The Gard department has four officially labelled ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’, and charming Lussan is one of them. Situated on a limestone rock, the village overlooks plains of low, scrubby vegetation, called ‘garrigue’, that is typical to the Gard and the South of France. The first settlement of Lussan dates back to the Gallo-Roman Period. And if you take into account the largest menhir in Languedoc- “La Pierre Plantée”- the history of the village goes even further back.
Château de Lussan
Most villages that wear the ‘Plus Beaux Village de France’ label attract crowds of tourists, especially during the summer months. I visited Lussan last August and was surprised to see only a few visitors. I thought it was positive to see that Lussan has kept a laid-back, arty character. With around 500 inhabitants, it is a rather sleepy village. Nothing like the Middle Ages, when the village prospered. As a result, a castle was built there in the 12th century. Unfortunately, it has been destroyed over time. In the 15th century, the mighty Audibert family built another castle, which has stood the test of time. It now hosts the Mairie of Lussan, quite a cool location for a town hall! You can enter part of it during the public opening hours to see the painted ceiling beams on the first floor.
From the Château de Lussan, I started my discovery tour at the Place des Marronniers, with- indeed- chestnut trees surrounding this square. The laughter of playing children mingling with the ticking sound of petanque balls gently hitting each other brought me back to the France of my childhood holiday memories. You’ll find the ‘Auberge des Marronniers’ at one end of the square, both a hotel and restaurant. Continuing my way, I walked past the church and a lovely gastronomic brasserie (Le Bistrot de Lussan). From an open door, I had a glimpse of a performance held in the garden of the community bar Le Jardin de Lussan. A bit further, some artfully trimmed boxwood peeked over a stone wall. They are part of the private garden ‘Les Buis de Lussan’. But if you want to have a look, you can book a night at their Bed & Breakfast.
On the corner of the Rue de la Filature, I came across a big building covered with ivy: La Filature Roux. A sign explained that it used to be a spinning mill, called a ‘filature’ in French. Three of them still are in Lussan, although now serving as private residences. You can see Lussan’s first spinning mill- la filature Chastanier- at the Rue Tour des Remparts. It was built by Jean Baptiste Chastanier in 1825. All three spinning mills used to produce silk, getting the necessary silkworm cocoons from local breeders. At the time, they bred silkworms- magnans- under the roofs of houses- the so-called ‘magnaneries’. Besides silk, forgery was an important part of the village as well. At the entrance of Lussan, you will find Lussan’s former blacksmith, brought back to life in 2008 to show artistic ironwork. And Lussan is where the famous ceramic guinea fowls are made!
Tour de Remparts
Following the Rue de la Ritournelle lead me to the ramparts. You can follow this Rue Tour des Remparts and completely walk around Lussan. From the Place du Verger, you can see another castle built by the Audibert family in the 16th century: Château de Fan. Walking back to the Château de Lussan, I stopped at the lever pump ‘La Fontasse’. This fountain from the 19th century was created to pump water for the livestock from a tank below the ramparts. This tank, carved into the rocks, could stock 800 cubes of water. A welcome reserve during the hot summer months! From here, you will have a magnificent panorama of the Cévennes if the weather is clear. You might even spot Mont Ventoux in the distance! In the end, Lussan isn’t so sleepy after all. You just have to make an effort to discover it.