Blog About Gite Holidays in Lot-et-Garonne, South West France - Grand Pailley Bas Blog.

Dropt Valley Medieval Festival 2015

The Dordogne, Lot-et-Garonne and the Gironde have been inhabited since time immemorial and are steeped in history.

It is in these regions, between 1337 and 1453, that the Kings of France and England faced each other - until the decisive battle at Castillon which finally ended the hostilities. This has influenced the rich cultural heritage showcasing an abundance of churches, medieval villages, abbeys, castles, fortifications and almost twenty fortified towns/villages which are known as the Bastides, new towns of the high middle ages.

Every August the Dropt Valley Medieval Festival tours some of the Bastide Towns to encourage visitors to experience touches of life in the Middle Ages offering workshops, guided tours, night walks and games for all the family. There are also entertaining demonstrations of knights jousting, stilt walkers, jugglers and fire eaters. All the entertainers are dressed in Medieval costume and act the part beautifully.

There are also many medieval dishes available should you want to make an evening of the festival and sit down to enjoy a meal and soak up the history and atmosphere.

Most of the events are free. The day begins with a colourful and vibrant procession, but there are some events that require you to pay a small fee to attend.

For further information and itinerary dates, please click here.

Medieval festival Duras Medieval festival Duras Medieval festival Duras Medieval festival Duras

Our Gîte Blogs . . .

You Couldn’t Make It Up  …. More

Winter   … More

Our First Season, 2015  …More

A Guests View ...More

Dropt Valley Medieval Festival ..More

Great Days Out …More

Saint-Émilion …More

Markets …More

The Bastide Towns … More

Why the Lot-et-Garonne … More

Some Great Days Out in Aquitaine

CHATEAU DE DURAS. ( 10 mins)

Originally built during the 12th Century, the Castle was turned into an impregnable fortress in the early 14th Century by Bertrand de Got the then owner. He was the nephew and namesake of Pope Clement V who gave his support to the work.

The Durfort family acquired the Castle before the start of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) during which time it was under the control of first, the Duke of Aquitaine, King Henry II of England, and then the French King, Louis VII the younger.


With its shop, exhibition area and wine school, the Maison des Vignerons showcases the Duras AOC wines and their makers. Well worth a visit.


They have been making gourmet chocolates here for three generations. Not for the weak willed!!

BERGERAC WINE TOURS – Very highly rated day out on Trip Advisor,  they will pick up and return at end of tour!


A great family day out with 70 faithfully reconstructed historical games indoors and outdoors. Archery and crossbow, board games, reflex games, role playing with armour fitting, skill games, building games, writing games, strategy games, medieval games, game chess game and the giant goose, garden games: there is something for all tastes! Ranked on Trip Advisor as the best thing to do in the Bergerac area.

MUSEE DU PRUNEAU, Lafitte-sur-Lot. (35 mins)

Farm-Berino Martinet Producer, on the banks of the Lot. Discover a gourmet experience. Taste their prunes, chocolate and brandy ...

They offer 3 events:

1.  A unique museum with video and guided tour.
2.  Prune Mam'zelle , offers educational and fun orienteering family play in the prune orchards.
3. DEDAL 'Plum (July-August -September), 15000m2 maze in a corn jungle.

Nocturnal Torchlight Tours.  Monday’s  (July-August) from 20h30 (requires booking). Childrens Workshop - Chocolate prune production.


The lake is open for swimming and other aquatic activities from the 15th of June until the 31st of August:

There is a beach with fine white sand and you can swim safely in water, regularly checked for quality, under the supervision of two lifeguards (on duty between 2.30p.m. and 7p.m.). Facilities include: Diving platform, water-slide, pedalos & canoes available to rent, fishing, beach volley-ball, children’s playground, snack bar, picnic areas and shaded parking.

HAPPY FOREST, Pont-du-Casse (1 hour):

An outdoor adventure day for all the family including climbing courses for everyone and laser games. Open 13,30hrs – 18.00hrs. Noon for picnics.


This Theme Park offers an action packed family day out with thrills and spills with a large choice of activities.

BORDEAUX (1 hr 24mins)

Winner of European Best Destination for 2015, Bordeaux is a beautiful city to visit. Stunning architecture and great shops, something for everyone. Don’t forget to visit the water mirror, great fun.

BORDEAUX WINE TOURS: (1 hr 24 mins)

For the ultimate blend of tasting, learning and fun in the stunning Bordeaux region. Starting point for any of the tours is central Bordeaux. Rated 5 star on Trip Advisor.


In the heart of the river Dordogne in the Black Perigord, the castles of the valley offers a concentrated history, architecture and unusual landscapes.. Hot Air Balloon Perigord offers balloon flights to discover the most spectacular scenery. The valley castles covers a radius of about 10km. Hot Air Balloon Perigord therefore has several sites off the centre and the four cardinal points in order to offer you the prettiest possible route based on the direction and the wind speed at the time of your flight.

Castles and villages overflown: Beynac et Cazenac, La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud, Domme, Fayrac, Les Milandes, Marqueyssac, Lacoste, Sarlat.


A wonderful day out for all the family, offering various sizes of canoes to suit you. Take your time and let the current do the work whilst you meander down the crystal clear waters of the shallow river Dordogne. You will marvel at the scenery and discover chateaux across the route. A big photographic opportunity.

You drive to the centre and are taken by bus to the river and are supplied with life jackets and waterproof, floating tubs for your valuables. There are numerous picnic spots to stop and relax and also cafe’s along the route.


The Château de Castelnaud, officially listed as a Historic Building in 1966, stands high over the Dordogne valley, with magnificent views of the châteaux of Beynac and Marqueyssac and the medieval village of La Roque-Gageac.

This one-time fortress is now given over entirely to displaying the art of warfare in the Middle Ages. Inside, there is a unique private collection of arms and armours, and also some furniture from the period; outside, you will find reconstructions of war machines, such as siege catapults, in actual size. These are reinforced by models and videos, explaining a medieval château’s different methods of attack and defense.
Today, it attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year, of whom 20,000 are schoolchildren

SARLAT-LA-CANEDA. (1 hr 42 mins)

The most famous town in the region and one of the most renowned and visited in France. It is also one of the most attractive. Often called just Sarlat, the town is actually twinned with its less famous neighbour and is more correctly called Sarlat le Caneda.

Destined to be besieged by tourists at almost all times of the year Sarlat is a beautiful, well restored town a few kilometres north of the River Dordogne. The old town, dating from both medieval and renaissance times is a pleasure to visit, especially during the spring and autumn, or early in the morning. For photographers  If you can catch the early morning sunshine on the yellow sandstone buildings, so much the better.

Before setting off for your walk around Sarlat, visit the tourist office which can provide a suggested walking tour to take in the key attractions. The tourist information office is close to the cathedral.


For two thousand years there has been a relationship between man and vine in the extraordinary and beautiful Saint-Émilion. It is one of the European sites listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.

History is in abundance in Saint-Émilion, where you can take a walking tour through the Roman cobbled streets. This delightful medieval village, in the heart of the world famous Bordeaux vineyards has a stamp all of its own due to its vast quantity of vineyards, superb wines, impressive monuments and beautiful architecture. The city sits on a rocky promontory. The success of the wines is due to the lush limestone soil in the area. The ochre light on the beautiful architecture and colour of the stone makes this a photographer’s paradise.

There are many wine cellars that you are able to visit whilst in the town. You will find these listed on the Tourist Board website. If you choose to visit a wine cellar it would be advised to take a sweater as they are maintained at 13 degrees.

You are also able to book a trip to a vineyard and will be walked through the wine growing process by an expert. You will see the vat room and barrel cellar and have the opportunity to discuss the nuts and bolts of all the processes, which is a fascinating experience.

Saint-Émilion Saint-Émilion


When Saint-Émilion is mentioned we automatically think wine, but it also brings Macaroons to mind to many others. This is yet another delight that has been passed down through the generations from the year 1620 when the Ursuline sisters established their convent.


You can choose from delicious local fare to a top class gastronomic experience. There are an abundance of restaurants to choose from and they will offer you a chance to soak up the ambience of the town and rest your feet before you continue with your afternoon pursuits.


There are a number of wine bars which offer you the opportunity of tasting some of the delicious Saint-Émilion wines.


Even if wines are not your favourite drink or interest, there are plenty of unique arty crafty shops, boutiques and antique shops to be found at the bottom of the city. Why not take a gentle meander through the cobbled lanes and look for a special souvenir to take home with you to remind you of your visit?



There is a tourist train that will take you through 5 miles of countryside amongst the world famous 'first growths' There is an English commentary

Departure and tickets near the Collegiate Church. Full details, times, please click here


We strongly advise that you take flat comfortable shoes due to the Roman cobblestones throughout the city.

For further information, visit

Saint-Émilion is 39 miles from us, just over an hours drive.

Saint-Émilion Saint-Émilion

Markets in the Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne.

The French certainly know how to display their markets which are normally bustling with locals and tourists alike, with beautiful plants and flowers seemingly brightening every corner.

Some that attend are there to soak up the atmosphere, meet friends for a coffee and croissant and generally to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the vibrant atmosphere that surrounds them. Everyone is friendly and a polite “Bonjour” is expected to anyone you get eye contact with or whose stall you are looking at. The French are very high on good manners.

The markets vary in style. Some are food markets that sell everything from fresh food produce, local wines and cheeses tempting you with the opportunity to taste before you buy with the odd truffle store which due to cost rarely offer a tasting. Again the displays of cheese and fish are extraordinary in size and presentation.

Other markets are more general and would be the ones to visit should you be looking for a present or memento that you would like to take home to remind you of your holiday.

The general markets tend to be busier as they attract more tourists and some of the colourful displays of flowers, baskets, hats, arts and crafts and clothes swathe the squares and roads with colour and are a joy to behold. They generally start at about 8.00am and finish at 12.00 noon.

Eymet Square on market day

In July and August a lot of the Bastide towns have night food markets which are a very sociable affair for the English and French (plus other nationalities).  If you wish you could visit one of these almost every night of the week. They tend to have long refectory tables and the protocol is that you take your own plates, glasses and cutlery. Once you have found the area where you would like to sit you meander around the edge where there are a mass of food stalls that serve everything from seafood paella to steaks. A pizza van is generally in attendance and often a hog roast. You are expected to purchase your wine and soft drinks during the course of the evening.

At some of these night markets they have live music which offers you the opportunity to get up and dance the night away or to watch the French perform their line dancing routines.

These evenings are fun and different and worth the experience. I can almost guarantee you will return home having made some new friends.

Due to the warm evenings in July and August the dress code is very casual, in fact anything goes, so just turn up at approximately 6.30pm and enjoy at least one during your stay with us.

Eymet Square on market day

Some local morning markets:

Miramont-de-Guyenne – Monday
Duras – Monday
Marmande – Tuesday and Saturday
Castllonnes – Tuesday
Eymet – Thursday
Monsegur – Tuesday and Friday
Sainte Foye la Grande – Daily
Issigeac – Sundays
Sarlat – Saturday – All day

Some local night markets during July and August

Duras – Thursday
Monteton – Tuesday
Levignac – Friday
Villereal – Monday
Laparade - Tuesday
Eymet – Tuesday
Monsegur - Wednesday

A full list is in our visitor information pack

Issigeac Sunday Market Issigeac Sunday Market Issigeac Sunday Market

There are many Bastide towns in easy reach of our Gite and are well worth a visit.

These towns were mainly constructed with a strict grid layout, and usually fortified. They were designed to offer security to the inhabitants while also adding to the strength of the respective sides (English and French) in the region. Most were built between 1230 and 1370.

Several of the Bastides were constructed as a result of the conflicts during the Hundred Years War and are located between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and often changed hands between the French and English during this time, some, such as Monsegur and Beaumont were actually built by the English.

A typical bastide town has a central square (often with a covered market area), several wide streets run from the square to the edge of the town with narrow lanes and passages between these main streets, which are fun to explore and often full of surprises. The towns offered their inhabitants a small plot of land where they could build their home along with some tax concessions. The inhabitants were also exempt from military service.

The churches are often a vast centre piece in Bastide towns and definitely make a statement. They tend to be very large for the size of the town and deliberately built that way for defensive purposes.

Bastides in the Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne.

Duras circa 1900Levignac circa 1900

Duras circa 1900

Levignac circa 1900

Of course, some 800 years or so later, many of these towns have been well preserved and are bustling places to explore, hosting many events throughout the year. Some have extended into larger towns whilst sadly others have largely disappeared and look very run down.

The view from Laparade, across the Lot

Where are they in respect to us?

In our opinion the most picturesque towns in our area are Monpazier (55 Km), Monflanquin (55Km) and Villereal (44Km), all of which could be visited in a day. The Monflanquin Tourist Office also houses the Museum of the Bastides.

If you wish to stay closer to home we have Miramont-de-Guyenne (10km), Levignac-de-Guyenne (10km),  Duras (15Km),  Eymet (15 Km), Castillones (32Km), Castelnau-sur-Gupie (20km),   Monsegur  (25km), Issigeac (41Km), Laparade (43Km), Castelmoron (38Km)

If you wish to take a day or days out you can go a little further afield and explore Beaumont du Perigord (56Km), Belves (76Km), Limeuil (78 Km), Tournon D’Agenais (78.8 Km) Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (94 Km) and Beynac-et-Cazinac (102 Km), Domme (102 Km) and last but not least where you could easily wile away a whole day is the very beautiful Sarlat-la-Canéda (114Km), though strictly speaking it is a medieval city rather than a bastide, it oozes charm, is a photographers paradise and bustling with street artists, great restaurants and outside bars where you can take the weight off your feet and soak up the atmosphere.

If any of our guests would like some assistance with an itinerary during your stay with us, we will be very happy to help

The view from Laparade, across the Lot


Sarlat-la-Canéda - Mairie (Town Hall)

Duras Sarlat-la-Canéda - Mairie

Why move to the Lot-et-Garonne?

“Lot-et-Garonne is perhaps the France that you always hoped existed but could never quite find”

Ian and I find it extremely therapeutic to recall the happy memories of our explorations around France in search of our home with a wish list which comprised of splitting a property into separate accommodations or to find a gite already in situ to allow us to run photography courses, offer gite holidays or both!

This process took us over two years and we travelled thousands of miles.

We bought a delightful cottage in Normandy to start with and used it as a holiday home for nine years, but the first winter there taught us our first harsh lesson as we clearly had not done enough research, by assuming that our chosen area of Normandy would offer us a better climate than the UK as it was on the same latitude of the Channel Islands,. How wrong we were! In reality the winters were far from ideal (from a photographic view) and much the same as the UK, only colder with a lot more snow. Consequently we stopped our visits during the winter months, as watching our gas central heating dial plummet over such a short period of time was too painful on the wallet! Our neighbouring cows however thrived on the long lush green grass of the fields. Normandy was never going to be our forever home, but an easily accessible region to walk us through a learning curve and to help us to decide that France was for us.

Our picture postcard cottage went on the market and we were told it would take two years to sell. In actual fact it took only three months.

This is where our very exciting journey began with a good climate at the top of the list.

We started our search in the Languedoc-Roussillon region as the historical sites captured Ian’s imagination. It was December and very windy (The Mistral), and although the region is stunning, the winter weather concerned us.

To this end we researched the Mistral winds and knew that we had to be west of the Massif Central (near Limoges), so began our search again with a slightly heavy heart and found Sarlat in February by mistake. We fell in love with it as it is Medieval and stunning and Ian of course always had his photography students at the back of his mind with each destination we visited. We put Sarlat in our memory bank as we wanted to see any destination that attracted us in the summer months also and thus made a note to return in August. We did just that but decided that we would rather be in a more rural location. The house prices were also inflated (in our opinion) due to the beauty of the town. (The third most visited town in France we have since learned). We then went back to the drawing board again and read that The Limousin is the wettest county in the whole of France which makes sense when you see the amount of forest and we then eliminated all forestry areas to avoid our photographers getting drenched on a regular basis. The coastal areas are mightily expensive as this is where the French want to live and the properties were completely out of our price league. We were told one of the best climates is the Charente which does have the mildest weather in winter, with very hot summers. Many would say this was perfect, but for Ian asking students to lug heavy equipment in the heat of the day, he thought perhaps too much of a challenge for those with any fitness problems. We returned home and attended the France Show two years running at Earls Court in London. These shows also occur in the north of England. We made a point of visiting every estate agents stand and were so impressed with the agents from the Lot et Garonne, (a department that we had never heard of or knew nothing about). The agents were all singing off the same hymn sheet regarding weather/prices etc. We made appointments with several agents over a two week stay in February 2011.

Following our Normandy experience we were determined that this time we would purchase in the winter as if we loved it then, it would be even more delightful in the summer.

Airport accessibility was also an important factor on our wish list as Ian still had clients in the UK that needed the odd visit or assistance with their websites, and Lot et Garonne seemed to fit the bill with Bergerac just forty minutes away and Bordeaux (with more choice) one and a half hours. We were made aware that a lot of the small regional airports here in France stop some or their flights during the winter months.

After a very enjoyable and exciting two year hunt we finally found “our home” which is a two to three hundred year old ex Tobacco Farm with six bedrooms, three bathrooms, two acres of mature garden homing almost every type of fruit tree and has panoramic views to die for in the Lot et Garonne.

We are apparently in a micro-climate according to our Estate Agent, and whilst sceptical of such statements  I have to say that we can have brilliant sunshine and warmth here whilst fifteen minutes away it can be raining and cold. We believe that this is to do with the river patterns of the Dordogne, Dropt and Garonne rivers. Our winters are definitely milder and shorter. This winter we lit our woodburner for the first time at the end of November and we stopped in March!

We know that we are biased as we just love the area we are in as it has rolling countryside and is so pretty with plenty going on if you are wanting things to do. Equally, it is just as easy to stay at home with a glass of local wine and enjoy the peace and tranquility, watch the nature and marvel at the views. In a couple of months we will be surrounded by Sunflowers.

Since purchasing we have completely refurbished the house and built a swimming pool and outside covered terrace offering the best of both worlds with sun and shade in the hope that all of our guests will be happy whether they are sun or shade worshippers.

We are situated just ten minutes from the Dordogne border, which couldn’t be better as there is a wealth of “things to do” in both counties and are relieved that our two year journey, with buckets of research paid off as we have never been happier.

We are now running photography workshops and are opening the doors of our lovely gîte for the first time this summer.

Some before and after photos below - click any to enlarge.

Cahors – Not quite what we expected, 1.5 – 2 hours away. The ‘bridge’ is nice but nowhere near the town centre. Go on the Petit Train that you catch by the bridge. Only runs a few times a day, so get a timetable from the tourist office and get there half an hour early. Most of the restaurants by the cathedral will not serve just a drink, you must have a meal.

Rocamador – Nearly 100 miles away. Go to the village opposite for photographs. Park at the top car park near the lift. Very busy and touristy. Lovely lunch. You pay for the chateau. Lovely scenery on the way.

Sarlat on the way back from Rocamador – Mega busy but picturesque town. Lots of medieval buildings. Lots of shops – touristy and local produce.

Issigeac Market on a Sunday is a must! Beautiful setting. Market set down medieval streets. Sells anything and everything. Take plenty of euros!

Night Markets

Eymet – bit disappointed, not much atmosphere. Confusing where you could sit and eat. Nice market as well as food.

Levignac – Great atmosphere, get there early for a table, lots are pre-reserved. There are public toilets attached to the church. If it’s hot, don’t sit under the covered area.

Monsegur – Definitely the best night market by a country mile. Great food, atmosphere, guy with an accordion. Superb!

A Restaurant to visit

Restaurant Nostalgair – Run by English people near Levignac. Great 3 course lunch for just 15€. Also a kids menu for 10€.

A Guests View of the Area 2015

Dean, Lou and family travelled extensively during their stay with us. Below are some of their comments. (They have rebooked for 2017!)

Thoughts on some of the places we visited – Dean and Lou, August 2015
Photos by Dean and Lou.

Eymet – A lovely Bastide town, can be very sleepy and quiet. Nice Pizzeria restaurant. Lovely square, great for lunch or a coffee. Easy to park. If you get to the Night Food Market most tables are ‘linked’ to stalls or bars. There is a small chateau and church.

St. Emilion – Very touristy, very busy, expensive to buy wines in the town, but the local ‘caves’ are good. Very steep hills and every other shop is a wine shop, but worth a visit. Get there early so you can park – it is an issue.

Cadouin – stunning little village, nice Abbey (we saw choir practice). Nice restaurant for lunch, not expensive either. Quite a small town.

Monpazier – Close to Cadouin, very picturesque. We went on a Saturday and it was very quiet!

A number of our guests during this season saw and understood our dream and are returning next year which we are already looking forward to and it seems that our dream has become infectious as some are using their holiday to house hunt and will hopefully join our friendship circle as neighbours in the not too distant future.

Much of our guest’s time this summer was spent exploring the picturesque and lively nearby Bastide towns, enjoying the vibrant day and night food markets, kayaking on the River Dordogne, attending wine tours and lapping up the local history which is in abundance as well as marvelling at our beautiful views and relaxing on the sun beds around the pool.

We have also been blessed to have had guests who share our passion of photography and we have spent time with them photographing sunsets, full moons and the exciting harvest, which has to be done when the combine harvester is working just metres from the garden and makes for dramatic photos particularly when the farmers are working late in the night and the bright headlamp beams give the illusion that they are going to come and gobble us up!

Bookings have come in thick and fast for 2016 and we have already got a repeat booking for 2017 which is hugely encouraging.

To celebrate the end of the season Ian and I treated ourselves to a new Golden Retriever puppy called Lottie. She is adorable but headstrong and was the cause of many sleepless nights initially. She is very naughty but in a lovely way that makes us laugh and fortunately Hettie and Pippa have taken her under their wings and treat her like a sister.  The hard work involved with her training makes a lot of the work to the house feel like a walk in the park!

So, that is the story of 2015. It has been a year that has flown by but one that we have very much enjoyed.

Our crowning glory moment came from one comment in our visitor’s book which said “Don’t change a thing”.

I think and hope that we got things right.

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and lots of happiness in 2016. We look forward already to meeting new guests and welcoming return ones in the summer. Don’t forget your sun lotions!

Our first gite season in our beautiful part of France finished in October and we could not have asked or wished for a better start.

This project and dream has been five years in the making following purchasing our dilapidated farmhouse. We have shed blood, sweat and tears renovating, totally re-wiring, painting, landscape gardening, replacing kitchens, wall papering and installing a swimming pool, all with our guests comfort and needs at the forefront of every task. We were finally ready to cut the ribbon and welcome our first guests in May this year.

Ian and I feel blessed that each and every guest we have had have been lovely people, all highly respectful, polite, thankful and extremely complimentary of our efforts which has made up for every tear stained tissue and Ibuprofen swallowed during our difficult journey. The last push was mainly down to Ian and some kind and handy long suffering friends as I succumbed for the final seven months with a very nasty illness which rendered me useless as I was unable to use my arms. There were many moments during those bleak months when I questioned what we were doing, but now that the season is complete I can safely say that we made it a success and have enjoyed meeting an array of fabulous guests and made a lot of friends along the way.

Our First Gite Season. 2015.

The adrenaline of our first hectic gite season has now subsided and the festive season has been and gone and now the questions are coming in “How on earth do you fill your days?”, “Guessing you have got your feet up now?”, “Are you bored?”

Now is the time to answer these questions.

The photography day courses are more active during the winter months as local folk have more time on their hands to enjoy their hobby or to re-vamp their websites, so this probably takes up at least one day a week. It is amazing how different the landscapes are at this time of year with the lush green crops sprouting and the leafless trees allowing us to see what’s behind them. It never ceases to amaze us the spectacles that become visible in winter that are kept secret during the summer.

Our autumn so far has been more akin to spring with hours of lovely sunshine, very little rain and unseasonal warm temperatures. This combination has meant that our 2 acres of grass continues to grow and we are still cutting on a weekly basis.

The swimming pool needs continual maintenance and cleaning which we do every day and shortly we will be treating all the decking to protect it from the high temperatures when summer returns.

We are very keen to maintain our high standards and are continually touching up paintwork in the gite, cleaning and adding small touches that we hope will improve our guest’s experience.

A lot of our time is spent researching events of this year to keep our guest information pack up to date to ensure that there is a wealth of options that will appeal to both children and adults.

In February all our doors and windows are being replaced and there are a lot of them. 8 double doors that go out to the garden and terrace. This was an expensive decision based on safety, security and heating bills. The original doors are predominantly glass (3mm) and none are double glazed. In the heat of the summer the doors have been difficult to close and the locks have become tricky, which gave us security worries for our guests, despite the fact that we live at the end of a lane where the only traffic that passes are tractors or combine harvesters. In the winter months the heat disappears through the thin glass and the gaps in the doors, so we are hoping to see a decrease in our oil consumption and feel generally cosier with the luxury of double glazing throughout.  These major works will undoubtedly lead to more decoration, but it will be a very worthwhile project.

All of these jobs are before we step into our part of the house, which requires a great deal of housework with 3 Golden Retrievers helpfully leaving a trail of fur everywhere they go, let alone the muddy paw prints each time they go out into the garden. We wish we could attach a mop to their tails to allow them to wash the floors!

Puppy Lottie is almost 6 months and has hit the “terrible toddler” stage, but despite being a bold thug, she is a sweetie with a beautiful temperament and makes us laugh. A great deal of time is spent training, which is not an easy task with her head strong madness. However, she is coming good and being kept in order (vaguely) by her Matriarchs!

The dogs enjoy their walks more in the coolness of the winter months, so that is another daily ritual to add to the ever surmounting list of “Things to do” in and around the house.

Winter is the time that we enjoy quality time with our friends as most are run off their feet doing much the same as us in the summer or have a constant trail of family and friends visiting for their holidays. We are enjoying frequenting new restaurants, hosting and attending dinner parties and taking days out to explore beautiful areas with our cameras. Ian particularly enjoys this pursuit as he has not got the time restraints and can wander more freely.

So, to answer your questions, we are never bored, there are still not enough hours in the day and if 2016 is similar to last year, our gite guests will be arriving in a blink.

We very much look forward to this with the return of hot days and warm balmy nights, but most of all we look forward to hearing the squeals of delight from our guests enjoying the pool, meeting a host of new people and helping them to make the most of their holiday.

Here’s to 2016. Hope it is a happy year for everyone.

Winter at Grand Pailley Bas Gite

She was sitting in the middle of a large bush looking at me with her usual demonic glint that spelt trouble. Each time I opened the door to call her in the temperature in the house dropped several more degrees. I tried rattling the treat tin and waving her favourite toys to no avail so went upstairs to put socks and a fleece on before venturing into the garden. After several attempts to lurch for her collar as she circled the shrubs at 100kph or threw herself inside the bushes, always just out of reach I gave up as the cold had got to me. I walked back to the door when she passed me and lunged through the door like a puppy possessed.

Ian started to prepare the woodburner whilst I tended to the girls breakfast whilst Lottie continued her impression of a ferret on a pogo stick before dragging Hettie around the kitchen by her tail, all of this before our first shot of caffeine. The air was blue but I was beginning to thaw out.

At last we attained a semblance of order, so it was our turn to enjoy a cup of coffee prior to starting the day and the house was warming up nicely. I felt as if I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, oh hang on, I had!

Now we were dressed I was going through the list of things to do and working out which order to put them in when the phone rang.
By now it was 08.30 hrs.

P. Good morning young lady, this is Mr P.
(For those of you that have been following our Facebook page, you will have had a giggle at a number of phone calls we have received from this gentleman).
ME: Good morning. (Heart sinking)
P: You thought I’d gone away didn’t you?
Me: On the contrary, I had a feeling that you might return one day.
P: Good intuition on your part, give yourself a round of applause.
Me: What can we do for you Mr P?
P: Well firstly I think you owe me and my old dear an apology as for 2 years you have been fibbing about your circumstances.
Me: I have no idea what you are talking about.
P: Oh come come my dear, you know that you haven’t had any snow for the last 2 years yet you perpetually fob us off when we are offering you good money to partake in one of your photography courses.
Me: I have never lied to you and have stated quite clearly that we do not offer residential courses in January or February because of the risk of snow and we are not prepared to change that.
P: So how do you propose that I do this long awaited course in the month of my choice?
Me: I think the only way that this will work is if we come to a compromise.
P: And what exactly does that mean?
Me: How about we let you know the location of hotels nearby where you can stay and you book day courses with us which run from 10am – 4pm?
P: Very smart young lady, you’re beginning to learn, but you have failed to consider what my old dear and I would do if it snowed and we couldn’t reach you.
Me: That is exactly my point. I have thought about this and would prefer that the risk is yours instead of our selves. We think it fair that due to the risk we would not accept any payment in advance, so if you can’t get to us then no one loses and you pay on the day. How does that sound?
P: Look young lady, you are totally missing the point. It is the whole experience that we wish to enjoy, the one recommended to us from a friend of a friend that attended your course with his wife.
(Just seen Lottie out of the corner of my eye, running the length of the house with my brand new black cardigan in her mouth)
Me: This friend of a friend Mr and Mrs S attended a course in May which was absolutely no problem, but we would not have accepted their booking in February.
P: I know that you have refused in the past to offer a refund in full if it rains, but would you be decent enough to offer mates rates at a 50% discount?
Me: Mr P, you are not a mate and neither is your friend of a friend. Mr and Mrs S were clients who Ian still helps on the odd occasion with questions, so the answer is no.
P: My dear, you really should have gone to a business school as you will never grow until you learn some decorum and strengths. I could teach you a thing or two if you would be reasonable.
Me: Mr P, I really need to conclude this conversation as we have a pressing engagement to get to, so will bid you goodbye.
P: No, don’t go. How about I pay for 4 days and you give 3 days free?
(Ian has just walked in)
Me: Would you like to talk to my husband as I really have to get on?
(Ian mouthes to me.. WHO IS IT? I mouth back MR P. Ian scarpers to the barn laughing) Grrrrrrrr!
P: No, I’m happy to deal with you.
Me: Well it seems that we’ve hit stalemate once more and conclude that you should consider other courses as we will not offer 7 days for the price of 4.
P: Are you on Tripadvisor as there’s something I want to tell the general public?
Me: That is for you to research Mr P, but doubt Tripadvisor will give you much credence considering we have never met and you have never been here. Good luck anyway.

Line dead.

I headed straight to the barn to find Ian was ‘conveniently busy’ and recounted the conversation and stripped him off a peg or two for not talking to Mr P and then it dawned on me that Lottie was last seen dragging my new cardigan through the house.

I stomped back across the courtyard and into the house and called her to the tune of silence. I walked around the house whistling her only to be ignored.

Finally there was a rustle from under the piano where Lottie was tucked into a corner giving me the evil eye. Fortunately for her the cardigan was in one piece, just missing the label. I figured that I’d rather guess the washing instructions than to wade through her waste in days to come!

Fortunately the day did get better and we achieved some of our “to do” list, and we are now smiling again.

Thank goodness we are our own bosses!

Let me begin by painting the picture.

Ian and I share our large farmhouse with our 3 special Golden Retrievers. We have Hettie who is 10 (going on 30) and is the Matriarch with a loud bark. Pippa is 6 years and is soft, gentle and has never discovered her vocal chords and then there is Lottie, now 6 months and a terrible toddler to put it mildly, but the 3 of them dictate our winter programme with their feeding, training and walking regimes and our chores have to work around them.

The diary was filled with “things to do” on Friday, so we had an early night and set the alarm for 7am and woke to a severe frost and penetrating cold. The minute the girls hear movement pandemonium erupts as they know that as soon as they have been into the garden it is their breakfast time. I came down in my dressing gown and little Miss Lottie who’s mantra is “I’m so happy and it’s all about ME” danced and sprung around my legs as I fought my way to the door. I opened the door and the cold hit every part of my being, which moved my priority to lighting the fire. Hettie and Pippa came in very quickly, but where was Lottie?

You Couldn’t Make It Up!

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Grand Pailley Bas

47350, Cambes

Lot-et-Garonne, France
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