An hour by car from Saint-Tropez—or a gratifyingly quick flight time of nine minutes by helicopter—and situated on a 1,700-acre parcel of Provençal woodlands sits Bern Castlea five-star Relais & Châteaux property of majestic proportions.
More than a hotel, the property has 34 well-appointed rooms and suites and a trio of private villas including Fito, a two-story six-bedroom oasis, complete with pool and separate pool house—perfect for an au pair or the in-laws—set on five acres of olive tree-dotted countryside. Here discretion is the policy, and although his identity has been confirmed through sightings by previous guests and residents in nearby villages, the staff remain tight-lipped about the name of the two-time Academy Award-winning actor who recently enjoyed a monthlong stay. The more modest villas like Jasso—with three bedrooms, en suite baths, a single-level open floor plan, and a shaded terrace and pool—are full of rustic charm and modern conveniences at about half the square footage.
Then there’s the Château itself. At nearly 11,000 square feet, the 18th-century stone-clad home can accommodate up to 20 guests, and the seven generously sized bedrooms each have their own bathrooms, and the main living and dining spaces, and fully equipped chef’s kitchen, are ideal for entertaining. The addition of a private pool set at the center of an olive grove, lush formal gardens, vineyards, an outdoor kitchen, and a private chapel make for a quintessential French wine country getaway.
And, if you’re prone to fits of whimsy, the property’s reception manager Anna Lochon is only a phone call away. Last season, a guest inquired about the possibility of renting Harley Davidson motorcycles so he and his wife could tour the backroads of Provence and, to the amazement of the Château’s owner (who happened to be in residence) and staff, the next day Lochon took delivery of two Harleys for the intrepid couple. As for the aforementioned helicopter, there’s a helipad on site in the middle of a water garden, so she can also book your trip to Cannes for a romantic dinner at La Palme d’Or.
Apart from the luxury accommodations—all of which have access to the property’s main pools, gym, tennis court, spa, and miles of hiking and biking trails—Château de Berne is home to Michelin-starred restaurant Jardin de Berne (also a 2021 Michelin Green Star recipient). Inspired by locally sourced seasonal ingredients, many of which come from the estate’s organic gardens, Chef Louis Rameau creates delicious dishes like a trout served over vine embers accompanied by mushrooms seasoned with the trout’s poutargue (or roe) and thyme, and lamb with long squash from Nice in a quince lamb jus with walnut wine. The ambiance is enviable, with a glass observatory-style dining room—where guests also enjoy delicious breakfasts—that connects to the main interior dining space designed with a clean Provençal aesthetic. Just a few steps outside the hotel’s formal gated entrance, the more informal Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated Bistro de Berne serves a wide-ranging menu, though we recommend ordering the The Truffle Star and Marguerite pizzas.
We’d be remiss not to mention the 432 acres of planted vines at Château de Berne that are protected by 1,300 acres of Mediterranean forest made up of ancient oaks, Umbrella and Aleppo pines, and olive trees. Certified fully organic since February 2021 and helmed by winemaker Alexis Cornu, the estate produces red, white, and a myriad of rosé wines. Their flagship wines, in recognizable square bottles, include current releases like La Grande Cuvée 2021 Rosé and the popular Inspiration Rosé. The winemaking facility, a tasting room, and wine shop are conveniently located in the same building that houses Bistro de Berne, which makes it easy to keep your in-suite refrigerator stocked.
For a change of scenery, drive down to the village of Lorgues for the afternoon. With its historic architecture—from medieval facades and buildings dating from the 16th century to well-integrated contemporary structures—it’s easily accessed by a quaint, albeit sinewy, country road and offers visitors a slice of rural life. Have a glass of rosé and burger for lunch (or a little foie gras and escargot) at Le Grillon and visit with the bistro’s owner and British expat Josh Dixon. Then walk half a block to La Fromagerie de Lorgues for a cheese tasting in its 17th-century cave with proprietor Tristan Joley (the gouda au pesto is incredible). Open air markets along the main street, held on Tuesdays and Fridays during the high season, are also great for meeting locals and hearing a bit of village lore.
Whatever your vacation speed, there’s more than enough to see, taste, and explore between the Château’s idyllic location in Côtes de Provence and the soigné South of France to keep you occupied for, at the very least, a week. Closed for the season from January 2 to March 16, Château de Berne is a favorite spot for discerning Europeans, and we’re told stays for spring and summer book quickly.