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Meyrargues Castle Hotel

Report of Castle Hotel by Janet Rae-Dupree, 10 Sept 1999.

Thanks again for your excellent work on our itinerary for our trip to Provence a couple of months ago. We had a terrific time. I've been meaning to tell you about the castles we stayed in, one outside of Aix and the other outside of Avignon. Both were extraordinary!! I can't recommend them highly enough.

Meyrargues (the one near Aix) was enchanting, but somewhat simpler than Rochegude. The food at both places was superb. Rochegude was more elegant and, hence, quite a bit more expensive (both accommodations and food). But -- damn -- we had fun. It was an excellent splurge.

At Meyrargues, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Clos de Jean (??) near Pertuis because they had an English language video describing their winery and processes, not to mention a very kind English-speaking tasting room manager and terrific, inexpensive wines. The owner of Meyrargues told us about it. It was only about 15 minutes drive from the chateau.

Here are descriptions of the chateaux modified from the book Dream Sleeps: The Castle and Palace Hotels of Europe. I entered these into my PalmPilot to have them with me during the trip. Please forgive any incomprehensible typos.

Chateau de Meyrargue, a 17th century castle outside Aix-en-Provence, 1-hour from Avignon and Rochegude. 800 francs. 48-hour cancellation required, 011-33-4-42-63-49-90. I spoke with owner, Maurice Binet.

Meyrargues is 15 kms NE of Aix on N-96. A Celtic settlement existed here as far back as 600 BC. For over 900 years, a long line of noble families has lived at Meyrargues. 9The castle's name is thought to come from "Meyran" -- a common family name in Provence). In 1024, a bull (a papal document) of Pope Benedict VIII first mentions Hugues, lord of Les Baux and Meyrargues, but the estate itself was then under the political control of the archbisoph of Aix. In 1291 the Hugues family soild the chateau to the count of Provence, and from then on it changed hands often among various counts and viscounts. During the Wars of Religion, the castle was pillaged and wrecked by royalist troops. After the Treaty of Vervins, which ended the war, the castle's owner, Louis d'Alagonia, was suspected of a plot against Henri IV and decapitated. In 1720 a plague decimated half the population of the village, and barely 100 years ago a businessman from Aix used the castle as a warehouse for almonds. Through the centuries Meyrargues survived every assault on its dignity and now sparkles as a lovely castle hotel.

To enter the castle, you must climb a balustraded flight of stairs between impressive twin stone towers where medieval knights once rode. After passing thru an ancient door, you can view a marble blazon bearing a coat of arms from one of the castle's former lords. The antique-filled public lounge contains rich wood accents and a large stone fireplace, and fresh flowers abound. Each guest room is named after a famous personage or style of French history. Rosettes, garlands, and paintings of chivalrous scenes embellish the Marie-Antoinette Suite, which also has a modern whirlpool tub. Painted furniture, porcelain lamps, and a canopy bed hung with taffeta furnish the Pompadour Room, while a more austere decor is found in the Mazarin Room. An outside terrace with a sweeping view overlooking the town and the valley of Durance makes a pleasant spot to eat breakfast or relax in the afternoon. You can explore the grounds in search of the remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct. The stone-vaulted gourmet dining room has a three-fork Michelin rating for atmosphere. Local Provencal dishes such as foie gras, coquilles Saint Jacques, and Grand Marnier souffle are offered.

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