I recently went to visit my favorite little village in France. I am not quite sure why I like this little village so much but whenever I go visit my parents, I have to take a little trip there just so I can walk around those cute little streets and wander around the gardens of the castle that sits on top… Any of my friends who has ever come to visit me from afar has been -very happily I think- taken there.
The name of this little village is Grignan. It is located in the south of the Drôme departement and is locally and probably nationally well-known for the fact that the Marquise de Sévigné, a 17th century French aristocrat remembered and celebrated for the many letters she wrote to her friends and relatives throughout her life, spent some time there visiting her daughter who used to live in the castle. Interesting tidbit: “Mme de Sévigné’s letters play an important role in the novel In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust where they figure as the favorite reading of the narrator’s grandmother” (Wikipedia).
Driving there is passing by endless fields of sunflowers and lavenders. Then there is the beautiful fountain at the bottom of the steps leading to the center of town. Of course, it has become a bit of a touristy spot, with a few stores selling nothing but little knick-knacks but there still is the cute little store that sells all sorts of antique (or antique-looking) objects, the little gourmet shop with its rose-, lavender- and violet-flavored ice creams, and quite often, local flea markets or other little festivals. In the summer time, they even have plays set up in the courtyard of the castle.
On the day we went, there was a ‘Festival de la Correspondance,’ an event that takes place every year in Grignan since 1996 in order to commemorate the Marquise de Sévigné and to celebrate the unique literary domain of literary correspondence. Authors are invited to speak, letters are being read and other events, such as plays, are taking place. My favorite part of this festival is that little ‘chambres d’écriture’ are being set up all over town, with paper, a feather pen, and inkwell.
And everyone is invited to write letters to whomever he or she chooses, letters that the city later mails for free. In the past, I have sent a few letters from Grignan at this occasion, sometimes to people with whom I shared my home, and it is always so nice to see the letter come through the mail even if it takes quite longer than when we just use regular mail. This time was no exception: so we sat down and wrote a few words, which was no easy task with those real feathers…
On the way back, we stopped somewhere nearby to purchase some ‘sirops.’ But I guess that will have to make for another story… ;)