The UEFA European Championship shines a spotlight on the Tarn

 

Dozens of football teams will compete for the final of the European football championship in France throughout June and July, including the England, Wales and Northern Ireland teams. The matches will take place at different stadiums across France including Stadium de Toulouse, located just an hour away from La Durantie (87 km). As Britons flock the stadiums throughout France, the UEFA championship is set to shine a spotlight on lesser known areas of France, such as the Tarn. France is the second most popular place for Britons seeking a holiday home abroad, with the Midi-Pyrénées region also remaining a popular favourite.

 

The Stadium de Toulouse is the biggest in the Midi-Pyrénées region and is often referred to as ‘mini-Wembley’ because of its resemblance to the iconic London venue. In addition to football, the ground regularly holds rugby matches and was a venue for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  Aside from cheering on your country, there is plenty to see in Toulouse, including the medieval old town, the elegant Capitole building and the Canal du Midi, which links the Garonne river to the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

For all you football enthusiasts, here’s a schedule of the matches to be held at the Stadium de Toulouse during the UEFA European Championship:

 

- Monday 13 June, 15.00 (Toulouse): Spain v Czech Republic – Group D

- Friday 17 June, 15.00 (Toulouse): Italy v Sweden – Group E

- Monday 20 June, 21.00 (Toulouse): Russia v Wales – Group B

- Sunday 26 June, 21.00 (Toulouse): Winner F v Runner-up E – Match 6

 

Nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ in reference to the colour of the terracotta bricks used on many of its buildings, Toulouse is France’s fourth largest city. With regular flights to Toulouse Blagnac airport from UK airports, many Britons pass through the city on their way to the rolling hillsides of The Tarn. Boasting a dramatic landscape untouched by time, The Tarn is particularly popular amongst retirees or those seeking the tranquillity of the countryside. Home to undulating vineyards, the Aveyron Gorges, bastide hilltop villages and the winding Tarn River, France doesn’t get much more idyllic than the Tarn.

 

 

Keep checking our blog for upcoming events and exciting developments at La Durantie or follow us on Twitter @ChateauDurantie and like our Facebook page La Durantie.


The Tarn – What the Visitors Say

The Tarn is a beautiful place famous for its quaint villages, acres of rolling hills, unspoiled countryside and peaceful lakes. La Durantie itself is situated between two of the most beautiful villages in France, or officially “Les plus beaux villages de France” – two of just 150 villages in the country which hold this official label. Puycelsci is 6km from La Durantie and Castelnau de Montmiral is just 2km away.

 

Despite its beauty and tranquility, there is plenty to do and see in the region. The Tarn boasts some of France’s most interesting and popular tourist attractions.

 

But don’t take our word for it! Here’s what people are saying on TripAdvisor about the attractions:

 

 Jardins des Martels, Girousseus

 

 

“Simply beautiful”

★★★★★
By Peter, France – Reviewed 17th September 2014

These beautifully laid out gardens offer interest and colour from April to October. Try and go when the lotuses are out (June-August), they are simply beautiful. We have visited most months now and are never disappointed. 

Our top tip: Make sure not to miss the Japanese pagoda and stepping stones across the pond!

 

Hautpoul, Mazamet

 

 

“What an incredible location”

★★★★★
By Christina, Cardiff – Reviewed 6th February 2015

The tiny village of Hautpoul, thought to have been built in 413 by the Wisigoths is perched high above the town of Mazamet. It has been beautifully preserved and is now pedestrianized. There is a statue to the Virgin Mary overlooking the valley and the remains of a small medieval chateau. There is also a reconstruction of a medieval garden and a museum. The views are superb of the valleys.

Our top tip: Best explored by foot! A lovely ramble up to the top of the village will reward you with some amazing views.

 

Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi

 

 

“The Palais de la Berbie and its gardens, great collection”

★★★★★
By Anonymous, Croatia – Reviewed 4th November 2014

Thanks to the parents of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the museum possesses the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world. Over 1000 works, pictures, lithographs, drawings and preparatory studies including all 31 posters provide a complete documented approach of the artist and illustrate each facet of his innovative talent. The museum is located in a lovely setting.

Our top tip: The art of the great Toulouse de Lautrec is alluring enough to make the visit worthwhile, but the setting and the lovely gardens are not to be missed! Spring and summer visits are recommended. The museum reopened in 2012 after refurbishment; the sleek renovation has given a modern touch to the interiors of this impressive historic building.

 

Cathedrale Ste-Cecile, Albi

 

 

“The paintings are remarkable”

★★★★★
By Michael, Australia – Reviewed 22nd February 2015

Big! It is one of the biggest churches we have seen. It’s quite beautiful; the paintings are as remarkable as are the statues. Albi is a nice town to visit actually. We loved it – do yourself a favor and check it out.

Our top tip: Try one of the audio tours (available in several languages) to find out about the cathedral’s fascinating history.

 

Musée de la Mode, Albi

 

 

“A jewel of a museum”

★★★★★
By Hatty, UK – Reviewed 29th June 2014

I’ve visited this museum twice now and been stunned by the quality of the display and the wonderful venue. This is a private museum created by an inspired collector of costumes. They are beautifully displayed, the building is fascinating and in the oldest part of Albi. The catalogues are beautifully printed and there is even a shop where you can buy some vintage items if you have a penchant for collecting or the old and loved, as I do.

Our top tip: It’s not a huge museum, but make sure you leave enough time for your trip as the 5 rooms are packed with information and exhibits that are well worth taking your time to enjoy.

 

Le Sidobre

 

 

“Great scenery and walks”

★★★★★
By Mary, UK – Reviewed 7th July 2014

A brilliant part of the Tarn for walking and spectacular scenery – the granite formations provide excellent points of interest and photographic opportunities.

Our top tip: Sidobre is an absolutely great place for exploring by bike. There are plenty of cycle-hire shops in nearby Castres. 

 

Château de Penne

 

 

“A fantastic Medieval village”

★★★★★
By Denise, UK – Reviewed 14th August 2014

This castle is not a ‘French château’ it’s a proper fortified castle on the top of a huge approximately 200 foot rock outcrop. As spectacular as you would see anywhere in the world! A fantastic place to visit. The village is genuinely medieval and absolutely lovely.

Our top tip: Make sure you leave enough time to explore the picturesque medieval village as well as the castle itself.

 

Jardin des Paradis, Cordes-sur-Ciel

 

 

“Go There!”

★★★★★
By John, UK – Reviewed 11th September 2014

Well-advertised and worth following the signs if you are looking for somewhere a little different, away from the shops and tourists. A hidden gem with so much to see and appreciate in relaxing and peaceful surroundings. Different styles of garden in such a small area and good to see there is a small shop/cafe to stop for refreshments.

Our top tip: It’s a great place to visit during the summer months; an oasis from the heat with water features and a lovely pond….cooling and calming.

 

Musée Laperouse, Albi

 

 

“Australian connection to Albi”

★★★★☆
By Shanthini, Australia -  Reviewed 4 November 2012

The French explorer La Perouse was born in Albi. This museum is dedicated to his amazing voyage of discovery throughout the pacific and Asia rim. It contains relics from his ship which sank on his way back to France as well as maps and documents. Interesting link to Australia in this small town in South of France.

Our top tip: The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable. So if you have any questions, let them know.

 

Musée Goya, Castres

 

 

“Small but well organised.”

★★★★☆
By Ben, Australia – Reviewed 31 May 2013

Delightful city council run art gallery that has permanent and temporary exhibitions. Free entry and helpful staff make this a worthwhile visit.

Our top tip: The museum shows much more than just Goya; there is usually a very varied selection on display. During sunnier months make sure to spend time in the lovely surrounding gardens.

 

Musée Charles Portal, Cordes-sur-Ciel

 

 

★★★★☆
By Jane, UK – “Beautiful”  Reviewed 1 August 2013

This is a magical place and getting the little train up to almost the top, saves your energy for walking the cobbled streets to the vantage point at the top. Steeped in history this is a picturesque place and one of France’s many treasures.

Our top tip: Not far from the ‘Jardin des Paradis’- try to incorporate both in one trip and spend some time taking in the breathtaking views of the tarn from this picturesque hill-top town.

 

Office de Tourisme de Castres

 

 

“Excellent – worth a visit!”

★★★★★
By Shanthini, Australia – Reviewed 10th October 2014

There are the usual brochures, of course, but the people themselves are what make it special. They really like their jobs and take time to talk and really answer questions. Very helpful.

Our top tip: Located next to the Goya Museum, the tourism office is really easy to find and great for finding out anything from simple directions to in-depth information about the local attractions.


Toulouse – The Ultimate Rugby Destination

 

… And currently great value for money as UK holidaymakers to the euro zone will have just over 15% more spending power than a year ago.

 

The heart of French rugby is in the South West of France. Stade Toulousain, or Toulouse as they are most commonly referred to, is traditionally one of the strongest sides in French rugby, having won 19 French Championships and made six Heineken Cup finals appearances, winning a record of four. The Heineken Cup, for those who might not know, sees six different European countries bearing representatives and is considered to be one of rugby’s top prizes.

 

Stade Toulousain’s home ground, the Stade Ernest-Wallon, is located on the northwest side out towards the Toulouse Blagnac Airport. The stadium can accommodate up to 19,500 people and on match days the streets of Toulouse become buzzing with rugby goers wearing the team’s red, black and white kit.

 

 

With Toulouse only 50 minutes away from La Durantie, residents can enjoy a great day out at the rugby.  Pre-match, we recommend oysters and a glass of chilled wine in the market bar of Victor Hugo, followed by a feast of barbequed Toulouse sausage in the grounds.

It hasn’t been so cheap to visit the 19 countries that make up the eurozone since 2007. On 10th March 2015, the pound reached a more-than seven year high against the euro, assterling rose 1% to hit €1.40 for the first time since December 2007.

 

Upcoming ‘home’ match dates for your diary include:

– Toulouse vs. Montpellier (Saturday 14th March)

– Toulouse vs. Toulon (Saturday 28thMarch)

– Toulouse vs. Bayonne (Saturday 11th April)

 

Toulouse’s current squad features a number of notable players, none more so than inspirational national team skipper Thierry Dusautoir, one of the best players in world rugby at the moment. Dusautoir is joined by former All Black Luke McAllister, Australian scrum-half Luke Burgess and fellow French representative Vincent Clerc.

 

 

Stade Touloussain dates back as far as 1907, prior to which rugby was only ever played in schools or universities. Stade Touloussain played its first final in 1909, claiming its first title in 1912. Throughout the 70s and 80s Toulouse established themselves as the dominant force in French rugby.


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.


Wellness Travel Is ‘Up’ & High-Tech Spa Is ‘In’

 

According to the 2014 Virtuoso Luxe Report, spa and wellness travel is constantly expanding and totals 14% of world tourism expenditure, which is forecasted to grow 9% annually through to 2017 (50% faster than regular tourism). Spas are no longer perceived as an added bonus to a resort, instead they are now looked upon as a standard facility, where quality and excellence is expected. The high-tech spa within the chateau country club at La Durantie, is set to make it an ideal country retreat destination for tourists.

 

La Durantie highly values the importance of a spa and planned a state-of-the- art facility at the heart of the resort making it the first of its kind in the region and likely to attract mini-break visitors from Toulouse (50 minutes away) as well as overseas guests that are seeking a stylish and relaxed country retreat in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. In recognition, La Durantie has been awarded World’s Best Leisure Development 2013-14.

 

 

The spa at La Durantie, located only a stone’s throw away from property owners’ homes, will occupy the château’s magnificent 17th century barn, which will be renovated with high windows to let in plenty of light, while retaining many of the original features such as exposed beams and original stonework.  Spa facilities will include four swimming pools – indoor and outdoor, saunas, a mud house, hydrotherapy pool, treatment rooms and a relaxation room. Throughout much of the spa, guests will be able to enjoy stunning views of the estate’s woodlands and château’s lush gardens. A particular highlight will include a large sun deck, accessed by enormous glass doors, which will have a spectacular view across a wildflower meadow, looking down to a natural ‘eco’ swimming pool.

 

Located in the Tarn region of the Midi-Pyrenees in France, La Durantie makes the perfect choice for those looking for a first or second home.  The outdoor nature of this part of The Tarn in the south west of France means there is also no end of activities which promote health and well-being just beyond the gates of La Durantie. During the warmer months, cycling, fishing, horse riding, hiking and kayaking – a particular highlight being the gentle rapids at the Gorges du Tarn – are all popular pursuits in the area. During the winter months, skiing at Ax-Les-Thermes is popular and only half an hour away.

 

 

The regions abundance of year round attractions, coupled with onsite enticing facilities including a country club and state of the art spa not only make La Durantie a fantastic place for second home owners to holiday, but also drives a return on investment through villa rentals throughout the year.

 

Prices start at €333,250 (approx. £273,800) for a 2 bed and rising to €791,630 (approx. £654,709) for a 5 bed home.

 

*All prices are nett (after VAT refund) and a mandatory annual charge includes management charge and country club membership.


Springtime In The Tarn

 

“Where has winter gone? Spring is now here”

 

Well, I have been having those lovely glasses of Gaillac wine in front of the fire and indeed outside. Winter has been so mild………….. Where has the time gone? We are in  March and another lovely sunny day, although we had some rain in February but fortunately nothing like those in the West Country in the UK; our thoughts are with all those having to deal with the ordeal of the floods in the UK.

 

 

We have had some super days skiing in the Pyrenees mountains and as mentioned in a previous newsletter, being so close, we can always check on the weather and if it’s sunny we go and it isn’t we don’t – simple!!  Have a look at these wonderful pictures of Ax Les Thermes which is only an hour and a half from Durantie.  My daughter left the house at 6.30am and was on the slopes at 9.00am and was back home by 7.30 in the evening having had a delightful day on the slopes.  Of course if you want to go slightly further afield then Baqueira just across the Spanish border is a more extensive resort and is still only three hours from Durantie – we tend to stay in one of the villages below the resort and enjoy the Spanish hospitality of tapas and gorgeous Riojas from which there are some 1500 to choose – the hotels are very reasonably priced at €45 a night; a totally different culture, a matter of a few hours from our door step!

 

 

We’ve been enjoying our “fizz on Fridays” with all our mates here getting together for a spontaneous few glasses of “fizz” which is made locally, method Gaillacois.

 

We’ve just had a most relaxing and very French Sunday lunch time in one of the local bars in Gaillac which typifies this area, a warm welcome and a couple of hours of banter over several plates of oysters, bought freshly from the market and opened by the barman, served with a local crisp chardonnay and the topics of conversation ranging from the local elections to who played well in which match of the Six Nations – the French equivalent to a “pint and a sandwich” in your local but with sunshine!

 

We had several clients over the winter and have been delighted at the number of reservations we have taken.  Everyone who visits for the first time cannot believe how lovely it is here , even in winter – they have a real treat in store when spring does come!

 

 

The Six Nations has been interesting this year, and having been fortunate enough to go to the France v England game at the start of the tournament, a friend of mine and I took advantage of the very frequent and extremely reasonable airfares from Toulouse to Paris.  Soon we’ll be able to travel to Paris on the TGV in two and half hours, such is the connectivity of the Tarn!  We didn’t get the result we wanted but a good comprise for those of us who support Stade Toulouse was that the three French tries were all scored by Stade Toulouse players Huget and Fickou – “allez les rouge et noir”!!

 

We will be putting diggers on the ground in April, such has been the progress we’ve made with reservations which is very pleasing and everyone is very excited at the prospect.

 

 

We’ve just launched the Durantie wine and very drinkable it is too……with the very distinctive turquoise duck gracing each bottle, we’re thrilled with it – come and see us and do some tasting!  There are several different  cepages which are unique to Gaillac, this ancient  of wine regions: Our Durantie white is a Mauzac Sauvignon blend and the red Cabernet Duras.

 

 

And for those of you that perhaps might enjoy some retail therapy when the weather is not quite at its best, then do as my wife and daughter have done and venture forth to Toulouse and give the “credit card” a good “seeing to” whether it is ZARA or GEORGE REICH – all the major brands are here –   with bags galore  reward yourself with lunch in one of the many delightful restaurants like Capoul, Pere Louis or just a mouthful of beautifully fresh sea food in the Victor Hugo market in the centre of Toulouse.

 

Anyway, winter is very much over with cowslips, violets and primroses adorning the roadsides.  Next week we have temperatures up in the 20C so leaves will be bursting forth.  It is a super time of year.  Please come and see us.

 

With best wishes to all.


A Horse Rider’s Haven

 

Often compared to the Cotswolds or Tuscany, the Tarn’s gentle rolling countryside is a haven for horse-riding enthusiasts, and owners at La Durantie are spoilt for choice with the varied terrain on their doorsteps.

 

The peaceful, beautiful scenery allows for riders of all abilities to ride out and enjoy the surrounds, riding with friends or taking their horse for an undisturbed ride. Endless outings can be enjoyed on sleepy, car-free roads, or deep amongst the ancient woodland of the Gresigne Forest, or meandering peacefully amongst the many local vineyards. With very little fencing or gates to negotiate, riders can feel at one with nature, with nothing to interrupt them except for the odd deer or the sound of a farmer’s plough.

 

La Durantie’s nearby stables offer the facilities for the experienced rider to keep their own horse, and those owners wishing to keep or rent a horse for a season can easily do so. Situated 500 metres from the Chateau, there will be 18 boxes for horses, one riding court and one lunging ring, laid out on a 30 hectare site comprising fields and woodland. From the stables riders will have fabulous views of the nearby Bastide hilltop village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral.

 

 

For those just looking to enjoy a ride once in a while, and for younger children, the two nearby stables at St.Beauzile (www.centre-equestre-tarn.fr) and Ecuries de la Burgue (www.ecburgue.com) can offer training and rides organised on an individual basis.

 

There are many endurance competitions to enjoy at all levels, from a beginner friendly 10KM, up to a competitive 100KMs, with each event enjoying a communal local spirit. Breakfast is often shared before the events, followed by celebratory meals over trestle tables, which are filled with local Gaillac wine and scrumptious local produce.

 

For the skilled rider, slightly further afield there are several show jumping and dressage competitions during the spring and summer in and around the Toulouse area, which is easily reached within 50 minutes of La Durantie.