Three families, 7 kids under 7, rugby, wine, fine food, beautiful countryside, grapes, wine, more food, idyllic villages and amazing medieval architecture….sounded too good to be true. Luckily the reality was even better. We hadn’t caught up with each other for over 2 years, and since we were living in Egypt, Tanzania and Bolivia, France seemed a logical choice!
Family Speers had been to France a few times in the last couple of years and fallen in love with the easy pace of life, the richness of the local culture, food and natural beauty of the southern part of France, so the decision was easy. Rugby and the World Cup was a common thread, but really it was just an excuse to get together and sample the local produce.
The search for a suitable shack started over a few bottles of red, the French château had always been a dream for all of us, that air of elegance, style, history, and I dare say, a touch of decadence as well. Such a vivid image we had in our minds, and when we trawled through internet sites, Roustan immediately stood out – big enough for 4 families (one dropped out unfortunately – their loss I’m afraid), great central south location for the rugby and wine, the tiny pictures on the website showed a tantalising glimpse of that imagined castle atmosphere and all the features we were after. Regular cleaning, the chance of babysitting and gourmet home cooked French food of course also appealed!
As the Castle Oz dream became reality, the excitement built and when we all rolled up Monday afternoon, after getting a bit lost it must be said, the château being hidden in a beautiful block of forest and delicately sign-posted, we fell about in amazement at the scale of it. Madame Arnaud, the formidable housekeeper, dragged Sandra off on an exhaustive inventory of the Louis XV, XIV etc collections and the rest of us sank into the chairs in the courtyard and gazed at the view, the vineyards stretching before us, the air clean and crisp and the light beautiful at dusk. It felt like home immediately, even though it was so cavernous, it was obviously used to being lived in and the site of many a family gathering and good times. The piano, amazing portraits, huge ceiling, chairs, immense dining room table, games room, kitchen... it had it all, and in amazing quantity! There was also a serious amount of wine glasses which was extremely promising.
Nearby Grignan village with its towering castle/church, was also a delight, so many great restaurants; we had the best meal of our lives in one small place, I still dream about it here, as I tuck into my falafel and beans... It seems a dream now, but in 3 weeks of glorious relaxation and exploration of the Drôme area of Rhône-Alps, the Côte-du-Rhône and Tricastin wine appellations, we had the time of our lives and it will always be a great memory. We got a great feel for the place and region and we’ll certainly be back some day, though maybe something more humble in terms of lodgings next time...