Parking on the outskirts of the Provencal village of Fayence, our host Sara walks us to a breath-taking viewpoint overlooking the hills of Provence’s Cote d’Azur and the Cannes coastline. ‘We’re facing the Terre Blanche resort right now. Can you spot it?’ she asks. There are five of us, and we stare. And we stare some more. Who knew spotting a hotel resort the size of Monaco could be so difficult? ‘It’s right over there’ Sarah tells us, pointing into the hills at nothing in particular. ‘That was a top priority when the resort was being built – to conserve the natural habitat of the woods and blend in with the surroundings.’
I’m not a fun-fact kind of person, but this one is comforting. We live in a time of conscience, where every purchase now comes with the added weight of consequence. Is this loo roll packaging recyclable? How many bags for life can I purchase before the whole concept becomes counterproductive? It’s stressful, but obviously necessary. Holidays however are a stress-free zone and it’s nice for a hotel to acknowledge their responsibility to consider the environment.
There’s no doubt Terre Blanche is a haven of luxury. The 45-minute drive from Nicce airport is lined with turquoise blue lakes, the 115 suites and villas are designed to emulate a Provencal village, and the infinity pool looks out onto a wooded hillside. But what makes this place special is the attention to detail.
Upon arrival, electric carts await to transport you to your villa, and are at your disposal throughout your stay. There’s over 750 acres to explore, including a spa, four restaurants, two 18-hole championship golf courses and a pool. We all like to rest on holiday, but for me that rule extends to my feet too (hiking holidays are my idea of hell), so it’s safe to say I was a cart regular, but the shorter journeys are well worth the walk; if not for the pathways lined with aromatic Oleander bushes and herbs labelled with their English and Latin names, then for the buzz of the wildlife dwelling within. From owls and red squirrels to bats and bees, Terre Blanche is a happy home for the area’s natural residents. And then there’s the in-house clearing team – a group of five donkeys who in their selective clearing of the undergrowth leave the important flora and fauna undisturbed. Meeting them was genuinely one of the highlights of the trip (and life in general).
You would think a resort on this scale would be claustrophobic, or at the very least full with the sound of neighboring guests, but one of the biggest surprises was how remote and peaceful it felt. Not only were the villas incredibly spacious (the smallest available is a roomy 60 square metres) but the well-thought-out design and the private balcony overlooking the mountains gives the impression you are in a secluded green oasis.
It is inside the villas that the attention to detail comes to the fore. A king sized bed is always a welcoming site after a morning of travelling, but Terre Blanche goes the extra mile. Being greeted by a white fluffy dressing gown and slippers reminds you that this is a spa resort, the Whispering Angel rosé on ice reminds you you’re in wine country, and the 100% organic mattress made from ingredients such as coconut fibre, cactus and seaweed reminds you that sustainability is at the hotel’s core.
Despite the powerful urge to sip rosé on the balcony until a wine-induced sleep took over, the spa was calling. Having been awarded ‘World’s Luxury Golf Resort Spa and Western Europe’s Luxury Hideaway Spa’, this was a 60 minute massage I knew I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. I carry a lot of tension in both my shoulders and calves, so I’ve had my fair share of massages in my fair share of spas. Spas, much like restaurants, are ten a penny nowadays and all come with fancy new trends and fads that instill a sense of FOMO if you’re not hurling yourself onto the bandwagon. The hype surrounding them comes mainly in the form of highly edited photos on social media, making it incredibly difficult to get a gauge on quality. You don’t have to be at Terre Blanche long before it becomes clear quality is their specialty.
Meditative water features and gardens line the entrance to the spa, tuning your mood to what lies ahead. The two-storey building with 12 treatment rooms, a 20 metre indoor pool and a relaxation room, just like the rest of the resort, is spacious and open, giving the illusion of solitude.
I opted for a Signature Massage with Aromatic Pouches (a treatment for deep relaxation that combats nervousness and stress) having picked out my preferred oil blend from a selection by Kos Paris, a 100% organic spa brand which is used throughout the spa. Each oil was tantalizingly herbal, and it was a hard decision to make, but I settled on one with a refreshingly citrus scent. A massage that specifically targets the mental as well as the physical peaked my curiosity. It was 60 glorious minutes of complete switch-off (and 60 minutes of fighting as hard as I could not to snore). The therapists are clearly experts in what they do, knowing instantly what my body needed. I left feeling restored, and hungry.
Terre Blanche definitely has something for everyone, especially if you’re a foodie. The four restaurants, overseen by Executive Chef Philippe Jourdin, offer both quality and variety. There’s Michelin star Le Faventia for contemporary French gastronomy, La Gaudina for a relaxed Mediterranean vibe, La Tousco for the grill enthusiasts, and Les Caroubiers for golfers who love gourmet.
I visited each of these restaurants throughout my stay at Terre Blanche, and the food I was served was exquisite. Not only were the dishes beautifully presented, but all ingredients are locally sourced from the resort’s own herb gardens and the surrounding area of ‘Le Pays de Fayence’. I sampled steamed cod with seaweed, cockles broth and gnocchi at Le Gaudina on the first evening, a vibrant pea and chorizo risotto at Les Caroubiers, and crêpe Suzette (the hotel’s staple, available at all restaurants on site and cooked to order at your table) every night of my stay. It’s likely I may have developed an addiction.
In keeping with the attention-to-detail ethos that runs through the hotel, the Chief Sommelier is on hand to assist with wine pairings, as well as wine tastings in their wine cellar (new for 2019 and featuring over 3,000 different famous, vintage and local wines), paired with homemade tapas. I always feel very out of my depth in conversations surrounding wine, but the passion and expertise on show had me hooked and wanting to learn more.
For the golf enthusiast, Terre Blanche is most probably already on your radar, having been ranked ‘No.1 golf resort in continental Europe.’ I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the courses and performance centre and was impressed by the variety of services available : Two, top of the range, 18-hole championship golf courses, a golf academy (with courses for adults, ages 5-17, and ages 4-6) and a Biomecaswing centre, the first of its kind exclusive to Terre Blanche, that customizes programmes based on body analysis.
The facilities are not only technologically impressive, but are environmentally friendly too. Both courses are some of only seven to be GEO certified, and therefore recognized as a leader in environmental enhancement, and golfers are educated by the resort on the importance of biodiversity and helping golf to become a responsible sport. The groundskeepers even use non-polluting materials in order to keep toxic waste from being absorbed by the soil, and by 2020 the grass on both courses will be replaced by an eco-friendly alternative that will reduce water consumption.
I have never experienced a place quite like Terre Blanche. It is the complete opposite of everything I expected. A resort colossal in size yet homely and peaceful, 5-star yet unpretentious and genuine, away from it all without feeling isolated. It is a resort that has miraculously found the best of both worlds, in perfect balance. And to top it all off it holds caring for the environment, both local and worldwide, close to the heart of everything it does.
Prices start at 350€ in Deluxe Suite with breakfast for 2 persons, please visit www.terre-blanche.com for bookings.
Review by Stephanie Sofokelous