Couple open B&B in 'Petite Tuscany'
It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and the market is in full swing - local farmers selling newly cut lettuce and artisan bakers with freshly baked bread. A brass band playing and people, dogs, children and old folk soak up the atmosphere.
It could easily be Horsham’s Local Produce market, but in fact we’re in Revel - a bastide town in the south of France - equidistant from Toulouse, Carcassonne, Albi and the Canal du Midi. Like Horsham, Revel is a proper market town - surrounded by the rolling hills and farms of the Lauragais, known in this area as Petite Tuscany, and close enough to the big city of Toulouse to have a thriving economy. Its16th Century town square hosts one of the best French markets.
It was in Revel that Teresa and Anthony Brady, and rescue dog Noel (Edmunds) found the perfect place to recharge their batteries - so similar to Horsham they felt immediately at home. The couple had moved to the Horsham from Ireland in 2008, buying a dilapidated cottage and renovating it.
“We chose Horsham because of its high placing on quality of life tables! “ said Teresa. “We did lots of research before we moved and the area had everything - close to a big city, good transport links, but with accessible countryside and a feel of community.”
Teresa, a graphic designer, and Anthony, a builder and stonemason - finished renovating the cottage and late last year were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime when Tony was offered a contract as a stonemason at a Chateau just outside Toulouse in the South of France. A crash course in French followed and two cars, one truck and one sleepy dog made the marathon journey.
Teresa said: “We rented a holiday bungalow up in the mountains above Carcassonne - and started the hunt for a new home. We settled on Revel because it felt so much like Horsham to us - big enough to offer everything you need but small enough to have a real sense of community. We decided to find a house big enough to open a B&B, to give us a ready-made social life and opportunity to cook, and on occasion practice our French!
“We found the perfect property and christened it La Maison Verdigris after the beautiful colour on the barn doors, and with the blessing of the Chateau next door we opened for business in spring 2011. We wanted to create a luxury but homely atmosphere. Guests are welcome to use all the house - we have beautiful books to look at and TV in English and French. There is a huge and diverse garden to wander in, and a beautiful courtyard shaded from the worst of the sun and the Autan winds. Upstairs there's a fabulous balcony with views over to the mountain peaks of the Pyrenees on a clear day and resident swallows and bats.”
The area has much to offer visitors, but while tourists do come to Revel - French and others, it's not overwhelmed with crowds in the summer and French is the main language you'll hear. Revel has remained wealthy in the main due to the beautiful climate. Although there are new business opportunities that come with along with high speed trains and broadband, the Lauragais region remains a farming community with sunflowers, wheat and corn the main crops. Sheep, goats, and pigs thrive here, and the weekly market reflects the dominance of these products. Aside from the landscape it's the local towns, beautiful villages, national parks and mountains that draw tourists. You can be in Andorra in two hours and on the slopes for a day’s skiing in winter or you can be on the coast in Narbone in less than two hours if you feel like driving.
La Maison Verdigris is lucky to be less than an hour from some of the most beautiful cities in the south of France.
Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France and so called the Ville Rose - the buildings all made of local pink bricks - is capitol of the Midi-Pyrenees, and home to Cassoulet (a stew of duck, beans and sausage). Albi has stunning renaissance houses and a world heritage Cathedral - the biggest brick building in the world. Albi is also the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec, an d a museum to the artist contains images of thousands of his works.
Carcassonne, the medieval fortified Cite, founded by the Visigoths in the golden age, makes for a worthwhile day trip. No visit to the area is complete without a visit to this UNESCO world heritage site. The Canal Du Midi and the dams and Rigole that feed it are another World Heritage site. The area, beloved of Rick Stein, is a perfect spot to spend a day. The Montagne Noire, the Black Mountains, form the south-western tip of the Massif Central in the Haut or High Languedoc. This area has been designated and area of outstanding natural beauty for its forested area of chestnut, gorse, vines and olives. It makes for a stunning bike ride!
The abiding joy of the area though, like Sussex - is the people; easy-going, comfortable, friendly and most of all happy with life!
For more details or to book visit www.maisonverdigris.com