Tag: south of France

Nimes…….a favourite place nearly on our doorstep.

La Maison Carré

La Maison Carré

Why Nimes?

A charming Roman city oozing sophistication, beauty and culture.

I love the tiny, twirling, twisting pedestrian streets filled with boutiques eager to be discovered; I love the cafés piled onto pavements; the shady squares pulsing with restaurants hidden around each corner. I adore the dramatic fountains which dispel the summer heat.

Remarkably preserved Roman buildings suitably bewilder at every turn and I especially love sitting in the shade,  with a glass of chilled rosé in hand, gazing in awe at Les Arènes, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world  – just like being on a film set, yet better because it’s the real deal.  I love gaping at the  beautiful Maison Carré (above) while devouring  ice-cream in the adjacent café. Strolling, exploring in the Jardin de la Fontaine.

The music of the city. The vibe, the elegance, the way of life……..

Top Tips

The indoor food market, Les Halles, is bursting with irresistible local food and atmosphere – better than Harrods food hall any day.

The Ferias of Nimes held in May and September every year, are unique parties celebrating bulls, music and food – not to be missed.

Forget the ghastly tower blocks on the outskirts and head straight for the pedestrian old town with lots of underground parking – easy.

Here is a new App about monuments in Nimes for when you are strolling around.

Where is Nimes?

25 minutes by car from our house via a stunning cross country route – worth the trip for the views alone.

Read more about Nimes here.

Make a Wish

Like most people in this world, we need to find the money to pay the boring bills and especially with an 18th Century house, there is always something desperate for a cash injection. As soon as we decided to return to the UK, we realised that if  we wanted to keep our hideaway in the south of France, we would need to rent it out. It isn’t an easy path we’ve chosen and I’m sure that we will encounter many bumps along the way but we feel it is worth it.

Worries are an inevitable  part of life but we do appreciate how lucky we are. At the end of 2011, Rascal 1 fell ill with severe pneumonia and had to stay in hospital for two weeks. After many miraculous drips, frightening chest drains, incessant injections, pockets stuffed full of courage, she made a full recovery but for many children, life deals a much tougher hand.

We have decided to give away a week at our hideaway in France every year to a charity auction, to help raise money for special causes. This year we have chosen the charity Make-A-Wish to help those brave children who sadly need so much courage. Make-A-Wish will auction a week at our hideaway at The Valentine’s Ball at the Dorchester Hotel in London in February.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and exciting 2013. Carpe Diem everyone.


Be a cicada – metamorphose in the South of France

To hibernate in winter is natural, in fact many people do stay underground during the winter months. Numerous places in North America have fabulous underground cities to cower from the cold. Eagerly embrace it is my feeling but I can understand that winter is a tricky season, especially once the hopeful Christmas lights are pulled down.

I think we must be inspired by the ingenious, summer musician – the Cicada.

Do you ever feel like this after the winter months?

On reflection, I’m not sure that winter coat really was that flattering…..

Are you ever itching to  shed your skin and start afresh?

A positive outlook

Sorry to invade your privacy Mr. Cicada

Do you ever dream of such a transformation?


Miracles really do happen at the bottom of the garden at our hideaway in France.

Enjoy the jingle bells now but once the razzle dazzle of Christmas is over, take heart from the impressive Cicada.

P.S. According to Wikipedia, the female cicada is meatier. Nothing wrong with that.

Just Imagine

Living in Montreal is exciting, invigorating and refreshing as most adventures are. Since moving here in February 2012 I think we have adapted brilliantly but we do miss our hideaway in France. One of the biggest changes for us was moving from a house in the country into an urban apartment with no garden. The Rascals were brought up with the room to roam and they spent most of their precious hours in France dressing up and running around making noise.

There was space both inside and outside to create the cacophony that children love to do, to run riot and dance up a storm. The freedom to let their imaginations fly. Although our apartment in Montreal is a good size, we are on the first floor with some rather unlucky neighbours beneath us. I cannot help wincing at every little leap and thunderous thump which is probably every second of every day. They are simply not used to noise restraint and neither are we.

When friends used to visit us in France, they waxed lyrical about the space which I took for granted then but can finally now appreciate. Maybe I should be more of a Tiger Mum but what I really want to do is give them the luxury of being imaginative, curious and carefree. We could all do with a few of those ingredients in our lives. Roll on holidays, I can’t wait to let my Rascals loose at our hideaway in France.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old;

we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw

Olive picking in the South of France

As we run through Autumn, maneuvering through months, heads down and hoods up against bitter winds, it is easy to be oblivious to the little treats that nature has to offer, even in Autumn.

A couple of years ago we purchased the field next to our house, for even though it is agricultural land, we wanted to protect our house from any construction in the future. The Rascals thought it was a perfect place to build a giant fort but they had to settle for a tree house at the bottom of the garden instead. For my Partner in Crime, who has always held the romantic dream of owning a wood, it was an opportunity to plant some trees. At first he envisaged an apple orchard, with aspirations of his own-label cider (he is originally from the West Country) but we were encouraged, much to my delight, to invest in olive trees. They are only very little trees and every year we plant a few more with the hope of eventually filling the field. It’s a slow, yet rewarding process.

Today I received an email from the lovely couple who live opposite our house, asking us permission to pick our olives for us. We have olives? Our very own olives! Above all though, it reminds us how lucky we are to have such special, kind neighbours who really care about our house and our baby olives. Our little corner of very french France really does have this generous spirit, this neighbourly love, even to the only English family in the village.

Transforming a home into a holiday house in France

It was this time last year that we began contemplating a move to Canada. My Partner In Crime had been offered a job in Montreal and his company needed a decision fast. Were we willing to move our whole family from the gorgeous Languedoc area in the south of France to the much more challenging, diverse climate of Canada?

The previous year my Partner In Crime’s ceaseless European travel had been bearable but the thought of plenty of  international travel began to fill me with dread. Either we all move, or we miss him terribly. I bow down in bewildered awe to all you single parents out there. The three Rascals are tough and brave but three week stretches is a long time to just have me at the helm! An adventure would be good for us all we decided and I think to my Partner in Crime’s slight surprise, we were all enthralled by the imminent experience.

Decision made, excitement high, practicalities needed to fall into place. What were we to do with our house? We are fortunate to have family and friends who were more than willing to look after our home for us, not to mention special neighbours. It’s a happy home and loves and needs the babble of people, of laughter, of merriment and yet, as is the case with most old houses, it needs money. So to rent for some of the year, was the future. The south of France has an eternal draw for holiday makers and we knew our home would delight  many. One problem – we needed to transform our  family home into a professional, minimalist, luxurious holiday rental property and fast. Six precious years of  life, with three small children, needed to be dissected, sorted out, boxed and saved for another day.

Ultimately I believe that nearly anything is possible with an enormous amount of hard work, determination and help. Fortunately on this occasion I was right.

On 12th February 2012 we flew to Canada and left behind us a spotless, organised home ready for new guests. Mas de Mahystre had never been more beautiful. I assure you it was hard to leave…….

Have you had a similar experience? Anyone turned a happy, cluttered home into a house to rent in France? Or maybe you are just intrigued by the stories behind a holiday house.

More information about renting our house is available  at ……


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