As you may have read in my previous post, not long ago my friend suggested we have a girls weekend down in Provence, which I took as the perfect opportunity to reach out to Olives & Vines, as we have talked about working together for years. The Instagram account alone, which features their two properties and many of the goings on in Provence, makes one want to hop on a train for a Provençal getaway. I wanted to write about this accommodation because there are so many people in the Falling Off Bicycles community who ask about places to visit outside of Paris. There’s so much to see and enjoy in the immediate area, and I know Provence is a favorite potential destination for visitors to France.
After arriving in Aix-en-Provence, my friend and I lunched on the coast just steps away from the beach, we visited La Ciotat and the nearby town of Le Castellet. The longer I’m in France and the more people I assist in their trip-planning here, the more I realize there’s nothing quite like Provençal charm. There’s a reason it is one of the top destinations in France for Americans; it has that je ne sais quoi, that allure that Americans (and surely others) seek in Europe. One of my first experiences in France back in the 90s was in a family in Provence where we had tons of family time in the land of Marcel Pagnol and by the sea. That slow food, relaxed life à la Before Midnight is something I still find myself craving whether I’m in France or elsewhere.
After our visits to nearby towns, we headed that evening to the hotel, pulling up to this beautiful red typically-Provençal building. We were immediately greeted warmly by Jan who showed us around the property and escorted us to our room. Her greeting was a window into how the rest of the English- and French-speaking staff would welcome us throughout the course of the weekend.
Once you’ve toured the property a bit, you realize how incredible a feat it must have been to restore it. I didn’t see what it looked like before the restoration, but the staff informed me that it wasn’t in good shape. Incredible to think that a property dating back to 1594 could not only still be standing but also look like this 400 years later! It is truly a testament to the love and care the proprietors have for the region and for its history.
After my friend and I freshened up we headed downstairs for our reservation at L’Olivier Restaurant where we started with my favorite drink, a Kir Royal. The high top tables next to the window give a nice variety to the space, giving the feeling of being at a bar before heading to your dinner table in the other room or on the deck. On warmer days, there is seating outside on an expansive deck that overlooks the garden and heated pool. We ate inside for all of the meals we had (the Mistral may have blown away our meal on the first day, otherwise!). Once we had finished our apéritifs, we moved over to another table, opting to stay in the room with the beautiful mural. I don’t know about you, but it used to seem unlikely to me that a small hotel or mas would have any sort of restaurant worth going to, but I learned last summer (also here in Provence), that that can be completely false. The smallest villages in France sometimes have the most creative and excellent cuisines. And sometimes even the restaurants themselves are nondescript. Don’t let any of these preconceived notions fool you, lest you end up in one of the bigger cities where all the dishes are prepared from frozen items they stick in the microwave. (Oh, yes, that happens and is even prevalent nowadays.)
⚜️ Mas du Brûlat
47 Route du Grand Vallat
83330 Le Castellet