17 June 2010


Not long ago, Nick pointed out that it was three years since we had been anywhere other than Le Grand-Pressigny for a holiday. I really hadn't noticed. He himself has been to various foreign locations for his work but I have not ventured elsewhere at all. So, we arranged with our friends Pete and Cyn to visit them at their house in Cassagnes, up in the hills near Perpignan, for a couple of days when we were next chez nous in France at the end of May.

The hills west of Perpignan

Having spent the weekend at LGP, we travelled south on the Monday morning. We had a reasonably early start but progress was slow as the weather was awful - we had heavy rain for the first 3 hours. The motorway was especially busy around Limoges and Toulouse, making it very hard work. Suddenly it cleared up and we arrived at Cassagnes at apéro time - 6 pm.

Our view of Cassagnes as we arrived in the evening sunshine.

The journey south brought back many happy memories as we passed Souillac, Cahors and Carcassone - all places we had stayed in the past, usually on our motorcycle camping tours. Gradually the surroundings changed and we lost the lush green of the Loire valley and the creamy crumbliness of its buildings. Around Toulouse the terrain started to look drier and the roofs of the buildings became flatter - mediterranean style.

When we arrived it was noticeably warmer and sunnier than further north. No surprise there. But there was a strong wind blowing, the tramontane. This is the southwest's equivalent of the mistral. It felt like we were being blown constantly by a warm hair dryer. Pete & Cyn said it can blow for several weeks at a time.

Pete and Cyn's house.

Their house is a three-storey building, built in a style which is typical of the region. They have been gradually "doing it up" over the five years they have owned it and the renovations are almost complete. They have transformed it from a rather unloved house into a beautiful family home. They have moved the living areas (kitchen and sitting room) to the top floor where they have built a balcony which has magnificent views over the village and of the hills in the distance.

The view from the balcony.

We had a great evening with our friends, eating a lovely meal, admiring the progress they had made with their renovations and catching up. Their experience in buying and renovating in France influenced us a great deal when we came to look for a house ourselves. They gave us much encouragement and helped to dispel many of the fears we had.

We had a good night's sleep and awoke refreshed and ready to do some exploring the next day.


  1. It looks beautiful there but I just love that wooden floor. We have wood in one room only and tiles in the rest, they are so cold!! Diane

  2. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of your time in this area. Our first (and second) trip saw us in the Languedoc region. Great history and except for Carcassone, not as touristy.

  3. Isn't travelling round France grand with its empty roads - lovely view they have.

  4. Diane - the wooden floor was there when they bought the house and it looks beautiful now they have stained and sealed it.

    Leon - the history of the region is fascinating.

    FF - you're right. There's no way we would have attempted such a journey in one day on English roads. And the view is fabulous, I could sit and look at it all day long.

  5. Hi Jean
    You've made me realise that apart from an anniversary trip to Ireland, we haven't had a proper holiday in over seven years of renovating in France. You have to sacrifice don't you?

  6. My experience of France is limited to one overnight stay in Paris between plane flights.

    Saw a little of the city; would love to learn more about the country.