The first time I visited the South of France was during a university summer when I spent a short time teaching English at a French summer camp. It was my first taste of the quaint hill-top towns, cobbled stones and picturesque vineyards of the south. Ever yearning to go back, I’ve never made the time to revisit this beautiful part of the world but thanks to an exciting invitation to visit villa “La Fraissinéde” this summer, I found myself there once again.
Myself, food blogger Milly, and fashion blog stars, Emily and Nathan, made the trip over from London Town only to find ourselves driving up to this magnificent villa in the heart of the french country. It was like arriving in paradise after the madness of the Big Smoke. I always feel like such a city girl when I get into the country – I know our reliance on mobile service, the need for a good flat-white at the click of a finger and walking at a supersonic pace are just not how the country folk live. However, I’m all about putting my normal life on hold, taking a deep breath and embracing life in the hills.
We all need that sometimes and I can tell you, the four of us could not wait for that break!
T H E V I L L A
Our home for the next few nights was to be villa “La Fraissinede” villa, or, as we were told by the owners, La F. Set amongst the lush rolling hills of the Corbieres wine region, La Fraissinede is a place that you can totally switch off and surround yourself in the tranquilities of the French countryside. The stunning villa was a true labour of love, built from a crumbling 18th century barn into the grand six bedroom abode that it is today. Each room in the house had its own personality and I fell in love with the elegant interiors, light and bright design, and wonderful outdoor entertainment space. I could imagine whiling away endless evenings there, watching the stars and sipping on a glass of Corbieres wine…
During our fleeting visit (the flight was only an hour to Carcassonne and a short 30 minute drive to the villa) we were treated to the full experience at La F. David, the owner, acted as our chaffeur showing us all the best parts of our little corner of Langue-doc paradise. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was nothing less than a grand spread each time, owing to the amazing cooking of their in-house chef Helen. Each time we sat down for our meal, we couldn’t wait to find out what she had come up with (given her long list of A-class celebrity clients!!!)
We frolicked amongst the lavender (I mean what do you expect from four Instagrammers), sunned by the pool and simply took the villa in, in all its glory. If a private week of total tranquility is what you’re after, then La F would be the place for you. You can hide away in your oh-so-chic bedroom admiring the country views, or enjoy a chilled glass of sparkling by their cosy living room bar. We did have to do some adventuring out of the house (which you’ll read more about below), but with all the luxurious corners I could disappear into, it wasn’t going to be easy getting me out of those front gates…
T H E A R E A
There is much to see in the surrounding area of La F which are only a short drive away by car (something highly recommended to have during your stay at the villa). I love getting lost in sweet little towns, with locals who look at you like you’re an alien (owing usually to your weird accent and city girl dress sense) which is exactly the sorts of beautiful spots you could find nearby. This region, being less inhabited and touristy than the Riviera/Provence, felt somewhat untouched and authentic. I personally can’t stand tourist hot-spots, granted there are some places in the world you have to visit (along with half the human population), but it’s so refreshing to discover places that aren’t thriving on tourism as their only source of existence.
Three of my favourite places we ventured out to were Lagrasse, Leucate and Carcassonne. All picturesque towns and all boasting something different. Lagrasse (not to be confused with Grasse) is a charming french countryside village, a place that comes to mind when you picture the South. Colourful shutters, winding streets… it was so peaceful. Something I love so much about hot European summers, is the tranquility it creates. In a fight to keep cool, people hide away during the hottest hours, offering what I see as perfect photo opportunities – I sweat like crazy, but those siestas provide this beautiful emptiness perfect for capturing breathtaking snaps.
Second on the list would be Leucate, a French countryside rival to Notting Hill with it’s rainbow coloured streets and flower arrangements from a fairytale. No matter how many bright and beautiful places I visit in the world, it’s hard to beat a row of colourful abodes. The minute we drove through Leucate we all gasped and jumped out of the car to get snappin’. Strolling through the town, the same thoughts came to mind as whenever I walk through Notting Hill: who lives behind each rainbow door and what colour I would paint mine, should I ever have chance to own such a beautiful place…
Finally was Carcassonne. Much busier than the other two towns owing to its magnificent castle, this is a hotspot in the region. I do love the buzz of the ice-cream parlours, the small courtyards packed with cafés and the cute little squares you find in European countryside towns. It’s this general hustle and bustle you don’t seem to find in England, I guess down to the fact that we don’t have that outdoor weather where you can sit for hours watching the world go by. We took a short but sweet walk through the streets until the heat had the best of us and it was time to return to our luxurious hideaway, better known as La F.
T H I N G S T O D O
Other than relaxing, i.e. enjoying the bliss of doing absolutely nothing, and visiting the local villages there are number of wonderful little activities for those who want to find out more about the region:
- W I N E: Now who can go to France without a bit of wine-tasting? The Corbieres region is known for its wine and there are numerous different wineries in the region. In fact, the wine available at La F is made by a local vineyard down the road. And it’s dee-licious.
- B E A C H: History says that the French riviera was gifted to the rich, whilst regions such as Langue-doc were left to the peasants for farming land and so on. Unlike the rocky terrain of the Cote D’Azur, our area boasted a coastline of white sands. It might not be as developed in terms of beach clubs etc as the Riviera, but on a positive note you won’t get ripped off paying £100 for a sun bed!
- M A R K E T: Of course, if you would like to have a go at rivalling Helen’s cooking, then heading down to the local market at Narbonne is a must. The produce is like walking into a chef’s paradise, everything local and everything so fresh. They had the biggest, juiciest tomatoes I’d seen in a long time and more cheese than I could handle (and I love cheese). Take a drive down there, enjoy a coffee on the square and finish off with a visit to the market – it will reignite the chef within!
Big thanks to La F for giving us such a wonderful and inspiring stay. I never pass up the opportunity to discover somewhere new, and the added bonus of having such a luxurious base was more than I could ask for. I can’t wait to hopefully get back there one day soon!