Winter Activities in the Tarn

 

Although France might be frosty at this time of year, the crisp, picturesque winters of The Tarn provide ample opportunity for outdoor activities, allowing visitors to make the most of the area’s outstanding natural beauty.

 

Tucked away in the rural heart of South West France, homeowners at La Durantie are able to enjoy numerous winter activities right on their doorstep. The estate grounds offer the perfect opportunity for crisp winter walks, while longer rambles can be taken through the scenic beauty of the nearby Grésigne forest, with almost 1000 acres of unspoiled natural beauty, showcasing the best of France’s surprisingly diverse fauna and flora. The forest is one of the largest oaks forests in Europe, and classified by the European Commission as a specially protected ecological area – and it’s not hard to see why; the rolling slopes of the expansive hilly woodland offer incredible views of The Tarn’s vineyards and patchwork fields. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque place to take a brisk winter hike.

 

Others may choose to experience the rural beauty of The Tarn by horseback. Horse riding is popular in the area, with the nearest stable located just 500 metres from the Chateau itself.  The gentle curves of The Tarn’s unspoilt countryside are ideal for horse-lovers; riders can meander through the tranquil woodlands undisturbed, or those more adventurous types may choose to take part in one of several endurance competitions in the area.  The Tarn is a paradise for horse-lovers.

 

 

For those who’d prefer to see The Tarn on two wheels than on four legs, cycling is another ideal way to explore the wintry landscapes of the area. Residents can enjoy a leisurely pedal through sleepy villages, past glistening rivers and rolling hills. A popular route begins in Albi, and heads east into increasingly woody surroundings, leaving the vineyards and villages behind for oaky hills and cypress trees.

 

For winter sports enthusiasts the pistes of the Pyrenees Mountains are easily accessible from La Durantie, with Ax le Thermes ski resort only 90 minutes away. The Pyrenees Mountains stretch across France, Spain and Andorra and offering breath-taking views. Residents at La Durantie have great flexibility when it comes to when and where they go skiing, and for how long; some may choose to spend just one day skiing, while others may want to hit the slopes every day. Residents of La Durantie are further spoilt for choice when it comes to resorts. As well as Ax le Thermes, the resorts of St Lary and Piau Engalay are easily accessible on the French side, as well as Pas de la Casa in Andorra and Bacqueira in Spain.

 

Whether you decide to ski, cycle, horse-ride or hike your way around the enviable scenery of The Tarn, those spending a winter break at La Durantie will not leave disappointed. With so many different ways to enjoy the stunning wintery surroundings, The Tarn is a truly unbeatable location for a refreshing winter retreat.


Skis At The Ready…

 

Winter is here and ski enthusiasts are beginning to flock to the slopes. Lucky owners at La Durantie can take pleasure in being only an hour and half’s drive away from the Pyrénées, a fantastic destination for skiing with an abundance of ski resorts offering great value for money compared with the Alps.

 

The Pyrénées Mountains stretch for 420 kilometres on the border of France, Spain and Andorra (where you can combine your ski trip with tax free shopping). Skiers can choose from French or Spanish resorts, each side offering many contrasting views and their own regional delights.

 

Ax Les Thermes (90 minute drive), is a well recommended ski destination. The resort has three ski areas and is centred around the ancient thermal spa town of Ax, near Andorra, so it is possible to check on the weather in the morning and decide whether it is worth the trip on the day from La Durantie!

 

Peyragudes, one of the largest resorts of the Pyrenees, is another ski resort within easy access (just over 2 hours by car). The French Ski Resort of Peyragudes has direct access to 42km of downhill skiing, with 37 individual pistes, and is served by 17 ski lifts.

 

The Pyrénées are famed for their hot springs and is the best place for relaxation as well as skiing. There is an abundance of natural thermal springs in the Pyrénées where heated water seeps up from fault lines deep in the mountain ready to soothe aching and weary limbs. Many of these springs have been channelled into excellent spa facilities that skiers can relax in, such as: Ax-les-Thermes, Luchon, Vallée du Louron, Cauterets and also Saint-Lary.

 

 

After a long day on the slopes, guests can head back home to La Durantie to rest their tired skiing legs at the state of the art spa. The spa is set to become one of the most luxurious  in south west  France and will include swimming pools – indoor and outdoor, saunas, a mud house, hydrotherapy pool, treatment rooms and  relaxation room projected for 2016.

 

Remember, the concierge team is on call to make life as hassle-free as possible and help homeowners plan the perfect skiing trip; be it finding the right accommodation or booking ski passes and ski gear.


Attic Clearance Sale (Vide Grenier)

 

23 November / 10am – 4pm

La Durantie | 81140 Castelnau-de-Montmiral

 

La Durantie is pleased to announce it will be hosting its own Attic Clearance Sale (Vide Grenier), on the 23rd November and the gates to the chateau estate will be open to the public to explore.  Since the release of the foodie blockbuster, The Hundred-Foot Journey, which was partly shot at the Cheateau de La Durantie, there has been a huge demand by locals and guests to see where the film took place and this will be an ideal opportunity, so feel free to come along!

 

Guests will have the chance to taste the delicious seasonal dish of wild boar stew, accompanied by La Durantie’s very own wine – just launched.

 

The passion for digging-around for old treasured items has long been associated with the French and you do not have to go too far in France to find a second hand market of some sort.  Until recently the best places to find a bargain has been concentrated in the larger towns and cities, such as ‘The Big Flea’ in Paris.  However, as many of these markets have today become more touristy and expensive, people are tending to travel further afield and off the beaten track to find quality antiquities.

 

‘Vide Grenier’ literally means ‘Attic Clearance’ and traditionally were designed for grandchildren to earn some pocket money from selling grandparents’ hoarded items. They provide a great way to uncover bargains such as antique paintings and furniture, French porcelain, vintage clothes, Art Deco objects and even 20th century design classics.

 

France is the No. 1 tourist destination in the world with around 70 million visitors per annum. There is much to love and to keep people coming back – gastronomy, landscape, architecture, history, culture, heritage, beaches, the weather. The list is endless; but one thing that is significantly growing ever more popular with visitors is seeking out the best flea markets in France.

 

Directions to La Durantie can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/o5hmwbb


We Will Remember Them…

 

Remembrance Sunday Commemoration Service

9th November 2014 | 11.30am

Village of Montmiral-de-Castelnau

 

On Sunday 9th November at 11am,the inhabitants and nearby communities will gather in the square at Castelnau-de-Montmiralbefore processing to the monument at 11.30amin remembrance of the Franco-British soldiers that fought in the Great War. Situated within The Tarn region of south-WesternFrance, the memorial service is a 5 minute drive from the grounds of La Durantie and will bring many of the local community together in remembrance. With it being the First World War centenary this year,the service will be especially dedicated to victims of the 1914-18 war.

 

 

In tribute to French soldiers, an exhibition has been compiled by residents, the local council and librarians over the last year. The exhibition will be opened to the public in the townhall of Montmiral just after the remembrance ceremony. It will cover many aspects of village life during the war, and information on the 66 French soldiers who died during the war, including information on their family and professional backgrounds, circumstances and place ofdeath. The exhibition will feature articles such as letters, photos and objects loaned by families of the current residents of Castelnau de Montmiral including one Victoria Cross.


Autumn-time pleasures in the Tarn

 

The grape harvest in France, commonly known as the ‘vendange’ is shortly coming to an end with just grapes for the desert wines remaining to be picked. The vendange in France traditionally takes place in September and ends late October, early November timeandduring these autumn months, the vines turn from green to red, transforming the landscape into a patchwork of brilliant colour.

 

The vast colourful landscapes of the south west region typically draw a lot of hikers and this autumn visitors have been enjoying a dip in the pool after a day’s walking as temperatures have reached into the mid-twenties Celsius.

 

Gaillac in The Tarn, just 10km away from La Durantie, is one of France’s première wine regions, offering an endless array of wine tasting opportunities.The development at La Durantie overlooks undulating vineyards and miles of dense oak forest, and has recently launched its own wine which proudly bears the label of its own name along with La Durantie’s identifiable flying blue duck; symbolising an escape to tranquility.

 

The newly reintroduced vines at La Durantie will allow homeowners the delight ofclosely following the process as it develops from vine to glass.There are several different cepages that are unique to the ancient wine region of Gaillac and La Durantie has selected a white Mauzac Sauvignon blend and red Cabernet Duras for their wine.There are also plansto plant a new vine to produce sweet wine.

 

 

La Durantie’s history with wine dates back as far as the 13th century and there is record of 600 casks of wine being sent from the domain to England via the fast flowing river Tarn. Over the years however, the vines were left to suffer underthe hands of different ownership and so the reintroduction of the vines todaywill mean that some of Durantie’s lost heritage will be returned.

 

For the real wine enthusiast homeowners and guests, La Durantie will organise guided tours of the surrounding domains, with the opportunity to try the regions famous wines.

 

Autumn in the Tarn also brings seasonal gastronomic delights, including chestnuts, cepes (mushrooms) and wild boar. Homeowners at La Durantie can choose to take part in a hunting trip, organised through the concierge team. Although it will involve an early morning start!

 

 

Chestnuts were once a staple of life in hard times in parts of France. Today however, they are an end-of-year treat, fire-roasted or candied, or transformed into creamy sauces or scrumptious jams — some even drinkable like liqueur or beer. Many take to the forests in search of these mahogany-coloured jewels hidden in prickly shells that fall from the treetops. A trip to a Chestnut Fair is highly recommended too during the autumn months, such as the nearby Chestnut fair in Laguepie.

 

On dewy misty mornings you canalso see mushroom pickers seek out the finest wild-growing cèpes morels, and rare truffles. The highly prized black truffles are added to omelettes and pâtés and well-worth a try!

 

Foodie Film Whets Home Buyers’ Appetite

 

The recent release of the foodie blockbuster, The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren has uncovered the gastronomic delights of The Tarn region of south west France. Known for its rich cassoulet, foie gras, Lautrec pink garlic and premiere Gaillac wines, cinemagoers are being transported to this rural food heaven where the action revolves around a fictional Michelin-starred French chateau restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).  In reality the belle époque Chateau de la Durantie is being renovated into a country club and spa with its own restaurant, bar and wine label – and will form the centrepiece of La Durantie’ development of 57 vernacular holiday homes on the estate.

 

Ten years ago ‘culinary tourism’ was viewed as a form of niche tourism, but today tourists and holiday home owners are increasingly attracted to a region by its local produce, restaurants and culinary delights.  Erik Wolf, President and CEO of The World Food Travel Association, says; “within the last decade the definition of culinary tourism has evolved to includethose people who travel almost exclusively to search for and enjoy prepared foods and drink.”

 

 

In France, food is a religion and in every village and town around La Durantie, there are authentic country restaurants and lively town bistros serving delicious seasonal food all year-round. For more sophisticated dining, the nearest Michelin star restaurant is 15 minutes away with another in nearby world heritage site Albi. However, owners and guests won’t need to leave the chateau’s grounds to find the very best of local fare. La Durantie’s Bistrot and Bar will be located within the chateau and will feature a large outdoor terrace overlooking the pool and gardens.

 

The menu will use fresh produce grown from La Durantie’s very own vegetable garden and will feature traditional dishes with a modern twist, but always seasonal whether a wild boar casserole or cepe (mushroom) omelette; currently in season as depicted in the film. For dessert you cannot beat a homemade tarte tatin with beautifully caramelised apples – all will be accompanied by Durantie’s pick of the finest local Gaillac and renowned French wines.

 

 

The luxury development of La Durantie overlooks undulating vineyards, and has recently launched its own wine label.There are several different cepages that are unique to the ancient wine region of Gaillac and La Durantie has selected a white Mauzac Sauvignon blend and red Cabernet Duras, allowing owners of the local French vernacular homes to make the idyllic notion of drinking their own Gaillac wine whilst sitting on the terrace of their holiday home a reality.

 

Owners will receive an allocation of Durantie wines and Francophile foodies are in for a treat.  There are 37 markets in total in The Tarn region for owners to discover including: Castelnau- de-Montmiral (Tue), Cordes (Sat), Gaillac (Tue, Fri, Sat), Albi (Tue, Sat) and Castres (Sat).

LA DURANTIE USED AS SET FOR NEW FILM

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey – In Cinemas 5th September 2014

 

The spotlight is set to shine on the undiscovered rural beauty spot of The Tarn region in south west France as “The Hundred-Foot Journey” film, based on the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais is released in the UK on 5th September. Starring Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, and directed by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (Director of Chocolat).  Scenes for the film have been shot in both France and India and La Durantie, the historical belle époque style chateau in The Tarn, has been used as the film set for a Michelin-starred French restaurant, run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).  The chateau is also currently being renovated and transformed into a Country Club and Spa for a new development of vernacular holiday homes on the estate.

 

 

An uplifting and feel-good cultural feast full of Indian spices, French sophistication and British wit, The Hundred-Foot Journey is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.  Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. When Hassan and his family, led by Papa (Om Puri), move to a quaint village in the South of France with the grand plan of opening an Indian restaurant in the picturesque countryside, they are undeterred by the fact that only 100 feet opposite stands a Michelin starred classical French eatery.
However upon encountering the icy proprietress, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the Kadam family realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew. Outraged by the new arrivals, Madame Mallory is determined to have their business shut down. As cultures clash and food flies, a heated battle escalates between the two establishments – until, that is, Hassan’s passion and talent for French cuisine begin to enchant Madame Mallory and even she can’t deny this young chef could have what it takes to garner even more acclaim for her beloved restaurant.

 

 

This, along with his new-found friendship with her beautiful sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), starts to weave a magic between the two cultures and, despite their different tastes, they discover an unlikely recipe for success that surprises them all.

 

The Tarn region is a credible setting for a film with its plot relating to top quality food, as the region has retained a strong connection to the land through farming and the local cuisine is renowned for its rich cassoulet, foie gras, Lautrec pink garlic and Toulouse sausage as well as its premier Gaillac wines.

 

 

Jeanne Boden, Director of La Durantie has been a resident in The Tarn for seventeen years and agreed to the chateau being used for filming after receiving a phone call in July 2013 from a location scout.  She says: “The scout was searching for a period property in an area of the south of France which is relatively undiscovered rather than the places visited by the masses and the Artistic Director was quick to appreciate its charm and cast La Durantie as home to Madame Mallory’s Michelin starred restaurant.  It was eye-opening to work as an ‘extra’ on set here and see the chateau come to life once again.  The local community is delighted the esteemed actress, Helen Mirren will star as the French restauranteur and the exposure should bring more international visitors.”

 

Lasse Hallström’s entry in La Durantie’s visitor’s book says:

“What a beautiful place in the world. A very special place and thanks for allowing us to film in it.”

 

The Tarn is a quintessentially French rural region which is not as well-known as nearby Provence, but is much loved by a number of British expats who have stumbled upon it and then never left!  The elegant belle époque chateau is one of the region’s prized architectural possessions; it lies just 50 minutes north of Toulouse and close to the village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral in a landscape of rolling hills, vineyards and ancient hill-top towns.  It has seen several owners throughout its lifetime but significantly, the Schwarzkopf family, famed for perfumes and beauty products, bought the chateau in the 1980’s and held lively parties whilst farming the 800 acre plot. In the interwar period the vineyard estate was run by nuns and their peaceful influence can still be sensed when entering the chateau gates today.

 


Jeanne Boden says: “There has always been energy and dynamism linked to the chateau relating to women and the two sisters that built the chateau had a lot of success in economic farming and were the owners of the first car in the town.  Later, the resident nuns brought calmness to the building and now it seems apt that such a renowned actress should play the role of an aristocratic lady running a top-notch restaurant here.”

 

In cinemas 5th September.

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Novel – Richard C. Morais

Producers – Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake

Executive Producers – Caroline Hewitt and Carla Gardini

Co-Producer – Raphaël Benoliel

Production & Distribution – DreamWorks Studios is producing, with Participant Media co-financing. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling foreign sales to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, DreamWorks’ partner Reliance will distribute in India. eOne will distribute the film theatrically in the UK.


The History of Château de la Durantie

 

It is believed that Château de la Durantie dates back as far as the 13th century. The first official information was that La Durantie came under the ownership of a large landholding by the Comte de Toulouse, during the 13th century. At that time the domaine was part of a farming and wine producing area and there is a record of 600 casks of wine being sent to England via the fast flowing River Tarn. It would therefore seem that visits by the English started as early as the 13th century.

 

The central chateau and farm buildings are 17th century built of pale limestone with two circular towers housing the spiral staircases. A key architectural influence occurred in 1887 when the then Parisian owners – two spinster ladies visited the Italian Riviera and subsequently renovated the château to reflect the Italian Palazzos of the ‘belle époque’; adding tall windows with beautiful facings and exterior pink paintwork.  This example of more sophisticated French châteaux architecture was typical for the turn of the century.

 

 

The château has seen several owners but significantly, the Schwarzkopf family, famed for perfumes and beauty products, bought the château in the eighties and hosted wild parties but sold off some of the farming estate.  During the war the building was occupied by nuns and their peaceful influence can still be sensed when entering the château gates today.

 

The Tarn department was created during the French Revolution of 4th May 1790, and is steeped in history. La Durantie has gained a rare permit to build within this listed area – the neighbouring villages of Castelnau-de-Montmiral and Puycelsi are both categorised under the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’.

 

 

The farm now consists of 35 acres which will be used for the new chateau houses (7 acres) and a wonderful park and gardens for the remainder.

 

This winter vines are being reintroduced to the 15 hectare château estate, returning more of its heritage, and owners of the local French vernacular homes will be able to make the idyllic notion of drinking their own Gaillac wine whilst sitting on the terrace of their holiday home a reality.

 


The Most Popular Village In France

 

Cordes-sur-Ciel has been voted the ‘most popular French Village’, on a programme of the same name “Le Village Préféré Des Français”,broadcasted on the national TV channelFrance 2 on Tuesday 1st July. Voting is carried out by French national viewers, who choose their favourite village in France from a shortlist of 22.

 

Cordes-sur-Ciel, located in the Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrénées, is an architecturally stunning village perched on the top of a hill. Originally named “corte” meaning “rocky heights,” the village was later renamed “Cordes-sur-Ciel”, to indicate its height above the clouds over low-lying areas of the valley – as in a fairytale book!

 

Interestingly, the Midi-Pyrenees is the only department in France that had two villages listed in the competition, indicating the true magnificence of this region.  The fact that the listing is decided by the discerning French themselves serves as a goodguide for international tourists wishing to visit the ‘real France’anddiscover its natural beauty for themselves.

 

Two Brits who have done just thatare Jeanne and David Boden who moved to the region 17 years ago.  The Boden’s are now involved in helping to develop La Durantie, so that others like them can own-in and enjoy this beautiful region of France.  Just 22 km from Cordes Sur Ciel, the Chateau de la Durantie is currently being renovated into a country club & spa and vernacular style homes are being developed in the chateau grounds.

 

 

The Tarn is a quintessentially French rural region which is not as well-known as neighbouring Provence, but is much loved by a number of British expats who have stumbled upon it and then never left!  The elegant belle époque chateau at the heart of La Durantie is one of the region’s prized architectural possessions; it lies just 55 minutes north of Toulouse and close to the village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral in a landscape of rolling hills, vineyards and ancient hill-top towns.

 

Overlooking undulating vineyards and miles of dense oak forest, La Durantie will soon become home to 57 vernacular designed single and two storey one to five bedroom detached homes together with two styles of apartments with either 2 or 3 bedrooms.  In-keeping with the local villages, homes will be arranged in small clusters of approximately six homes with private spaces and landscaped internal courtyards.  Some homes will be stone faced and others will have the traditional render in soft hues bordered by local detailing in brick and stone whilst terracotta roof tiles will enhance the mellow and traditional character of the scheme.  Most homes will also have an ‘integrated’ private swimming pool set within the landscaped private gardens and the four apartments are clustered around a shared pool.

 

 

La Durantie will be in keeping with the vernacular-style of the local villages.

 

Having so many picturesque villages on the doorstep makes for perfect day trips for residents and guests at La Durantie should they ever tire of the magic of “Le Village Préféré Des Français”.


On your bike for Le Tour This July!

 

Running from Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2014, the 101st Tour de France is shortly upon us and cycling enthusiasts will be getting the opportunity once again to test their cycling legs from Leeds all the way to Paris, covering a distance of 3,656 km.

 

For the first time the ’Grand Depart’ will set-off from Harrogate in Leeds and will pass close to La Durantie as stage 16 reaches Carcassonne.

 

Each stage city will offer a range of activities to crowds, creating a fantastic atmosphere for everyone involved. In the UK free fan parks will be held, where spectators can watch the Tour de France live on the giant screen, follow the stage of the day, relive its highlights, and enjoy the festival atmosphere that the Tour brings.

 

 

For the French, the Tour is a national celebration and it is a great honour for the towns and cities that are chosen as host venues. Every year hundreds of thousands of spectators line the streets of every village, hamlet and roadside to be part of the festivities.

 

For those visiting La Durantie this July, the best place to soak up the atmosphere of the Tour de France, is the stunning town of Carcassonne, on the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France. Listed as a World Heritage Site, Carcassonne is one of France’s most dramatic cities, and offers a maze of old lanes and streets with a double protective medieval wall and a fortress with turrets looking out onto the River Aude. The city is located approximately an hour and a half drive away from La Durantie and also gives people the wonderful opportunity to discover Toulouse and the beautiful countryside en route, making for a lovely day out. There’s nothing quite like being in the medieval city watching the Tour de France roll by!

 

 

With the explosion of UK cycling, due to the successes of riders like Bradley Wiggins and Olympians Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, this year’s Tour de France will create an influx of cycling activity and interest in the sport. Not only does cycling appeal to the younger generations, it is very common to see middle aged men in lycra on the roads too!

 

Given the varied Mediterranean landscape throughout France, it is a very popular destination for all levels of cyclists. Research carried out by The Tarn Tourist Board Research (2013) shows that the most popular pastime in the Tarn region is walking followed by VTT (Biking). Subsequently the Tarn Tourist Board are increasing the number of bike routes and walking routes around the Tarn tying in with hotels, wine tourism trails, heritage trails, and restaurants.

 

 

With its sleepy villages, meandering river and rolling hills, the stunning landscapes of the Tarn are ideal for exploration on two wheels. There are many different cycling routes on offer suitable for all abilities, whether you are an amateur or pro! Cyclists can travel through stunning vineyards, down wooded slopes, through tranquil villages, and along the quiet lanes on the river banks.

 

If you are cycling in the Castelnau area why not pop-in and see Jeanne Boden in the sales office for a cup of coffee and a quick tour of Chateau de La Durantie.  Visitors are always welcome!