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Perhaps predictably, during the French revolution the chateau, like so many others, was partially destroyed and looted owing to its strong connections with the establishment and the royal family. Over the next two centuries, Chateau Grignan struggled to recover its glory. Famous one time owner, Parisian dandy with a fabulous name - Boniface de Castellane only added to its woes. He sold off many of its remaining treasures at the beginning of the 20th century to pay for his divorce from American heiress Anna Gould . It wasn’t until ownership fell into the hands of Marie Fontaine in 1912 that a full programme of restoration began. Today it’s one of the most prestigious and leading examples of Renaissance architecture in the south. So unexpected, so splendid. Website: www.chateaux-ladrome.fr Time for tea Right back down at the foot of the village is the utterly delightful Clair de la Plume, a quintessentially French tea house (if there is such a thing). Its courtyard garden is a little oasis with tables hidden in amongst the sage, lavender, honeysuckle, hibiscus and thyme and a long list of teas, cakes and pastries served in floral crockery is hard to choose from. This former ambassador’s house also holds a 17th century kitchen and a Michelin star restaurant, as well as a secret garden, a short walk from the courtyard. In the garden, behind the village wall, you’ll find a lover’s pavilion with views back across to Grignan, a Mediterranean garden and a natural swimming pool. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay while you explore, this is a sumptuous spot.
Grignan is a surprise and there’s just one last tip before you move on. Just outside the village, in the industrial zone, is a gift shop. It’s called Durance and you probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance. But from lavender hand cream, poppy shower gel and camellia body lotion, it’s filled with all sorts of natural produce, everything locally sourced and deliciously fragrant. If you want to take home the smells of Provence and Grignan, it’s worth a quick deviation. For more information about Drôme visit: www.ladrometourisme.com Transport to Drôme: Valence has a TGV station and it’s possible to get trains from the UK or Paris. ukvoyages-sncf Although Valence has an airport, most flights are to Lyon or Grenoble.
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