Bijou Barn – fantastic French holiday review

 

When you book a summer holiday for your family or with friends, it’s a big deal!  Let’s face it, life for most people these days is very fast paced; people work harder and for longer hours so, when they take time out for, what is usually, their main holiday, it is so important that they make the right decision as it may be sometime before they have another break.

 

We are all too aware that a holiday home has to tick quite a few boxes in order to meet the needs of everyone on the holiday, combined with the fact that everyone has a different idea of what the ideal destination should be.
We were absolutely thrilled when we received the following review from a family who recently stayed with us.

 

 

A Fabulous Retreat!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
On our arrival we were really warmly greeted by Jane and Graham with a cold beer and soft drinks (for the children) at their peaceful barn in the hamlet of Caux. Jane and Graham gave us a tour of the property to make sure we felt at home. A really nice start to two idyllic weeks.
The barn is absolutely beautiful. We were surprised by the size of the barn and bedrooms – huge! The barn is really light and airy and tastefully decorated. Think luxury! The bedrooms are also luxurious…lots of beams and natural stone all brought together with contemporary fixtures and fittings. 
If you somehow fail to miss the wow factor inside the property just take a look at over the countryside from the terraces. Beautiful…peaceful…and relaxing. We regularly spotted deer and birds of prey. 
The pool is perfect and manages to capture the sun from early morning until late evening. The pool was cleaned twice during our stay by Ruud who provided us with lots of local knowledge about what to see and do. Ruud’s knowledge complimented the welcome pack that Jane had provided. A really nice guy.
There are some fantastic hilltop villages within a few km’s of the barn. The Lot river is also on your doorstep. Travelling is a delight as traffic is virtually non-existent.
The barn was spotless on our arrival. Jane and Graham had also provided us with some essentials to see us through until the next day. A really nice surprise.
It was with a heavy heart that we left the barn after two weeks. We have spent 17 years holidaying in France and would love to visit the barn again as it really is very special.

 

 

We know there are things that we can do differently with Bijou Barn, items we can provide for our guests and ideas which we are already working on for next year.  I think when you embark on providing a holiday rental, you and your home must constantly evolve and adapt to the needs of those staying with you, in order to give them the best chance of having “the perfect holiday” that they will remember for years to come.

 

Weekend getaways in the Lot region of France

September is a great month to plan your getaway to a rural retreat like Bijou Barn, in the heart of the Lot. The weather this time of year is still warm, but not so overpowering that you don’t feel like getting out and exploring. With the airports of Toulouse, Bergerac and Brive a mere 90 minutes away, it’s never been easier to squeeze in a long weekend.

 

When you come to Bijou Barn, you can do as much or as little as you want during your stay with us so why not take a look at an itinerary below for some ideas which combine sightseeing, relaxing and of course eating and drinking, into a 4 day break.

Day 1

Flights then pick up hire car.
Drive to Bijou Barn stopping off to buy provisions on the way ( we can advise you depending on where you are travelling from)
Drinks and Canapés on arrival
Free time to settle in and relax
You can make dinner on the BBQ and enjoy the garden

 

Day 2

Leisurely breakfast on the terrace
Wine tasting at one of the many nearby vineyards
Lunch at a local restaurant with a wonderful reputation
Return to Bijou Barn and relax by the pool

 

Day 3

Drive to the local hilltop village for coffee and croissant at one of the cafes
Then enjoy the busy local market where you can buy some wonderful produce
Make lunch at Bijou Barn
Relax in the garden or play badminton, croquet or pétanque
Dinner in a local restaurant

 

Day 4

Time for one last dip in the pool before you leave for the airport.

 

What’s Included

3 nights accommodation in 2 double ensuite bedrooms and use of all the facilities including the pool.
Drinks and Canapés on arrival

Price

£600 for the whole barn to sleep 4 people
Please contact us for available dates.

Other items to fit into your itinerary

Cycle ride in the Lot countryside
Gourmet night market
Lunch or dinner in Michelin starred restaurant
Boat trip on the river
Hire a vintage car during your stay

Holidays in France: the magic of a French market

There is something very special about shopping in a market in France.  Not sure whether it is the weather, the variety and quality of produce or perhaps just the fact that everyone has time to peruse the stalls, catch up with friends or just sit and people watch. It’s just a very social way of shopping. All the sellers, take pride in what they sell and are a mine of information.

 

I don’t know about you, but I can go to a market needing nothing in particular and always end up buying something – usually edible or certainly drinkable.  The Sunday market in Montcuq is always a joy to experience – I say experience because it is so much more than just a trip out to buy food.  The lovely smell of strawberries, as you pass the fruit stall, is so overpowering that I would defy anyone to walk past without being tempted.  Then you get the aroma of the cured meat stand, the countless cheese stalls and today there was a girl selling Madagascan vanilla – delicious!

 

Then of course there is the saffron man – selling everything connected with saffron – from the bulbs themselves or saffron infused jams, risotto rice and of course varying quantities of the red gold itself – if that doesn’t inspire the creation of a saffron based dish, I don’t know what will.
Even the vegetable stalls are wonderful as there is always something that you have nt seen before and when in season, the choice of vegetables is outstanding – one stall was selling three types of French beans – white, green and black – cook them with a bit of onion, butter, garlic and a sprinkling of lardons and you have a lovely tricolour bean dish to enjoy.

 

And who says you can’t buy spices and chillies in France?  There was an amazing stall selling a wonderful selection of spices including Himalayan salt crystals and look at this selection of chillies from a local vegetable stall.

 

I know I am going on about the food but Montcuq has so much more to offer such as handmade jewellery, clothes, hats, leather goods, crockery, art, books not to mention the many stalls selling hot food like paella, roast chicken, crepes and even samosas cooked to order.
Of course all this shopping is quite thirsty work on a hot sunny day so you have to stop at a local wine or beer stall for a tasting or grab a coffee at one of the cafes.  The thing I like most about a trip to a market is that you leave feeling inspired, entertained and relaxed – if only I could say the same about visiting a supermarket!
Click here to find out more about Bijou Barn, a holiday rental near Montcuq.

Montcuq – the French village that has it all

When people are looking for a holiday destination, they usually want it to be within walking distance of a boulangerie , bar or restaurant or ideally all of the above.  But sometimes it is better to be within driving distance of somewhere that has more choice which were our thoughts when we first moved to the area.  Montcuq is not our closest village but it is the place we seem to gravitate to as it has the hustle and bustle of somewhere much larger whilst retaining the intimacy of a much smaller place.

It’s a lovely village where the old part, steeped in history, is perched on top of the hill and the newer facilities have spilled down towards the base allowing you to benefit from having the best of both worlds.  There is a garage, supermarket which is open on a Sunday morning in the summer and also sells very competitively priced fuel.  Drive along a bit further and you will find a DIY place and garden centre.
However, it is the old village that has the biggest draw because it has everything you would expect and more.  There is a thriving tourist info, a shop selling produce of the area, a pharmacie, hairdresser, several boulangeries and charcuteries not to mention the great Sunday market which brings out the tourists and locals alike.

 

Montcuq isn’t just a place for people to visit, it has a great community and there are plenty of things happening all year round.  No village. would be complete without its share of bars and restaurants and considering it s size, Montcuq has plenty of choice.  There is a pizzeria, a bar restaurant called the Cafe du Centre and a restaurant called the Cafe de France all with outdoor terraces overlooking the village centre.  It’s a lovely place to be as the sun goes down and the outdoor lights cast a wonderful hue over the busy terraces filled with people enjoying the merriment.

 

The Cafe de France is our favourite offering a wonderful selection of food and wine.  Local delicacies are combined with dishes offering a more international flavour to create a very well balanced and reasonably priced menu served in a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you choose the local goats cheese drizzled with honey followed by a Thai yellow curry of scallops and prawns or opt for a carpaccio of salmon and then the piece de Boucher with a pepper sauce you will not be disappointed. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert or cheese then you can watch the world go by as you allow it all to digest.

Montcuq is a very special place that provides so many with so much – we are very lucky to have it on our doorstep to enjoy.  If you are ever in the area it is well worth a visit.

 

French holiday: restaurant hospitality at its best

We love eating out and when someone who lives locally recommends a restaurant then we feel duty bound to try it out – well that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it!  We tried twice to get in to this particular restaurant but it was fully booked which, of course, made us even more determined to try it!

 

The restaurant in question is called La Terrasse and can be found in the little village of Grezels which isn’t far from where we live.  It was to be third time lucky for us as I called to make a reservation which was accepted – woohoo!  You enter the restaurant via the terrace, which was very small considering that is the name of the restaurant.  The dining area was large and cool – it was like stepping back in time – a large fireplace dominated the room, there was a dresser which was large enough to house a small family, all the tables were adorned with red tablecloths and all set ready for guests – it was to be another busy lunchtime.
You would imagine that this kind of operation would require a large team of chefs and waiting staff, but no, it was run by a husband and wife team.  Madame was the chef and Monsieur, who was a bit of a character, was front of house.  I asked him if they opened in the evenings but he said they are retired now so only do lunches!
We were shown to our table where we had Kir as an aperitif and a carafe of red was swiftly put down beside us.  There was no menu as there was no choice – there is actually something really nice about that – it’s like being in someone’s home – you don’t get handed a menu when you go to a friends house for a meal.  It also means that you end up trying things that you may not necessarily order which is a liberating experience.
Within a few minutes the soup terrine was placed on the table and we were left to have as much as we wanted.  It was a simple vegetable soup but beautifully home made.  We politely just had the one bowl.  When the Monsieur came to clear the plates he asked us if we had tried Chabrot – it sounded like a drink or some accompaniment to the soup but when he gave a demonstration, we realised it was a tradition.

Chabrot

When you have finished your soup you add red wine to the bowl – how much wine we hear you ask? Well you have a choice.  For the beginner, you fill up to where the top of your soup spoon sits in the bowl, for the more experienced, you invert the soup spoon, creating a higher level, then add wine to the top of the upturned spoon.  Then you take the spoon and scrape the soup from the sides of the bowl to mix with the wine.  Once you are happy that all the soup is in the wine, you lift up the bowl and drink directly out of it – oh yes, you can remove the soup spoon now or it will poke you in the eye.
With our new found skill, the Monsieur left us to guzzle the wine (believe me, that’s all you can do when you are drinking out of a bowl) as he went back into the kitchen.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was just a big joke and when he spoke to his wife he would have said “that’s another two English people I have fooled with the old Chabrot trick”. But when I spoke to my neighbour about it, she said its true and that’s what they used to do but not to try it in a more upmarket restaurant!

Getting back to the meal, we were then served a lovely courgette and salmon quiche.  Again you could taste it was homemade with lovely simple flavours.  As with many vegetables here, they have a much more powerful flavour so although courgette can be watery and sometimes bland in the UK, it has a much more robust flavour here.  We did think at this point that this was our main course so imagine our surprise when our plates were cleared and a platter of sliced rare beef arrived with a red wine jus and roast potatoes – it was delicious.  The French have a natural ability to be able to cook meat perfectly and this platter was no exception.

La Terrasse Grezels Tel 05 65 21 34 03