Le Foulon, Provence and the Cote D’azur – Hotel Review

“Le Foulon is that rare thing, an oasis of peace and quiet situated in Provence amongst stunning mountain scenery. It is a Chambre d’Hote of some style sitting in 18 acres of its own grounds, bordered by a fast running mountain river; yet just half an hour’s drive or so from Nice Airport. All around the property are wooded mountain slopes with Buzzards and Eagles soaring on the thermals. Higher up the odd bright splash of colour from a circling paraglider.

Back in the 1930s, Le Foulon was a well known hotel; a favourite lunchtime venue for Picasso and his chums we are told. Latterly the property was neglected and fell into disrepair, until discovered and acquired by an enterprising young English couple – Nick and Mia. Over the course of the last eight years they have completely re-furbished Le Foulon in their own personal vision of a ‘Grand Design’. Today, Le Foulon operates more like a British country house hotel than an up-market French bed & breakfast. The en-suite bathrooms are all new. The rooms are furnished with truly King sized beds which are clothed in the finest Egyptian cotton sheets, feather pillows and eiderdown duvets The emphasis is on stylish comfort with unusual touches, like iPod docks and bedside lamps with three level touch bases in the bedrooms, so that you can read with a low light level and not disturb your sleeping partner. On the top floor are two luxury suites with another unusual touch. Electrically operated opening windows over the beds. Laying in bed at night and looking up at a myriad of stars, proved so popular that Nick & Mia have now installed a semi professional Meade astronomical telescope. With no light pollution, star gazing at Le Foulon is spectacular. Especially sitting out on the terrace with a gin & tonic!

Dinner is to the same high standard as the rooms, using fresh local ingredients and home cooked by Nick who is as passionate about cooking as he is knowledgeable about the local Provencal specialities that he conjures up. A knowledgeable nose is also evident in the house wines that are offered. Especially the claret, which punches far above its weight considering the modest price. But then the food and wine have to be good at Le Foulon, as there are many good French restaurants within a short drive competing for your business. These range from a modest family run restaurant in the local village that Michael Winner ‘discovered’ and raved about in his Sunday Times column, to the ‘Columb d’Or’ in St Paul du Vence, where a meal is truly an event. Other lunchtime experiences that we can recommend, is to take the scenic mountain road to  Gréolières Les Neiges. Half an hour’s drive devoid of traffic will bring you to the local ski resort and which is as pretty under Summer skies as Winter snow. Modest food but a wonderful ambience. Or if you want to burn off some calories, then a 45 minute walk from the grounds of Le Foulon and up the lower slopes of the Cheiron Mountain will bring you to the village of Cipières and another al fresco restaurant. What’s more, there are two free guides to ensure you do not get lost! These are Bené and Enzo. Two of the most amazingly well behaved dogs you will ever encounter. They lead guests unerringly to the village restaurant where they will sit quietly under the table, as they have been trained not to ‘beg’ for food. Though it is hard to resist slipping them a leftover from your plate…

If you just have to do some work while you are away, on the ground floor of Le Foulon overlooking a wooded valley, is a large double aspect conservatory and library, where the only distraction is the gurgling sound of the river. Le Foulon also has a free wi-fi network and there is also a web connected Apple iMac freely available for guest use.

Adjacent to the outside barbecue is a small boules court and there is a table tennis table shadily sited under some trees. But the main attractions at Le Foulon are less strenuous. Watching the birds. Sitting with a book with the sound of rutting deer as a backdrop. Taking the dogs for a walk in the beautiful countryside. Exploring glorious Provence and the chic seaside towns on the Cote d’Azur. Or simply sun bathing in peace on a lounger around the heated swimming pool at Le Foulon. And always, the nightly promise of good conversation around the communal dining table, which is at the heart of this special place.

As well as holidaying at Le Foulon on a B&B or full board basis, it is also possible to rent the whole property and use the place as a large villa rental. You can either self cater using the facilities of the fully equipped commercial kitchen, or alternatively arrange for Nick to do the shopping and cooking for you. If you’re “time poor” and want a luxury treat, then there is nothing better than jumping on a flight on Friday afternoon, then arriving at Le Foulon for dinner. From Nice airport hire a car or take a ten minute helicopter flight direct to Le Foulon, where Nick meets the flight with a glass of Champagne and a Landrover to take the luggage to your room. Fill the helicopter with six people and it’s not much more expensive than taking a taxi. And what a cracking start to a great weekend!

Details of all of the above and more, can be found on the web site: www.le-foulon.com/

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Charles Vyse

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