Your own petit hamlet in the Dordogne
A grand manoir and three cottages – rent one, two or more; perfect for families or larger groups of friends holidaying together. Bonne vacance!
Holidays with other families or groups of friends can be the best fun but where to stay with space to be together as well as space to be apart? Think I’ve found the solution: a grand manoir and three cottages (and pools, natch) on the banks of the Dordogne. Not so much a cluster of houses, as your own small hamlet – and with a connection to international megastar of the 20s and 30s, Josephine Baker.
In the heart of the green rolling hills and vineyards of the Périgord region – or as it’s better known to we Brits, the Dordogne, named after the river that runs through it – in south west France. Just take a look out of this window. I think green is the word.
The houses, which are owned by Somerset couple Sarah and Chris, form part of a tiny hamlet overlooked by Le Chateau Milandes, where Josephine Baker lived with her Rainbow Tribe of 12 adopted kids. Josephine was born into poverty in the US but became an overnight sensation when she appeared topless and wearing a skirt of bananas in an all-black American musical review in Paris in 1925 – and a symbol for the jazz age. She later became a member of the French resistance and American civil rights activist. The courtyard at Les Milandes was the original village square where her husband Jo Bouillon had his restaurant.
You’re a baguette away from the village of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle on the banks of the Dordogne, which has its own little beach, brasserie, bakery, butchers, supermarché and a canoe-hire place (you’re not going to be able to resist those sparkling waters for long).
Where to hang your chapeau
Hmmmm, decision, decisions. You’ve a choice of four separate houses, which can be rented out individually or together, so ideal if you’re a larger group or two or more families. Anyone want to join me in the gorgeous Le Manoir? There’s plenty of room – the luxury six-bedroom manor house sleeps ten. Inside it’s all ancient stone walls, painted panelling, impressive fireplaces, tiled floors and typical French furniture.
Outside, there’s a games room, private swimming pool, terraces and gardens – oh, and there’s that view again.
Need somewhere a little smaller? Then check out the three-bed L’Ancienne Mairie. Originally the hamlet’s town hall, the stone cottage sleeps six, with fireplaces, rugs on wooden and terracotta tiled floors. Take a dip in your own private pool or sun yourself on the terrace. Two families together would be perfectly happy in the Maison de Gardien and L’Arc en Ciel, a former gatekeeper’s cottage and a gite respectively, each with two bedrooms sleeping four and their own privates terraces and a shared swimming pool.
Things to do
If you can drag yourselves away from the pool, you’re a short stroll away from Josephine’s pad, Le Chateau des Milandes, which dates back to mediaeval times, has beautiful gardens and an exhibition about the star. Or head down to the Dordogne river to mess about in a canoe or a kayak or just go for a swim.
You can explore the area by bike but you’ll need some stamina, I mean, look at those hills. Check out the world’s best prehistoric art in the famous Lascaux Caves, exact copy Lascaux II and Les Eyzies. Festivals of food, theatre and music galore. Lots of pretty villages and small towns along the river, including the towering rock face villages of Roque Gageac (one of France’s ‘plus belles villages’) and Beynac – and there are pretty much chateaux around every bend in the river.
And of course, there’s all that wine. You’re not far from Bordeaux but the area has 13 appellations of its own, including Bergerac and the so delicious I’ll have another glass please dessert wine Monbazillac. The food, especially the duck and goose, is sensational in the restaurants and the markets…freshly snuffled truffle anyone?
How to get there
Very conveniently for Somerset dwellers, you can fly from Exeter and, during the summer months, from Bristol to the tiny Bergerac airport, which is only about an hour’s drive from Les Milandes. You can also fly to Bergerac from Southampton. There are also flights from Bristol to Bordeaux and Toulouse, both of which are about two hours away from Les Milandes.
You can find out more and book here.