Terre Blanche, Provence
By Richard West
My wife travels monthly to Kiev for work. Two hundred miles east a war rages that has claimed almost 3,000 lives and driven almost half a million Ukrainians toward the west. She was in Kiev when the Malaysian passenger jet was shot down by Russian separatists. Obviously it is an ongoing anxiety-ridden, stressful part of her life. World-class relaxation is needed.
It’s called Terre Blanche.
It is a 750-acre fenced-and-gated resort estate tucked up in the Provencal hills, 35 miles northwest of Cannes, about an hour from the airport in Nice: 115 private villas, two 18-hole golf courses, a heated infinity pool, four restaurants, a 35,000 square-foot spa, tennis courts…lots to do but, for us, it personified the Italian saying, “bella costa far niente,” it is beautiful to do nothing. Not exactly Tolkien’s Mordor.
Once settled in our villa, we wandered the paths, surrounded by jasmine and lavender, mimosa and rosemary, perfumemorying the day, mapping our way from pleasure to pleasure. Aha, Le Tousco Grill, a table-groaning buffet with a taste of the region’s most famous product, the local rose, finest in the world. The rose of choice? Terres des Amour Euses with a bouquet of “gooseberry, mango, and peach.” As always, I only tasted rose wine. Nearby the infinity pool, rentable cabanas, the kid’s pool, and a Jacuzzi.
After a rest and up the path to dinner we noticed some of the 220 pieces of modern art truffled around the resort, a Jim Dine; Dubuffet’s “L’Arbre biplane, version II”; Cesar Baldaccini’s bird at the entrance of Le Faventia, our fine dining destination for Michelin two-star chef Yannick Franques six-course eatarama.
With wine parings explained by young Alexander Pauget, one of the world’s most animated, enthusiastic sommeliers. A remarkable performance without once slipping into the usual wine snob’s fatuous “it’s a naïve Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption” jabber.
And the food? I recall the olive oil-fennel confit in a magnetized cup set in tilted saucer; the octopus with eel shavings and Japanese seaweed; a pigeon breast…the rest a culinary blur. The days of wine and cirrhosis. No surprise if we exuded a pate de fois gras faint gas for the rest of our stay.
Terre Blanche’s notable attractions are the golf facilities for those who disagree with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law who quipped about the game, “It’s unsportsmanlike to hit a sitting ball.” Hitting the ball is very much the point here, not only around the two gorgeous courses, but improving the skills at the Albatros Golf Performance Center; the putting and approach greens; and at the training/fitness Leadbetter Academy.
Terre Blanche was named “Golf Resort Of The Year-Europe” last year and will host the French Riviera Masters tourney, October 3-5.
Our mission was total relaxation so we left le vie sportive behind and followed the Italian’s advice of nothing doing. That didn’t mean not having things done to us: a masterly massage at the spa by head rubdowner, Etienne Demblans (but no Hot Stones Caress or Silk Revelation); sol-searching while being served lunch and drinks in our poolside cabana, the periodically delivered fruity ices especially nectariferous ; reading while watching gliders across the hills over the medieval towns of Fayence and Tourrettes.
Everything at Terre Blanche spoke to Baudelaire’s “luxe, calme et volupte,” luxury, peace, and sensuous indulgence. Relaxation? When leaving I felt sure even the earth’s rotation had slowed.
Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort
3100 Route de Bagnols-en-Foret
Reservations: +33 (0)4 94 39 36 00