How did the Rocher Mistral project come about?
I already own a castle in Auvergne, where I set up a park dedicated to rehabilitating heritage, together with culture and tourism. We host shows there too. I was so delighted with the project’s success that I decided to turn my attention to Provence, my father’s birthplace. As a child, I spent a lot of time in Vaucluse with my grandparents. I was looking for a Provencal historical landmark site that could be used as the backdrop for shows and would require a big commitment in terms of restoring heritage. I’d never been to Château de La Barben, but I knew about its extraordinary ten centuries of history.
Barben embodies the memory of Saint Victor Abbey in Marseille, King René of Anjou and the Forbin family, who formerly owned the site. Napoleon’s sister Pauline Borghèse and André Le Nôtre, who created the gardens at Versailles (and Barben!), have also graced the site. In short, Barben really is an iconic venue! A thousand years of history perched on a rock surrounded by a thousand acres of land… When I heard the castle was for sale, I was onto it immediately. I signed the deed three months later. Château de La Barben ticked every box:
– An incredibly well-located site, near the Alpilles and Luberon, and easy to get to from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Arles and Avignon.
– A monument that required a heritage commitment (I wouldn’t have loved it so much if it had been in perfect condition!). When I bought the castle, it had around fifty leaks. We repaired all the roofing and refurbished the twelve terraces. That was the main structural work. Next, we started renovating the interior and restoring what was damaged, including the decors painted by François-Marius Granet.
– Environmental stakes: we launched a study on biodiversity and protected species in the land around the property. We plan to develop agro-ecology there. We already have 200 beehives and are preparing to plant vines, olive trees, pistachio trees, almond trees and lavender. And from next Autumn, we’ll be welcoming our very own flock of “Mérinos d’Arles” merino sheep and Rove goats.
– An ideal venue for shows dedicated to the history of Provence. Seven shows are scheduled this year, all designed through the lens of the castle’s history. We’re also introducing two restaurants paying homage to Provence and a big market dedicated to Provencal arts & crafts (santon figurines, calisson candies, soaps, etc.).