This was the first time we booked a holiday home, a small “mansion” in Southern France, near Narbonne. Booking a house for holiday is always a bit risky, you never really know what you get because the photos can be really pretty, sometimes even manipulated and there’s a chance of disappointment. I guess it’s like with every aspect of a family holiday, you just want to be sure that it’s going to be great, fun for everyone, and everyone gets there and returns home safely. Now, of course there are a number of things you can ensure this: reading some of reviews, familiarise yourself with the area if you are new to that and never forget about travel insurance (especially when travelling with children). We were lucky with our first booking. But we did a lot of research too and because I did work in the hotel and holiday villa rental industry for while, I know what to look for and how to find the best deal.
So we booked a cute, but not so little, 18th century country house called Domaine de Montlaurès located just outside of Narbonne (5 km from Narbonne), surrounded by vine yards and fields. There is a plant in the distant as you drive along the narrow but oh so picturesque road leading to the mansion, but you will see none of it anywhere near the house. The setting is truly, quintessentially French, the Southern type of it, as you picture Provence in your head: wine yards, cicada concert and lavender smell and olive trees.
The 18th century country house is converted into smaller houses and the owners, Monique and Serge live in one of them. They are very lovely and caring people, only speak French but they help with whatever you need help with. We did have an issue in the first day, as the drains and pipes are fairly old in the house and we had some blockage and a half flooded kitchen the first morning – but these thing can happen anytime anywhere and owners sorted it out immediately and kept checking back later that day and the next one if all is ok. Apart from that – they didn’t come without invitation.
The house is tastefully and functionally decorated with quality furniture, everything working well. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 large ones and a smaller one with single beds where the children slept. There is one bathroom with shower only and there’s a separate toilet, both located on the bedrooms’ floor. The windows are small, and there’s not much daylight hitting the rooms upstairs – but this is an old building and in the mediterranean heat they worked well for centuries.
The kitchen and the laundry room had everything we needed, we hung the laundry outside (which then dried in literally half an hour!) We even received a bottle of wine from the owners as we arrived – that’s such a lovely thing, isn’t it? They supplied us with bedclothes and towels too. (Crisp and immaculate.) The furniture and the equipment are not brand new, but well looked after, clean and fully working.
The best thing about this property was the big garden. It had a lovely large grass area to run around and play as well as swings and a slide at the back of the garden for the children. We also bought a paddling pool for them, so needless to say, they have practically spent the whole time outside. It was pretty hot during that week so we went to the beach almost every day (the nearest ones are around half an hour drive – this, if anything is the only downside, it’s a bit far from the beaches). We spent the evening barbecuing and sitting outside in the garden, sipping wine, whilst the children played outside till it got completely dark. (There are sun chairs and a full set of garden dinner table with 6 chairs and parasol.) They stayed up till very late every day and got up quite late as well plus napped in the car – they went into total Mediterranean mode!
The grounds are absolutely gorgeous too, even the parking space has beautiful views overlooking to wine yards. The place feels very safe and secluded.
I can highly recommend this place for families with small children. We did want a place without pool as our children cannot swim yet, and having them around a pool is a constant worry – but the beaches we have visited nearby were all fantastic. We have booked this house for the last week June and the first few days of July 2018 and it was very hot then, people seemed like it’s quite normal, but I’m talking about 32-34 Celsius every day. It was cooler down at the seaside. The other small downside of driving every day meant that the children napped in the car every afternoon at around 5-6pm so they stayed up quite late as I mentioned it before. But thinking about booking next year’s holiday we are considering this place again as we really liked it for the space and for it’s beauty.
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