Domaine Les Martins – Provence

The Domaine les Martins is the perfect relationship between a guesthouse and the region where it is situated. A perfect eurhythmy or perfect harmony between an architectural and decorative style and their combined effect. In this charming hamlet in the municipality of Gordes, the refinement approaches that of a boutique palace establishment. I can feel as soon as I arrive that this stay is going to be marked by good French living at its best. This pleasant guesthouse in Provence is the result of collective desires and imagination. 

David & Régis, who are the two new proud owners of this former agricultural property, have had the mad idea of transforming a motley collection of houses on the outskirts of the village into a guesthouse for discerning visitors. This mad project was associated with challenges, especially when it concerned the metamorphosis of this 17th century hamlet in less than twelve months. Despite the scepticism of some local stakeholders, they proved that there was method in this madness when the project was successfully completed.

My astonished eyes take in the extent of these challenges when David gives me a guided tour of the property. His pleasant and smiling demeanour are appealing from the outset. He came with a beautiful trolley with a graphic symbol representing the identity of the property. Charming! We chat pleasantly while I take in these wonderful natural fragrances of Provence – generous lavender hedges in flower, cypresses, parasol pines and fig trees. The Lubéron countryside in all its beauty.

After a few steps, the first architectural features crop up out of this horizon of greenery. The genius of the architects was to cleverly use regional raw materials and to breathe new life and beauty into these beautiful old buildings. Marcel Pagnol could have found inspiration for one of his books here. I can just see “Manon des Sources” going through these robust stone arches, strolling through the paved courtyards to get water at the bubbling fountain. Jean Giono could have written about the old tiled roofs and the artistic metalwork used for the massive wooden doors. The Domaine des Martins is Provence itself. 

The owners have made a very kind gesture so that I can fully enjoy the Domaine – two days in two different types of rooms. To get to the studio that I’m staying in for the first night, I have to cross and discover the two inner courtyards. A nicely shadowed place with a fresh cool breeze, with stone pediments and climbing jasmine here and there. At this time of the afternoon, I can hear the bubbling of the fountain in time with the singing of the crickets. 

The Domaine des Martins has superior rooms, an apartment, a loft, a studio and suites. My two hosts kindly give me a private guided tour of most of the accommodation on offer during my stay. A private tour made all the more gay by the many stories and anecdotes concerning the creation of this guesthouse. 

My studio is situated in the attics, at the top of the period grey granite staircase. The corridor between the staircases still has its original stone tiles and wooden sills. 

I open the charming old barn-style door with its original latch and discover the ample dimensions of this studio. A subtle mix of Provence spirit and Gustavian style reigns in here. It’s pretty and intimate, thanks to the choice of furniture and the colours of the materials – all chosen with exquisite taste. We also get an insight into Régis & David’s life to the extent that many of the objects in the rooms are part of their family collections. Authentic and warm.

My studio turns out to be a real haven of peace and comfort, where I spend pleasant and calm hours.

I like the independence of this large room that has its own dining area and kitchen. Everything is designed so that you can live at your own pace. Refined tableware, practical appliances, quality house linen, with hats waiting on hooks on the back of the door. The mirrors make kind use of the light streaming in the generous windows that make the space seem larger. The shower is behind a double-leaved door, which accentuates the Provence feel that prevails everywhere.

This apartment’s secret weapon is definitely its private terrace. I’ve organised an improvised candlelit dinner and some relaxing moments under the shades. For a long time, I contemplate the incredible views over the Lubéron valley and the roofs of the hamlet in pinkish Provence tiles (like the Hussar on the Roof by Jean Giono), bathed in the wonderful setting sunlight. Unforgettable moments!

The Domaine les Martins offers a multitude of pleasures due to the many hidey-holes & sheltered corners, alcoves and spaces for playing and relaxing. An old space for playing pétanque, a hammock just made for lazing around, a firepit in the garden, the pool house to relax in after a few lengths, the inner courtyards and their cosy furniture to have “comfy” moments or the refined space installed in the former straw shed to play, have family time or read the various magazines or books that are available there. 

On certain evenings in this space, our two generous hosts have a cinema night in an atmosphere straight out of “Cinema Paradiso”, with the outer walls of the house serving as a giant projection screen. 

The most observant of you will notice an old inscription carved into the keystone of the central vault. If you can’t make out what it says, then Régis will be delighted to explain what it means. 

Bicycles are available on loan to go discovering the neighbouring lavender fields and surrounding Lubéron countryside. For the moment though, I prefer to use the pool and plunge into the deep Provence blue. You can access the pool day and night, always heated to a delightful 28°C (82.5 F). It’s ideally located, overlooking the garden. 

When the weather is fine, breakfast is served outside the main house where the happy couple resides. David prepares and the duo take turns in serving. The selection is complete, varied, copious and well adapted to everyone’s taste. A buffet in the dining room has a selection of regional or homemade sweet and savoury treats. I pick the table set up under the large fig tree for my morning meal. Refined service for delicious, relaxed times.

For my second night’s stay at Domaine les Martins, I was put up in the first-floor suite looking out over the hamlet and the old well. The grey Gustavian style predominates in this large room with two windows. The red-orange colour of the floor paving provides a stylish finishing touch. Louvred wooden shutters on hidden rails hide a well-appointed and spacious shower room. Please take a look at the art on the walls. Among his many other talents, Régis is also a very accomplished photographer.

The bathrooms all have bath and beauty products specially designed and produced on a unique and exclusive basis for the Domaine les Martins by the cosmetic brand “Le Labo”, which has locations both Grasse and New York. The “Santal 33” perfume is used in a product range including soap, shower gel, shampoo and body lotion. A special fragrance for a very special guesthouse.

The Lubéron regional national park has a multitude of little villages to visit. Unusual and lovely places for strolling, wining & dining and dreaming. During my stay, I took the time to visit Gordes perched on its rock, Sénanque Abbey hidden away in a valley for more than nine hundred years, Lacoste, where the famous, or infamous, Marquis de Sade once lived and whose family fortress dominates the village, or the surprising medieval village of Oppède-le-Vieux. Whilst travelling to these villages, I was almost high on the sight and scent of the lavender fields that are so typical of the region.