Built in 1867, the Château de la Buzine achieved world-wide fame thanks to My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle, Marcel Pagnol's two-volume memoir and the 1990 film versions.
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In his poetic, semi-autobiographical book, Marseille's most celebrated author recalls how, when he was a child, his family rented a holiday house, La Bastide Neuve, in the countryside outside Marseille.
The road to it was long and circuitous in the hot summer sun (pictured: a scene from the 1990 movie, directed by Yves Robert).
There was a shortcut, along a canal. But it meant passing through private grounds. One day the family was surprised and humiliated on this walk by an aggressive guard.
The book's final chapter tells how in 1941, Pagnol, by then a world-famous writer and film-maker, bought a property sight unseen.
When he arrived to take possession of it, he realised to his joy and triumph that this baroque-kitsch pile was the very château whose hired hand had traumatised his mother all those decades ago (though there's some disagreement among Pagnol scholars as to whether this is exactly the same location).
Back then the ambition of Pagnol (pictured below) was nothing less than to turn the Château de la Buzine into a "Cinema City": a huge film studio that would be a sort of Hollywood on the Med.
But the Second World War put paid to his plans and the building, requisitioned by successive waves of military as a barracks or a hospital, fell into disrepair. Finally Pagnol sold the château and land to a property developer in 1973.
The Château de la Buzine was bought by the City of Marseille in 1991 and, over the last couple of years, the façade has been given a dramatic facelift while the interior has been expanded and entirely refurbished at a cost of 11.4 million €uros.
The converted château is also known as La Maison des Cinématographies de la Méditerranée (The House of Mediterranean Cinemas). Inside, a modern mediatheque includes a 345-seat screening room which shows films from all the various Mediterranean countries as well as an exhibition space, a library and a room dedicated to Pagnol memorabilia. Click on the link below to view the current programme.
The Château originally stood in an expansive, beautiful 40 hectare / 99 acre park, dotted with ornamental pools and fountains, rare plants and trees, all thanks to the water from that canal which figured so prominently in Pagnol's books. Five hectares / 12 acres of these remain today for visitors to stroll in.
Where: Château de la Buzine, 56 traverse de la Buzine 13011 Marseille. Website for the Château de la Buzine / Maison des Cinématographies de la Méditerranée
How to get to the Château de la Buzine: Metro (line 1, stop: Castellane), then bus 50 (stop: La Valentine shopping centre), then bus 51 (direction La Reyarde). From Aubagne, take bus 240 to La Valentine, then bus 51.
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