One of the great things about the ILA French Language School is the amazing mix of excursions you can choose from during your time learning French in Montpellier. They have an eclectic mix of things you can do from fun evenings going bowling or learning about a particular wine region to grand week-end visits to places all around the region. A great one you can do is the visit to Château de Flaugergues; a grand old stately home on the easterly outer rim of the city. If you’re interested in mixing culture, history and wine then this is certainly one to make time for during your language stay in Montpellier.
History of This Beautiful Chateau in Montpellier
This estate was first constructed in the 17th century and is one of the great mansions in France which were the result of the rise of a new aristocracy of that time who were enriched by service to the monarch. Surrounded and permeated by beautiful nature the house became the centre point for the notable people of Montpellier of the 18th century. In 1696 Etienne de Flaugergues, acquired the land, he gave the estate his name and immediately began to work to give it a definitive aspect. The combination of architecture and innovative mix of different styles of gardens achieved just that and greatly influenced the future construction of similar estates in the region. These became known as ‘folies’ or ‘madnesses’ perhaps due to their grandiose yet ingenious style.
The chateau was passed from generation to generation and is still home to the descendants of its creator. The actual architect is unknown and there is a lot of speculating but it is strongly believed that many people worked on the construction of its different elements for around 40 years.
Each space within the grounds is enclosed by beautiful trees, grand walls or hedges which are lovely to look at and enjoy but which also create a sense of mystery around what is beyond and brings a desire to explore the neighboring parts.
Take a French Tour with Pierre through His Family’s Ancestral Home
You start with a lovely tour through the French garden leading up to the house, this is opposed to the English style garden which we will come to later. One of the tour guides will show you the delights of the garden, they will be talking in French so you will have a chance to practice some of the things you have been learning on your immersion course but they speak very good English as well so if there are any misunderstandings or complicated questions they are ready to help. They will discuss with you what makes a French garden a French garden and what the difference is to the style of the great gardens in other countries.
After that you will be taken on a tour of the mansion itself which is covered in old tapestries dating back centuries. You can tour the different rooms and get a feel for life back when it was constructed, the gun room is particularly interesting and if you’re lucky you may get to hear Pierre (a descendent) read a personal letter between his ancestor and Voltaire. The library is particularly impressive too with a collection of 5000 texts as well as paintings of dozens of places of note in their older forms.
It’s not just all history though. Leaving the house you will take a tour through the English garden and taste some of the sumptuous fruit that they grow under the southern French sun. The most important fruits however, are the grapes and you will then get to see the vineyards that stretch far into the distance and by this time it will usually be close to sun-set so it’s quite a stunning sight. Looking at vines is interesting of course but drinking the wine they are used to make is entrancing and that is the final part of this wonderful experience.
All the wines you get to try are the family’s own product and give a real sense of the terroir. Your guide will also run through with you all of the terminology used in wine tasting so you can expand your French and learn some beautiful, elegant words in the process; it almost feels like French was created for describing wine.
This excursion is a lovely mix of culture, history and fun and you can learn a lot both with regards to France now, France as it was and the French language. It’s definitely a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon and you can have fun sharing what you have picked up on your French immersion course the next day.