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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 (although 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. Still !

 

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