflect--maximum sun throughout the day. The rooms, gardens and swimming pool dug from the rock all have exceptional views. The sunsets, I’m told, are glorious.

As Chantal showed me around recounting fascinating tales of the counts, lords, ladies and Popes who prized and protected this property over the millennia, the tantalizing aroma of good cooking wafted from the kitchen until Jean called us to the table for lunch by the crackling fire. His cuisine is exquisite, her taste is impeccable and I’m sure a stay here—for a couple, family or group--would be beyond fantastic.

If you’re looking for night life and the type of village shops and restaurants that appeal to tourists, you won’t find that in La Roque-sur-Pernes. What you will find are two super knowledgeable hosts who love to suggest activities and share their favorite local discoveries, which include restaurants, vineyards, villages, historic sites, outdoor activities and more. (To get started, see their pages Ideas for Breaks and The Provence.) You’ll also find that this is an ideal base for exploring the popular and lesser-known corners of the Vaucluse (with easy access to Avignon, Châteauneuf du Pape, Isle sur la Sorgue and other wine villages of the Southern Côtes du Rhone, the Luberon, Mont Ventoux, Carpentras, lavender farms, etc.) and central enough for day trips to Aix, Vaison-la-Romaine, St. Remy, the Pont du Gard and more.

Whether you book just one room or privatize the whole château, you’ll be immersed in serenity and laid-back luxury, pampered by charming hosts who’ll do all they can to make it a magical getaway.

Château La Roque
263 Chemin du Château
84210 La Roque-sur-Pernes
+33 (0)4 90 61 68 77

Photos: (1-3) No matter the time of day, the south-facing Château La Roque gets the most-beautiful light and views. This luxurious but laid-back boutique hotel has just five rooms, allowing for the most-personal service. (4) Owners Chantal and Jean Tomasino: still laughing, after all these years. (5) The belltower--atop what was once the village church--is just one of the many carefully preserved historic features of the property. It dates to the 11th century but was rebuilt and restored 400 to 500 years later. (6) The neighbors graze their horses in lush fields below. (7) Facade walls under renovation. (8, 9) The property offers quiet outdoor spaces for cool drinks, swimming, reading, strolling, etc. (10-12) Three interior shots, before.  (13-20) Eight interior shots, the way things look today. (21) Jean in his pretty kitchen. (22) Breakfast, anyone? (23) Food at La Roque is often organic, mostly local and always seasonal. Pictured: a zucchini flower filled with a mixture of cod, ricotta and chive, served with organic pepper sauce. (24) Jean works closely with nearby farms to get the best, freshest ingredients. Here, a salad of organic greens with asparagus is nestled with marinated salmon in a citrus/olive oil glaze. (25) Jean's “millefeuilles de fraises en majesté'': baked phyllo, light pastry cream, strawberries and sugar.