La Maison d’Ulysse – a hidden gem in the heart of Provence

Nothing else quite epitomises hidden gem as well as La Maison d’Ulysse in the tiny village of Baron in Provence. My taxi dropped me outside a 16th century converted farmhouse and as I rang the bell I had no idea of the sheer beauty that awaited me inside the hotel’s old stone walls. Once you enter the front door of La Maison d’Ulysse, it feels as though you are stepping into a little paradise with lush greenery hanging from the hotel’s exterior walls.

La Maison d’Ulysse is a charming home turned authentic luxury hotel, providing a relaxed, welcoming and warm atmosphere, with the owners Guy Toullelan and Gauthier Vandendriessche personally there to welcome each guest upon arrival into “their home”.

The former house has been beautifully restored and features carefully selected modern furnishings that blend meticulously with the original stonework. Each room features its own design and unique character, whilst none of them compromise on either space or comfort. Featuring only nine bedrooms, each room feels hidden away from the others as if offering its very own secret hideaway. I stayed in the elegantly designed Chant du Murier suite, which resembles something you’d find in a glossy interior design magazine. A beautiful stone staircase leads you up to a private terrace outside the luxury suite. Upon entering, the striking bathroom is what really stands out, featuring colourful circular rugs made by Hay, a Danish designer brand, against a mosaic wall of small earthenware tiles.

On my first day we took a leisurely walk to the peaceful hamlet of Marignac, as part of the hotel’s new ‘Gauthier’s Guides’, a selection of guides left in the rooms for walking, jogging or cycling. With the expert guidance of Gauthier Vandendriessche, one half of the hotel’s founders, we embarked on a 6km walk to the hamlet of Marignac, also referred to as ‘Our little Nice’, simply because it enjoys the most sunshine and is the most protected against the Mistral wind out of all of the villages surrounding Uzès. The walk takes you through beautiful countryside and vineyards, overlooking the valley of Baron and offering magnificent views of the mountains in the distance.

On my second day I visited the medieval market town of Uzès for the weekly Wednesday morning market, during which local producers and agricultures come together to display their produits du terroir, regional products and specialities. Expect cheese, olives, wine, olive oil, fruit, bread, herbs and so much more.

Uzès is a beautiful small town in the Gard department, north of Nîmes, with a history dating from Roman times. The circular streets around the historical centre were once walls that protected the medieval castle in the 11th and 12th centuries.

The ancient centre houses Le Duché, a medieval castle with four towers, the lovely Place aux Herbes with terrace cafés and surrounding arcades, and the tall Fenestrelle tower at the cathedral, fashioned after the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I spent my afternoon relaxing on the sun loungers lined up by the hotel’s outdoor heated pool. Surrounded by wildflower, herb and vegetable gardens, the pool offers the ultimate peaceful setting. Protected by the mistral wind, with the smell of lavender coming from the garden and stunning views of the surrounding Provencal countryside, I couldn’t think of a better spot to relax and unwind.

The breakfast at the hotel is outstanding, Gauthier personally shows you what he’s served up that morning at the breakfast buffet and offers you his own homemade crepes, accompanied with homemade fig and apricot jams. I opted to dine every morning in the restaurant’s beautiful stone-lined courtyard, with a beautiful gate opening up to the sun-soaked wild garden.

On my final night I had the pleasure of dining at the hotel’s restaurant. At the hands of the talented chefs Valerie and Daniel, I enjoyed a sublime butternut squash soup with Brazil nuts, and simply the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had! Trained at the Institut Paul Bocuse, the duo meld French culinary precision with Asian and Caribbean elements to create culinary masterpieces.

 

Valerie and Daniel’s kitchen at La Maison d’Ulysse serves up fresh and seasonal gourmet cuisine, sourced from the wonderfully rich and fertile environs of the hotel, and chosen by the chefs at a local food market. The menu changes daily in accordance to what is ripe and fresh that day and the couple take pleasure in constantly reinventing and creating new dishes.

To sum it up, La Maison d’Ulysse is an absolute dream and offers an extremely relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the heart of Provence.