One warm autumnal evening, in the Languedoc region of France, the owners’ of Belle Vallée were out walking amongst the neighbouring vines adjacent their property when they came across an old man carrying a basket of wild mushrooms. After questioning the old man on his findings, they learnt that he had been foraging the forest that thrives within their 15 acres of property. “
L es bois sont pour tout le mond”, he declared. The woods are for everyone. As are the vineyards, the valleys and the villages in this authentically antiquated area of the south. Old charm prevails beyond the stone walls of the 16th Century farmhouse, along the shady lanes lined by tall cypress trees, into the village of Plaissan, and out of the affable eyes of the locals. A trait that seduced the South African-Californian owners into undertaking the mammoth task of tenderly restoring the decrepit Mas de Fages into the perfect hideaway it is today.
Half an hour from Montpellier – the city that is known as the Paris of the South – Belle Vallée bares its repurposed boulders that are stacked into the Pont du Gard
“patates” walls, and welcomes you in to a Napoleonic paradise. From the ground up, the interior architect-owner has dutifully salvaged the remnants of the stone and romanced them back to life. Original 17th Century wooden beams, vaulted stone ceilings, a domed stone bread oven in the kitchen dating back to 1600’s, and livestock feeding troughs in the grand salon are all embellished by the antique furniture that populates the space. All sourced from the Languedoc region.
Reminiscent of its roots, the revived farmhouse shares its medieval foundations with parasol pines, ancient olive trees, white rose bushes, rolling lawns, and over 700 lavender hedges. A young olive grove of 30 Lucques trees borders the vines and
les bois that surrounds. Afternoons can be spent on the pétanque court or in the 17-metre swimming pool, that entices you in to its cooling waters where a good book can be enjoyed as you take shade beneath the parasol. Paisible picnic spots are scattered around the wild grasses, behind low stone walls, overlooking the valley below. When the scorching mediterranean summer sun takes its toll there are five colossal ensuite bedrooms to retire to, for an hour or two of sieste. Where you can drift off listening to the leaves whistling with the breeze, as it carries your thoughts beyond the walls, through the vines and into the valley.
What is known as the
coin magique is affirmed in the stillness, peace and calm of Belle Vallée. Indeed, it is a magic corner of the world. A place where you can return to your most brilliant and best self – the self that bares the beauty that’s been chiselled over time. Let it be revived by buttery Lucques olives, and lathered in lavender. Bask in all your glory of what presides amongst the tall cypresses. The property will bring you back to life, just like the owners did to the property.
What we love!
The open outdoor fire-pit with its 10 reclining chairs is a magical spot to gather and count the shooting stars, during the balmy evenings.
This region fully embraces the changing seasons with its beautiful light all year round, and mild temperatures. There’s an abundance of activities to do, irrespective of the weather.
Take a stroll down the farm lanes to the quaint village of Plaissan, where an authentic, tiny grocery store is open throughout the day, including the hours of
sieste. Exquisite handmade tumblers and bowls by local potter Annie, local cheeses and fresh vegetables can be sourced. The Pezenas Saturday market is a wonderful way to spend the morning tasting the local produce including delicious cheeses, olives, charcuterie, and wine. The ideal place to source ingredients for an afternoon picnic by the sea, in the vines or on your own lawn.
What you need to know…
Montpellier is only a 30-minute drive away – or afternoon cycle – where art, culture, food and fun thrives in this spectacular city. There are plenty of guidebooks around the property with suggestions on the plethora of places to visit.
For some seriously good wine tasting – and food pairing – visit the Prieurie Saint Jean de Bébian and its Michelin starred restaurant.
Visit the famous cheese caves of Roquefort and experience what the renowned blue tastes like at its source.
For those interested in the history of the region, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert – a 9th Century church at the tip of a medieval village – is less than an hour’s drive away. Stop off at Mas Julian and Mas de Duamas de Gassac on the way for some wine tasting in the Terraces du Larzac.
Head north towards the famous Millau bridge in the old town of Millau that’s known for its fine leather. Stop off at the Templar town of La Couvertoirade and the Lodeve Cathedral for some more cultural sightseeing on the way.
Discover old Roman ruins in Nîmes and the 1st Century Pont du Gard only a couple of hours drive through breathtaking, undulating landscapes.
Sample fresh oysters at Tarbouriech Le St Barth, less than an hour’s drive towards the Mediterranean.
There are plenty of beautiful beaches and beach clubs to explore including the owners’ favourite Plage du Golf.
Just down the road is Marseillan and the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery. Do a tour and some tasting, after which, you’ll never think of vermouth the same.
Reviewed by Colleen Ogilvie