La Bastide de Marie, Provence, France, review: Rustic chic and rolling hills

THE LOCATION

Usually renowned for their sturdy defensive qualities, "bastides'' are the fortified towns that sprouted across southern France in the Middle Ages. La Bastide de Marie is nothing of the sort. Run by the Sibuet family, which owns a string of upscale French boutique hotels, this idyllic five-star retreat is nestled amid 23 hectares of vineyards, citrus orchards and herb-strewn gardens in the shadow of the Luberon mountains. Easy to miss, it's set back from the placid country road that snakes between the hilltop towns of Menerbes and Bonnieux – two of the "must-sees'' on the Provencal tourism trail – and is a one-hour transfer from Marseille-Provence airport and 50 minutes from Avignon TGV railway station (for connections to Paris).

THE SPACE

Skinny cypresses, olive trees and lavender bushes guard the driveway to this beautifully restored 18th century stone farm inn. Postcard-pretty from the outside – clusters of vegetation tickle its light-blue door and window shutters – its interior is a warren of seductively-lit nooks and crannies that fan out from a cosy, high-ceilinged lounge adorned with vintage furniture, jam-packed bookshelves and a fireplace that crackles in winter. I stay in late summer, when temperatures touch the mid-to-late 20Cs, and sun-worshipping guests patronise the loungers by the inn's grassy lawns and swimming pools (one of which was converted from a former pond).

THE ROOM

Eclectically decorated with the fruits of the region's antique shops and flea markets, the 14 rooms and suites are named after colours common in Provencal landscapes (colours that are reflected in the walls, floors and furnishing fabrics). My spacious "Ocre Rouge'' room has reddish hues and an iron-framed four-poster bed, in which I enjoy dreamy sleeps. For bohemian romance, check into the Roulotte – a caravan designed as a rural boudoir beside the main residence. You can also rent out Villa Grenache, a free-standing abode on the estate with five bedrooms. It accommodates 10 people.

THE FOOD

Expect stylishly-presented modern twists on classic Provencal dishes, using seasonal ingredients from local markets and the estate itself. In a dining room flush with exposed stone walls and beams, you'll be served tipples from the neighbouring La Domaine de Marie winery with the likes of smoky tomato soup with olive tartare, Provencal-style "caillettes'' (meatballs) infused with sage and rosemary, and lamb shank with onions, potatoes and mushrooms. The desserts and cheeseboards are mouthwatering, too.

STEPPING OUT

It's tempting to just chill out here – perhaps having a spa treatment or even a cookery lesson – but the hotel is a springboard to bountiful bucolic adventures. I stay for three nights on a five-day bespoke Provencal cycling trip, and our daily loops comprise ravishing, vine-smeared scenery, Roman relics and quaint towns and villages, including Lacoste and Gordes. Like Menerbes and Bonnieux, they're made for wining, dining, gallery-browsing and souvenir shopping.

THE VERDICT

Oozing rustic-chic charm, La Bastide de Marie is the perfect country abode in which to recharge one's batteries – a place to savour the finer things in Provencal life (while inducing pangs of envy from mates on social media). It looks fabulous – inside and out. Service is polite and friendly; never snooty. The food and drink is moreish. It is, in truth, a wrench to leave.

HIGHLIGHT

Sunset aperitivo on the garden patio (especially when there's a local folk band playing).

LOWLIGHT

Public transport is scarce to say the least, so you'll need your own wheels.

ESSENTIALS

La Bastide de Marie, 64 chemin des Peirelles, 84560 Menerbes.

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Doubles start at €380 ($592); en.labastidedemarie.com

Steve McKenna was a guest of Butterfield & Robinson (butterfield.com)

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