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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

Pays de Grignan

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

There is something about walking around a small French village at sunrise…..fairy strings of lights are just fading off and the sky sends pink streaks to replace them. Everything has a rosy glow. The fountains are gurgling, a few birds start to talk to one another and then it’s the church bells that clang and tell the residents it is time to open the shutters. This is my absolute favorite type of morning.

I had slipped out of bed in my enchanting suite “Ecritoire” at La Clair de la Plume and silently headed out passing the towns’ elegant wash house inspired by a Roman temple. I could easily do laundry here, it is dreamy.

Enchantment could easily be the word for this enclave, a hilltop promontory village, skirted by aromatic lavender fields and vineyards beyond. When summer comes the breeding bees must hum with joy, I was humming with delight, and it was only Spring. And just to put the cherry on top; there is a castle at the very top, not just any castle but a renaissance pleasure house that has a fascinating history. Chateau de Grignan was reconstructed from an 11th century fortress built by Christophe de Grignan and has gone through many transformations, thanks to a string of women.

Baron Gaucher Adhémar who was married to Diane de Montfort from the kingdom of Naples, concurrently held the titles of Baron, Duke and Count he needed something to impress. Thus, he doubled the size of the main house. Then his son Louis, a close friend of King François I and was even more powerful as Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Governor of Provence, plus he was also the King's Lieutenant General. He, therefore needed an abode commensurate with his prestige, thus he modernized for the period. One of the surprising additions was the Saint-Sauveur Collegiate Church that was consecrated by Pope Paul III in 1539. Built literally below the Chateau on the southwest rock face. The façade is Renaissance, just like the château with two towers, but the interior is gothic. Interestingly the chateau's terrace provides the roof, rare and remarkable for its construction principle. With its elegant balustrade, the terrace offers a magnificent open view over the plain and the glorious colors for the sunsets.

When Louis died in 1558, the extremely prestigious François de Castellane-Ornano Adhémar de Monteil de Grignan married Françoise-Marguerite, the Marchioness of Sévigné's daughter, who became his third wife. During this time a real court was held there, and they lived in grand style so much so that when François de Grignan died, the family was bankrupt. Cassé as the French say.

The Marchioness of Sévigné's letters were to make the place famous. Madame corresponded with her daughter for nearly thirty years until her death. The marquise’s letters to her daughter made her a famous letter-writer and greatly contributed to the notoriety of the place. Most of her letters were celebrated for their wit and vividness. Pauline de Simiane, Mme de Sévigné's granddaughter, decided to officially publish her grandmother's correspondence and they became a best seller.

The chateau was pulled apart and pillaged at the time of the Revolution, it then found a new life at the beginning of the 1912 by Marie Fontaine, another woman that stepped up with both the finances and heart. She took advice from the scholars of her time and her efforts and quality of the work of her artisans were astonishing for the period. When she died in 1937, her heirs did not continue her work. But we have Marie Fontaine and her miraculous initiative to thank for the elegant château as it stands today.

As the bells of Saint-Sauveur started clanging, I headed back to La Clair de la Plume for breakfast. And what a breakfast it is, in the kitchen of La Clair de la Plume was a buffet of all that is imaginable. Many of the specialties were sourced from the best artisans of the area. The chefs here always cook with fresh and seasonal products with detail and passion.

The owner of this and several other establishments in Grignan is Jean Luc Valadeau, a man of true hospitality! He may call Grignan his paradise, but he shares it like no other. It started with one house and a garden, it has progressed to other private houses, a boutique, two restaurants, wine cellar with tapas, and now a farm. La Ferme Chapouton is a transformed 1760 farm into a 13 room boutique property with all the creature comforts. Wherever you are staying, under his roof you are made to feel not just welcome but part of the family and a local in Provence. Welcome to Grignan!

Stay at :

Le Clair de la Plume 2 place du Mail in Grignan Tel: +33 (0)4 75 91 81 30

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