“In the heart of the magnificent landscapes of Provence, a dream of mine came true: the dream of enjoying three hundred days of sunlight and a serenity which is, for me, the ultimate luxury. Terre Blanche is an oasis and a holiday here soothes the soul.” (D. Hopp)
With this words resort owner Dietmar Hopp describes how he fell for Terre Blanche.
The site was owned by aristocrat Charles Bouge in the late 18th century and it remained in his family for two centuries before being bought in 1979 by actor Sean Connery, who was planning to create a golf course. This project never came to fruition.
By the late 1990s, Terre Blanche’s destiny had been decided. Dietmar Hopp fell in love with its outstanding country setting. He wasn’t interested in what didn’t work in the past but rather what could be achieved in the immense space. A passionate golfer, inspired entrepreneur and, as the founder of SAP, a visionary, he set the wheels in motion for the grand project which he had dreamt up. His vision is still at the heart of Terre Blanche’s philosophy.
The resort was built in 2004 and now has a 5* hotel, two 18-hole golf courses, a training centre, a spa, the Royaume des Enfants children’s club, four restaurants (one of which is starred), but also two property schemes.
Space and serenity are the order of the day and respect for nature is a founding principal.
Terre Blanche was the result of a series of acquisitions. The first was by Antoine Bouge, who bought the Colline des Crouis (from the Latin “quercus” meaning “oak”) from the Arquier family. Once the Château had been built, it became known as the Colline du Château (Château Hill).
The Arquiers were an upper-middle class family from Marseille who had left the city following the French Revolution to seek refuge in Tourrettes, where they had a residence and 30 hectares of land on the Colline des Crouis. Jean-Baptiste Arquier became mayor of Tourrettes and remained in this post for many years.
Antoine Bouge had the Château built at the top of the hill near Jean-Baptiste Arquier’s hunting lodge, which was in place before the Château existed and was used as a hiding spot when hunting thrushes. Work started in the 1850s and 60s and took around 10 years. All the stones were sent by ship and brought from Fréjus to Tourrettes in carts.
In 1900, thanks to the Bouge family, the Tourrettes area and canton of Fayence enjoyed significant investment. At about the same time, Antoine’s brother Auguste Bouge became the Château’s owner. He bought 280 hectares in his wife Emilie’s name from the Marquis de Villeneuve, thereby expanding Terre Blanche. The Marquis de Villeneuve was the son of a very long-standing local family and owner of the 13th-century Bergerie de Terre Blanche. Tourrettes’ town call is what was the Château des Villeneuve.
In 2001, the Hopp family bought the property known as the Riou Blanc, thereby creating the Terre Blanche which we know today.
From its design, Terre Blanche was imagined by a golf lover for golf lovers. An infinite range of possibilities quickly opened up. The resort is built on 300 ha / 741 acres of wild countryside without damaging the location’s fragile balance and in close cooperation with the economy and tourism of the region. Today, Terre Blanche is a part of the Pays de Fayence.
It is an ecological success through the use of green methods and materials. It is also an economic success, thanks to partnerships with local companies and because hundreds of lasting jobs have been created. The hotel was designed like the Haut-Var perched villages. It is inspired by their homes built with old white stone, red tile roofs, and perfectly integrated into the natural environment. Inspired by nature, the two golfs of Terre Blanche are ranked among the most prestigious in Europe. The architect Dave Thomas kept the existing features of the estate to create bunkers and other real golf challenges on two unique 18-hole courses.
To complete these facilities, the Spa was conceived and built as a Provencal house with lime, stone and tiles, red clay. Building the Albatros Golf Performance Center Building the Albatros Golf Performance Center Golf courses at their beginning
The history of the Bouge family goes all the way back to Charles in the 18th century. Charles Bouge was an imperial colonel in the Napoleonic army from a family of Toulon ship-owners who took part in all of Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy and Helvetia. He died in 1826 in Callian, which was to be his final resting place.
The story of the Bouge family in Tourrettes began when Charles married a daughter of the Mireur family, who was born in the little village of Callian. As the couple had no children, it was his doctor brother Nicolas who inherited Charles’ position at the head of the Bouge family. Two generations later in the 1850s and 60s, Nicolas’ son, Antoine, a lawyer and Swedish consul in Marseille (but also, first and foremost, a very eligible bachelor) had the Château built on the Colline des Crouis (from the Latin “quercus” meaning “oak”).
Antoine had a sister named Marie and two brothers, Auguste and Jules. Upon Antoine’s death, it was Auguste Bouge (1853-1931), grandfather of Camille Bouge, who inherited the Château. When Auguste himself died, his only son with his wife Emilie, Marie-Eugène Bouge (1905-1977), inherited it in turn. He was another lawyer in the family and the father of Camille Bouge, Mayor of Tourrettes.
The Château’s owner in the early 1900s, Auguste Bouge was a great lover of art and painting, but also a much-appreciated patron. Among his most notable purchases were paintings by Monticelli. Monticelli’s son, Viola, and local Marseille painters such as Roch and Maury regularly came to spend a few summer months in the Château. As well as the works and paintings on the walls, including the paintings of Camille Bouge’s ancestors, the Château’s ceilings were painted and decorated by passing artists.
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Auguste Bouge financed the construction of a private purified water network running down from the village from a height of 100m of Tourrettes to irrigate the Château grounds. This was the first network driven by gravity to supply Terre Blanche and it stayed in use until 1979 – up to that point, there was no water meter. An ornamental pool which is still in place today served as a reservoir (and an attractive water feature) in front of the Château. A second water storage facility was also created beneath the Château roof. It held 2000 litres and was designed to flow down using gravity into the water features. It was quite a luxury for its time. This permanent water resource also fed into the farm in the Château courtyard using an overflow system, as well as the surrounding fields.
The Château Bouge’s woodlands were the work of Antoine and Auguste Bouge, and they are made up of conifers and deciduous trees planted in the late 19th century. They usually need to be at altitudes of more than 800m to grow, but here they have thrived just 400-500m from the Château. Especially well represented are rare, unique trees which at the time were transported to Fréjus by boat from around the globe. Among the catalogued species there are Lebanon cedars and incense cedars from the Rocky Mountains in California. There are also various types of cypress trees, including Greek cypresses with their outsized, sparse branches, the California cypress and yellow cypresses all the way from the Canadian Rockies. Also not to be missed are the spectacular sequoias of North America, an exotic species of resinous trees.
In the present day, Mr. Camille Bouge has noted that history is repeating itself one century later: like Dietmar Hopp today, Antoine Bouge gave entire local families work while his Château was being built in the 1850s and 60s. Italian painters – one master, a few companions and a few apprentices – came to paint the Château ceilings, but stayed to paint the ceilings in Fayence church too and in the end, they never left.
The Bergerie, or pen, was once located opposite what is now the Château golf course’s tenth hole. It was originally surrounded by magnificent oak trees and, happily, a few of them have been preserved. Lots of flat, square, polished stones were spread around the Bergerie. These salt stones were the product of many long, slow years of polishing, licked by the rough tongues of salt-loving goats, put there to give them a balanced diet. Camille Bouge’s father created grazing land for the sheep. Where the lake currently sits between the Bergerie and the Château, crops were once grown. It was during that particular era that Terre Blanche (or White Earth) was named after the land’s crumbly white stones.
The farm was in existence before the Château was built and it had a lower, western part with a stable for Camille Bouge’s father’s horses and donkey. He used the latter to get to school as in those days; his parents lived in Paris while he stayed with the servants in the Château.
The lime kiln
The lime kiln was built by the Villeneuves to make lime out of the site’s plentiful supplies of white-coloured earth which gave the resort its name. It is white because it is made of white clay with a strong dose of calcium carbonate and kaolin. The kiln was used to heat the white earth until its water content had evaporated and limestone was left. When rehydrated with water, it could be used as a binder for buildings. Above the limestone kiln was a maisonette where the kiln workers lived. When, in a tragic accident, three people were fatally poisoned by carbon monoxide from the wood burnt for heating, the limestone stopped being used for commercial purposes.
This ancient limestone kiln has been preserved, and you can spot it near the Le Riou course’s fourth hole.
The open barn
The open barn was built by Auguste Bouge. Its highly typical 19th-century wooden architecture is found in many villages in the area around Grasse, including Saint-Vallier.