|La Dame Blanche||Self Catering||Saturday||4||8||3|
Situated in the valley of the upper reaches of the River Dropt lies 'La Dame Blanche'. Equidistant between the Dordogne and Lot rivers, amongst sweeping fields and woods and a few minutes drive from the stunning medieval Bastide town of Monpazier. A traditional, honey coloured stone farmhouse of old beams and cool stone floors with views over the surrounding fields and woods. A haven for family, friends, short getaways and summer retreats with plenty to occupy even the most curious of sightseers.
The indoor heated pool, which is accessed from the garden as well as via the house, means fun in the pool can be enjoyed whatever the weather.
The rental rates displayed are for the rental of both the main house and the cottage together, for a total of up to 8 guests.
The main house sleeps 4 and is all on one floor, although there are a few steps between some levels. The annex cottage in the garden offers sleeping for a further 4.
The main house can be rented on its own for up to 4 people. Please enquire for the discounted rates.
The large, well appointed kitchen is accessed through the sitting room with fridge freezer, dishwasher, gas hob, extract fan, oven and microwave grill. As this has been our home there is everything a chef requires including food processor, weighing scales and all manner of cooking utensils.
There is a large old walnut table capable of entertaining 8 or even 10 at a squeeze but normally just 6 chairs are around it (although there are two more in the laundry room if needed).
The front door opens into a spacious, comfortable sitting room with a wood burning stove. There is a large sofa with three further arm chairs plus a desk for working at a computer.
Other furniture includes a cupboard with books about the area, a collection of english language DVDs and various board games, puzzles and toys in the bottom cupboard for all to use. There is a tv-British Freeview and French - plus a dvd player. There is also a cd player.
The large, elegant Master bedroom is off the sitting room with french windows onto the garden. It has is a king-size bed, a hanging cupboard and chest of drawers. There is an en suite loo and basin.
From the Master bedroom a door leads into the second bedroom with its two single beds and large, antique mahogany Press with plenty of room for clothing. There are also a couple of blankets for putting round your shoulders when you want to sit outside and look at the stars.
Next to the bathroom there is also a large hanging cupboard and more shelving with spare bedding and towels.
In the Annex Cottage there is a cosy double room downstairs with an en suite shower room. Upstairs, and accessed through the downstairs bedroom, there is a studio-type room with two single beds. There are chests of drawers in both rooms as well as hanging space.
The master bedroom has an en suite loo and basin.
Off the second bedroom is the family bathroom with two basins, bath with shower and bidet. There is also a separate loo accessed from the second bedroom.
The annex cottage has a shower room, including loo, accessed from the double bedroom.
Radiators throughout the main house as well as a powerful wood burning stove in the sitting room ensure the house is warm and snug in the colder months.
The annex cottage is heated by electric wall heaters plus a heated towel rail in the shower room.
We have wi-fi, there is a tv, with British Freeview and French satellite tv, plus a dvd player. There is also a cd player.
We have books about the area, a collection of english language dvds and various board games and puzzles. There are some toys for young children and some games to play in the garden.
The indoor heated pool means entertainment whatever the weather.
The property sits in a large, secure garden with grass and mature trees. There are several loungers and comfortable seating in the garden as well as space for games. The indoor pool can be accessed from the garden.
Under the porch of the house is our favourite place to eat outdoors or sit with a cup of tea or something more bubbly.
The outbuildings in the garden comprise the pump room, as previously mentioned, in which you will find the barbecue, bicycles, some outdoor games and pool toys.
Next door is the laundry room in which there is the washing machine and tumble dryer. There is a hanging dryer for which there is a hole in the lawnThere is also a clothes rack, ironing board and iron, vacuum cleaner, spare chairs, cushions for the garden armchairs, child's car seat, child's booster chair and tray for eating at the and three very large pink cushions for the garden!
The property is accessed through gates to a short drive into a garage enabling off road parking for several cars. Gates ensure complete security.
La Dame Blanche lends itself to a variety of guests - it is suitable for families with young children; for two separate families; for mixed ages so the annex cottage can be used for grandparents or older children sleeping separately to the rest of the family in the main house.
Children love the pool and the secure garden makes it particularly suitable for families but the huge variety of places to visit in the area make it a great base for everyone wishing to explore.
Off the kitchen is the door to the pool room. This has an insulated tiled room with glass windows all around. The pool has an alarm which must be kept activated if children are in the room without an adult. The doors must also be kept shut when the pool room is unoccupied to prevent children wandering in unattended.
There is a table and chairs so meals can be had by the pool or an evening drink after a hard days lounging (no glass though please). Two comfortable reclining loungers and just right for relaxing in whilst others play. There is also a heated shower.
A variety of pool toys and lilo are kept in the pump room in the garden where all the machinery for the pool is along with the barbecue and a couple of bikes visitors are welcome to use at their own risk.
Ian and I are currently renovating our home near Oxford, when not working, and love getting away to enjoy the beautiful countryside around La Dame Blanche for a complete change of pace.
|Year property purchased||2014|
|Why this location?||La Dame Blanche has been our home from home for over 8 years, first renting and then lucky enough to buy, which we have loved sharing with friends and family. After years of international travel, for business and pleasure, we found our perfect place to relax and enjoy everything the Dordogne has to offer. Even after all the years we have been coming here we still have so much to explore and discover. It's not just the beauty of the area but the friendliness of the locals that has made us feel very happy here.|
|Unique benefits of property||We love the indoor pool which offers children entertainment on the odd rainy day as well as pool parties that can go on into the cooler nights. The glass sliding door enables unimpeeded movement from sunbathing in the garden into the sunny pool room. It's also a great place to sit and chill with its view of the field and woods beyond.
La Dame Blanche is an old property, renovated from a ruin 30 or so years ago. It has warm, honey coloured, stone walls that keep the house cool in summer. The huge, gnarled, wooden beams over the pool are particularly impressive. We love mixing old and new together hence the mixture of old property (and some old furniture although I hesitate to call them antiques) and modern features and comforts.
Just 5km away from La Dame Blanche is the beautiful town of Monpazier. Founded in 1284 by Edward 1 of England, its medieval centre is preserved almost completely intact, and it is quite possibly the best of all the bastide towns to visit and recapture life 600 years ago. The arcades around the edge of the square are still present, as is the market hall (complete with weighing and measuring apparatus!). Monpazier is listed as 'one of the most beautiful villages in France'.
Monpazier was once entirely surrounded by thick defensive walls with six large stone gateways through the walls. Of these you can still see two; one in the north of the town and one in the south.
Like all bastides the village within the walls is laid out on a grid pattern with straight roads criss-crossing throughout the town. These bastides were built with a very forward-thinking social plan of equality and each house is built on an equal size parcel of land. The houses all have different styles though which makes the resulting village very interesting but very harmonious too.
Walking round Monpazier you can see three distinct types of architecture; medieval houses, classical style houses and bourgeoise houses. The diversity has allowed Monpazier to be classified as a ville-monument (town monument) rather just for each house to be classified monuments.
At the centre of Monpazier is its gorgeous main square. At one end is the wooden halle and surrounding the square are 23 beautiful stone houses, each built with its open arcaded base making commerce possible whatever the weather.
3km from La Dame Blanche is the imposing Chateau de Biron. It dates back to the 12th century and commands great views over the surrounding countryside.
The Chateau de Biron has been in the Gontaut-Biron family from the 13th to the 20th century. They were one of the four baronies of the Perigord along with Beynac, Bourdeilles and Mareuil. Over the years it endured various conflicts and damage but in the 15th century two Gontaut-Biron brothers restored and enlarged the castle in Italian Renaissance style mixed with a late flamboyant gothic style. Staircases and windows were added to the medieval towers. Building on the chapel began at the very end of the 15th century but work was slow and the chapel and apartments remained unfinished when the Wars of Religion broke out.
Towards the end of the 16th century Charles de Gontaut plotted against King Henri IV and was beheaded in 1602. The Gontaut-Biron family were relegated from dukedom to barony and the chateau was empty until the 18th century when the family regained favour and completed the works on the castle.
The French revolution changed the family fortunes again as the Duke of Biron was beheaded. The direct Gontaut-Biron line finished and the castle passed to a different branch of the family.
In the 1920s the Marquis of Biron squandered much of the family fortunes on casinos and racecourses. Furniture was sold along with statues from the chapel, followed by various parts of the estate and finally in 1938 the castle itself. Two pieces of religious work from the castle of Biron can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The chateau de Biron was then privately owned until it was bought by the Dordogne department in 1978 and it has been undergoing renovations ever since.
The village of Biron, surrounding the base of the chateau, is small but charming with a few shops and an auberge where you can stop for meals or drinks.
21km from La Dame Blanche is the tiny village of Saint Avit Senieur. It is home to an abbey dedicated to Saint Avit who was a hermit who died in 570. Avitus, as he was then called, was resting in the forest by a pagan temple. Avitus, a christian said a prayer and made the sign of the cross and apparently the temple collapsed. Avitus stayed in the area, became a hermit and dedicated the rest of his life to prayer and healing.
Much of the abbey is now in ruins but there remains a large (very large considering the size of the village!) 11th century church, the presbytere and the monks dormitory. The presbytere is home to an exhibition of art work.
The interior of the church contains a number of frescoes and you can also see remains of the patterns painted on the walls that originally covered the whole of the interior.
Saint Avit Senieur was an important religious centre because of its position on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela from Vezelay and because of the fame of Saint Avit. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.
The village itself is a very attractive one and merits a wander round. There is a fantastic restaurant - La Table de Leo https://www.latabledeleo.fr and a small cafe -Chez Cathy et Denis - if you are just in need of refreshment. On the main square, the Place du Fort, there are buildings with Gothic window and one has a sun dial on its wall. There are a number of walks and bike tracks that lead out from the village and into the surrounding countryside.
Monbazillac is located a short distance to the south of Bergerac and about 38km from La Dame Blanch.
The castle itself is a listed historical monument, and dates from the 16th century. It is in an early Renaissance style, and is in an attractive wooded setting with far-reaching views across the region. The castle contains some finely decorated rooms and apartments.
But it is for the wine that the Monbazillac region is best known. 3500 hectares of vines produce one of the most widely known (and most highly reputed) dessert (sweet) white wines in the world.
When you have parked your car in the lovely wooded parking area and set off for the castle the first view of the castle is superb. At the end of a long straight driveway it sits high above the surrounding countryside and its large round turrets and mass of pointy roofs and leaded windows give it something of a fairy tale appearance.
The chateau was built in 1550 and miraculously has come unscathed through the various wars and revolutions that have followed this period of history. Whilst the chateau was built as a defensive chateau with towers, a moat, arrow slits and battlements, it incorporates the early Renaissance styles of architecture with large windows. The rooms, therefore are lovely light and airy rooms and are filled with collections of 17th century furniture, as well as some of Italian-baroque style which once belonged to Mounet Sully, a famous French actor who was born in Bergerac.
The basement of the chateau gives you a chance to see row upon row of 'liquid gold' - Monbazillac's famous sweet white wine. There is a small museum of wine related tools and you can also see the chateau kitchens and some wonderful huge pottery storage containers.
Not surprisingly after your visit there is a cave where you can sample the wines, and plenty of opportunities to purchase some.
Wandering round the castle from the outside offers some great views over the surrounding countryside.
11 km from La Dame Blanche, Villereal is a bastide town like Monpazier but also has an Intermarche, petrol station and DIY store as well as an excellent market on Saturday mornings. The town has 'real' shops rather than tourist shops, and is active all year around so is a good place to visit at any time.
The town was founded in 1269 by Alphonse de Poitiers as a French bastide town, although the town was occupied by the English during most of the Hundred Years War. The town saw further action during the wars of religion, being taken more than once by the protestants - in 1569 some of the residents were murdered by protestants from Bergerac and in 1572 the church was burned.
During the Hundred Years War Villereal was surrounded by deep moats, but these have been filled in and were in the position of the 'ring road' that circles the historic centre of the town.
The most unusual and interesting feature of Villereal is its 14th century market hall, with impressive carpentry work and an unusual half-timbered first floor. The hall dominates the central square and markets are still held under the hall every Saturday morning, as they have been for the last 700 years. The market caters predominantly to locals rather than tourists so is quite lively all year round. In the summer there is a night market held each Monday evening. With local entertainment, a chance to enjoy local produce at a reasonable cost and a lively atmosphere these night markets have become a major attraction.
The fortified Church of Notre-Dame in the adjacent square is also interesting to see. Originally surrounded by a moat and reached by a drawbridge, these early defences became unnecessary when the whole town became fortified. The church tower that now contains the clock was once a small prison.
The area in the narrow streets below the church is among the best for seeing the medieval houses looming over narrow alleys although you will enjoy seeing the old houses all around the centre.