I just have to write something about our rental apartment. I have asked the proprietors, Marian and Tony, for permission to tell stories before starting this blog article.
Our Terrace Apartment is one of several in "les Hirondelles" a 19th century vintner's house. This has been an ideal location from which to stage all our adventures in tourism, our daily living, and welcome our friends and family who have or will visit us during our stay.
We were inspired to choose this part of France by watching the Tour de France this year. It is an area neither of us had ever been to before and looked full of history, small villages, vinyards, and beautiful countryside. So I did some searching on the Internet and found the site for them at French Holiday Homes.com Also listed at: les Hirondelles (the swallows). There are other websites, including this: vacancesthezan
I wrote Marian and Tony, the English proprieters, (making our correspondence very easy!) for more information. We originally booked the one-bedroom Terrace Apartment for the off season of April and May. When friends and family knew our plans, and we began to get positive responses from our invitations to come visit while we're in France, we decided, with help from Tony and Marian, to book 2 additional bedrooms for this apartment and it has been perfect for our needs.
We were charmed by the history of the old building (who would not want to stay in a vintner's house?) and the photos provided of the apartment. We liked that it was in a small village and off the beaten-path, but near enough to airports and larger cities, as well as centrally located for exploring the Languedoc-Rouissillon area.
On arrival, our expectations were more than met. Marian and Tony specialize in flexible accommodations for their guests and have set up their apartments to serve the varied needs of their varied guests. In addition to our spacious apartment with brand new bathroom, and inviting terrace, there are many amenities including a rec room, sight-seeing literature, bikes that can be borrowed, and the experience of Marian and Tony in recommending local shopping and sights. The carafe of local rosé certainly helped us get off on the "right foot". Although, as Tony tells us, "evaporation" is a great problem with wines in the South of France. We note that the wine in our carafe is gone all too soon.
We've been here just over 3 weeks now and are still enchanted by our location, our daily life and the amentities of the apartment. We love the flow of village life - market on Tuesday and Thursday, the butcher for meats and advice on how to cook them, the daily pre-breakfast trip to the boulanger for bread, except Wednesdays when the boulangerie is closed and we have to get our bread from Point Chaud, the local grocers. Aperos somewhere between 6 and 7 and dinner between 8 and 9. Trips to the local wine coops for "vrac" (wine poured into "bidons" - 5 litre jugs, of which Marian and Tony have a supply they lend out). Lots of ham and cheese sandwiches taken for lunch on whatever adventure the day brings.
Marian and Tony live in the upper two floors of the maison and are usually available for asking questions and getting the scoop on how to manage affairs locally - when are the bank holidays, who's open when, where the good wine coops are, finding good olive oil, cookbooks, etc. Once a week, we get a basket of new linens and the most decadent of all are the IRONED sheets that we put on the beds and pillows. Tony takes pride in providing these ironed sheets himself. (They had used a laundress, but as she closed for the month of August when they are busiest, that didn't work well.)
There is a small one bedroom apartment on our floor, which is the first floor (American second floor), the one with the balcony. On the ground floor is the garage with entrance for the other two apartments, which we haven't seen yet, but which I'm told are a studio and an apartment for up to 6 people. This is also the floor where the rec room is and steps up to the terrace to provide access to the other visiters. Tony tells us they have a "cave" (wine cellar) as well as other storage somewhere here. You wouldn't expect a vintner's house NOT to have a cave, would you?
Marian and Tony have lived here for 10 years, having ditched banking life in England where the salaries were good but the lifestyle was, let us just say, "lacking". They moved to France for the lifestyle, but also had to make a living and thus after some research, bought this house and started as a bed and breakfast. You can still get B&B services, but they have moved more toward providing a holiday apartment experience.
There are many more stories to tell, but this will suffice for a start.