Saturday, December 3, 2011

France: La Maisonnette Du Coteau


When you stay in the lovely countryside, you need to stay in a lovely cottage. We (me + three friends) rented a little cottage named, La Maisonnette Du Coteau (the cottage on the hill), that had recently been renovated by an American family. According to the owners, the cottage was probably built in the 1500s and originally served as part of the "Four Banal", meaning the "Lord's Oven" in French. "La Four Banal" was the place where everyone was required to bake their bread; in return they were required to pay the lord of the castle for the service. Kings and lords were so nice that way. It has been a residence for many many years now. 

So . . . I spent Thanksgiving in a 500 year old house. There will probably be a day where I will stop bragging about my fairy tale of a holiday, today is not that day. The house was so charming it almost brings tears to your eyes. The owners kept all the old time/world feel with the stone walls and celling beams, but added modern conveniences (and things we Americans are used to) like a gas stove, dishwasher, and WiFi.  I didn't take a lot of pictures of the inside of the house, but if you want to see the owners’ before and after pictures of the renovation, they were featured on Design *Sponge , they have their own blog and VRBO page.  It was the perfect place to escape. 

The village of Beynac-et-Cazenac only has around 500 full time residents, in the summer when people retreat to their holiday homes or tourists invade, that number swells up to 3000. Since we were there in November, the “off” season, I am pretty sure that we were the only tourists around. We quickly found that there were both pros and cons to this. Cons included the creperie up the street that we passed at least twice a day was closed for the season. But  they kept their menus posted so you would know exactly what you aren’t eating. A pro was that the creperie up the street was closed so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat crepes filled with nutella and bananas once, who are we kidding, twice a day, every day.


We called this the Romeo and Juliet balcony on the front of the house. We witnessed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets from this window.  That is a lime tree blooming up the side, with limes still growing (!). The owners warned us to keep the front gate locked since tourists have been known in to wander into the front garden and take pictures of house.


View from inside the balcony
Except for one day, the weather was absolutely beautiful, and we frequently ate in the back garden. I noticed that Europeans tend the use the word garden for any outside space attached to a house. What we would call the backyard is there called the back garden. There will be a whole post just dedicated to how eating in France changed my life.
The back garden 
Lunch via a local farmer's market
  
The village is basically on a mountain with the castle and church at the top with the homes and businesses circling up to them. 

 Our cottage was at the castle level, just outside the outer castle wall, so there were two ways up and down. The first was a steep footpath along cobblestone lanes.






The bottom of the hill, or the lower village and one of the opening scene shots from the movie Chocolat. The sun would hit the village just right and the whole place glowed. 

When we had our rental car  we used the second way, cobblestone and asphalt roads, circling up the mountain. There was a parking lot near the castle that we parked at and then had a short walk down to the actual house. 

The castle itself was closed for restoration, but the outer walls were still open. I guess the invasion threat is pretty low.


View of the valley and the Dordogne River
 Being locked out of the main castle didn’t stop me from sticking my camera up under the main gate to see what was inside. (I really want to call it a draw bridge, but since it was a permanent stone bridge that couldn't be "drawn", I guess that doesn't work. But there was still a (dry) moat. )

Or spying through the key hole of the church to see the stain glass windows.


Isn't this door just amazing?

Near the castle there was a small cemetery that was guarded over, appropriately, by a black cat.

How many times can my little heart fall in love with a place?

 This is an ongoing to series of my adventures in France. Other chapters: My Life in France, Preface to France.

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