Remi did it again.
When he announced that he was going to find the perfect rental for a getaway--this on the morning of our departure for Bastille Day weekend--I admit that I was skeptical. And so I started searching on my own, desperately pouring over the many files that I have put aside for just such occasions but everything and I mean everything was booked. Of course, Remi found something even better than what we could have imagined within the hour.
Peace and quiet (the main reason for our escape was to secure sensitive Ben away from Arles' ornate fireworks display)? Check. Deep natural beauty? Check in all capital letters. Space, comfort and style? Checkity check check. Welcome to the safari tent of La Cartayrade. It is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Haut-Dourdou forest (I love that name, don't you?) and adjoins the sweeping vistas of the Grands Causses Regional Park, smack on the border between the Hérault and Averyon Regions.
But just because the tent is literally off the map doesn't mean that it can't be fabulous now, does it? Hendrik and Dorine Brakel have put the same amount of attention in preparing this space as they have for their two small stone gîtes, that are located next to their 17th century farmhouse on a hillside above. We felt every bit as welcomed as we have in any luxury tent in Africa!
Light pours through the tent with a comforting glow. Antique and modern pieces make for a quirky mix in the decor, just as we like. The books, alas are in Dutch as the couple are from the Netherlands although they are both fluent in English as well and truly lovely. We spoke with them both at length and I found their pioneer spirit very inspiring.
The bed was supremely snooze-worthy but city folks be warned! The birds in the forests start chirping early! I had to giggle at my "What is that?" reaction the first morning upon being pulled from my slumber but oh what a fine symphony they compose. I could and did listen to it for hours.
And yes, for those of you that have little ones...
...No Ben and Kipling were NOT allowed on the bunk beds.
The facilities are in a small building just beyond the porch, all the better to get a last glimpse at the stars at night. Hendrik explained that he purposefully kept the bark on the planks to give it character...
...A charming touch that was repeated on a shelf in the fully stocked kitchen...
...one we barely put to use as we had only one thing on our minds...
...BBQ! We brought our own gas unit as anything with a smokey flame is forbidden in this forest region. We spied helicopters passing overhead from time to time, surveying that all was well.
It was. Most certainly when I was curled up in this 1920s style beach chair reading the absolutely phenomenal book "Flight Behavior" or watching the plethora of butterflies. I have never seen so many in one place in my life.
Steps tumble down the hill to a shady clearing crossed by a stream. It was unfortunately dry during our visit but Hendrick says that it is clean enough to drink by the handful. The view from the porch opens up on to a chapel (more about that soon)...
Well, let's just say that our eyes found the same peace that we held in our hearts.
Gites de Cartayrade
Hendrik & Dorine Brakel
34260, Avène, France
Tel.: (33) 4 67 97 01 09
Cell: (33) 6 85 36 20 74
Rates (including tax and bedding but not towel supply):
450 Euros per week in July and August
375 Euros per week in June, September and October
Special rate: 299 Euros per week in September
Contact them directly for availability and pricing on stays of less than a week.
There are excellent driving directions on the website.
This is truly an exceptional, hidden and unknown spot, perfect for anyone who loves nature. I can imagine my writer friends coming to the safari tent on retreat as well. But there are things to do and see in the area and I will follow up this post with more of our adventures during our wonderful time in this far-off corner of the Haut-Languedoc.