Designtripper contributor D. Graham Kostic gives a special report on La Pauline, a b&b outside of Aix-en-Provence.
Originally we had wanted to do a Southwest USA road trip. You know, rent a convertible and wear a silk scarf that would flap in the breeze behind me while stopping at towns that have become famous for alien encounters. Or we said we wanted to do a Provence and the French Riviera road trip. So when we’d tell friends our options, they’d turn their nose at the Southwest and get all goo-goo-eyed for Provence. Well, it wasn’t long before we were jet-lagged in Paris and on the TGV to Avignon to rent a car and go. It was a mad-cap adventure through the south of France (and on to Italy afterwards), but there was one place that stood out among the rest. Outside of Aix-en-Provence is La Pauline, a bed and breakfast that left an indelible mark on our hearts. So the story goes that Napoleon (as in that little man who tucked his hand into his shirt) had a sister named Pauline and Pauline fell in love with a man who owned a lot of land in Provence. The man, however, was married, but still wanted Pauline close. So he built Pauline a country estate where they would rendezvous. History aside, the place is absolutely beautiful and the service unmatched. We pulled up to large ornate iron gates that looked on to a long drive lined with yew-trees and were greeted by the hotel manager Silvia, who I decided has to be on our Christmas card list. The small five-room bed and breakfast is well-appointed with the best smelling linens we’ve ever smelled and a carrera marble bathroom that overlooks a small hedge maze (side note: I’ve always wanted a garden maze, so I was completely floored). A lofty common room with colorful chairs and a long farm table makes for a wonderful place to eat a homemade breakfast that I still think about. When I called to book our reservation, Silvia asked if we would be joining her for breakfast. Mais oui, i said and then she asked what we would want from the farmer’s market. I told her to surprise us. Cheeses, meats, hard-boiled eggs, fresh breads, jams, fresh squeezed orange juice—it was, hands-down, the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had.
And dinner? Well, we wanted to head into Aix for dinner that evening, but something about our comfortable room and the calm grounds made us want to stay there forever. We found the nearest grocery store and had a picnic late at night. The rooms (separated from the main house, which is the owner’s residence) was provençale to a T—cool, white plaster walls and a cement floor with simple furniture. Local linens on the beds and windows finished the look. The whole place sort of made me want to throw open the shutters and sing that opening song from Beauty and the Beast. Well, I actually did do that a few times and it felt so good.