An Interview with Gilles Fouilleroux, General Manager of Terre Blanche Hotel & Spa

By Paul Joseph

The iconic stretch of coastline that makes up the Cote d’Azur needs little introduction, with the likes of Monte Carlo, Cannes and Antibes boasting enough attractions to last a lifetime. But for many discerning travellers they lack one crucial ingredient: solitude.

Step forward Terre Blanche Hotel & Spa, located just 42km from Cannes and an ideal getaway from the summer hubbub of the French Riviera. Nestled close to the historic perched villages of Fayence, Seillans and Caillian, the resort’s combination of a tranquil location and world class amenities has gained it increased attention in recent years.

Much of the credit for this must go to General Manager Gilles Fouilleroux, under whose stewardship Terre Blanche has become one of Europe’s most highly regarded luxury spa and golf hotels since he took charge in 2007. spoke to Mr Fouilleroux to find out the secret of its success.

Can you give us some background to Terre Blanche, when it was built and the concept behind it?
In the late 18th century French aristocrat Charles Bouge owned the estate, which was kept within the family for two centuries. In 1979 Camille Bouge, who was the mayor of Tourettes, sold the property to the actor Sean Connery, who undertook challenging clearing work to lay down new fairways. However, the project was not completed and the investors sold it in 1999. It was then that Dietmar Hopp discovered the exceptional landscape of Terre Blanche and fell in love with what was then simply a plot of woodland. Unlike his predecessors, the avid golfer and entrepreneur had a clear and obtainable vision for what the immense space could become.

What can you tell us about the local area?
The resort is located 45 minutes from Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, 35 minutes from Cannes, La Croisette, 90 minutes from Marseille, 90 minutes from Aix-en-Provence and 80 minutes from St-Tropez.

The architectural and interior design is inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape. The estate combines the best of nature focusing on space and serenity, whilst maintaining the upmost respect for its surroundings. Much of the architectural elements was sourced from the local area, such as the white stone used throughout the buildings which was carved from the quarries of Provence and the use of local red clay to create the terra cotta seen in the suites and villas. This use of white and red provides a colour scheme synonymous with the architecture found throughout southern France.

The resort is also acutely aware of the importance of cohabitation and, as such, the project has been developed to protect the existing natural environment. The native woodland has been untouched and a herd of local donkeys resides on the resort, conveying how Terre Blanche is determined to coexist in harmony with the surrounding environment without disturbing its natural vibrancy.

What are some of the key amenities?
The property consists of 115 independent suites and villas; 4 restaurants; an infinity pool overlooking the estate; a two-storey luxury spa with an indoor pool and an outdoor vitality pool; tennis courts; 2 x 18 hole championship golf courses; and a Kid’s Club (suitable for ages 2 – 12) with a terrace and private children’s pool.

Do you arrange excursions or off-site activities for guests?
We offer a range of off-site activities for adults and children. Being in the epicentre of fantastic wine-making, the hotel offers guests the chance to explore the local villages and enjoy wine tasting at wineries such as Chateau des Selves and Château d’Esclan. The city of Grasse, world capital of perfume, is only at 40 minutes from the resort so Terre Blanche can organise visits to the Fragonard perfumery and the ancient village of Mougins.

For the younger travellers, Terre Blanche have just launched teenager packages, where every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a half or full day of outdoor fun can be coordinated through the hotel’s concierge. These activities will supervised by experienced professionals, leaving with the group and returning with them back to Terre Blanche. Alternatively, sport enthusiasts will enjoy cycling across the region or gliding in the blue sky to uncover breathtaking panoramic views.

What children’s facilities are available on site?
Terre Blanche’s Kids’ Club offers a variety of activities suitable for 2 to12 year olds, as well as its own heated pool and video games rooms so children are entertained whatever the weather. The activities immerse the children in the natural surroundings and give them an understanding of the beauty of nature from discovering the local flora a fauna within the extensive grounds, to visiting the resort’s very own donkeys. Workshops can also be organised for children to explore the local arts and sports, such as tennis, golf, or the typically Provençal game of pétanque or 'boules'.

A Tennis Academy is on offer for child and adult guests alike with bespoke classes depending on ability. There are two tennis courts with personal tennis instructors on hand to give tuition to those wishing to improve their game.

Families are also able to enjoy our glorious golf courses together. The Golf Academy provides private and group classes for children aged 6 to 16 years old bringing them up to a level of play where they can join their parents on the two courses available within the estate. From 2015, Terre Blanche is also offering a Teenage Package for young-adults to enjoy a variety of activities, from playing golf, tennis, provençal boules, table tennis or video games in the “VIT” room (Very Important Teenagers).

What about real estate opportunities – what options are there for potential buyers?
Within the 750 acre estate are unique residential opportunities in France with plots of land from 2,000 square metres to 14,000 square metres. These properties are available within four wooded areas of the estate.

In March 2015, a new real estate programme of villas sold off-plan was launched. The ‘Golf Residences’ especially designed with golfers in mind and consisting of 49 turnkey villas, features a neo-Provencal architecture and integrates fully with the surrounding natural landscape. Built on serviced plots of 800-1300m², the area is divided into three private and secured woods near the Albatros Golf Performance Centre.

Do you find many people use the resort as a peaceful get-away from Nice, Cannes and Monaco?
Our location enables guests to experience the charm and character of Provence alongside the chic of the Côte d’Azur. Terre Blanche is the opposite of Cannes, Nice or Monaco. Here they can relax and indulge in their passions in the midst of preserved nature.

I understand you are now hosting golf competitions – how are they going?
With two top of the range, tree-lined and undulating 18-hole championship golf courses ‘Le Château’ and ‘Le Riou’, designed by Dave Thomas, Terre Blanche is very popular for hosting golf competitions. We organise many competitions ourselves, around 100 per year but we also host important tournaments like The French Riviera Masters every October, which is the only French stage of the European Senior Tour.

Does the resort have any exciting developments in the pipeline?
The main goal is to continually improve our high quality service and our guest relations to understand their needs and to adapt our offers. Terre Blanche totally understood that it is the detail that makes the difference so we are creating new personalised offers and tailor-made packages. But the biggest project is our new real estate program of “Golf Residences” we launched in March. This is proof that more and more people are interested in living the “Terre Blanche way of life”.

By Paul Joseph