French holiday rental reviews – all 5 star – just like our guests – thank you so much!

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It’s always quite daunting as we await reviews from our guests. We hope that they have enjoyed their stay and that Bijou Barn has helped to make their holiday special.

Whether they’ve enjoyed being in the pool, cooking alfresco on the BBQ, watching the sunset on the back terrace with a chilled glass of wine, picking figs from the garden for pudding or stretching out on a sun lounger with a good book, we would like to think that everyone of our guests takes a collection of Bijou Barn memories home with them as a souvenir of their holiday.

What did our guests say about their stay?

“We all had a truly wonderful time and left feeling truly refreshed.”

“Bijou Barn was gorgeous – it had everything we needed and more!”

“We can thoroughly recommend Bijou Barn and hope to return.”

“Luxury, family friendly holiday property”

“Weather was perfect, pool was glorious and countryside beautiful.”

“The owners Jane and Graham are very friendly, nothing being too much trouble.”

It’s always lovely to meet our guests and find out a bit about them – and you know what, they are a great bunch. If we had to rate our guests, they too would be 5 star! They are all individual, but all with the same hope, that they can chill out, relax and enjoy their holiday.

We are thrilled that our guests have rated us with such glowing reviews and this just makes us more determined to work on new plans to make Bijou Barn even better next year. We want our guests to feel at home whilst experiencing something completely different.

Plans for next year?

I am sure we will be discussing the plans over one or two glasses of lovely Malbec wine during the coming months and if you watch this space, you’ll be the first to know about what is new at Bijou for next year and all the great events and experiences to try locally.

Thanks again for your wonderful reviews – it really means a lot to us.

Special Celebrations in Sleepy French Villages

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How many times have you driven through a French village and seen no one? How many times have you asked yourself what do these people do? Where are they?

Sometimes we assume that because a place is quiet for the short time we are passing through, it must be like that all the time…..well guess again!

Under that sleepy exterior lies the beating heart of a lively village.

Our First French Fete

My husband and I were invited by some friends to a Village Fete. We were excited as this was the first “local” fete we were to experience, and one to which you need to be invited to by someone from the village hosting the event. We arrived at the location and couldn’t believe our eyes.

A freshly cut field had been transformed into an extremely large outdoor dining area, ready to accommodate about 400 people on long tables with bench seating and long strings of lights above, which lit up the whole area as the sun started to set. The dining area was surrounded by a bar, a covered area with a stage for the band and a dance floor, plus an outdoor kitchen where the lamb, or should I say flock was being slowly spit roasted.

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Local Food and Wines

We sipped ice cold slightly sparkling rose as we savoured the atmosphere. Then we were all asked to take a seat and within a short time we were chatting to people beside us, as Sangria was poured into our glasses.

Having been in the restaurant trade, we know only too well how tough it can be to feed large numbers of people, but to do it for around 400, in a field and serve everyone at the table – well that was really impressive.

Our banquet began with soup and French bread, of course, followed by cured ham and the sweetest, juiciest, locally produced melon. The wine flowed, as wine does in France, with empty bottles on the tables being quickly replaced with full ones, by the very efficient waiting staff. Then came the main course, spit roasted lamb and sausages served with a tasty bean cassoulet – it was delicious.

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Brilliant Live Music

As everyone finished, the tables were cleared and the musical entertainment began. This band were very good – drummer, trumpet player, guitarist, accordion player and singer – all in fancy dress and their instruments and mikes all Bluetoothed, allowing them to mingle with everyone seated at the tables.

Within minutes the band had progressed to dancing and singing on top of the tables with many of the guests already standing on their chairs and joining in. The trumpeter played a particularly catchy 7 note riff, which was the signal for the crowd to lift their arms in the style of a Mexican wave whilst shouting ‘Olé!’

We were mesmerised by the pied piper qualities of the drummer and trumpet player – they had everyone eating out of their very musical hands, within 10 minutes! It was a shame when they played their last number but they had certainly warmed up the crowd.

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There was a short break for us all to enjoy cheese followed by ice cream and then coffee to finish. Then the wandering musicians returned, having been transformed from their funny fancy dress costumes into glamorous white outfits, as the main stage was lit and their performance continued. It took only seconds for everyone to be lured towards the stage and dance the night away, with the dance floor still as full when we decided to call it a night at around 1:30 a.m.

The Morning After

I woke up the following morning and began to smile as I remembered the Fete as if it had been some kind of surreal dream, although my mildly sore throat did bring me back to reality – did I really shout Olé that many times?

The whole evening was really special as it combined a simple yet tasty meal, in a wonderful setting, amongst lovely people, who made us very welcome.

So the next time you are driving through a sleepy French village don’t let that tranquility fool you – they are probably just recovering from a celebration the night before!

French Holiday Rental: life’s a beach near Bijou Barn

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It’s a bit wierd having our holiday rental, Bijou Barn in central South West France, yet only being 6 km from a beach. Yes, that’s right, only 6 kms from golden sands beside a turquoise lake where you can swim over the watchful eye of a life guard, during the months of July and August.

There are BBQs so you can cook your own food then enjoy it at a picnic table near the lake. If you prefer, there is also a small restaurant and bar with a terrace overlooking the water where you can relax and enjoy the view.

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Aquazone – new this year!

We are very excited to let you know that this year on the water there is a ‘Total Wipeout’ style floating inflatable fun zone, which looks amazing!

Jump, climb, slide and splash in this fantastic area of trampolines, climbing staircases, slides and tricky balancing beams. See if you can beat the obstacles.

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Opening Hours:

Every day between 27.06.16 and 31.08.16 from 1000 ’til 1900.

On offer to anyone over 7 years. Life vests/ buoyancy aids are available.

Prices

6 euros from 1000 – 1200
8 euros from 1200 – 1900

For more information telephone 06 21 08 07 25

Click here to learn more about what there is to see and do in the Lot region

 

Le Caillau – wonderful restaurant offering local produce with a global feel

Le Caillau, situated near Vire sur Lot, nestles serenely in a picturesque valley amongst a collection of vineyards, exactly what you would expect from a 300 year old winery. The selection of buildings radiate around a beautiful courtyard with its central fountain covered in flowers as the focal point.

As you wander through the distinctive and characterful metal gates at the entrance, you are met with an air of tranquility as the various eating areas come into view. The indoor restaurant, the open barn filled with a mix of different tables and chairs, lit by large ornate chandeliers and then the courtyard itself, where the tables sit beneath the summery parasols for that all important shade on a warm sunny day.

We were shown to our table, given menus and offered an aperitif – I chose the local sparkling wine which was recommended, and was not disappointed, as it was a delight. Also, it was great to know that it was made a mere kilometre away from where I was sitting – now that’s what I call local produce!

The menu read beautifully, offering the perfect combination of contemporary dishes using local ingredients. I had already earmarked dishes I could try on my next visit


A La Carte dishes

The starters included chilli garlic vegetables and goats cheese fritters, tomato chutney, rocket and toasted seed salad or seared scallops, asian herb sauce, crunchy vegetables with lime dressing and roasted crushed chilli peanuts.

Then for main course slow cooked roulade of pork, gratin dauphinois, smoked bacon, beans, peas and a cherry cider sauce or seared tuna steak, potatoes with tomatoes and herbs, samphire, roasted vegetables and a chorizo sauce.

Of course you had to make room for desserts such as baked kirsch chocolate tart with cherry sorbet or what about mint and lemon catalana with raspberry compote.

Click here to see their full menu

 

Menu du Jour

Choosing a dish was always going to be difficult and then became even more problematic when we were told of their menu du jour. A main course, dessert, glass of wine and coffee for 13.50 euros.

When I then learned that the main course was a duo of home smoked salmon and haddock on a bed of summer green vegetables with a cream sauce and aubergine caviar – my decision was made. Backed up by the nods of approval from the people on a neighbouring table who had already sampled this beautifully created dish.

The house red wine – a Malbec of course in these parts – was lovely as well, and the option of an organic variety is well worth a try with its powerful yet smooth flavour, and was again, very locally produced.

Wine Tasting and Food Pairing

Every Wednesday during July, August and September from 5.30 -7pm for 30 euros per person you can enjoy a wonderful eating, drinking and learning experience – what could be better?

  • Learn about local independent wines
  • How to match food and wine
  • Taste 6 local wines accompanied by produce of the region
  • Gain advice about where to buy wines in the Lot

 

Why does Le Caillau stand out?

What I loved about Le Caillau was the balance they have achieved between seasonal elements, decor, ambience and location, in order to create something really special. That recipe of local produce meeting with more unusual ingredients to offer the unique, whilst still retaining the classic methods that epitomise French cuisine.

This restaurant is forward thinking, not only in the design of new dishes, but through constantly evolving and by adding its own stamp, such as home smoked produce. For Le Caillau, their passion for new ideas, combined with their use of very local produce, creates the perfect recipe for their success.

Click here to see the Le Caillau website for more information.

Home Away French Holiday Rental: getting poolside summer ready

 

When my husband said we needed to get poolside summer ready, I was very excited at the prospect of exfoliating, buffing, bronzing, moisturising and nail painting ………and that was just the to do list for Graham – only joking! Graham was referring to the pool being summer ready and its transformation from winter hibernation to luxurious summer oasis.

Secluded pool area at Bijou Barn

When you winterise your pool, you basically put it to sleep for the cooler months by preparing the water, covering the pool and draining the pump. The vibrant poolside area becomes a much more somber place during the winter months, so when the day arrives to wake up the pool for the summer, it really is exciting. The dark green cover, grubby from the winter weather and rotten leaves is removed to reveal the water, which after a few days of ‘jiggery pokery’ looks crystal clear and inviting (the duck is optional!)

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Of course, that’s just the beginning as the whole pool area is then painstakingly pressure washed to brighten up the paving and decking. You can’t have a pool area without sun loungers so these are washed and positioned under the tree so there is somewhere comfortable to chill out between dips in the pool.

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Then it’s time to cut back and cultivate the poolside plants – I am never sure if I cut back the right plants and cultivate the others but so far so good. The vines over the terrace, the jasmine hedge, the mint, the lavender, the poppies and other wild flowers – the list is endless but hopefully the ensemble of colours and perfumes does work.

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The pool area is as important an area for us, as it is for our guests and we make it our business to ensure that it offers everything that you would want:-

  • Turquoise water that sparkles in the sunlight
  • Sun on the terrace for most of the day
  • Comfortable sun loungers to relax on
  • Secluded poolside area you just don’t want to leave

Read our blog about the joys of having a pool

At Bijou Barn, we hope that we manage to create a summer oasis that exceeds the wants and needs of our guests. The pool area is often viewed by many as a holiday ‘must have’ when searching for the perfect place to rent in France, so we always put in the effort to create a poolside retreat that our guests will love.

Click here to view availability and book.

Book a French Holiday Rental at the beginning of July

 

Due to a cancellation, we have two weeks free at the beginning of July and there is so much to do in the area. Are you going to be the lucky person to book our beautiful barn with sophisticated charm for your summer holiday this July?

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What are the dates?

From Saturday 2nd – Saturday 16th July – pick one week or spoil yourself and go for two weeks.

What’s on?

This area has lots of different activities and experiences throughout the summer so click here to find out more about the region. But during the first two weeks of July, there are some really great events that you would be crazy to miss out on.

1-3 July: Lot of Saveurs (www.lotofsaveurs.fr)

This three day event celebrates the taste and beauty of the local produce of the region. Here is a selection of what is in store:-

  • Food Producer Market
  • Cookery Competition
  • Cookery Book Sale
  • Banquet celebrating the specialities of the area
  • Cookery Demonstrations
  • Concert
  • Repas des Chefs – a special evening meal created by the top chefs of the area.

12-16 July: Cahors Blues Festival (www.cahorsbluesfestival.com)

The 35th edition of this blues and soul festival will not disappoint. A great atmosphere is guaranteed with a wonderful selection of international artists to entertain you.

Click here to read a recent blog with more details.

14 July: Bastille Day

The biggest celebration of the year. Whether you want to visit a small village or town to take part or head for the larger towns and cities for a not to be missed firework extravaganza.

Book your French holiday rental with private pool

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If you book for two weeks in July, we will offer you a £100 discount. Do these sun loungers have your name on them?

Click here to book or click here to send an email

Velo Plus: bike hire solution for your French holiday

With the Tour de Yorkshire last month, followed by the Tour de France in July, cycling is very much in the spotlight, inspiring many of us to dust down our own two wheeled transport and get out and about using pedal power.

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I am never sure why watching people struggling uphill on a TV screen makes us want to do the same but whatever the reason, it’s great to cycle as it is fun, a brilliant way to explore and really good for you. No wonder people want to cycle whilst on holiday.

Best part of cycling whilst on holiday in France

  • Rekindle your love of cycling at your own pace
  • A leisurely way to explore the region
  • Many quiet country roads to cycle along through unspoilt countryside
  • Lots of sunny days – it’s much nicer to cycle when it isn’t raining
  • Great way to burn off all the lovely French food and wine

Bike hire brought to your door

Of course if you are an avid cyclist, then perhaps you would want to bring your own bicycle but sometimes it isn’t possible or just not worth the hassle. Don’t worry as you are visiting a country which takes cycling very seriously. One such place near our Bijou Barn holiday rental, is Velo Plus who offer bike hire and also bike maintenance. They are experienced cyclists, offering a wealth of information to make your cycling experience in south west France the most fun.

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Why choose Velo Plus for your holiday bike hire?

  • Their knowledge and experience of cycling is vast
  • Excellent standard of bikes to choose from
  • Well maintained equipment by a qualified mechanic
  • They offer great advice about cycle routes dependant on your experience
  • They can deliver the bikes to Bijou Barn
  • Option to hire for the day (8.00am – 6.00pm)

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Our ideas for days out on bikes in the region

Sometimes it’s just nice to set off on your bike and see where you end up, but if you only have one day then a bit of planning will mean that you get the most out of the day and your bike. Here are a few ideas of what can be done.

  • Visit a vineyard for wine tasting
  • Cycle along the riverside paths
  • Ride to a restaurant for lunch and pottery painting
  • Cycle to a mini lake with its own beach and restaurant

There is something very therapeutic about cycling. The motion, the ability to travel quite long distances at a pace where all the special details of the area can be viewed, not to mention the feeling of satisfaction and achievement when it’s all over.

If you take anything back from your holiday in France,
make sure it is the love of cycling.

If you are staying at Bijou Barn and would like to arrange bike hire then please contact us.

Images: Craven District Council and Velo Plus