Summer in Limoux, new discoveries and new friends

One of the wonderful outcomes of moving to a new country is discovering unexpected, beautiful areas and making new friends.  August has brought me both of these joys. La Maison Blanche B&B has been a very busy place this Summer, and I have made loads of new friends with my guests arriving from all over Europe. I have been so lucky that the people I have had staying with me have been interesting, kind and respectful of other guests and cultures.  We have enjoyed late suppers in the garden, under twinkly fairy lights and with music playing (I have yet to entice a musician here…. but I will!), endless talking about their worlds, families, friends and, very often, concerns. In a media driven world, where the Press seems intent on making everyone be scared of “strangers”, I can assure you, that in my experience, we are generally all the same, and kindness and laughter is an international language.

One of our evenings was spent in Limoux’s Fete de Fricassee! A fabulous evening celebrating this French Dish of stewed meat and white beans. The main road was closed to cars, and long trestle tables set up along side a stage.  There were 13 of us English amongst a couple of hundred local French people, and we had a blast.  The food was served by locals, a delicious Chicken Liver Salad, the famous Fricassee, a pudding, coffee and nougat, and local red wine by the jugful.  All for 20 Euros!  A singer accompanied us whilst we ate, and then a band played and we danced!  Their stage was fashioned from a caravan…. It was like a transformer, the sides and front collapsed to make a performance area! What a cool idea and design. More dancing on the way home, as we espied a local bar still open…. with its own smoke machine and DJ. Quel chance pour nous!  It was a truly memorable, warm, balmy, fun evening.

Fricassee group 2 Fricasee group 3

The Lake at Puivert has been another discovery for me.  About a 40 minute drive into the Pyrenees, and just outside the small village of Puivert is the most beautiful Lake.  It has a beach area, roped off swimming section and a wonderful lakeside café serving fresh salads and cold beers. The view of the surrounding mountains is stunning.  You must add it to your wishlist of places to visit when you come.

Puivert Lac 2 Puivert Lac

Wine Tasting Tour at Domaine Gayda

A couple of my guests requested I found them a local wine tasting venue and a decent place for lunch, my quest found us at Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles. This is an organic vineyard, South West of Carcassonne and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Our tour guide, Veronica, is a Mexican who has studied to be Sommelier and now is working at the Domaine.  She gave us such a wonderful welcome, and is extremely knowledgeable about wine making, grapes, and food pairing with wine.  I have been twice now and I feel I am just scratching the surface of an industry that is endlessly fascinating and could take a life time to learn.

Domaine Gayda is set in beautiful vineyards growing a variety of grapes, including Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and of course, Chardonnay.  The Chardonnay in South West France is delicious and nothing like the New World Oaky wines that have gone a little out of fashion, usurped by Sauvignon Blanc. The Viognier at the Domaine is wonderful too.

After the tour, we had an opportunity to taste the wines. Veronica, generously, let us try all the wines and talked us through each one. You can buy the wines, but there is no pressure if you don’t want to (but why wouldn’t you!).  My main thought throughout the tour and tasting, was the amount of skill, care, knowledge and investment that goes into wine producing and we are charged around 7 euros a bottle! if the price was commensurate with the process, we would be paying 100 euros!

And then onto lunch! Domaine Gayda has a fabulous restaurant with the most wonderful views of their vineyards. Both the food and service are impeccable. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And of course, they serve their wonderful wines and are happy to suggest which wine to accompany each course. After lunch, coffee can be taken on the Terrace, and I promise you, you will never want to leave!

Wonderful place, wonderful people and wonderful wine.

DG Oak Barrels Domaine Gayda FD Domaine Gayda Tasting Bar Domaine Gayda Gayda View 3 Gayda View

Crack open the Blanquette! We’re 1!

Happy 1st Anniversary to La Maison Blanche B&B


It’s nearly the end of April and that means I have been here a year, and La Maison Blanche B&B is having its first anniversary. And what a fabulous year it has been.  Thank you.

I’d like to say thank you so much to all my wonderful clients (who now are friends) for making the first year memorable, exciting and sometimes a bit of a challenge! How privileged I am to be able to follow my dream, with the support of my family and friends, and for that dream to be better than any planning or imaginings.

Getting to know Limoux and the people here has also been wonderful.  This is a great town, very well situated for access to Carcassonne (and the airport) and for trips to Perpignan, Narbonne and even Spain. I had little idea the Pyrenees were so close, and my drives into the mountains have been breath taking (not because of my driving… I hasten to add). I have been welcomed by the people here, without exception, and they even permit me to dance (sometimes using behind the bar as my stage.. ) change the music (unrequested… obviously) in our local Stef’s Bar with the locals looking on in awe…. or horror….

An added bonus has been the Langue-doc Wines.  I had no idea I would be moving to one of the more popular wine growing areas of France.  I love learning about wine, the different grape varieties and how to taste wine properly.  After completing a couple of wine courses, I realise I am just at the tip of the iceberg but I will continue with my learning and occasional sampling…  The Blanquette, a white Sparkling Wine, pre-dates Champagne and the producers are one of the major employers in this region.  The wine growers take their social responsibility seriously, and there was an event last month called Tocques & Clochers, where the main Wine producers create a festival to raise money for the chosen village church tower, for restoration purposes.  The day was just fabulous, fantastic bands from as far away as Argentina, great local food and of course, the wine. Every year a different local village is chosen and this year it was Limoux. I will keep you posted with the date for next year, because I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It was great fun and the atmosphere was electric.  There was even a Ukulele band playing The Clash’s London Calling….

Businesses always need to change to grow, and one of the changes has been to welcome “well behaved chaps” to stay.  This was not part of my original plan, and when I have women here who need peace, quiet and a little tlc, then I don’t mix it up.  But the guys that have stayed, with their partners (or bikes) have been wonderful too.

So merci beaucoup a tous!  I so am looking forward to the coming year and I hope you can either visit again, recommend me or visit for the first time.

Lots of love

Jules xx

p.s I am now on Trip Advisor, so if you feel like leaving a review, that would be lovely.

Cycling in the Pyrénées and MAMILs…..

Cycling holidays

So it’s March and Spring is about to be sprung…. and our thoughts turn to holidays.

As well as welcoming women who want to rest and recuperate, women cyclists (and well behaved MAMILs…) will have a warm welcome at La Maison Blanche B&B.  We are ideally set up here to host cyclists. Limoux is situated in the foothills of the Pyrénées and offers access to superb, stunning cycling routes, some used by the Tour de France in the past.  Our facilities also offer a variety of accommodation, a secure courtyard to keep bikes, washing and drying facilities and substantial, protein & carb packed food is offered too. And la piece de resistance…… a deep bath!

I had Russian cyclists stay last year for a week, and they regularly biked 100km in a day, coming back exhausted, happy, hungry and stinky!  They were able to bathe/shower, wash their lycra while I cooked huge dinners.  My Russian is limited (aka .. zero) and their English was limited too, but we really had a great time, they loved the cycling terrain, the food, and they enjoyed their stay with me, we had lots of laughs whilst navigating our language differences. They cycled from Milan… now I am sure you can get here more easily than that, but I can help you with your plans.

I look forward to seeing you here with your Vélos and Lycra!

Jules xxx


February and a book recommendation and a gift!


Welcome to February everyone, sitting here in the South of France and there is snow in the garden…. Who knew! One more month to get through and it will be March and nearly Spring. Phew.  But until then, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine, called Kate.

Kate A. Hardy is a writer, artist and ex-Londoner now living in Southern France (Limoux) with her musician husband, their son and numerous animals.

At various times Kate has been a bookshop assistant, DJ, estate agent, blurb writer, Mars Bar factory worker, cleaner, gardener, sous-chef, barmaid, waitress, architectural impressions maker, chip shop worker, and photographic stylist. The latter requires a sub category of just about anything imaginable: detective, taxi driver, model maker, inventor, bull-shitter, diplomat, location finder, robber, school teacher, dog trainer and actor.

Kate’s childrens’ book: Alfi Beasti, Don’t eat that! was published by Puffin books in 2004 and lurks in a corner of Amazon with some nice reviews.

Kate has just completed a trilogy of novels: Going out in the Midday Sun and The Mad Dog Café – available on Amazon UK, and is currently working on Hoxton, a novel set in London in 2090, and an anthology of short stories: Selection box.

I have read all three books in the trilogy and Hoxton too, and I absolutely love Kate’s writing.  The books are full of characters you empathise with, locations you want to visit and pages you just have to turn. February, for me, is still a time for hibernation and planning for the coming Spring and Summer months.  Please take a look on Amazon to download on to your Kindle, as it’s only £2.99.  The books are priced at a usual price of £8.99 so the Kindle version is an absolute bargain and cheaper and more fun than a glass of wine… honest!

And…. If you book a break in February, for this month or later in the year, I am offering a complimentary dinner for 2 people.  February and March are Carnival time in Limoux, so you will still get chance to see this weird and wonderful display. Don’t you just love travel?  The chance to see new customs is fantastic.  I hope you can make it!

Lots of love, Jules x



New Year, discover places & rediscover you?

Belated Happy New Year to all my wonderful guests and future guests!

So the New Year has come and gone… and how many resolutions are still in place? I know I am struggling already.  The weather here is fabulous, 14 or 15 degrees and we are sitting out in the sunshine during the day already.  How can anyone refuse a cold, crisp glass of Blanquette de Limoux? This wonderful local bubbly is served in little “Champagne-style” glasses and is light and delicious.  I’ve seen people have one with morning coffee, and then off to work they go with a spring in their step!

France is truly a wonderful country and the way of life is so different from the way us English experience it.  Shops and businesses open at 9am (unless it’s the Patisserie/Boulangerie.. where the bread is obviously necessaire for breakfast) and they close for lunch between 12 and 2.30.  And everything shuts, people go home or eat in the many restaurants and really enjoy being with each other and eat wonderful food.  The shops open again for the afternoon, but not late into the evening.  Quality of life is so important here, and mad dashing around for business seems completely barmy once you get into the swing of the French way of life.  I feel so calm, happy and chilled out living here, and I know its not a new idea but it is true.  The way of life makes you slow down, you have no choice.  When I first came to Limoux, I was planning like mad, rushing around like a mad girl and had all my jobs done by 9am!  but to what end?  Now I am happy to plan my day around the sacrosanct timetable of the day, and not be surprised with what the day throws at me.

I hope you can plan a visit to Limoux this year; time away from your routine will give you some breathing space, reading space and time to remember who you are. And I haven’t even mentioned the sunshine. Sitting with the sun on your face is life affirming and restorative.  I hope you feel it this year xxx

The Lowdown from Limoux

Music Festivals abound!

So, September is nearly with us and a new season for me in my French adventure.  It seems that every other day there is live music to listen to, here in Limoux.  The local Mairie arranges music Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays, and on the days in between, the restaurants and bars arrange their own too.  The type of music varies wildly, but can always guarantee to put a smile on your face and get your foot tapping!  And you can be assured of conversations starting up with your neighbours in the bars with regards to the quality….. and dancing is positively encouraged.  We’ve had great nights this summer.  From 5th September to 12th there are concerts everyday in Limoux, varying locations but all within walking distance from La Maison Blanche.

Autumn and Winter in Limoux

As the traditional holiday season comes to a close around Europe, it seems Limoux is very keen for guests to still be entertained.  Here is the local website with details of “animations” (things to do)  but the festivals continue. In addition to the musical events, there is a Fois Gras festival, and the whole of December is devoted to Christmas markets, there has been an ice rink installed in the Place in former years.  I’ll keep you posted on that one! The weather promises to be lovely in October through to November, and the winter months clear, bright and cold.

And the final word has to be about the vineyards.  I have had fabulous lunches here :  The food is wonderful and the wine is truly sublime.  I would like to say that I am helping the local vineyards with the Vendanges…. (grape harvesting) but that would be a big pants lie….. I think my strengths lie with the end product…

A tout a l’heure mes amis xx

Escape the Smug Marrieds for New Year

I’m half way through the Season and oh my, what amazing women I am meeting.  Interesting and capable, clever and witty, but all seem to dread New Year’s Eve.

So what could be better than escaping the tedium of dreary parties with warm wine, or truly trying telly made for idiots? Come to the South of France for New Year, girls.  I have looked at flights from Stansted and at the moment they are about £99 each way (way cheaper than a NY dinner in London where I recently spent £86 on 2 lots of fish & chips and mediocre wine in a pub!) I am going to offer a New Year break for £345 for a week (or £300 if you want to share with a chum), half board and on New Year’s Eve, we can don our glad rags, lippy and sparkles and head to La Place for dinner and fireworks.  I am so looking forward to starting the New Year on a positive note with some brilliant singing… obvs…

I will investigate flights from other airports and keep you posted.  I really hope you can join me!

The woman who follows the crowd…..

The Woman who follows the crowd

Can you believe it’s July already? Limoux is a Ville Fleurie which means (obvs..) it is looking very floral! The town is a really beautiful area to be and live in. And all my guests have concurred with this.

I have had amazing guests this year, it is such a pleasure to meet new women, settle them in and see them relax after just a few days. We’ve had such wonderful conversations and shared amazing stories. It is such a privilege for me to be part of their lives for a short time, although all my guests have become such friends I hope to be in the lives for time to come.

For many women, travelling for the first time alone or even with a friend, is a big decision. But once the decision is made, we throw ourselves into the planning with vigour. Where am I going to? What is there? and what am I going to wear?…. And I assure you, once you have travelled solo, you’ll be doing it again. The chance to step outside your normal routine, and have some valuable time to yourself is addictive. And it doesn’t mean you are running away from your family or commitments, it is just a chance to recharge and return back rejuvenated… and quite possibly already planning your next trip!

THFKW is a happy, chilled and safe place to visit. And (according to my neighbours..) full of giggles. Come and visit soon.

Albert Einstein said “The woman that follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before” Are you that woman?

Solo womens’ travels

Don’t you think travelling by yourself is the most amazing adventure? I took myself off to Axat this week. It is about 40 minutes from Limoux, but felt like stepping back in time. The journey takes you on roads cut through the Pyrenees and along the fast flowing river Aude. The road winds around the mountains, and the air seems to get more and more clear. By this time, I am feeling a little peckish, and found a lovely little restaurant full of French people. The restaurant has a “conservatory” area which reaches out over the river. The food is fresh and delicious, I had a fab salad with local goats cheese and cured ham, a little bit like parma ham and the dressing was made with local, honey. I finished with a coffee and the whole meal was less than 12 euros.

The village is small & so pretty, and the river is so fast running it is used by kayakers. I saw three kayaks go past, and it seemed to me they were travelling at 100 miles an hour! The shrieks of laughter coming from the rafts was so infectious, I NEARLY wanted to join in… nearly….

Walking around such a wonderful and historic place that is so full of the Cathar history is awe inspiring, and makes my quest for knowledge even more strong. How is it that the older you get, the less you realise you know and the more one needs to find out! I am going to study the Cathar history, and keep you updated. I am only just scratching the surface of such an ancient religion but the more I read, the more I want to learn about the Cathars and the Roman Catholic Church’s destruction of a people.Axat