This spring, Livia Stoianova from the design team on aura tout vu and I journeyed with our friends Josiane and Daniel Fruman to the medieval town of Mirepoix to look at the site for the proposed museum to show their amazing collection. Mirepoix is a charming place with all the possibilities to be world class tourist destination. It is not lost on the region’s leaders that having the Fruman Collection in Mirepoix would help this dream be realized. As it stands, the breathtaking collection would remain as a whole, to be housed in a Palais Episcopal attached to the Cathedral. The renovation plans are costly and extensive. How incredible for the area, for a historical record, and for art and fashion (both ancient and modern) when this project is finally realized.
We had lunch in Mirepoix at Relais Royal, a beautifully restored 1742 house with beautiful rooms and a restaurant ably run by Gerwin Rutten and Rogier van den Biggelaar. The food and wines in this region are superb, and elegance is everywhere. Then we spent time at the future museum site, which has a lovely knot garden in the front and a large plane tree in the back. The building has several floors and good lighting from the many windows overlooking both sides. The undertaking of such a renovation is daunting, but definitely do-able. Along with the Frumans' beautiful and ancient pieces, displays of modern embroidery from both the fashion and the art worlds could be very exciting.
Our brief drive to Camon, where we planned spend the night at the Abbaye-Chateau de Camon was rainy and the countryside green and lush. The abbey-chateau is from the tenth century, as Camon is an ancient fortified village in the heart of the Cathar country. Peter and Katie Lawton are the attractive proprietors (he is a Welsh hotelier; she is a South African designer). The structure has the majesty of a chateau and the austere elegance of an abbey. An interior courtyard, surrounded by salons on the first floor and bedrooms on the second, sets the tone. After we were shown to our delightfully chic and fresh rooms, we dressed for dinner and met in the main salon. Among the highlights in this beautiful room is eighteenth century painted murals, including a pastoral scene featuring the castle now owned by Nico Lethbridge, who was dining with us. Peter's salmon dinner was first class—but we later learned that a chef would soon be joining the staff.
Breakfast outdoors overlooking the roses and irises in full bloom was a special treat. I cannot recommend a visit to this chateau and to this area highly enough. The area, called "the Languedoc region" is the great undiscovered secret of France. It has all the savoir-faire of its neighbor Provence and the lack of hustle bustle. This abbey-chateau, indeed this entire area, should be on every Francophile's list of places to visit.