French Odyssey Part 4 – Bastidons & Pools   8 comments

After our journey down, stopping off to climb volcanos and kayak down gorges we arrived at our Provencale retreat for the next two weeks – Le Chaudon. It is truly the most wonderful place sitting in the heart of the forests, vineyards and olive groves that characterise this part of the Var in Southern France. We’d been lucky enough to find this place for our holiday last year and it took a micro-second to decide to come back again this year.

The owners, Francis and Laura live in the large house and are the most friendly and gracious of hosts. They really do make you feel that this is YOUR home for the holiday. There is a separate Bastidon tower which they have converted into a cosy holiday home where we stayed. Everything about the place, from the house itself to the extensive gardens and pool tells you it’s a labour of love. It’s as near to perfection as I can imagine. Let me give you a feel for the place.

It’s located a couple of miles down the road from the small village of Cotignac in the Var region of Provence (more of the village later). You have to drive down a bumpy track from the road (itself fairly minor) to reach the property.

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The approach from the road

In effect you are right in the middle of the countryside, no street lights, no traffic noise, just the sound of the breeze in the trees.

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Le Chaudon (The Bastidon is on the right)

The Bastidon itself has been lovingly restored and looking at Laura’s pictures of how it was before they started work is amazing.

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The Bastidon - Our Home!

In truth, stunning though the house is, it’s the grounds that are the crowning glory. Covering a large area are wild meadows with a play area for the kids, olive groves, vineyards, gardens, terraces, the pool and even a river a couple of minutes walk away.

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Main House and Pool

It must be stunning in spring and autumn and one of the downsides of a visit in summer is that everything naturally looks a little parched (it was 37 degrees C for most of the two weeks we were there). In the morning and the evening the views, sights and smells as you wander  through each section of the grounds is uplifting. I could go on but hopefully the photos will give you that feel.

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Pool from the "Croquet Lawn"

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Gardens

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Main House and Gardens from the river (Bastidon on the left)

From a family perspective pride of place goes to the pool.

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Pool and Gardens

There is only the one holiday home so the pool is essentially private. As with the rest of the property it’s perfection, surrounded by gardens and Lavender (we’d just missed the full-on purple display alas) with sun-loungers, a table tennis table under the canopy, a lawn for croquet and badminton and whole host of pool games and inflatables.

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Inflatable fun

The kids just love the pool and spent most of the day down there. Me and Jane suffered along with them – the things we have to do for a happy family! I took a whole load of pool related antics videos and photos so I’ll stick these in a later post.

I’m quite the active outdoor type and serial trip planner. On both trips I’d researched loads of days out but this place has a strange effect on you. Before you know it you’ve slipped into a very relaxing routine. Breakfast outside on the terrace.

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Breakfast on the Terrace

A morning swim in the pool.

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Jane does her lengths

Some light reading. Late morning fruit snack. More swimming. An extended lunch on the patio under trees.

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Lunch in the shade

More swimming and reading. A game of croquet or table tennis.

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Croquest anyone?

A walk in the gardens or down by the river.

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Lazy summer afternoon

A long a leisurely meal on the patio while the sun goes down, watching the geckoes come out as it gets dark.

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BBQ time

At times my job can be quite stressful and I spend a lot of time driving so I actually find I need this kind of break to slow me down a bit.I did ache to explore the local area on foot but it’s simply too hot (although I did get out for a very early morning walk at the Verdon Gorge – more of that in a later post)

I tried to do  up to a 100 lengths in the pool a day to work off the masses of food I eat. Eating is a major part of the holiday. One of my greatest pleasures in life is al-fresco eating and while in Provence we never ate a single meal inside. The local markets, shops (and supermarkets to be honest) all stock a vast variety of tasty local produce and the fruit in particular is gorgeous, always huge, juicy and tasty. We never actually cooked much just living on cold meats, salads, fruit and bread. A particular treat is market day when you can pick up a whole host of tasty treats, fresh cooked meats and paella.

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Cotignac Market Day

A banquet fit for a king although none of us were fit for anything on the afternoon of market day such is the quantity we get through.

Cotignac itself is a cracking little village backed by a limestone cliff.

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Cotignac from the cliffs

The archetypal Provencale village, narrow streets, terracotta tiles and a central square with plenty of local shops and restaurants. We ate out at the local pizza restaurant (“The Gecko”) one evening and the atmosphere was great, the street packed with dining tables and happy diners and families enjoying a meal in the balmy evening warmth.

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Evening in Cotignac

So despite all the attractions of the Cote D’Azure an hour away to the south and the mountains nearby we spent the large part of our holiday just lazing in our little piece of Provencale heaven. We did head for some days out (more of these in upcoming posts) but our fondest memories are of Le Chaudon.

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Our last morning - happy memories

Alas Francis and Laura are planning to sell up and move on as the property (as you can imagine) takes a lot of looking after and they want a smaller slice of heaven that they can simply relax in and enjoy. I can’t possibly ever thank them enough for allowing us to share in the delights of Le Chaudon and we will all never forget our time there. They invited us for a lovely supper on the last evening. There were fireworks in the village but nature put on its own display in the form of a hefty thunderstorm and Lightning show – turned out this was the only rain on the whole of the 3 weeks of our trip. A special evening but one tinged with sadness as we knew it was likely me may never return. Next year we will have to find a new holiday retreat. It will be a very hard act to follow.

Thanks again Laura and Francis!

A “chill-out” slideshow below:

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Posted October 12, 2011 by surfnslide in Family Trips, France, Provence

Tagged with , , , , ,

8 responses to “French Odyssey Part 4 – Bastidons & Pools

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  1. Andy, I have been following your posts as best as I can. It looks like an excellent trip. We as a family used to go to France (and Italy, Germany, Austria) on a regular basis and this trip reminds me of those days. I say as best as I can and it is not a criticism but I live out in the sticks and it is not possible with my 0.5 meg download speed to download your very large photo files, so I am not able to appreciate these.

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    • Hi Mark, thanks for the heads up on the problems with the photos. I’ve started linking to my photos stored on Flickr rather than directly loading them onto the page in WordPress as my allocated space was running out fast. No idea if that makes the page load quicker or slower. On the next post I’ll drop the photo size down and see if that helps with the page load size. I like to use the large photo size as it looks good when the page has loaded but no sense me using them up if no-one can see ’em 🙂

      Do you also have trouble playing the slideshows?

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  2. Andy I think the problem may be that if I read your latest post. The web page contains a number of your posts one after each other. I have counted that if I scroll top to bottom there are 150 photos and videos, so at the speed I have it would take literally hours to down load all the that data, particularly as you use very large photos. What I find is that the photos don’t down load in order, they seem to load randomly through all the posts. It may be fine for people who have fast internet speed, but not for me 🙂 The slideshow don’t play – sorry !!

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    • Hi Mark – I’ll have a play with the settings and see if I can reduce the number of posts on the homepage as well as the number/size of the photos in the posts – see if I can make it more user friendly – sorry about the problems 🙂

      If anyone has any suggestions on the best way to use WordPress in conjunction with Flickr I’d appreciate some help – using Flickr does seem to impact the page load times but it may just be that use the large photo size and I’m just being too ambitious

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  3. That photo of Cotignac seen from the cliffs is very evocative. I thought our broadband was a bit disappointing but your large photos download OK (but it does take a few seconds.) Does that mean that we are officially not ‘out in the sticks’? Come to that – what’s your broadband like out in the wilds of Herefordshire?

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    beatingthebounds
  4. My Broadband is maximum 8Mbps download and it’s just taken a couple of minutes to load the whole page and sometimes not all the photos load. Also if I try to scroll while the page is loading it crashes my browser (Firefox). Don’t get the same problems when I load the photos direct. The videos always run fine but they run from youtube so there’s not much I can do about that

    I’ll reduce the homepage down to 5 posts history and use smaller Flickr photos to see if that helps. Have to say mine is the only blog of the one’s I read regularly that uses full size photos so perhaps I’m just being too ambitious

    As I said to Mark the whole point of the blog is to share my experiences with others so no I need to make sure that it’s accessible to all.

    I’d appreciate any comments from regular readers about whether they have problems with the large photos and whether the smaller ones I’m about to try work better.

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  5. Looks like a wonderful holiday home and that photo of the village from the cliffs is superb.

    I dont usually have any problems viewing your blog, although it does have one of the largest amounts of data to download. However I’ve exceeded my monthly usage here hence the fact Im only now getting around to this entry.
    I’ve had lots of problems with firefox myself recently and have since switched to the Opera Browser. It is so much faster and much more stable. Not quite as user friendly as firefox but you do get used to it.

    My download speed now is a very paltry 5.1kbs!! Thats slower than my dial up 10 years ago. Should be back to normal by Monday though and I’ll catch up on the rest of your posts.

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    • Hi David, glad you’re enjoying my french saga. I’m hoping that having corrected my dumb error with the Flickr file sizes that the pages load easier even with limited download speeds. I’m hoping my readers will let me know if they are having problems and I’ll use the smaller photos but hopefully I can keep with the large size

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