The "Other" Château
On one of my daily walks, not long after we moved here ten years ago, I came to the end of a path and…voilà! Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive wrought-iron gate appeared. I stopped and stared. There, at the end of a very long, tree-lined path, rose an impressive château. I’m sure I blinked a few times. Was I dreaming? Had I time-traveled? I couldn't believe that here, in our little town, such a sophisticated building existed, with walls and lands all around.
The Château des Graves
This first siting of the Château des Graves occurred before we discovered the building on the other side of town that was to become ours. And when we did, it was most decidedly not as fancy, nor as grand.
Our home and ministry base, the Château de Planque- BEFORE (eek! it was scary even stepping inside to be honest!)
Château de Planque several years later. And we're still working on it!
Back to the "other" one, the Château des Graves. But first, let me guide us through the gorgeous walk which leads to its impressive front gate.
Starting from home, I turn left and wander through a tiny quartier (neighborhood). I love coming down the last stretch and around a corner to this arch. Perseverant plants poke through the stones. I can never quite capture their charm in a photo.
Once through the archway, we’re on the voie verte––literally meaning “green way,” which is the term used in France to denote a walking path. We are blessed to have two voies vertes in our little town. This one parallels the river Vidourle, which rises to the level of the walkway in flood season.
On our left, this lovable horse chomps away on grass when weather permits. Most of the time, a tiny bird hangs out nearby. Clearly, the pair are friends. When I stopped to take a photo, the bird hopped behind the horse for protection. I wanted to assure him I’m your friend too! but any words would have caused him to take flight. Meanwhile, the horse threw side glances at me and never stopped eating.
Smiling from all this, I move on down the path. I especially love the shimmering light on the river, the mountains in the distance, and the constantly changing skies.
We come to the end of the paved path, arriving at a waterfall and “the” tree—those of us who live here photograph and paint this scene often. We cannot get enough of the beauty that changes with the seasons and the time of day.
Now on to the gravel path, with a wide grassy field on the right. In spring, it can be full of coquelicots (red poppies) and is always a breath of fresh air.
Last week, these guys were hanging out there:
And, finally, on our left is the Château de Graves. The "other" château. Unfortunately, the immediate grounds are not in top shape right now, but the grandeur is still evident. The vast lands surrounding the château are leased out as vineyards.
Here's another view from an old postcard photo:
I’ve been inside this château a few times, many years ago. It was quite chilly, as heating enormous old buildings is challenging.
The elegant entryway–I love that staircase–and the salon off the foyer is a designated historical site for its architecture. Here's a not great photo I found online; I didn't feel comfortable taking any when I visited.
Built in 1817, the Château des Graves is a replica of a Napoleonic villa in Rome.
Unfortunately, only a few people live there now, and the upkeep is difficult to maintain. This last year, though, the roof was redone as well as some other exterior work, which is gratifying to see.
Back outside, we continue on the path next to the château’s limestone walls. We come to this minor road, which is how one accesses the main house today. Here we see the outbuildings, which I think are charming in their own right. I love the names: “La Petite Folie” ("The Little Folly" meaning a small outbuilding that it is prettier than it needs to be), "La Pépinière" (plant nursery), and "La Tour" (the tower).
One day as I walked by, this charming scene appeared:
At this time of year, these sheep graze the fields out front––munching on grass, giving birth (often to twins!), and soaking up the sun. The twinkling bells adorning their necks fill the air with melody. Along with the sheep, I breathe deep.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me on the right paths, as he has promised.
Psalm 23:1-3 (GNT)
La vie est belle!