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Montpellier's French 'folies'

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Some of Montpellier’s more splendid residences are its “folies,” a series of castles, country estates, and summer homes built in the foliage (hence the name, derived from the French word “feuille” for leaf) by the city’s elite during the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Created during a period of ostentation as signifiers of the owners’ wealth and social standing and their service to the King, these “folies” were often adorned with spacious parks and landscaped gardens.

Chateau de Flaugergues is Montpellier’s oldest “folie,” built in 1696 by Etienne de Flaugergues whose careful landscaping served as a template for numerous other regional “folies.”

A family home, then and now, Chateau de Flaugergues is notable for its three-flight, suspended staircase that occupies nearly one third of the chateau’s total area.

A rare example of a hanging key vault style of architecture, the staircase is a phenomenon with its forged iron banisters and decorative balusters – and its position in the center of the chateau.

Outside, the chateau’s parks and gardens encompass nearly ten acres and include a terraced French flowerbed, a botanical garden, an olive tree allée, an English garden, and a vineyard.

If you are fortunate enough to be offered a tour of the property by the chateau’s owner, the Count Henri de Colbert, then you will be given a fascinating window into French life as lived during the reign of kings.

Follow his lead into the wine cellar – and toast to the good life in France.