I simply can’t be too enthusiastic about
Grignan, which we now look upon like a home away from home — well, Le
Clair de la Plume, anyway. I’ve written about it in another of our
travel sites ("Heaven and
other Places” — see Map Menu ), and our opinion has been only enhanced
after another stay there. It was previously a B&B; but Le Clair is now
almost a hotel, inasmuch as you could stay in all day and get fed throughout
not from a full à la carte menu, you understand); and staying
in all day here is a serious temptation ! Jean-Luc Valadeau, whose place it
is, is a truly nice man; part of his niceness is his wonderfully good taste,
which you see everywhere you look ... as I believe I’ve said before ...
Memory: waiting to check in to Le Clair de la Plume while
some Americans are checking out (occupying all the space); being utterly delighted
to find that Jean-Luc hasn’t changed one iota in the last four years,
and wondering why he’s giving me the occasional puzzled glance in between
finalising their bill … Turns out he isn’t sure if it’s
me — I’ve dropped enough kilos to cause question-marks. :-)
Our days here start with a gorgeous breakfast,
looking out onto the blossoming Spring garden, before we set out on our day
of exploration; and finish in our wonderfully sleep-inducing bed in our utterly
entrancing room. I know I sound as if I’m on commission: I can’t
help it !; the fact is that we hope never to go to France again unless the
trip includes Grignan and Le Clair de la Plume.
Memory: waking, and sitting up in bed on our first night there, at around
4:30am, to watch the moon; she has sailed sumptuously into view through our
window, but is already paling in the early morning light …
The second really marvellous thing about our
stay in Grignan is Montirius.
This is a wine-growing property of which we already have first-hand but distant
knowledge; our Swiss mate sent CS some wine during the year, organising it
to come up to Sydney from a Melbourne wine-shop, and one of the bottles was
a Montirius “Gigondas” 1999.
We drank it in a kind of mesmerised state, once the first sip went down, for
it was an absolutely wonderful wine, and I enjoyed it more than any other wine
ever drunk in Australia.
We go looking for the Montirius vineyards, therefore,
in a state of enormous anticipation, and aren’t disappointed — we’re
given star treatment by the distaff half of the partnership. Christine Saurel,
the beautiful, intelligent and highly articulate wife of Eric, brings out an
unopened bottle of each of their range of seven wines, and we taste them all while
she tells us about Montirius in her totally excellent English. We must be
there for a couple of hours, for she’s fascinating; but eventually, Eric and
no. 3 child (son Marius) arrive home for lunch, and we drag ourselves reluctantly
away. We also buy six bottles of Montirius rosé and six of the Montirius “Gigondas” 2000,
and drink them gradually and gratefully over the next five weeks, acknowledging
Manon, Justine and Marius — the Saurels’ three children, after
whom the vineyard is named — each time …
Today we have our very first experience — to be repeated many times
over the next few weeks — of France’s E. Leclerc supermarket chain.
Struth ! The
one in Valreas is easily the biggest supermarket I’ve ever been in,
and its range is … like, big. Like, huge , in fact.
Perhaps INDESCRIBABLY ENORMOUS is a truer description … Anyway, they
sell lots of stuff, and their prices really are good. We develop quite a taste
for shopping at Leclerc, all over the place. Only problem is that they’re
all different; different ranges, different sizes, different opening hours (rage
!) … For it musn’t be forgotten than France shuts at lunchtime.