Although they have yet to achieve their international acclaim of Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck, Jean-Louis and Jocelyne Sibuet are fast on their way to becomming one of France's most formidable hotelier-designers duos. The couple's stylish achievements range from creating the chicest chalets in the Alpin resort of Megève to turning a cluster of Renaissance building in the medieval quarter of Lyon into the strikingly contemporary Cour des Loges hotel. But many of their fans consider La Bastide de Marie, in the village of Ménerbes in the Lubéron area of Provence, to be the Sibuets' piece de résistance.
Set amid 20 glorious hectares of vineyards and olive groves, the magnificently resored eighteenthcentury stone farmhouse opened two years ago with twelve guest rooms and suites. Like the earthy Lubéron itself, it has no pretensions. Jocelyne Sibuet's interiors exhibit flawless yet refreshingly simple good taste, with just the right mix of locally found antiques and contemporary furnishings - iron beds by Nono Girard, bath fixtures by Philippe Starck, and fabrics from Canovas and Pierre Frey. Outside, a lovely split-level pool has been carved out of a former fishpond. There are also pretty stone terraces for lounging and dining, walkways through sweet-smelling gardens and vineyards, and a playing area for the time-honored Provençal version of boccie known as pétanque.
The food is equally unfussy, inspired by the wonderful fruits, vegetables, olive oils, and cheeses of Provence.
Among the signature dishes are thick, cold tomato soup with olive tartare, risotto with local mushrooms and truffles, and wicked apple-raspberry tarte Tatin. Needless to say, the wine cellar features the best regional vintages, including the Domaine de Marie reds, whites, and rosés now being produced on the property.
Despite the fact that La Bastide comes about as close to perfection as anyone could wish, the Sibuets are constatly fine-tuning it. This past winter, along with adding two luxurious new suites in the main building, they have been busy restoring two neighboring farmhouses. These five-bedroom beauties, each with a private swimming pool, will be available for rental by the week to families and small groups of friends. Unlike most villa rentals, however, the mini-Bastides (the first will be ready in May, the second later in the year) will provide full hotel services - from housekeeping to catered meals.
By Richard Alleman
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