A Rolls-Royce Road Trip Through The Rolling Hills Of Provence In A Black Badge Ghost

Join Lisa Young as she embarks upon an enviable road trip to the contemporary and refined boutique hotel Villa La Coste. Her journey is breathtaking in every sense, from the spectacular Provencal scenery she passes to the powerful, fearless and state-of-the-art car she is test driving. Read on to discover more.

I’m at the wheel of an elegant Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, whispering effortlessly over the forty kilometres of road between Marseille Provence airport and my destination: Château La Coste.

The Château’s splendid estate covers 200 hectares and is saturated with history, including a wine-making tradition dating from Roman times. It is also home to the exquisite Villa La Coste, a luxury hotel that draws wine-tasting, food-loving, art-seeking, free-spirited pilgrims.

I enter through the Tadao Ando-designed gate at the start of the long and winding private road that twists and turns through the estate all the way to the Villa.

The drive is flanked by perfectly placed poplar trees, golden vineyards and occasional engineering-inspired pieces of structural art by the likes of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Alexander Calder and Frank Gehry. A giant crouching spider installation is by Louise Bourgeois. My Ghost is a perfect fit here: a ‘forbidden pink’ four-wheeled work of art created by the skilled craftspeople at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Approximately ten years ago, Rolls-Royce realised that some of their customers did not want to be connected to traditional codes of luxury. These are confident and self-reliant younger clients, often self-made, who enjoy the experience of driving and have an interest in the dynamics of their car. They are people who challenge boundaries, perceptions and conventions, and who want something different. They reject extravagance and ostentation, preferring reduction, simplicity and substance, and the intelligent, considered selection and unobtrusive application of exceptional materials and craftsmanship.

Rolls-Royce is a customer-driven company built on their historic ability to react and respond to their customer requests, and so Rolls-Royce engineers and designers started creating the Black Badge series. First came the Black Badge Wraith, which was a huge success, followed by Dawn, Cullinan, and the latest: Ghost – an important vehicle for Rolls-Royce.

The current Ghost model is perfect in its simplicity, but creating this purity of expression was one of the marque’s greatest-ever technical challenges. It incorporates state-of-the-art equipment and functions including LED and laser headlights with more than 600 metres of illuminated range, plus Vision Assist; Alertness Assistant; four-camera system with panoramic view, all-round visibility and helicopter view; active cruise control; collision, cross-traffic, lane departure and lane change warnings; industry-leading 7×3 high-resolution head-up display (HUD); on-board Wi-Fi hotspot; Self-Park system; and bespoke navigation and entertainment systems.

All this makes up the car I am lucky enough to be driving through beautiful, sunny Provence, to an equally luxurious destination.

Villa La Coste

The Villa is surrounded by spectacular rolling hills, swaying pines and glowing vineyards in a plethora of golds, greens, reds and browns, like a palette of the master artist Paul Cézanne himself, a once-upon-a-time local from nearby Aix-en-Provence.

Greeted by a team of attentive young staff, I’m soon escorted to my room. There are 38 contemporary and spacious suites, with long-draped king-sized four-poster beds, and light pouring in through large windows. A glass door opens onto a private balcony with views across the Château La Coste domain and on to the Luberon massif of central Provence and the foothills of the French Alps. Charming French villages, sprawling olive groves and rolling vineyards fill the view… I’m told that the scent of lavender hangs in the air in summer.

Art Tour

I am soon seduced into exploring the Villa’s art trail. There’s so much to see in this ‘eye for detail’ collection of large installations. It includes the Oscar Niemeyer Gallery and Auditorium, built as an exhibition and event space. Conrad Shawcross’s fascination with geometry continues with his work Schism. For his Psicopompos, Tunga chose to work with wrought iron for the scales and Rognes stone for the architecture. For the counterweights, he chose quartz from the Amazon, a glass prism from the Czech Republic, and magnets from China.

Hélène Darroze at Villa La Coste

As night falls, the dining room becomes a food art space where world-famous French chef Hélène Darroze adds her own artistic flair to her modern and delicate high-quality organic cuisine and exceptional produce. Focusing strongly on vegetables and fruit, and served in a contemporary setting surrounded by an impressive art collection, dishes include blue lobster with creamy cauliflower, and duck breast with a subric of spinach shoots.

Rolls-Royce and the South of France

There’s a deep connection between Rolls-Royce and the South of France (think of the Camargue and the Corniche). A two-hour drive away (148 kilometres), on the Mediterranean coast, is the picturesque village of Le Canadel, where entrepreneur Sir Henry Royce built a home in 1911.

Royce (1863-1933) founded the now iconic motor company in Manchester, in 1904. His partners were Charles Rolls (1877-1910) and Claude Johnson (1864-1926) who served as CEO for over 20 years and was known as the ‘hyphen’ in RollsRoyce. The company produced its first two-cylinder, ten-horsepower Royce 10 for a then-substantial £395.

With the company established and successful, Royce lived from 1911 to 1931 alternately in West Wittering in Sussex (UK) and in Provence, taking advantage of the warm winters. Today he is commemorated in a small stone roadside plaque at the entrance to Le Canadel, dedicated with simple Gallic understatement to ‘Sir Henry Royce, Mécanicien’.

It seems fitting to drive a Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost through the beautiful landscape of Sir Henry Royce’s beloved Provençal countryside. The surfaces of the narrow country roads around Château La Coste are uneven, but as I motor away at the end of my visit, the car’s suspension irons them out to create a perfectly smooth ride.

I make my way back towards Aix-en-Provence and onwards to the stunning coastal town of Cassis. Winding down the hillside towards the Mediterranean Sea, there’s time to stop for a terrace lunch at Les Belles Canailles, with spectacular views across the coast and out to sea.

If Sir Henry’s ghost was able to watch me enjoying Provence in the comfort of this ultimate car, I’m certain he would be mightily proud of this Ghost.

Full Details

For full details on Rolls Royce visit here

Villa La Costa

Website: villalacoste.com
Address: 2750, route de la cride, 13610 Le Puy Ste Réparade

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