Chalabre is the nearest town to our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast, an easy 3km ramble or cycle ride along the “Voie Vert”, the old railway line that is great for gentle exploration of the Aude and Ariege. Beautiful tree-lined avenues, medieval streets of huge, ancient houses and the confluence of 3 rivers make for a very satisfying afternoon’s exploration. And of course, the ubiquitous boulanger and pavement bars, all you need for a holiday in France.
Tag Archive for: bed and breakfast
The black redstarts unceremoniously evicted by Nasty Nick from the porch have been setting up residence on one of the huge beams that criss-cross the terrace at our bed and breakfast in the south of France. Guests had to move from the porch in order that the redstarts could enter with food for their young but even so… Their nest that was perching precariously on the beam is now lying on the ground. Poor little birds, all that effort, however, Nasty Nick has promised to redeem himself and first thing will fix a ledge to the beam so the width is extended. If we put the nest back then perhaps the redstarts, that have the sweetest “bobbing habit”, will return. They are more timid than the bold Great Tits that build their nests in the stone walls of the porch and simply swoop over your head while you are enjoying your coffee and croissants.
We were delighted to be part of a young couple’s very special day when they become engaged at Chez Maison Bleue in the summer. The bride to be knew nothing of secret preparations arranged by her [now] fiancee and which included a special meal on arrival at our B&B and champagne and rugs and cushions on the hill at the back of the house with moonlit views of our ancient village and church. This was where the question, along with the the champagne would be popped! Our engagement present to Caitlin and Thomas was a celebration meal on their return visit, which we hope they are able to cash in soon. It was a privilege to be part of their special time and we are pleased that our B&B nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees, deep in the south of France, will always be a special place to them.
June has been a very busy month for us in our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast in the south of France. And it is soooo satisfying to get some great reviews for what we are doing here at Chez Maison Bleue. All from our guest book in June…”5* hospitality, accommodation and food” – Roy & Elaine, UK, “Great service and friendliness, fabulous place for hiking and bicycle rides” – Robert & Catharine, Germany, “What a welcome to this part of France, nothing was too much trouble and no effort spared, the best gite we have stayed in” – Terry & Elaine, France, “A wonderful place to stay, great company, we have loved it” – Deane & Ella, Utah.
This is our first year running our business in this beautiful part of Languedoc / Midi Pyrenees. It is interesting to see what our guests are choosing to do - walking the GR7, cycling, the towns and cities, especially Mirepoix and Carcassonne, wine tours including Blanquette de Limoux, the ruined chateaux of the Cathars, and now that the weather is baking, swimming in the river and in the lakes at Puivert and Montbel. So you could do something different every day, or you could simply put on a CD, pick up a book from our library, and lounge on your terrace ’till the cows come home (literally) it’s up to you.
The stages of the Tour de France 2012 have been published. Stage 14, the high mountain stage Limoux to Foix passes even closer to our holiday cottage and B&B in Sonnac sur l’Hers than previously thought – through Chalabre, only 3km from Chez Maison Bleue. So a walk or a cycle ride for us to be part of this tremendous sporting spectacle as it passes through the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Our guests from the UK who stayed in our bed and breakfast in the south of France this week, “Wonderfully relaxing visit, we were made to feel very welcome. Thoroughly enjoyable time here, can’t wait to come back, you have a fantastic place. We had great food, great wine and great company.” Shopping at Mirepoix market with lunch in one of the pavement cafes, a day out to Carcassonne less than an hour away, and rambling in the hills behind the house and through meadows of wild flowers, were all enjoyed by this group of friends. Something for everyone in our holiday home, nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The south of France is awash with antique and second hand furniture and furnishings. The French often no longer favour the beautiful but huge armoires and buffets as they do not fit into the boxy, modern pavilions (small, detached houses) that are appearing throughout the French countryside (mmm, that’s another blog).
My aim has always been to create a French country home in my 18th century bed and breakfast and holiday cottage and with this in mind I have been a frequent visitor to the various outlets for old furniture. Primarily the brocante in Mirepoix that sells antiques (& junk) and the Troc in Carcassonne, likewise. Recently we discovered the Vente aux Encheres Publiques (public auction) in Pamiers which on our first visit had a stunning collection of furniture, linens and chandeliers, genuine antiques at rock bottom prices – mainly.
However, my French is dreadful and cent (100) sounds terribly like cinq (5) particularly in the sing-song, 100kms an hour voice of the Commissaire – Priseur. The dictionary defines priser as to value or, to take snuff. Really. So for much of the auction which lasted for 3.5hrs, I sat in silence until towards the end when I could contain myself no longer and bid for these 4 solid oak chairs for the bargain price of 15 euros (+20% commission).The next antiques auction is on Saturday and with my newly honed bidding skills I intend to make a play for the lit de coin, (corner bed) above. I have made a mistake with these in the past – there isn’t a mattress in the south of France to fit my beautifully carved rosewood bed.
As a chef I do not subscribe to Henry Ford’s view that “history is bunk”, the great chefs of years gone by have a lot to teach us, from Escoffier to Elizabeth David to the chefs of today, all have their own ingredient to add. My intention in all that I cook for our B&B in the south of France is to learn from the masters but be prepared to adapt and experiment. The key is, of course, the ingredients. Fresh produce that has been cultivated with respect is essential to any good dish. In the Languedoc we are spoiled for fruit and vegetables, raised in the sunshine but watered by refreshing rain from the Pyrenees. Equally we have easy access to the abundant seafood of the Mediterranean. When I cook for my mother she tells me not to “mess with it” and that is a big influence. Whilst I do have my own variations, my aim is to let the natural flavours show through, the twist is the combination of those flavours! My blog from Chez Masion Bleue, our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast, is a mix of foodie talk, historical context and some rough guides to the dishes I cook.
Cycle Languedoc and the Midi Pyrenees from our cyclist friendly bed and breakfast in the south of France. Quiet roads and tracks lead from the door, although this is Tour de France country so go as high as you like up twisty cols. Safe storage, workshop, washing and drying rooms, maps and 2 mountain bikes to lend – further bike hire locally. We collaborate with Cycling Languedoc, a useful resource with some detailed, long distance routes. Springtime avoids the baking heat and crowds of the summer…so what are you waiting for?
Much proof remains that the back of our ancient, rambling bed and breakfast in the south of France started out as shelter for the beasts sometime during the 1700s. Thick stone walls of what is now our dining room and bar onto the terrace leave no doubt about the orginial functions of these rooms. Old French furnishings that retain the character and an iron chandelier are all that’s required to complete the transformation into unique eating / drinking rooms in our B&B. Nick is enjoying collecting 50s / 60s paraphernalia for his bar, photos of neon signs to follow.