Saturday, June 3, 2023

Fontenille Opens a Gorgeous Hotel in St. Remy

For a couple of months in spring 2020, during Covid lockdown in France, we were all forbidden from going further than 1 or 2 km from home…unless our work required it or there was an urgent reason, such as helping a sick relative. Writing that now, it sounds so wild and remarkable that the government was able to make 60 million or so people stay home for weeks on end.

Whenever we did go out, we were required to fill out a form saying who we were, where we lived, when we left home and what we were up to. Grocery shopping and dog walking were ok; running or biking were okay as long as we weren't gone longer than hour...and didn't go further than 1 or 2 km. Virtually all local businesses except for "essential" stores were closed (yes, wine shops were considered essential!) and for a while we even had a 6 pm curfew. With few exceptions, the French borders were closed to non residents and the EU borders were locked up tight.

So anytime the weather was nice I grabbed my bike and went out and did 1 and 2 km circles around town. It sounds ridiculous but I loved it. There was virtually no traffic in St. Remy, either in the village itself or in the countryside, and the stillness was breathtaking. I remember thinking Jules, you will never see Provence like this again in your lifetime. 

One of my favorite routes took me past a large, elegant estate, with an enormous front lawn and--just barely visible down a long, platane-shaded drive--a magical-looking bastide. A couple times I stopped at the foot of the driveway to enjoy the beauty of it all...and took some photos discreetly. So intrigued, I went home and Googled the address to see what I could learn about the house and its history.

Turns out the Domaine de Chalamon has existed since the 16th century, when it was called Mas le Tor. After it belonged to the lords Mistral de Mondragon, it was Pierre de Chalamond who gave it its current name, in 1663. The Chalamond family kept it until 1738; it then passed through the hands of seven families until, in 1996, the 20-hectare property became the summer residence of a noble London-based family.

One day I bumped into a friend on her bike who said she had heard it had been sold and that it was going to become a guesthouse…or something.

And sure enough two weeks ago, Frédéric Biousse and Guillaume Foucher, the team behind the gorgeous, five-star Domaine de Fontenille (in the Southern Luberon region of Provence), opened the property as the 19-room Domaine de Chalamon, their first hotel in St. Remy and their 9th property overall (seven in France and two on Menorca).  

Once the purchase was complete, Biousse and Foucher turned to Alexandre Lafourcade of the St. Remy-based Lafourcade Architecture, to handle the transformation from private home to chic country-house hotel.  Alexandre knew the house well, having worked on it in years past with his architect father, Bruno. And of course he knew the clients well, having created two hotels for them already: their very first, the Domaine de Fontenille (in 2015) and the Domaine de Primard, in Catherine Deneuve's former château in Normandy, in 2021.

Biousse and Foucher like their properties to retain the feel of private homes…in fact they often refer to them as "friends houses” rather than hotels.  They strive to keep the soul, roots and charm of each estate intact…each one “telling a story in harmony with its environment…a story that respects the identity of the site and enhances its character and uniqueness.”

The partners also believe that the feeling of experiencing rare moments in an exceptional place is as important as the refinement of the decor. “The challenge,” they say, “is to convey the emotion one experiences when discovering these houses for the very first time.”

Hidden behind cypress hedges, Domaine de Chalamon extends over nearly 20 hectares with one of the most beautiful gardens in the region. Beyond that double avenue of 100-year-old plane trees, the home and its terraces are surrounded by pines and cypress. Various gardens follow one another along the streams that wind through the estate, including parterres of boxwoods and fields of olive trees formed into topiaries. There’s also a heated pool and a tennis court.

“We both come from farming families,” the owners say, “and have a very strong relationship with the land. We fell in love with this house, in the heart of a wild and disciplined nature. These gardens are remarkable…at any time of the day.”

Domaine de Chalamon has a 40-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant run by chef Rémi Falsquelle, who says his Provencal cuisine will be based heavily on produce that’s either grown on the property or sourced from nearby organic farms. Originally from Martigues (not far from Marseille), he worked at the Bristol in Paris (under Michelin three-star chef Éric Fréchon) and in other top kitchens before joining the company in 2022, to train with chef Michel Marini at the Domaine de Fontenille in preparation for the opening of Chalamon. The menu has been described as gastronomic, bistronomic and bistro…so we shall see!

But wait, there's more! Since Chalamon opened two weeks ago, the Fontenille folks have actually unveiled yet another jewel in their growing hotel collection; the Bastide du Mourre soft-opened in Oppède le Vieux (in the Luberon) just a few days ago. And on its heels comes Fontenille Toscana, slated to open this month in Chianti. 

To see all 11 hotels in the Fontenille collection, click here

Domaine de Chalamon
291 Chemin de Chalamon
13210 St. Remy de Provence
+33 (0)4 87 83 10 10
Instagram: @domainedechalamon

Photos: The 19-room Domaine de Chalamon opened two weeks ago in a 16th-century bastide in St. Remy. Alexandre Lafourcade and his St. Remy-based team did all the architectural work while Guillaume Foucher, one of the two owners, handled interior design. The guest house (or "friends house" as the owners like to call it) has a heated pool, a tennis court and a restaurant helmed by chef Rémi Falsquelle, who worked in top Michelin kitchens before joining the mother ship, the Domaine de Fontenille, to prepare for this opening. All interior and exterior photos taken in May 2023 by Gaelle Le Boulicaut, except #4 and #5 (from 2020) and #6 (by Yann Deret). Food photos by Sadik Sans Voltaire. Last photo courtesy of Bastide du Mourre.


  1. I was just saying last night to friends, how peaceful it was being in Provence during lockdown. No cars, no aeroplanes, everyone knew the rules and stuck by them. I always feel a little guilty to admit it! I too have often wondered about this magnificent estate, whilst passing by, so glad its being cherished again, and will hopefully be joining you there soon for a glass of rose and a bite to eat.

  2. What a knock out place Julie ! A wonderful addition to St. Remy. Perfect & serene
    Cheers, Parisbreakfast