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La Grande Maison is not only a tranquil place to stay but it is also fascinating to visit. Originally a fortified farm and wine estate in the 17th century.
In the 17th century La Grande Maison was owned by Seigneur Gilles Louis Antoine Aubert du PETIT THOUARS & Marie Gohin, Dame de Boumois and Arthenay who then owned Chateau Boumois on the south bank of the Loire near Saumur. This beautiful chateau can be visited today and contains many works of Renaissance Art, a pigeon tower “fuye” and chapel with the tombs of their sons, Aristide and Aubert.
Arisitde Du Petit-Thouars, a historical hero of Saumur, participated in the American War of Independence 1779-83 and later sailed to Botany Bay, Australia in search of the lost French explorer La Perouse. He captained the ship The Tonnant in the campaign of Egypt with Napoleon Bonaparte but was killed in the naval battle of Aboukir on the 5th August 1798. During his time in the USA (c. 1794) Aristide Du Petit-Thouars was also involved in the construction of about thirty houses on a site called Azilum in Philadelphia. An enterprise promoted by the financier and Senator of Pennsylvania, Robert Morris. Amongst the buildings was one referred to as La Grande Maison, and later as “The Queen’s House”, in the hope that Marie Antoinette and her children would escape from France and come to occupy it.
“How do you say "awesome" in French?”
"...the incredible sous terrain pigeon tower or "fuye" at La Grande Maison."
"You'll stay in a room where the old walls can tell stories of great wines - with all kind of modern comfort added with respect for this old house."
La Grande Maison d'Arthenay, rue de la Cerisaie, Arthenay, Les Verchers Sur Layon, SAUMUR 49700 FRANCE. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Aubert Du Petit-Thouars (Aristide's brother) was also born at Chateau Boumois and was obviously more of a pacifist than Aristide specialising in botany and a herbist of 2,000 exotic plants. He became Director of La Pepiniere du Route a Paris and was a member of the Academy of Sciences. It is said that he also sailed with his brother to Botany Bay in his exploration of plant life.
The pigeon tower "fuye" at La Grande Maison d’Arthenay is not on the scale of that at Chateau Boumois or Chateau de Brezé but is a rare example of a “fuye” sous sol. Extending underground by some 10 metres and 7 metres above ground. The tunnel from the “fuye” leads to a spectacular 14th century wine cave where you can still see the remains of the old wine press and barrels. Many of the other tunnels have the names and dates of soldiers carved out in the tuffeau walls where they hid during the 1st World War. The site is remarkable with it's sous terrain caves and tunnels and speak of the historical significance of the property in the 17th Century when permission needed to be granted from the king to build a "fuye" and was therefore considered a status symbol in it's day.