The region surrounding the luxury property for sale at La Durantie offers a wealth of outdoor activities and outings, villages and towns alive with fêtes and social events, some of France’s best cuisine and wines and easy access to the sophisticated boutiques and cultural life of cities such as Toulouse, Bordeaux and Montpellier. Within driving distance are the pistes of the Pyrénées and the sun-drenched beaches of the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Read on to find out exactly what this exciting area has to offer.
Warm, lush and criss-crossed by rivers, the Tarn is one of France’s most beautiful and historic regions. Superb Gaillac wines have been produced here since Roman times, making the area the oldest wine-producing region in France. Today, the area can claim some of the country’s finest reds and rosés, made from grapes grown amongst endless rolling vineyards, in pretty villages alive with bustling markets and charming cafés. This is traditional France, away from the ‘bling’ and crush of the coasts, where you can spend the day strolling the cobbled streets of Albi, walk for hours across sumptuous landscapes or canoe down dramatic gorges. The luxury property for sale at La Durantie lies a stone’s throw from the pretty bastide village of Castelnau de Montmiral, with its stone buildings (some dating back to the 12th century) and mosaic of terracotta roofs. Castlenau sits on a hill and from the old esplanade you can see for miles - over undulating hills carpeted with vines, farms and oak forests. The village offers a whole range of clubs and societies and plenty of little shops, bakeries, delicatessens, hotels, restaurants and cafés, some of which spill out onto an impressive medieval square framed by gothic arches. It’s in this ‘arcade’ that Castlenau comes to life - with everything from music festivals to Christmas markets bringing villagers and visitors together.
The other villages and towns in the area offer even more opportunities to shop, eat, drink and be merry. Combined, they offer a local market on pretty much every day of the week, where you can buy the freshest of vegetables, fruit and meats - as well as delicious local olives, preserves and an endless variety of cheeses. Superb restaurants are thus only minutes away by car - as are leafy squares in which to enjoy a coffee with friends, wine caves where you can taste an wide array of top-notch wines, and friendly neighbourhood bars in which to chat with the locals over a long glass of pastis.
It’s the traditional nature of this area of France that makes it truly special. Whereas the Côte d’Azur has been spoiled by over-development, the Tarn has retained a slower pace of life and its connection to the land. This is primarily a farming community, largely free of the ugly ‘lotissement’ property developments that blight so much of the south of France - where local shops still sell local produce and crafts, and historic buildings are protected and well kept. That said, all the conveniences afforded by modern shopping centres are also available. In the nearby town of Gaillac, you’ll find lots of wonderful shopping, a mix of small boutiques selling everything from clothes to jewellery to fine pottery, and modern superstores just outside the town. Gaillac is a beautiful town of old stone buildings huddled around a central church, all bordered by the Tarn river, over which spans an elegant stone bridge. This market town sits at the heart of the local Gaillac wine region - and it’s from here that the region’s wines were exported from medieval times to Bordeaux, and then on to England.Read More
The Tarn offers some of France’s best weather, being warmer and sunnier than the Dordogne region to the north west, and less arid than the Languedoc region to the east. In fact, Gaillac is roughly on the same latitude as the Côte d’Azur, so the area enjoys enough sunshine to produce fabulously fruity red wines while blessing visitors with satisfyingly deep tans. The area benefits from four very distinct seasons, each bringing with it a slightly different rhythm of life, varying seasonal produce, and dramatic changes to the colour and feel of the local landscapes. In spring, the countryside comes to life with flowers - the soft pink blooms of almond and cherry trees, bright red fields of poppies, hillsides carpeted in yellow broom and eventually, the lime-green buds of the vines. The towns and villages also seem to step up a gear, with local market stalls piled high with succulent cherries and possibly the most delicious asparagus you’ll ever taste. The sun, omnipresent in winter, now becomes more intense and the locals and visitors alike come out for the first time to eat and drink outside, in squares and hilltops and riversides everywhere. This is the perfect time to really appreciate the natural beauty of this part of France, be it cycling through fields, fishing by some tranquil lake or taking that first picnic of the year in a forest brimming with bluebells and yellow primroses.
Spring eases into summer, and the atmosphere becomes livelier still, with music festivals and firework displays, all-night partying at village fêtes, and practically all of your time spent outdoors - making the most of the balmy, lavender-scented air. For many, summer means water - swimming in the region’s crystal-clear rivers and lakes, kayaking down dramatic gorges, or just spending a lazy day sunbathing with a good book by the pool. Summer also ushers in al fresco dining. Enjoy barbecues in the garden of your luxury property or fine dining in rose-clad courtyards and in the dappled shade of village squares. Or simply enjoy freshly-prepared tapas in our bar, served with a glass of crisp Gaillac rosé.
As the grapes ripen, the annual vendange (grape harvest) arrives, and with it the start of autumn. This is a time of wine tasting in centuries-old vaulted caves, chestnut fairs and long walks through the hills. The vines slowly turn from green to gold and red, transforming the landscape into a patchwork of brilliant colour. The air is clear and the light warm, making autumn the perfect season for painters and photographers. Lunch is still served outside, with autumnal salads flavoured with walnuts and Roquefort accompanying grilled duck and foie gras, served with a bottle of one of the many excellent local reds.
And then on to winter. Whereas the north of Europe labours under a ceiling of low grey cloud, the south west of France is bright and crisp, with endless blueberry-blue skies - a time of roaring fires, old-fashioned Christmas markets and an indulgent day at the spa perhaps. There’s still so much to see and do at this time of the year, from the famous Victor Hugo Food Market in Toulouse, the local Oyster Fair, the January sales, as well as excellent exhibitions and concerts. Winter also brings with it mouth-watering cuisine, served in all the area’s best restaurants - succulent venison and wild boar, partridge and quail, and of course the French Christmas feast of oysters, goose, foie gras and ‘Buche de noël’.Read More
The luxury property for sale at Durantie enjoys a superb location - being in the middle of what locals call the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Gaillac, Albi and Cordes-sur-Ciel. Only 50 minutes away is Toulouse - the fourth largest city in France and one of its most sophisticated. Albi, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, is built around the beautiful ‘Sainte-Cécile’ cathedral - a towering masterpiece of gothic architecture, with an imposing brick exterior and sumptuous nave and vaulted ceiling. Albi is also home to the Palais de la Berbie - one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in all of France, a magnificent riot of towers and turrets with lavish formal gardens that is now the home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. These gorgeous medieval buildings punctuate a town of mostly traditional rose-brick buildings with sky-blue shutters, topped with warm terracotta roofs, all hemmed in by the mighty Tarn river. Wander through the warren of cobbled streets, and you’ll find all sorts of shops, delis, patisseries, restaurants and cafés, as well as the covered market at rue Emile Grand - a hive of activity every day except Mondays. The town also offers a lively cultural scene, with regular concerts, exhibitions and festivals - hosted of course in some of France’s most beautiful medieval buildings. Similarly, Cordes-sur-Ciel, another beautiful bastide town on a hill, offers yet more historic buildings and bustling streets for visitors to explore. Cordes has always been a favourite of artists, thanks to its picturesque streets and superb views over the valley below.
Just under an hour away by car, Toulouse offers an unbeatable ‘city-fix’ for anyone looking for sophisticated shops, restaurants, galleries and concert halls. Buoyed by its successful aerospace industry (it is home to Airbus), Toulouse is one of the wealthiest of French cities, graced with a bevy of fashionable boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants and a very lively rugby scene. ‘La Ville Rose’, as Toulouse is known, thanks to its grand pink-brick buildings, is a remarkably relaxing city to visit - sitting on the languorous Garonne River and crossed as well by the beautiful Canal du Midi (another World Heritage Site). The city offers plenty of tranquil squares shaded by giant plane trees and an endless network of quiet streets down which you will find tiny galleries and hidden restaurants. Culturally, Toulouse benefits from a true passion for the arts, with its Théâtre du Capitole putting on top-notch operas and concerts; the Galerie du Château d’eau - a world-reknown photography gallery; and the Musée des Augustins - boasting works by local artist Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as Rubens, Van Dyck, Courbet, Manet and Rodin.Read More
France’s superb motorway and train networks make it easy to access lots of exciting cities and regions from your luxury property at La Durantie. Within a three hour drive, you can visit stately Bordeaux, spend a day on the beaches of either the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, hit the slopes in the Pyrénées or even pop over the border to Spain. Most of the Languedoc region is accessible within a three hour drive. There’s the magnificent medieval castle at Carcassonne (another World Heritage Site, and the largest medieval castle in the world) for example. Carcassonne sits on the beautiful Canal du Midi, where you can rent a boat and spend a day or more navigating the locks under a panoply of plane trees. Stop off on the way in little villages for lunch, or go wine tasting in one of the region’s many vineyards. Languedoc is also home to the Cathar Castles, 11th century ruins that offer superb atmosphere and gorgeous views of the Pyrénées and Mediterranean. The region’s beaches are superior to those of the Côte d’Azur, being long and sandy - with plenty of seafood restaurants dotted all along the coast. Visit the city of Perpignan, France’s most spanish city, where you’ll find delicious tapas and plenty of Catalan charm. Or Montpellier, with its beautiful ‘Ecusson’ pedestrianised centre brimming with stylish boutiques and chic cafés.
The Pyrénées aren’t far either - offering excellent skiing in winter and picturesque walks in summer. Older than the Alps, they’re famed for their hot springs and you can can choose from French or Spanish resorts, each side of the mountains offering their own regional delights.
Why not spend a long weekend in Spain? The quirky Dali Museum in Figuères is just over the border from Perpignan, and beautiful Girona is only 30 minutes further south. On the Atlantic side, you can drive to Biarritz and experience the faded glories of its grand Belle Epoque promenade. Then swing down to San Sebastián in Spain, a stunningly beautiful town on the Bay of Biscay that boasts half of all the Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain.
Head north from your luxury property, and you get to the Aveyron and the Cotswoldsesque charms of the Lot. Visit the stunning towns of Rodez with its magnificent Notre Dame cathedral, and Cahors with its pretty Valentré Bridge spanning the Lot river. And of course only a few hours north west of Gaillac is Bordeaux, another of France’s largest and most wealthy cities, teeming with stately mansions, upmarket shops and superb restaurants. The city sits in the centre of the Bordeaux wine region, where you’ll come across château after château, and taste superb wines along the way. Explore to the east of La Durantie, and you get to the dramatic ‘Gorges du Tarn’ - cliffs that plunge down into the river, where you can go kayaking, swimming and camping.Read More