There is a certain romance associated with the southwestern pocket of France. It’s unspoilt by tourists, the small town charm remains and the world of instagram has yet to promote every pink house and market stall. Well, that was of course until we arrived, as guests of La Fraissinede, a beautifully restored house in the heart of this beautiful countryside. I’m not sure the locals knew what hit them as a team of four photographers jumped in and out of cars to capture blue shutters, rolling hills and leafy tree lined roads. While we explored every inch of this countryside in the mornings and afternoons, the house was the real star of the show on this trip and with good reason.
La Fraissinede is a home that sits on 120 acres of land, consists of six double bedrooms, countless sitting rooms, the most well laid out and spacious kitchen you’ve ever laid eyes on, a tennis court, a pool, a vegetable garden, and a two bedroom external apartment. I do believe the only problem in staying at La Fraissinede will be your reluctance to leave. I found myself making excuses to rebook from our first walk through. You can bet your bottom dollar the first question out of my mouth was the possibility of holding a wedding on the grounds. Yes, if matrimony is in my future, this house is now a very strong contender on the destination wedding list. I digress. Sorry, just imagining the tennis court as a dance floor and the pool area as a cocktail bar.
Of course the most charming quality of La Fraissinede is it’s ability to be everything to everyone. This is a house that, from the outside, fits perfectly into the landscape of the area. It looks as it should with beautiful restoration and loving care paid to every detail, from the colouring of the brickwork to the mixing and matching of landscaping surrounding the property. One pulls up to the house and feels as if they are entering a land of old. Walking through the front door, however, reveals a different story. The designer of the property has lovingly created a contemporary space with an old world soul. The house itself is spacious, open and airy – a blessing in the heat of this region during the warmer months. The decorations are complimentary of the architectural design, but also reflect the most important idea in any home, in my opinion, in making a space feel relatable. While the decor looks expensive and very much something you would expect to see featured in a homes and gardens magazine (it has been in many, in fact), it is also a space that doesn’t feel too precious to mix within. The oversized couches are inviting, the fireplaces beg for attention and the kitchen space feels worthy of a chef yet approachable enough to retrieve a Coke with ice, as if it were your own kitchen at home. In short, this is the dream home for a getaway with 13 of your closest friends.
Now, before you go thinking that all we did for three days was paddle around in the pool, rose in hand, let me assure you we did much more. Although, I could have easily done just that for three days solid. La Fraissinede sits in the perfect location for daytripping. First of all, you’re only twenty minutes from the airport (Ryanair flies straight from London to the local airport Carcassonne). If you are coming with kids, this can be a godsend. Honestly, a long drive at the end of an airport experience is the last thing anyone wants, no matter your age. But, it’s also a short drive to the local market in Narbonne, where you can stock up on everything you might need for the week. Or you can just leave that to your chef in house and visit the market for the experience, and some killer photographs.
On our first day in residence, Narbonne was our morning activity. We accompanied our team to the market and wondered around the town as local produce was collected to make our evening meal. It doesn’t get much more fresh than that and it all seemed rather luxurious, but also so incredibly inclusive. We worked up quite the appetite exploring, so decided to head to the seaside for a little r&r with sun and Sancerre. Again, this is all just a hop, skip and a jump from the house.
The beach was fabulously unspoilt with only half a dozen people scattered around. We had the run of the place – a great luxury for sandy beaches on any part of the globe these days. After a seafood lunch, a few glasses of wine, a lay in the sun and a stroll to explore, we piled back into the car and headed home. We were greeted with a elegantly set table outside and food in preparation. A quick dip in the pool with friends before preparing for dinner was most definitely in order. We then met on the patio where we enjoyed a three course meal served under the stars with the smell of fresh lavender filling our noses with every change in the wind. It was blissful. This is the true meaning of vacation. This is the relaxation we all dream of achieving when on holiday. We hadn’t a care in the world, just a sadness that this wasn’t everyday reality.
Day two was once again a day filled with a dedication to exploring the area, but it didn’t officially begin without freshly brewed coffee and warm chocolate croissants on the veranda. I shall forever remember that croissant as a life goals game changer.
Our last day was cut short by a flight that was leaving too early, but allowed for a few hours of exploration in the town of Carcassonne. Keeping in mind that most people rent La Fraissinede for an entire week, where we were attempting to fit in all the possible activities in just three days. Although we packed a huge amount of sightseeing, for the purposes of this article, into a small span of time, we never once felt rushed or anxious as a result. This is the magic, I suppose, of La Fraissinede. You forget to feel stressed. You forget to feel anything other than absolute pleasure and contentment in life. When was the last time you had that? It’s been a while for me.
Our last moments in the house were spent saying goodbye to new friends and spaces we all will hope to return to. Maybe an FFG wedding? Who knows. But for now, I’ll say I can’t recommend this getaway highly enough. It is the perfect retreat for family and friends, or even work related getaways. There are places a plenty for all sorts of activities, from courtyard BBQs to pool float parades. For me, it was alway the pool that had my attention. Any chance to jump in, or float with a glass of something in hand and I was a woman transformed!