La Barben has a new lord. After René Iis of Anjou, king of Naples, in the 15th centurye century, then the Forbin family, a glorious dynasty of Provençal history, it is an entrepreneur from Haute-Loire, fervent Catholic and in love with traditions, Vianney-Marie Audemard d’Alançon, who now owns this fortress, one of the oldest and best preserved of the Bouches-du-Rhône. A castle, parts of which date back to the XIe century and whose imposing silhouette, bristling with towers and planted on a rocky block, dominates the course of the Touloubre river and several hundred hectares between Aix-en-Provence and Salon-de-Provence.
At 35, Vianney d’Alançon, Lyon accent and abrupt manners, is not in search of noble respectability or good neighborly relations. “I am an entrepreneur”, he warns by receiving in this castle of 60 rooms and 2,800 square meters of living space, estimated by the real estate agency Sotheby’s International around 15 million euros. If he acquired the Barbados stronghold in December 2019, it was with the objective of installing Rocher Mistral there, a “Cultural and tourist attraction”, ultimately targeting 300,000 visitors per year.
“A Provençal immersion unique in the world”, promises the website of the project which, in clips doped with heroic music, shows extras in traditional clothes in the settings of the castle. “We must create attractive and profitable places to bring heritage to life”, assumes the neochâtelain, which amounts to 7 million to 10 million euros for the renovation of the building, and the total investment to 30 million euros.
The man has already honed this speech in Haute-Loire, where he bought the fortress of Saint-Vidal in 2016. President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez (LR) granted him 600,000 euros in aid public. In La Barben, it is the elected Republicans Martine Vassal, president of the Bouches-du-Rhône department, and Renaud Muselier, his regional alter ego, who subsidize the affair. The first allocated 2.3 million euros to protect the terraces and roofs of the castle from water. The second, 3.3 million for the development of the park. Both seduced by the promises of creation of 400 jobs, including 200 direct, and by the heritage discourse, in line with their own visions.
VIP and faith
Rocher Mistral will open to the public on 1is July. VIPs are invited the day before for the official inauguration. That evening, at the foot of the giant sequoia of the impeccable French garden attributed to Le Nôtre, we will meet the big names who are financially supporting the project. Vincent Montagne, head of the Média Participations group, owner of the magazine Christian family and chairman of the KTO chain, an important figure in the Michelin family. Benoît Habert, member of the Dassault family, already present, as Montagne, in the shareholders of Saint-Vidal.
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