The first filmmaker to be elected to the Académie Française, Marcel Pagnol wrote a series of four autobiographical books. The second, Le Château de ma mère (My Mother’s Castle) was made into an entrancing movie. If you haven’t seen it, by all means take the opportunity to search out this cinematic treat, as well as the other three!
I most remember scenes of Pagnol’s family threading their way along the Canal du Midi with the assistance of groundskeepers and caretakers, who unlocked their property’s gates. Throughout the world there are more and more “green spaces”, trails and bicycle paths that entice the nature lover and exercise devotee. I would choose to linger along the Canal du Midi, to trace Pagnol’s path and see the chateaus poised above the canal.
As fortune would have it, there is an elegant castle, where groups and families can steal away for a retreat. The Château Ventenac borders the Canal and is right next door to the 13th-century church of Ventenac-en-Minervois in the Languedoc region of southern France.
Drive along the narrow D26 past miles and miles of carefully-tended vineyards, and suddenly you round a corner and – voila! The canal, the village, the Château and the little ancient bridge come into view. The six-bedroom gîte is beautifully appointed, with gardens and terraces overlooking the canal, an ideal setting for a self-catered getaway for you and your friends or family.
The little village has the necessities of life … like croissants from the boulangerie and wine from the Château de Ventenac Wine Cave, now a co-opérative that makes and sells wines using grapes from the same vineyards you pass on your way into the village. A couple of times a week, mobile market vans visit the village to sell fresh local produce. There’s even a chicken van, and the Mairie announces the van arrivals over a loudspeaker system –village culture at its best!
But, here is my favorite part. On the Château grounds, there is a lower gateway that provides access to the Canal du Midi. The gate is locked with a padlock – a la the Pagnol story – but the code is kept in the kitchen. You can slip through the gate and meander for miles along the tree-lined Canal. Merveilleux!
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