‘We worked on the house in England. We’ve slaved on the house in France. Enough! We’re going to have a break’. This was me, stamping my foot, and determined to get my own way, last weekend. And eventually, Malcolm gave in, reluctantly put down his saw, his chisel, his boxes of screws, and we settled on Montauban, a city often overlooked in favour of Toulouse.
It was an inspired choice. Getting there took most of the day, because we meandered along miles of country roads, bright with the sharp fresh greens of newly sprouting crops and creamy apple, cherry, almond and hawthorn blossom.
After lunch, we were in wine-growing country – Gaillac – and it was then that we started to hit a succession of picture-postcard-pretty villages: three of them in fact qualify for the title ‘Un des plus beaux villages de France’: Castelnau de Montmiral, Puycelsi, Bruniquel. We enjoyed mooching round all of them. Each was different, but they all had charming mediaeval buildings and alleyways, pots of flowers and shrubs at doorways and windows, and lovely views over rather Shropshire-ish countryside.
Not for one second did we hanker after living there. No community notices about Loto evenings, vide greniers, concerts in the church. No people, actually. In fact many of the houses were shut up (second homes?), and none of them looked as if they belonged to horny-handed-sons-of-toil. Commercial activity, where it existed, belonged to the artisan potters, jewellery and textile makers. But I’m glad they were there for us to while away an afternoon exploring.
The day ended well, too. Le Mas des Anges, about 5 miles from Montauban, turned out to be a big part of the inspired choice. It’s where, after our first night there, we decided to stay another.
Juan and Sophie, our hosts, absorbed us, apparently effortlessly, into their enthusiasm for their life there. ‘Passionate about…’ is a slightly hackneyed phrase these days, but Juan IS passionate about the wine he produces, and we had a great time looking at his equipment and cellars, before settling down to taste what he had to offer. Sophie has a great talent for making the guest accommodation charming and welcoming, and the breakfasts….yum!