Features

Provincial Provence

9 May 2024 by Hannah Brandler
Terre Blanche Spa (Sekoya Comms)

As Terre Blanche marks its 20th anniversary, we experience the resort’s golfing and spa facilities as well as Michelin-starred food and blush rosé.

Stroll along the cobbled pathways of the Terre Blanche resort and you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it for an authentic Provençal village.

Firstly, there’s its size, occupying 301 hectares of land in Provence – for context, that’s 1.5 times the size of the principality of Monaco. Then there’s the design, which has been woven into the fabric of the landscape for the past two decades. Buildings have been constructed with white stone from nearby quarries, while terracotta-toned interiors have been achieved thanks to the use of local red clay.

The 115 suites and villas feel more residential than hotel-like, largely owing to the layout of independent houses dotted across the labyrinthine resort. As such, they promise a high level of privacy – the only downside being that I didn’t catch sight of the rumoured A-lister in our midst, and was instead starstruck by vistas from my vast terrace.

An array of on-site facilities adds to the village feel, with buggy transportation whizzing me from the standalone spa to the two 18-hole championship-level golf courses undulating across the resort. I didn’t even need to leave the grounds to grab a pastry, since the in-house boulangerie crafts 17 varieties of bread, plus delicious saffron cake and herb-packed croissants.

Wild wanderings

A major part of the resort’s charm is the access to wilderness. The Le Riou Blanc river runs through the resort and acts as a natural corridor for wildlife, with gates on either side of the river ensuring that animals are free to roam – undisturbed by guests.

The biodiverse landscape is home to more than 175 plant species, 54 birds and 20 mammal species – including a herd of donkeys and 15 species of bat. Placards provide information about the fauna and flora throughout the grounds.

I embraced my inner Attenborough and absorbed the interesting facts – my favourite being that adorable pipistrelle bats are so small they fit inside a matchbox. For keen birdwatchers, the wildlife reserve of Saint-Cassien Lake is just a few kilometres down the road and home to migratory and non-migratory birds, including mallards and waders.

Terre Blanche’s focus on respecting the local environment has certainly paid off, with the resort awarded Green Key certification at the start of the year due to its sustainable strides. Initiatives include the banning of pesticides and chemical fertilisers for its green spaces, using organic waste as compost for the land, and leaving areas of grassland untended in order to allow plants, insects and butterflies to flourish.

Terre Blanche (Sekoya Comms)

Above par

Nestled in this wilderness are also the lush green fairways of the Le Château and Le Riou golf courses – designed by Welshman Dave Thomas. Anyone can try their luck at the former, while the latter is reserved for members and guests.

Aside from playing for leisure, Terre Blanche is also a European Tour Destination that attracts golfing professionals and those looking to perfect their skill. The state-of-the-art Albatros Golf Performance Centre offers training courses and various high-tech tools, including a Putting Lab and a Club Fitting, but the holy grail is the Biomecaswing Centre.

The only centre of its kind in Europe, the centre provides a physical assessment and precise analysis of a player’s balance and gestures – including a video evaluation of your swing so you can adapt and refine it for your next round of golf. You’ll need it if you’re planning on participating in the Terre Blanche 20 Years Open, an anniversary golf competition for guests and golf amateurs, held on 19 May.

Sustainability has also seeped into the resort’s golfing areas, with Terre Blanche in the process of replacing every square foot of grass on its golf courses with Bermuda Grass Riviera, which requires 50 per cent less water.

Pampered in Provence

Those who prefer to swap sports for the spa can jump on a buggy to the two-storey building. Treatments here use products from Swiss skincare brand La Maison Valmont and French cosmetic brand KOS Paris, but have a fittingly regional twist. Take the Farandole massage, for instance, which is inspired by the namesake Provençal dance.

As someone who struggles to relax during massages, I found the energising and rhythmic treatment to be a perfect fit – a masseuse manipulated my limbs in a graceful and balletic manner before freeing me of many knots. Further locally inspired options include treatments with honey from the region or heated aromatic pouches – followed by honey cakes from pastry chef Jérémie Gressier, naturally.

Relaxation continues at the ultra-plush post-treatment room, where I lounged on a massage bed with my toes cushioned in soft slippers. Alternatively, guests can dive into the 20-metre indoor pool, flooded with natural light from bay windows.

Indoor pool at Terre Blanche (Credit Preschesmisky)

Stars in the sun

Gourmet restaurant Le Gaudina and Michelin-starred Le Faventia both reopened, in March and April respectively, following renovations by French Riviera-based architect Philippe Bonino. The design team reused as much of the existing furniture as possible, while new fabrics and trimmings have been sourced from French houses. The fine dining Le Faventia is unmissable, with executive chef Christophe Schmitt’s elaborate tasting menus served on a beautiful terrace overlooking the Roman hilltop villages of the Pays de Fayence – from where much of the produce is sourced.

Our six-course menu featured ingredients ranging from ewe’s milk cheese from the nearby Ferme des Claux to oysters from Tamaris and herbs from the on-site garden. Particularly special was the moment when the bright-red king prawns were steamed tableside within a matter of seconds. Tableware, too, is crafted locally, with delicate dishes resembling sculptural artwork designed by ceramicist Magali Barraja.

You’re also in good hands at Les Caroubiers, the resort’s clubhouse venue. Much like a neighbourhood bistro, the formule (set menu) is handwritten in cursive on a chalkboard – with dishes crossed out once out of stock. We paired our niçoise salads with pale rosé wine, so light and delicious you might as well order another glass, carafe or bottle.

Prominent on the menu are wines from Château d’Esclans, the famous wine estate behind the popular Whispering Angel rosé that has taken the UK by storm – appearing in bars, restaurants and pop-up terraces as well as airport lounges and onboard (perhaps you’re enjoying a glass inflight right now?).

Winemaker Sacha Lichine acquired the estate in 2006, and the Château d’Esclans wines are now sold in over 100 countries, with LVMH acquiring a majority stake in the company at the end of 2019. We spent our last day in Provence at Domaines Sacha Lichine, discovering wine-making practices before touring the idyllic 19th-century château and tasting the various wines within the portfolio. Guests from Terre Blanche also gain access to the private chapel, where you’ll find a sculpture of the two cherubs that inspired the branding.

The tour ended with a visit to the Barbie-pink shop, which not only sells stacks of the blush bottles but also branded hats and swimming trunks. Back home at the far more picturesque Terre Blanche, I uncorked a bottle of the rosé to enjoy in peace on my terrace. I might not have heard the whispers of angels, but heaven didn’t feel far off.

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