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Lucy Pitts explores The noble town of Grignan and its Parisian style surprise What a surprise Grignan is as you round a corner on your way to Nyons, in southern Drôme in the south of the Rhône Alpes region. This 11th century, fortified village suddenly comes into view, majestic and proud above the low lying lavender fields, looking decidedly regal in an area that still oozes rustic charm. There are a couple of different roads into the footings of the village and the one I chose felt very grand. Plane trees either side heralded my arrival as I swept through a small parkland area and arrived at the first wall of the fortifications. A farmer was hard at work putting his lavender fields to bed right up to the village boundary and the wall is broken by an imposing gate with large stone pillars either side, suggesting a medieval village with a bit more of a story to tell. A village with a secret Turn the corner and a broad esplanade escorts you to the first steps up to into the heart of the village and to a large, 19th century, circular bath surrounded by columns, known as the Lavoir du Mail. With the Mistral wind constantly pulling at your hair and the heat of an early September day, a quick dip and cool off is quite tempting. As you climb on, what awaits you inside the walls is a charming medieval village. There’s a tiered system of narrow and cobbled streets that wind their way around and up to the apex of the hill, with views across the lavender, vineyards and sunflowers. It’s predominantly pedestrian and makes a pleasant morning, walking fully around the village, stopping at the boutiques or at a pavement café.
Chateau Grignan Of course, you can’t help but be aware that the crowning glory of Grignan is its castle and as with any medieval village you have an idea of what to expect. One way or another the narrow streets of the village lead you to a grand approach and a large and imposing wooden door at the rocky top of the hill. But you can’t see the chateau until you’ve entered the inner circle. And even then, there’s one last climb before you turn the corner and there she is. In all her magnificent, unexpected and spectacular glory. It’s as if someone has transported Versailles or a large piece of Paris to this quiet corner of northern Provence. There’s a vast open forecourt at the far end of which stands the exquisite Renaissance façade. Mount Ventoux, the Pre-Alpes and the Dentelles are all visible behind you and for a moment you’re caught in a spellbinding silence. Horse drawn carriages spring to mind and you can almost see dainty feet topped by sumptuous ball gowns stepping out of the carriage doors to the sound of laughter from courtiers as they swish their way inside. \chateau with a troubled past The originally 12th century chateau, was completely transformed in the Renaissance period into this superb stately home. It boasts high and beautifully painted ceilings, grand ball rooms and galleries, Versailles style parquet floors and beautiful wood panels hung with huge tapestries. The ornate bedrooms have far reaching views to the south and east and the whole chateau is juxtaposed with the 16th century collegiate church who’s roof acts as an additional terrace for the chateau. A terrace on the church roof, I hear you say, that’s sacrilege and that’s what the people of the time thought too.
Bonjour and welcome to the autumn i
contents p.56 p. 8 p. 48 Features p
P. 82 Expats 90 Buying French Prope
y Barbara Pasquet-James
What a roller coaster summer it has