Le Clos Saint Saourde

Beaumes de Venise, Provence, France Book from Eur180

Reviewed by Tom Bell
A gorgeous farmhouse encircled by vineyards with magnificent rooms built into the side of a rock face, plus a secluded treehouse
The pool at Saint Saourde looks out over the vineyards of Beaumes de Venise, home to one of France’s most delicious sweet wines, a true nectar of the gods. It’s a fabulous position, reason enough to check into this peaceful retreat, but there is more than that to keep you happy. First, there’s the house itself, rescued from neglect, now shining proudly amid the vineyards. Second, are 4 seriously cool rooms, all of which are built into the side of a rock face, making them candidates for ‘most luxurious cave dwelling ever.’ Finally, there's a secluded cottage with private pool.


As for what lies beyond, this micro-area of vineyards, mountains and hillside villages is every bit as lovely as the house. You can potter off to nearby caves and taste local wines, lose yourself on country roads and end up in beautiful villages, head down to Avignon and plunge into its pot of culture, perhaps drive (or cycle) up magnificent Mont Ventoux, one of the great climbs of the Tour de France. If that all sounds a little tiring, then bake by the pool all day. You can make your own lunch, pour your own drinks; there’s a kitchen on the terrace for exactly that purpose.

Highs

  • Four magical bedrooms built into the rock face – pure Flintstone chic
  • The guests’ kitchen on the pool terrace, which means you can make light lunches, chill drinks and lounge by the pool all day
  • The immediate area – Les Dentelles de Montmirail, vineyards, hilltop villages and Mont Ventoux all on your doorstep
  • Don’t miss the sublime Muscat wine from the fields around you (book through i-escape and you'll find a bottle in your room, with compliments)

Lows

  • You’re quite remote, so there’s no night life beyond local bars and restaurants
  • The bedrooms in the Grange (the self-catering cottage) are, by comparison, small and simple. It can sleep 10, but would be claustrophobic with more than 8
  • No bathrobes, but perhaps we're getting picky now

Best time to go

July: for the opera festival in Orange (about 20km west); for the Fêtes des Vins in Vacqueyras (5km west); and for the Tour de France, which passes over Mont Ventoux (10km east) every other year (the odd years). Bedrooms remain cool in the heat of summer, thanks to walls of natural rock. Come in autumn for spectacular golden vineyards; in spring for snowy peaks and warm valleys. The Mistral blows hardest over winter and when it blows, you know about it; but open fires, underfloor heating and big bathtubs (in some rooms) keep it cosy and warm.

Great for...

Eco
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 4 rooms + 1 cottage
  • Breakfast included (+ basic self-catering)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
  • Clean towels and linen on request
Room:

Rooms

There are currently 4 rooms and 1 self-catering cottage (La Grange); 3 of the rooms are built into the side of a piece of rock, giving more than a little caveman chic. An uncluttered feel runs throughout. You get exposed stone walls, original beams, cast-iron beds, incredible bathrooms. All the rooms are big, a couple are huge (cavernous is the appropriate word)! Beds are dressed in antique linen, colours are kept warm and natural. There are two rooms on the ground floor, then two suites on the top floor.

Strangely enough, our favourite room was Beaulieu, the least expensive (simply because it only has a shower). It is vast, has a sofa built into the rock face and a four-poster bed without the posts – a madly wonderful space. Walls of glass open onto the courtyard at the front; curtains protect your privacy.

Next door is Zellige, another magnificent piece of art, with a bathroom of quite epic proportions, where a deluge shower hangs above a vast mustard-coloured sculpted bath. The room has exposed stone walls, a red sofa, painted beams and a contemporary-style bed. A Moroccan lantern sits in an old animal trough.

As for the suites above, we lucked out in Castillon. There’s a small sitting room with exposed stone walls on the ground floor, then steps up to ornate cast-iron beds with voile drapes above. A spiral staircase leads up to a magnificent mezzanine bath. You get a contemporary free-standing bath and a shower which comes in a pebbled mosaic effect. Golden stone walls and rustic wood ceilings are the order of the day. There’s also an open fire in the bedroom that you can spark up in winter and, as in all rooms, underfloor heating.

Roche d’Espeil, the other suite, is the only room not built into the rock face. To compensate, it has its own terrace in a small front garden. There’s a table with chairs and views to the pool, but if it all gets to hot, you can slip back into the embrace of thick stone floors and cool down on the daybed in the sitting room. The bedroom is big, there’s another open fire and a bathroom on the mezzanine with free-standing bath and separate shower. You’ll find small chandeliers, fancy potions in the bathrooms and the odd bust, too.

There’s also La Grange, a gîte with its own 10m swimming pool. It also has a courtyard garden built into the rock at the front, a big sitting room with high ceilings, a fully-equipped kitchen and a dining terrace up by the pool. Bedrooms are much simpler: exposed stone walls, simple beds, good linen, timbered ceilings. It has 1 double and 6 single beds but says it can sleeps up to 10 - we think that that would be too many. The bedrooms - two on each floor - are separated by good bathrooms (with shower).

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is served on the terrace by the pool in good weather, where a large table waits in the shade. On colder days, you eat in the half-panelled dining room of the main house. It’s often a convivial meal, with fellow guests all at the same table. You get a couple of types of bread and hot croissants, jugs of coffee and pots of tea, cereal, fresh fruit and yoghurts, then a plate of cold meats.

One of the great advantages here is that there’s a small kitchen in the pool house which guests are free to use. You can store food and chill drinks, which means you can lounge about by the pool all day, then make your own lunch, even fire up an evening barbeque. All you have to do is forage for food in nearby Beaumes de Venise, where you can gather bread, cheese, pate, salad and wonderful wine.

Since we visited, the owners have introduced a gastronomic plate which can be ordered to your room, or to be enjoyed while sat by the pool. It consists of lots of indulgent elements such as foie gras with figs, parmentier de canard, cheeses and desserts as well as including numerous wines to accompany each course. However, it must be ordered 2 days in advance.

If you eat out at night, you’ll find lots of choice in high season and a reduced choice in low season. We ate La Table des Balmes in Beaumes de Venise (the nearest village, 2km away), which serves good country fare. A little further away in the pretty village of Gigondas, try L’Oustatlet for excellent food at reasonable price. For a spectacular setting head to Le Barroux, where you can eat good simple food on the top floor or seriously swanky food in the restaurant below (father and son respectfully); both have terraces that look down the valley. If you want the best food in the area, head south to L’Isle-sur-La-Sorgue and book into Le Vivier, or to Le Grand Pré in Roaix near Vaison la Romaine, both with a Michelin star.

Guests at La Grange have their own fully equipped kitchen - oven, microwave, hob, dishwasher, fridge and a truly Gallic array of pots, pans and utensils - all gleaming in stainless steel against the stone walls. There's a pretty, wicker-covered dining terrace for 8-10, with views up to the Dentelles; in bad weather you'd have to squeeze around the kitchen table (8 at a push). Basic provisions (oil, salt etc) are provided, and Jerome can book an excellent private chef if you want to give yourselves a day off.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Food and wine
  • Gastronomic plate on request
  • A communal kitchen area and fridge in the pool house
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

Wine fields: you are bang in the middle of AOC vineyards (Côtes de Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux), and only 2km from Beaumes de Venise, home to a Muscat that’s admired around the world. If you’re here on July 14th, head to Vacqueyras for Les Fêtes du Vin. Chateauneuf du Pape is close, too.

The Dentelles de Montmirail, a small range of mountains which sit between Beaumes de Venise to the south and Vaison La Romaine to the north (come for the dance festival in July and August). You find serrated hills, wine fields and beautiful old villages stuck to the slopes. It’s the one of the loveliest micro-areas we discovered in Provence, a perfect place to get lost for a day. Guided walking and rock climbing can be arranged.

Mont Ventoux, the iconic mountain of Provence, which is less than 10km east. Every other year the Tour de France climbs up it. Lance Armstrong did so in 55 minutes, which is simply ridiculous (ordinary humans take three hours or more). You can hire bikes at the bottom (or the top!). Views from the summit stretch to Nice and Mont Blanc. If you come, ascend from Bedoin in the south; that’s how the cyclists do it and old chalk messages are writ across the road. A magical mountain.

Orange, an old Roman town, somewhat neglected by tourists, but very much worth a look, not least for its magnificent Roman theatre which hosts an opera festival in July. The counts of Orange date to the 8th century, a title bestowed by Charlemagne. It passed into Dutch hands in the 16th century, hence William of Orange and the Orange Order, which rose to confront his Catholic enemies, culminating in the Battle of the Boyne. Such is the tangled web of European history.

Avignon is close. You can drop in for a day of culture, visit the Papal Palace, walk to the end of its famous bridge or enjoy its annual festival (mid-July-early August) for theatre, opera, classical music, exhibitions and lectures set against the backdrop of its spectacular architecture. It’s a big event (200,000 people visit); parking can be tricky.

L’Isle-sur-La-Sorgue is home to one of Europe’s biggest antiques markets. It takes place every Sunday, about 350 stalls that wind through the narrow streets of the old town and spill out across the water. It’s even bigger at Easter. Some brocantes shops are open all year round, but tend to close on Mondays and reopen on Thursdays.

The Luberon villages: Gordes, Roussillon, Oppède, Menerbes, Bonnieux and Lacoste, a collection of impossibly beautiful hilltop villages about 30km south. The villages have a rich programme of cultural events throughout the summer, not least Pierre Cardin’s opera in a quarry in Lacoste. The chateau is his country retreat; precious owners include the Marquis de Sade, who lived here before being carted off to the Bastille.

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Food and wine
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children are welcome and cots or extra beds can be added to the 2 suites. Alternatively, the self-catering Grange would be great for a large family, with 4 bedrooms and a private pool (fenced for security). Bear in mind that you're quite isolated - there's not a huge amount for restless teenagers to do.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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