Mas de Chastelas: an alluring luxury estate on the French Riviera

Once a countryside estate involved in winemaking and silkworm farming, Mas de Chastelas a few miles outside Saint-Tropez, has been transformed into a 5-star property attracting a diverse international clientele.

It was here that the eyes of Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve met hypnotically on-screen, in the movie ‘Je Vous Aime.’

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Entered up a slight incline and through a pair of imposing electronic gates, it sits snugly above neighboring Bertaud Belieu vineyard on three hectares of land complete with an enticing outdoor swimming pool, where – on an adjacent terrace – a superb buffet breakfast and lunch is served.

With 23 rooms, including seven suites (largest is 70sqm) in three separate buildings – Italian-style villas ‘Palladin,’ in tribute to the Italian renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, and ‘Tuscan,’ as well as the main mansion – the property offers diverse accommodation options. A welcome cocktail while you wait for check-in is a charming touch.

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We stayed in the mansion, in cosy quarters overlooking the pool through one window and the sloping vineyard through the other, with musical birdcalls serenading us each morning. Like all rooms, ours came with separate bath and shower, with L’Occitane toiletries. Décor is American country, with light tones of white and grey, linen curtains and embroidered cream bed covers, patina furniture and rough finishes on the white-washed ceiling.

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Property owner, Jerome Pujos, who spends much of his time in Paris and has a second 5-star hotel property, La Residence de France in La Rochelle, has obviously put much thought into the interior décor. The lobby area and, by extension, the central pillared lounge, is an open invitation to relax, with a terracota tiled floor, cream-colored sofas interspersed with dark brown leather armchairs, a broad, impressive fireplace and a small bar against the far wall.

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For a more secluded spot, the nicknamed ‘vermillion cove’ in one corner of the room features softer lighting with a life-size 18th century statue the sole eavesdropper. Wall lamps and hanging chandeliers provide plenty of light elsewhere, illuminating many other shapely statues scattered throughout the property, as well as medieval-style portrait prints on the walls of corridors. The hotel is linked historically to the Bertaud Manor, a feudal holding dating from the 14th century. Kudos must also go to the staff who, under the supervision of manager Olivier Valentin, were warm and friendly throughout our stay without being overly fussy and intrusive.

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The more fitness-oriented of guests are well catered for here with the large heated pool, tennis courts and a pitching green, while those more inclined to fine cuisine have the property’s gourmet restaurant to look forward to. The chef’s philosophy is one of ‘less is more,’ meaning a short menu but with items of high quality. Our two starters – wild blue lobster with a thyme and lemon tartelette, the plate decorated with tiny beetroot creations and tourteau crab in a spring onion, cold bisque – showed that to be an excellent stratagem. Being hungry, having skipped lunch on the road, we chose heftier mains – tender roasted medallions of chicken bursting with truffle flavor served with mashed ratte potatoes; and braised calf sweetbreads paired with thin slices of smoked duck breast enveloped in port sauce and served on a small barge of baby carrots, their small leaves still attached.

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If relaxing in the hotel grounds isn’t enough, there’s always the complimentary shuttle bus service to the glitz and glamor mecca of Saint-Tropez five miles away; the more tranquil village of Gassin perched high on a rock with many old winding streets and ancient houses to explore; or the three-mile long Pampelonne beach with its many private clubs and restaurants.

If you’re a boat lover, you can always visit nearby Port Grimaud, known as ‘little Venice,’ to admire the various crafts, then clamber up the ruins of Gramaud castle to be rewarded with splendid panoramic views over the Saint Tropez golf speckled with yachts of all kinds.

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Offering a secluded location but with the choice of both urban and rural settings close by and fine food and friendly service, Mas de Chastelas has what it takes to cater to most travellers’ tastes.

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