The Castle of La Barben and its wonderful zoo May 09 2019, 0 Comments

This month, Calisson by Gilles brings you to the discovery of a 1000 year old Castle and its zoo in the surroundings of Aix en Provence. Spring is the best time to discover this place, weather is warm, days are sunny and this is for sure the best period for a memorable visit. 

 

As its name indicates the Castle of La Barben is located in the small village of the same name. La Barben is located in the middle of the Department of Bouches du Rhône,  halfway between Salon de Provence and Aix en Provence. The area is a lush green countryside and is crossed by the Touloubre River which supply all the area with water; an oasis in the middle of a dry area in summer.

 

Now let’s begin our journey with the discovery of the castle of La Barben! 

Its History

This superb mediaeval fortress belonged to King René in the 15th century. But the fortress is much older and was mentioned first in the 11th century! The earliest record of the property is from 1064, when it was owned by the Abbey of Saint Victor de Marseille. Historical records reveals that a century later the castle became the property of a medieval lord, Pierre de Pontevès and remained in his family until the 14th century when a descendant collapsed during a revolt against the King of Naples. The French royal family owned it for about a century before it was bought by the Forbin, a local noble family who managed it for 500 years! 

The fortress was victim of many assaults in the 16th century and extension were added to the main structure in the 17th century. There was a heavy restoration work from the 19th up to the end of the 20th century; almost 200 years! Today you can visit the Castle which has been restored to all its former splendor. Ceilings are in the traditional French style, 400 years old printed cloth on the walls. All the rooms in the Castle have decoration and furnishings of its original times.

In the 1960s, the Forbin family had a lot of properties in Provence and Limousin area and the family was not able to keep them all. André Pons who was a friend with the Marquis de Forbin, bought the castle. Today the Castle belongs to his son-in-law Bertrand Pillivuyt. Now, Calisson by Gilles is going to give you an exclusivity: the Castle of La Barben in on sale! If you want to own it you will have to spend $17 million! 

Bed and Breakfast

Since Bertrand Pillivuyt is the owner, he and his wife Ghislaine have opened the house and garden to visitors. They turned the Castle into a 15 room’s bed and breakfast! You can directly book on the website for a memorable night! Be sure to bring one of our sweet boxes of Calisson by Gilles to make it an even more memorable moment. It is very likely that people have enjoy Calissons there for centuries!  

The castle is also available for private events. 

The outdoor terrace can entertain 300 people, and the interior can accept 200 people. Weddings are often books years in advance for a slot in full season. 

The Visit

If you can’t affort to stay, you will be able to visit it. Daily tours usually take place with a guide  dressed up and a riddle game all through the visit. You will be able to visit the 15 rooms of the castle: the dining room,  the bedrooms, the lounge, the chapel and many others. All the rooms are richly furnished and picturesque. You will have to pay 9 € for the visit.

You will also be able to visit the surrounding such as underground passages, archery and even a jail with a medieval knight. The visit including the grounds is a little bit more expensive, 16 €.

For kids, there are very nice treasure hunts around the castle that will bring them through its history; It is really worth it! Like everywhere, at the end of the visit a boutique of souvenirs is waiting for you.

 

La Barben Zoo

André Pons the previous owner of the La Barben Castle, founded in 1970 the Barben Zoo. André Pons was a farming engineer and animal enthusiast. This is the reason why he decided to establish a zoo on his property. La Barben Zoo is the closest zoo from Marseille and the main one in Provence!

In the very heart of Provence, La Barben zoo is a great place to get away from it all in a beautiful green setting of Mediterranean vegetation.

The zoo grounds cover 85 acres with 6 miles of paths among the green oak trees, taking visitors through the animal kingdom. The zoo is an experience of immersion in wildlife, with its 700 animals from over 130 species!

In the early 2000’s, la Barben Zoo changed its old conception of zoo and went beyond the step of a simple animal representation. It developed the conservation of species and the education of people in this domain which is today a major issue. The zoo participates continuously in scientific research programs and it also promotes relaxation and entertainment of visitors. 

The zoo is now in the 21th century by providing visitors a digital entertainment with audio guides throughout the path. Nevertheless the zoo preserves its essence and all the area is totally dedicated to nature and wellbeing of the animals. 

The Barben Zoo provides a large animal collection in a variety of modern facilities. Animals lives in very good representation of their respective natural habitat and visitors enjoy an optimal observation of every wildlife. A very good praiseworthy initiative has been to create dedicated retirement areas for all animals when they want to move away from visitors for resting. 

The most modern facility is the whole reviewed cheetah area which has been extended to enable the felines to reach their 60mph of running!  Cheetahs arrived at the zoo in 2017 with panthers from Sri Lanka which is also a magic creature. The panthers area is also stunning, a lot of vertical attractions for this outstanding climber! 

Tips: 

During the hot season be sure to bring caps and solar cream to avoid any embarrassing sunburn. Bring pack of water even though that you will get some snacks spots in the shade of green oaks for some resting moment. La Barben zoo is a family outdoor activity, hence you can bring stroller and discover all the zoo like any other walker. The ‘stroller’ path has been very well thought despite the rugged terrain of the zoo. There is even a little train that will take you at the entrance of the zoo and bring you in the playing area over the hill. Single trip is 1€ ! Calisson by Gilles really advises to discover this zoo, you will forge very good memories.

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.