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October 2011 – A Visit to Château de Beaulieu and the Bibémus quarries near Aix-en-Provence

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The western façade of the château with its 18-century geometric box labyrinth

On Thursday 6 October 2011 we visited the Château de Beaulieu near Rognes. This privately owned wine domaine of 300 hectares, of which 140 are planted as with vines, has been undergoing major refurbishment of both house and garden.

The estate, which is situated on an extinct volcano, has gardens which were originally laid out in the 18th century.

Many changes have been made over the years, but during the last five, Atelier Alep, under the guidance of Philippe Deliau, has restored the area closest to the house into classic simple garden rooms and created new axes which give long sweeping views from the house.

Philippe likes to use endemic plants in an ornamental way, for example, he has created a long, mixed hedge using green and white oaks, Viburnum tinus, Pistacia lentiscus and Buxus sempervirens.

Axis looking south towards the Orangerie
A magnificent, newly constructed
bassin-type swimming pool

Rebecca Engels had very generously offered her lovely garden above Aix-en-Provence for us to enjoy our shared lunch. This was followed by a visit to the tranquil and brooding Bibémus quarries, last worked in the 18th century.

It was here that Paul Cézanne painted 14 masterpieces using the oddly sculpted rocks, the amber sandstone, green pines and Provençal blue sky as his inspiration.

The quarries have been sympathetically landscaped by Philippe Deliau. He has created a circuit with paths, wooden walkways and platforms in order for visitors to be able to compare the landscape with reproductions of the paintings created there by Cézanne.

Intervention has been minimal, allowing trees and shrubs to spring up at many levels and preserving the peaceful atmosphere of the site.

Text: Nicola D’Annunzio
Photographs: Nicola D’Annunzio and Christine Daniels