Back in 2006 we were walking through the old town of Carcassonne towards La Cité and the castle when we caught sight of L’Ancienne Pharmacie in an estate agent’s window - it looked stunning and we loved the blue shutters and the old stone walls . Despite being on holiday with no house buying plans, Peter suggested we ask for details and before we knew it we were being whisked off in a ramshackle car by the entrepreneurial young agent.
It was a lovely sunny day with the high blue sky so characteristic of Southern France - and as we approached Montlaur through the rolling hills of the Corbières, we were enchanted. The house was wonderful and we could immediately see that the space and capacity (after renovation) would be ideal for our big family, but also for holiday accommodation as well.
We drank wine in the garden with the owners, talked together half the night and went back the next day to explore the village. And that was it! Others, whom we know and respect, research their French house purchase meticulously – but for us it was just one magic moment. We went with our hearts and have never looked back.
When we had renovated the house we let it as a gîte for a few years while we worked in the UK but spent increasing periods of time here and fell in love with the village, the lifestyle and the slower pace of life - and of course the wine and the sunshine. Montlaur, despite its size (around 600 permanent residents) is a thriving rural village and a little hub for other villages in the Val Dagne with its small shops, school, weekly organic market and rich community life. Our family are all regular visitors and participate in the village festivals, in Montlaur and the surrounding areas. The children love swimming in the river at Lagrasse and Ribaute and the lake in Carcassonne, with water sports and an adventure climbing circuit. We are now French residents and feel well integrated into village life.
We also have a large jardin potager (allotment) on the edge of a vineyard, a five minute walk from our house. Bryn, our Welsh border collie, and Gigi, the little griffon we adopted after she was abandoned near the village, belong to the local dog club at Trebes and compete in agility competitions with great enthusiasm .
We have immersed ourselves in Cathar history and now know a lot about our region . Our gîte guests say they have benefitted from this and we provide maps, guides and arrange wine-tasting at local domains in the village. When we prepare meals for bed and breakfast guests we use local produce including fruit and vegetables from our jardin potager and meat from our highly praised village butcher. With a previous demanding career in the UK I would never have thought I would enjoy so much making fig and apricot jams with our home grown fruit! We are the only English members of the Association de L'Art de Vivre en Alaric . This Association was set up by half a dozen local villages situated beneath Mt Alaric and aims to promote the benefits of the lifestyle and climate and to encourage visitors to this beautiful rural area with its garrique, scented wild flowers, amazing walks and so much more. Members are gite owners, activity organisers, wine producers and local farmers including producers of goat’s cheese and honey.
When we saw L'Ancienne Ecurie in 2013 we knew it had the potential to
offer visitors the chance to experience life
in the heart of our village while still enjoying the privacy offered by its pretty walled garden,
with a views of the hills outside the village. We worked hard with our family and a local builder to renovate the house so that it could provide the perfect holiday home while retaining its own unique character. 2017 is our fifth holiday letting season and we have made it even more comfortable by listening to the positive suggestion made by previous guests all of whom loved the house and its location.
In 2014 we bought L’Ancienne Sellerie - as soon as we saw it we were impressed by the spacious accommodation, again in the heart of the village, and we loved the views from the bedrooms across the terracotta rooves ad hills beyond the village . Again it has proved very popular with our guests!
We are sure you would enjoy staying in Montlaur!
Felicity and Peter Collier