Fecamp's Benedictine Palace tells the story of a famous French tipple.
Grand and imposing — the Benedictine
Palace at Fecamp in
France is a lasting monument to marketing.
It is neither a palace nor a religious building but an ingenious way of celebrating, explaining and selling Benedictine liqueur.
Those on the trail of religious edifices may be interested in Fecamp’s abbey, first constructed around the 11th century but rebuilt in the Gothic style after a fire destroyed the original.
But the Benedictine Palace is worth a visit. Built in 1892 to reflect the history of the liqueur first devised by an Italian monk in the 16th century, it contains a distillery, museum and grand Abbot’s Hall. Tours include information on how Benedictine is produced and there is, of course, a tasting.
The museum holds art from the Le Grand family: Alexander Le Grand is said to have discovered the previously lost recipe and then set about building the palace as part of a celebration of Benedictine.
The museum also includes sculptures, wrought ironwork and a collection of keys dating back to the 14th century.
And bibliophiles will long to leaf through some of the 1000 books kept in the Gothic room.
And while I marvel at the museum and the contents and the palace’s grand architecture, and enjoy the stained-glass windows above a sweeping staircase that delivers me to the second floor, I am here for another reason: dinner.
A fine-dining experience in the opulent Abbots’ Hall of the Benedictine Palace is an included extra on Scenic’s Gems of the Seine cruise.
Our group of around 115 enjoys a cocktail reception and a chance to wander through the museum while three musicians play classical and contemporary pieces framed by a stunning stained-glass window. Scenic says the dinner is an exclusive experience only it offers.
The three-course meal — with wine — included a collection of appetisers, monkfish thermidor and asparagus risotto or lamb with gravy, potato cube and zucchini, and financier cake with pistachio chutney and Benedictine.
I have visited many a palace, church and castle but I have not dined in any of them.
While the Benedictine Palace is a mix of a lot of things, it is none of those, but the dinner was excellent, the company interesting and the surroundings spectacular.
Scenic calls it an Enrich experience — I’m happy to go with that.
- For 2017, the 11-day Gems of the Seine river cruise is from $6945 per person, twin share with a business-class upgrade available from $3995 per person. scenic.com.au and travel agents.
DisclaimerChris Manly visited France as a guest of Scenic.
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