After a phenomenal first night at L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle, I was off to the next stop of my mini French road trip: La Bastide de Moustiers, a hidden gem in one of the prettiest villages in France … & perhaps even the world. Alain Ducasse discovered the property during one of his motorcycle trips along the Provencal countryside, a region he fell in love with in the late 80’s. Initially, Ducasse envisioned the property to be a private inn and in some sense, a hideaway, where he can relax with his friends and family. The vision soon evolved as Ducasse opened the doors of his favorite house in Provence to the general public. Everything on the property from the ancient limestone to the artwork embodies the scrupulousness of Alain Ducasse. The architectural elements, the vases, the books, the fresh fruits on the table in every room are all there in an effort to provide the guest with the warmest welcome into a truly beautiful home.
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Most of the furniture and elements around the rooms were hand picked by Ducasse, and no two rooms are the same. All rooms, though, are decorated with something significant to the region. I think of the room I had in the charming stone house of La Bastide de Moustiers: a four poster bed, a deep stand alone tub overlooking a dramatic landscape of gardens and olive trees in the distance. It’s a sophisticated setting, to say the least. So sophisticated that culinary aficionados fly in on their helicopters from Nice and Monaco just to have dinner there (the property does have a private helipad, by the way, for that reason).
La Bastide de Moustiers is just a short distance away from Verdon Gorge, known as Europe’s most beautiful river canyon. It is overlooked by limestone walls, hundreds of meters high.
Nights can get cold at this latitude, so the hotel offers guests a cozy heated pool.
When you walk around the property it almost feels like Mr. Ducasse is next to you, passionately telling you all about the farming vegetables in the garden especially the 13 varieties of basil. The door into the kitchen is open and you can sense the special chemistry among the young cooks, meticulously designing the next meal (something to get excited for).
“Farming a vegetable garden at the Bastide de Moustiers is an essential commitment: it expresses the earthly roots of my cuisine and attachment to the Provence.” – Alain Ducasse
The restaurant menu changes every day. It is widely dependent on the season and consequently on what grows in the garden. Head Chef, Frédéric Garnier, cooks as close to nature as possible. “Are the carrots grown in the earth? Well, they will be cooked in the earth.” The attention to detail in Garnier’s kitchen is so fastidious that even tones of the dishes match the season … such as warm greens represented by asparagus and sea lettuce.
The menu itself is also modestly price, giving guests a little wiggle room to splurge on wine which is picked to match the dish by an expert sommelier. To start, an aperitif from Ducasse’s exclusive selection.
As for breakfast, coffee & croissants with a side of eggs (note, not eggs with a side of croissants!)
In the area …
Along the overhanging limestone cliffs is a small village called Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. The narrow streets are enveloped by small colorful houses and the cobble stone, which has been there for centuries, is chiseled by peoples footwear to the point that its slippery! The village is split in half by a large rushing waterfall from the nearby canyon and the sound of it vibrates through the entire area. Small fountains can be found among the medieval houses and ceramic shops.
Deep in the limestone wall is The Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel, which dates back to the 8th century in the time of Charlemagne. A cobblestone path will lead you all the way to the top where you will be pleasantly greeted with this stunning back drop.
Suspended between the two cliffs is a large golden star – legend has it that the Knight Bozon de Blacas was held prisoner by the Saracens and he vowed to hang a star over his village if he was able to return. To date, no one knows how the original star made it between the two [enormous] cliffs.
Considered one of most beautiful river canyon’s in Europe, Verdon Gorges is undeniably a must-see in the region! The river has an incredible turquoise color from the minerals in the water. There are various activities available in the area: swimming, kayaking, rafting, fishing and rock climbing to name a few.