We Have Found Heaven… It’s Le Côteau des Vignes

The last few months have been rather stressful.  Nothing that I didn’t know I’d get through but difficult all the same.  Knowing we would be taking this trip kept me sane and in the worst of times I’d look at the photo below, knowing I’d soon be here – sipping wine, knitting and just totally relaxed – it would get me through the day.

This is the first time we are staying in a gîte.  We have stayed in bed and breakfasts (chambre d’hôtes) but never a gîte. The difference is that at a gîte you’re on your own. Usually the gîte is on the owner’s property and they are not too far away, there’s no breakfast served and you have a kitchen to prepare your own meals.   You are not guests in their house.   There’s also something called a rural gîte that I think is rather “rustic”, I haven’t done much exploration of those. We have been staying in chambre d’hôtes in France for at least 10 if not 15 years. There’s an association called Gîtes de France that rates the properties. In recent years, their website has improved, it’s available in English, you can make reservations for most properties, often you can pay with Mastercard/Visa or in some cases, PayPal, you can see photographs of the properties and you can read reviews. I found our next stop on our journey on the Gîtes de France website and have been showing everyone who I could corner the photos of the place.

Do We Say Foot of a Building? And Would You Know What That Means?

We arrived in Laroque and found the church. The directions on our confirmation said, “A Laroque aller à l’église, le gîte se situe au pied de l’église”. We found the church (l’église) the next problem was determining what the foot (le pied) of the church was. 50/50 chance – we picked wrong. Keep in mind Laroque is a tiny place. I could find census info for 2008, 1,398 people in Laroque.  We pulled up at what I guess you’d call the head of the church, parked and looked around. There was a pretty big house across from the head of the church, but no indications of any sort that they were welcoming guests. Their dogs were barking like crazy at us; probably a good sign that this wasn’t the right place. Next test was to try and call our Hosts. We called the number on the confirmation and got a machine, didn’t leave a message. Tried the cell number on the confirmation and realized it was the same number so I left a message this time. Our hosts would hear just how bad my French was.

Welcome to Laroque – Heaven Awaits!

We decided to look around. We walked to the opposite end of the church, headed down the road and saw a stone building with the Gîtes de France placard proudly displayed and music started playing in my head as I saw the pebbled stairs leading up to the gîte — just as the photos had promised.   The key was in the door and since Phil was with me, we walked right in. It was absolutely perfect. Exactly what the photos had promised. I was so freakin’ excited. After a quick look around, we knew the place was spectacular.

Exactly As Advertised!

Our French phone rang, it was Michel probably expecting to have to give us directions to Laroque and the gîte. I explained to him that we were already there and explained to him that the key was in the door and we were in. Thinking back on it, I think he was a little freaked out that we had just gone on in. A few moments later Michel and Véronique were with us, giving us a tour of our home for the next five nights.

Welcome To Heaven!

The gîte is bright, happy and welcoming. Bright white walls, ancient stone accents, original wooden beams and bursts of color. The whole thing is about 38 square meters (409 square feet). For reference, our condo is 137 square meters (1,474 square feet).  The first floor has a sitting area, a table for meals, the kitchen and a 1/2 bath.

You can see the key was in the door – just begging us to come on in!

There’s a rather steep open wooden stair case that leads to the bedroom, shower, and laundry room. It’s like a loft or a mezzanine.

This is going to be a bit of a challenge in the middle of the night…after some wine.

The stairs took a bit of getting used to. The angle is a little steeper than we are accustomed to and if you needed to scoot down to the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark you needed to be careful.

But all that was worth it, because the view from upstairs is sensational. Both inside and out. Imagine waking up to this or looking out the sky light at the stars. We don’t have to imagine it we just need to remember it.

You can see the heavens through the skylight

Everything is perfect about this place. The bed is comfortable, the water is hot, all the appliances work, the kitchen is adequately stocked to cook a meal, and the view from the terrace is to die for. We will later find out that even our hosts are perfect!

“Hey, Is this heaven? No, It’s not Iowa, it’s Laroque , France.”

Michel and Véronique, were incredibly welcoming. They explained to us that they lived just behind our gîte and if we needed anything or had any questions, we should just call them. I think we did about 85% of this in French. Véronique speaks some English and Michel understands some. I was thrilled that they could understand me! It wasn’t perfect and with hand motions and a few mixed sentences (English/French) we more than got by. They had a book prepared for us with local restaurants, sites, recommendations of things to do including a schedule of local farmers’ markets, the user manuals for the appliances, everything you could think of.

We quickly decided that we wanted to enjoy that view on our first night and wouldn’t venture out to a restaurant. We asked where to get groceries and they told us to go to the Intermaché in Beguey. They gave us directions, I had remembered seeing it on our way in and we would put it in the GPS, we’d take no chances. Véronique and Michel double checked that we all set and then asked us if we wanted to follow them to the weekly marché (market) in Créon the next day. They would show us where to park, walk us over to the market and we’d go our separate ways. We immediately said yes and agreed to meet at 10 the next morning. We would buy vegetables and meat at the market to cook a few other nights at home.

At the Intermarché we picked up a few staples like olive oil, mustard, milk, butter, eggs, yogurt, baguettes, jam, water, laundry soap, etc.. Dinner our first night was simple and heavenly.   Cheese, cured ham, paté, quiche and that view.

Simple, Delicious, Peaceful and Beautiful

We also had a bottle of local red wine from a vineyard less than 2 kilometers from the gîte. It was a welcome gift that was sitting on the table when we arrived. The food was terrific from the Intermarché, it’s practically like going to Walmart with prepared haute cuisine. The paté was exceptional. The quiche was great. Phil had Quiche Lorraine and I had a quiche with goat cheese and zucchini. Everything was so reasonably priced; we were amazed. We bought more than we needed for dinner and were thrilled to have the left overs. We sat on the patio, Phil played guitar and I knitted. We had picked very well for our first gîte experience.  



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