I still dream of this place. I truly believe I left my heart there. The Languedoc region of France is my favourite. Rolling fields, hill top towns, monestries, plane tree lined roads. Honey coloured houses with pale blue or mint coloured shutters. It is the stuff of rural French fantasies… I must return.
Driving through the villages from the Pyrenees to Montreal, passing large run down abandoned Chateaus, and fields filled with yellow sunflowers, we reach an area which left me breathless. Looking out across the valley below we could see for miles. Rolling hillsides, patchwork fields and atop each hill a small town with a church. I wanted to go there, stay there, live there.
We were headed for such village, Montreal, just outside of Carcassonne. Instagram is a funny thing. It allows us to connect with people from all over the world, dipping in and out of their lives one square at a time. This is how I ‘met’ Annie.
Annie, a New Yorker, interior designer and possibly the most coolest person I’ve ever met, got in touch and asked us to stay in her little guest house. Well, who was I to refuse? Arriving in Montreal, we navigated the narrow streets and got completely lost, eventually after driving round one too many times, I stumbled across Annie standing in the doorway to her home speaking fluent French with her elderly neighbour. With a smile, she greeted us and welcomed us in.
Breathtaking. I actually cannot describe staying there in words. This beautiful home which Annie and her husband Colin restored from nothing, I could see was a labour of love. Annie took us through into the secluded courtyard. This peaceful space was planted with a mix of green and white plants, shady corners and chairs to recline on and relax. In the corner was a light trickle of a fountain and hung in the shade was a bird age with two cooing love birds, white doves.
Annie showed us round. She had bought the old building 4 years earlier, after deciding to move from Nemes, to a quieter pace of life. Seeing it first on the internet, she said she walked into the courtyard and knew immediately this house was for her.
She set to work, painting out the dark decor to classic shades of Farrow and Ball grey. Fixing and making do, using materials found in reclamation yards and brocante to decorate. Annie has the most brilliant interior eye. Teaming pop art, mid century and French chic in one swoop of the room. I was in love – THIS is how I want to live!Our rooms were in the separate annex, accessed via the garden. Up the wooden stairs to a two room apartment. Sparsely decorated in cool pure white, the boys in one room and us in the adjoining with stairs to the bathroom above.
The main house has three guest bedrooms all with en-suites, all on the first floor. Each are decorated in Farrow and Ball colours, faded illustrations, French linen and French style. All with such attention to detail it was hard to pick a room which I loved most.
But in actual fact it was the garden room that won my heart. A velvet day bed, rows of terracotta pots and glass bottles, and trailing plants coming in through the window. It was styled perfectly, like a piece of art.
We stayed at Camellas Lloret for two nights, it wasn’t long enough. We explored the neighbouring town Fanjeaux and came across the nuns in prayer. Found treasures in the local brocante, which Annie showed us where to go. Visited the castle in Carcassonne and walked the ramparts.
We ate in a local canal side restaurant, as recommended by Annie. Quiet, with the sound of chatter and reggae softly playing. I was so proud of my boys as they tried duck and large prawns, both unsure of the menu, both loving every second.
If you are looking for something truly special in France – even for a romantic weekend (as there are regularly flights from the UK to Carcassonne with BMI) I suggest you go. You won’t regret it. I am home now, and all I want to do is go back or decorate my home to emulate Annie!
We were invited by Annie to stay at her B&B on the southern leg of our French road trip.