Le Grand Jas - Classic Provencal Style in the Lubéron Valley


views from the terrace towards the south Well appointed villa Avignon Aix-en-Provence Market


With its south-facing terrace overlooking an infinity-view swimming pool, newly landscaped grounds and five spacious ensuite bedrooms, all of them air-conditioned, Le Grand Jas is the ideal headquarters for a group of couples who desire a residence of great comfort and character from which to explore Provence and its many culinary and historic treasures. Situated on a one-hectare (2.5-acre) slightly elevated terrain in a small hamlet of farmhouses near Gordes, the property has a quiet countryside ambience that is completely untroubled by traffic noise. A long row of olive trees stretches across the property. From the terrace and most rooms views stretch over the Lubéron Valley to the horizon. Even with its bucolic setting, there is a wide variety of quality restaurants and food shops within a 10-minute drive of the property.

Le Grand Jas is also within easy reach of the villages of the Lubéron so adored by travel writers, among them Ménerbes, Lacoste, Goult, Bonnieux and Roussillon. Beaumettes and Coustellet, small villages with a variety of shops, are less than five minutes by car. The property is likewise well located for excursions beyond the Lubéron. Aix-en-Provence lies to the south, the Côtes-du-Rhône wine-producing region to the north, and the villages and restaurants (among them the famed Oustaù de Baumanière at Les Baux-de-Provence) of the Alpilles region to the southwest. The historic town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, once a center of the Provençal silk trade and now home to more than 200 antiques dealers and Provence's best-known open-air market, is a drive of less than 15 minutes.

Le Grand Jas is constructed in classic Provençal style, with thick stone walls, rust-red terra cotta tile roof and a southern orientation to take advantage of long days of sunlight. Framing the wide windows are shutters the color of olive leaves. The interior decor emphasizes cool, pale colors contrasted with natural woods and dark accents such as the wrought-iron stair rails. Throughout the house the ceilings, walls and limestone floors are off-white, which brings out the rich tones of the exposed ceiling beams. The ambiance is simultaneously fresh and light, yet anchored in the enduring architectural tradition found throughout Provence. From a little-traveled country road a driveway winds through a grove of oak trees and parasol pines to Le Grand Jas. The grounds are landscaped with flower beds, young olive and fruit trees and, as is traditional in fine gardens throughout the South of France, a number of carefully trimmed cypress trees that in not many years will tower over the two-story structure. Surrounding the pool deck are rows of flowering shrubs, rosemary bushes and patches of lavender.

From the parking area a wide stone path bordered by flowerbeds leads to the main entrance, a massive 18th century wood door, on the north side of the house. In the foyer, where a winding stone staircase rises to the second level, a line of sight extends through the living room to the terrace and beyond to the Lubéron mountains. A vaulted ceiling gives the ground-floor common rooms a feeling of soaring space. Everywhere the house is filled with light.

The spacious living room, with its earth tones offset by occasional bursts of bright color, sets the decorative theme that pervades all rooms of the 300 m2 (3,330 sq. ft.) house. Two long oatmeal-color sofas and several leather armchairs are arranged in front of a huge fireplace framed by a limestone mantel. A huge 18th-century walnut armoire reaches all the way to the ceiling, accomodating satellite TVs and CD Stereo. The recessed overhead lights can be adjusted from bright to a soft glow.

An archway separates the living room from the dining area, where there is a long farm table with matching leather chairs. The chandelier and the vibrant colors of the still-life oil painting over the impressive cherry wood buffet are deft decorative touches that add color and warmth.

Top-quality appliances, generous counter space and excellent lighting are all features of the well-equipped kitchen in Le Grand Jas. A dishwasher, American full size side-by-side stainless-steel refrigerator with icemaker and a six-burner (four gas and two electric) Lacanche stove with dual ovens, accompanied by a variety of countertop appliances, provide everything the professional or amateur cook will need for simple family meals or serious entertaining. A butcher-block table provides additional workspace. Off the kitchen is a utility room with an American full size washing machine and separate tumble dryer.

One of Le Grand Jas' most delightful features is its spacious terrace, which overlooks the swimming pool and with its long stone table offers the perfect setting for evening cocktails followed by dinner under the stars. French doors open from the dining area and living room onto the east-west oriented terrace, from which stone stairs descend to the garden and stone deck surrounding the pool.

Le Grand Jas has five charmingly appointed bedrooms, each air-conditioned, equipped with top-quality Sealy Posturepedic beds and decorated in an engaging style that emphasizes clean lines, rich wood tones and uncluttered surfaces. Typically an antique desk or chest of drawers is complemented by a rose or soft green bedspread and white sheer floor-to-ceiling drapes. Each bedroom also has bedside tables with good reading lamps, generous storage space in a closet or large armoire, and a small sitting area. All of the baths are ensuite, and brilliantly illuminated and tiled in a soft taupe color, and have a WC.

Apart from the minor differences, no one of the five bedrooms is substantially less desirable than the others - an advantage for a group of couples that wants relatively equal accommodations. The master bedroom is somewhat more commodious and has access to the terrace. All bedrooms except the master bedroom have ceiling fans, and all are air-conditioned.

The master bedroom, which opens off the living room, is one of two bedrooms on the ground floor. Dominating the space is a massive king-sized bed in a wood frame well elevated from the floor. Near the limestone fireplace is a sitting area with two plush club chairs. The elegantly finished master bath has a tub and separate all-glass stall shower.

The ground-floor guest bedroom has twin beds and a bath with glass stall shower. This room, no less charmingly decorated than the others, is slightly smaller than the other guest bedrooms, and does not have a long-range view.

Opening from a wide landing at the top of the stairs are three guest bedrooms, all with fine views of the countryside and beds mounted in high wooden frames. The first has a king-sized bed and a bath with tub and separate glass stall shower. The second has twin beds with lovely toile de jouy headboards and a bath with a tub and hand-held shower. The third bedroom has a queen sized bed and a bath with a glass stall shower. Like the downstairs bedrooms, these rooms have a fresh, airy feel that goes with the overall ambiance of cheer and buoyancy that characterizes Le Grand Jas.

While there is a television with satellite reception in the living room, guests may tend to gravitate toward the more casual atmosphere of the upstairs sitting room, which opens from the landing at the top of the stairway. This is a pleasant, informal space, with two sofas, a game table and a large armoire that houses a television, also with satellite reception. There is a stereo system with CD player, and a small but growing collection of books, principally in English.

After a day of exploring Provence's different regions and coming to know its charming villages and world-famous vineyards, guests will enjoy heading home to the cool 5 m X 10 m (16.5' X 33') swimming pool at Le Grand Jas. The pool furniture includes several lounge chairs, and for shade there are two parasols as well as a covered area off the pool deck. Once again potential guests must be cautioned that while the pool has three steps at one end, it does not have a shallow part and thus can be used by young children only if they are wearing life jackets and are supervised by adults.

Le Grand Jas is an outstanding property for a family or adult group of couples who want a supremely comfortable vacation with all the conveniences that modernity brings, yet in a genuinely Provençal environment with complete calm and glorious views of the countryside.

Note: The swimming pool at Le Grand Jas has a consistent depth of 1.5 meters (5'). Three steps lead into the pool, but there is no shallow end. Therefore young children must be carefully supervised and must wear life jackets provided by the owner.