|Le Pichet||Self Catering||Saturday||2||7||1||Lounge with comfortable canape giggne-2 singles|
With its majestic peaks soaring to the Spanish border, and the gentler beauty of its lower wooded valleys and slopes, the Haut-Couserans of the Ariege-Pyrenees remains arguably one of Frances best kept secrets, a little discovered, unspoilt gem tucked away from the stresses of modern-day life.
Here you will find Miramont, a tiny hamlet nestling on the slopes overlooking the beautiful Garbet Valley, underneath the proud ruins of Charlemagnes Chateau du Mirabat, with its commanding views towards the valleys of the Spanish frontier. And here a warm welcome at “le Pichet” awaits you, built, partly into the hillside, this beautifully renovated stone home, once a barn, comfortably accommodates up to 7 people with a reduced price option outside school holiday periods for up to 4 people. A winner in 2011 of “May the Best House Win”, both house and garden benefit from wonderful views over the mountains, and being west-facing, fabulous sunsets.
Miramont (mir- to look, amont- to the mountains) means “look up”, and you do, from our garden your eye is irresistably drawn to the proud ruins of Charlemagnes Chateau de Mirabat (itself meaning look below, mir + abat/a bas) as you would, from its heights to the valleys far below down which came the invading Moors….
Le Pichet is ideally situated for all outdoor activities. Walking in the area is quite simply superb, whatever your level; canoe/kayak/rafting/fishing and horseriding in the beautiful Garbet, Salat and Ustou Valleys, and skiing at nearby Guzet Neige. Despite its unspoilt nature, the area is nevertheless very accessible at 1hr30 from Toulouse, and 2hr from Lourdes and Carcassonne airports; and at 20km from St Girons it is within easy reach of the major road networks and the wealth of historic and cultural diversity of Ariege and Midi-Pyrenees in general. We hope this will tempt you to visit this region, and look forward to welcoming you!
Lovingly restored and tastefully furnished, largely in oak, this lovely stone home and its beautiful garden offer wonderful views west with fabulous sunsets over the mountains. A winner in 2012 of ITVs "May the best house Win - vive la France!" and situated in a tranquil hamlet at 800m above sea level, it comfortably accommodates 7 people with a reduced price option for 4; as well as being a superb setting for romantic holidays for 2. We also offer painting/sculpture tuition and exclusive full board painting/sculpting and holidays.
Leaving the Garbet (Valley of the Montreurs d'Ours) between Oust and Ercé, you follow a lane which twists and turns, always climbing, to its end – and there is Miramont, a little paradise on earth overlooking the Bassin d'Oust. Formerly devoted to agriculture, the hamlet consists today of eleven pretty, well-renovated barns and houses, where you will be sure of peace and quiet. As Miramont is situated at the end of the lane, there is no through traffic except for the occasional car going to a couple of houses further up the hamlet. Almost all of the houses are French-owned “maisons secondaires”; Miramont is an incredibly friendly community but this in no way impinges on the privacy of individual properties.
The house itself
"Le Pichet" is a traditional mountain house built, as are many in the region, partly into the hillside. It adjoins "La Carrette", the former farmhouse which we now also have the privelege to own. Over the past 18 years we have lovingly restored it to retain as many of the original features as possible - the "pas de oiseaux" originally built for thatching purposes, and the beams of the old roof structure. Tastefully and comfortably furnished, and now hung with paintings by Rodney and embroideries by Eleri, we are proud to welcome you into this part of our home. Rodney's sculptures provide a final personal touch.
The house benefits from superb light, particularly in the afternoons and evenings in the downstairs dining room and upstairs rooms. The ground floor consists of a spacious dining room, bathroom and well equipped kitchen; a lovely oak staircase leads to the first floor consisting of 2 charming bedrooms and a light, high ceilinged and spacious living room which can also serve as a bedroom if you wish.
For further information about "lePichet", the area and everything it has to offer, our painting/sculpting courses, please do contact us, we will be delighted to help.
Downstairs, a sofa, bibliotheque and logburner combine with the dining furniture to give a homely ambience to the dining room; the kitchen is well-equipped and pretty at the same time, in addition to its oven, microwave and fridge-freezer, it has a food-mixer, juicer, slow-cooker, raclette and fondue (the region boasts an incredible number of wonderful cheeses and meats!)
In addition to the downstairs dining room, there is a beautifully light lounge upstairs which can also be used as a bedroom if you wish (the canapé gigogne converts to 2 comfortable single beds, please note this is not a clic-clac but a traditional piece of French furniture). This room also contains a sofa, armchair, and a well stocked bookcase, both English and French. A large number of maps, walking guides and local information is also at your disposal.
The 2 bedrooms are situated on either side of the upstairs lounge, on one side a delightful chalet style bedroom contains one double bed, cupboards and shelving; to the other a larger, beamed bedroom contains one double and one single bed, wardrobe and shelving. All rooms look beyond the garden to the valley between Miramont and the pretty hamlet of Arrous, the wooded ridge on whose cliffs stand the proud ruins of the Chateau du Mirabat (built by Charlegmagne) and beyond to the Col de la Core and the slopes of Mt.Valier - at dawn bathed pink in the early light of sunrise, with the smoke curling up from the chimneys of Arrous, and only the sound of birdsong, the stream gurgling below and cowbells. At night, the sky scattered with a million sparkling stars is pure enchantment.
The bathroom is a pleasant room for a relaxing bath -its attractive blue tiling is light and clear in summer, warm in winter. It is simple, with no frills, but perfectly adequate. The bath has a shower attachment, and there is plenty of hot water.
The house is heated principally by a wood burning stove in the dining room, extra (movable) radiators are provided if necessary. Heating (wood and electricity) is included in the rental price, and the wood burning stove is easy to use. Full instructions are given on arrival for those not familiar with their use.
There is a television in the downstairs dining room (French channels only) but most of our guests rarely use it, preferring to spend their time relaxing with a book or enjoying the garden and surroundings.
The lovely west-facing garden is an idyllic place to relax and enjoy the view, with stunning sunsets over the mountains. Planted with roses, honeysuckle and clematis, it is a magical spot in all seasons; you are most welcome to use its abundant herbs in your cooking, and help yourselves to raspberries, rhubarb and salad when available. There is a shaded paved area ideal for preparing and enjoying your barbecue. Miramont has communal parking.
Please note, if you are coming with children, that the garden is not enclosed, however the hamlet is remarkably untroubled by traffic and children can also play in security in the meadows, woods and lane nearby. Neither can we boast a manicured lawn, this is a mountain hamlet and the surface is, inevitably, a little uneven.
Miramont has a small communal carpark. This is situated, conveniently, next to "le Pichet", but to the side of the house so does not interfere with the view. It is also an extremely quiet one.
Whilst being on several levels adds to the inherent charm of "le Pichet", it does mean that the house is not suitable for wheelchairs- in addition to the main staircase, there are gentle steps leading from the dining room to the kitchen on the ground floor, and upstairs between the lounge and the chalet bedroom.
It is however perfectly manageable for any older person with normal mobility.
On July 16th the Tour de France came hurtling down from the Col de la Core into Seix, turned towards Kercabanac anf then headed up the Arac Valley to Massat and the ascent up to le Port de L’Hers. With the Church bells were ringing in across the narrow streets of Seix, the atmosphere was fabulous. The Cols de la Core, de la Trappe, d’Agnes, de Port, de Portet D’Aspet – are all names which thrill lovers of the Tour de France - with gruelling ascents and exhilerating descents, and in the Vallee du Garbet we are right in the middle of them. Not far away either are the Cols de Saraillé, Peguere Marous and la Crouzette, and over the Col de Portet d’Aspet takes you into Haute Garonne with the Cols de Mente and Ares as variants on the way to the renowned Col de Tourmalet. Our local town of St Girons, 20k away, is often used as une ville de Depart ou d’Arrivee, and the Plateau de Beille near Foix is a famous finishing line. This part of the Ariege Pyrenees is a favourite haunt, clubs come from miles away to train n our beautiful- and remarkably traffic-free roads- so why not use it, too, as a base for your cycling holiday. Numerous circuits over the Cols can be made from the vallee du Garbet -and for cyclists of a less energetic nature, it is possible to find shorter, more leisurely routes along pretty lanes in and around the valley bottoms. A little further afield to the north of St Girons you will find the gentler countryside of the “Petites Pyrenees” and the Volvestre, with less demanding routes, rolling countryside and again very little traffic through beautiful scenery. La Voie Verte is a made up cycle track along 40k of a former railway between St Girons and Foix. It i has only gentle gradients and along its way you will experience different aspects of the beautiful countryside running along the piedmont of the Pyrenees. Parking places along its length enable you to cycle its length in stages.
The Ariege-Couserans (the 18 valleys converging on St Girons) contains some of the wildest, most remote and most spectacular scenery in the Pyrenees, as well as the gentler beauty of its lower valleys and slopes. You can walk for miles even in high season with only the sound of birds, the rustling of leaves and the sound of running water to keep you company. Walking in the area is superb, whether you choose to go directly from Miramont, locally in the stunningly beautiful valleys of the Garbet, Ustou and Salat or to the more challenging peaks reachable from within an hour's drive. There are walks of all lengths to suit all abilities- from gentle afternoon family strolls to those requiring “Randonneur experimente” status. The area is extremely well served by waymarked trails- the GR(Grande Randonnée)10 which runs the full length of the Pyrenees, passes at several points within 10 miles of Le Pichet and is easily accessible. The Commune d’Oust has produced a comprehensive map/guidebook of at least 20 “GR Pays” walks in the locality, and a number of more strenuous walks lead to the Spanish border, such as the wartime escape route, “le chemin de la liberté”, and those to the Ports (passes or gateways) de Salau, Couillac and Marterat. You can also arrange longer walks involving staying in mountain refuges. Le Pichet has an extensive range of guide books and maps for your use. We are happy to help, should you wish, with any aspect of your walking holiday; to point you in the direction of suitable walks to help with transport for any walks which need the use of two cars, such as the descent (or ascent) of the GR10 from the Col de la Core into Seix, or from Guzet into Aulus. We make a nominal charge for petrol and time (we originally bought Le Pichet as a base for our own walking holidays, and consider it both a joy and a privilege to share this beautiful region with others). There is a "bureau de guides de montagne" in Seix for high- level guided walks.
The Couserans, Ariege, and Midi Pyrenees in general is an area rich in culture, history, and Miramont is well placed for you to explore any of these. Beautiful Gallo-Roman St Lizier adjoining St Girons is a UNESCO site, while medieval Foix and its chateau is 1hr away. Numerous Cathar castles, the world famous Grottes de Lombrives/Niaux and Tarascons park of prehistoric art are all within a 2hr radius, as are Observatory of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Lourdes, Carcassonne and of course Toulouse, "La ville rose". It goes without saying that this spectacular region has no shortage of excellent restaurants specialising in local cuisine, and local products are readily available, the colourful Saturday market in St Girons is a must! Pease do contact us for further information on any of these.
The River Salat above Seix is a favourite haunt for lovers of watersports, the Haut Couserans Kayak Club based at Moulin Lauga offers kayak, rafting, hydrospeed and canorafting - a "base d'eaux vives avec des sensations garanties!" Watersports are also available at Engomer 20mins on the other side of St Girons, and in the Ariege Valley between Foix and Tarascon.
VTT and cross-country routes. A number of routes have been opened up in the Couserans over the past couple of years, and are within very easy reach of here. They range from circuits of 3-13 km , and are well within the capabilities of any reasonably fit person. More challenging is the mountain –bike park recently opened at our local ski resort of Guzet. (7 downhill tracks, 1 "zone d’initiation", 2 endurance descents, and 3 k of “Marathon tracks”.) Beyond St Girons once more, numerous circuits await you in the “Petits Pyrenees”- in the Volvetre Ariegeois, the Couserans Volvestre and the bas (lower)Couserans, 13 circuits covering 287k and 6000m of ascent-let yourself be lead along river banks and valleys, from sunbathed ridges to shaded leafy forests, through the valleys of the Salat, Volp and Lers……. If you are coming without your own bicycles, we can put you in touch or arrange hire for you both locally in Seix and in St Girons. Please do ask in advance if you would like copies of the leaflets published about any of these circuits - we will be happy to help!
If you have ever dreamed of painting soaring peaks,swirling skies, crystal-clear lakes and waterfalls and much, much more, all in the context of a welcome into a traditional French hamlet home, then this is the holiday for you. Located in the stunning mountain scenery of the Ariege- Couserans we take pride in offering exclusive painting and sketching holidays which are fully flexible and tailored to your individual requirements. Our aim is to welcome you to an inspirational, creative yet relaxing holiday, at the same time giving you a taste of the rich cultural, historic and gastronomic heritage of this beautiful region. Our full-board painting courses run from April to end June and September to early November. We can accommodate a maximum of 7 people, not all of whom need to be participating artists – non artists are most welcome too. At the other end of the spectrum you may prefer to rent the gite with other artist or non artist friends or family, do your own catering, and decide on a few hours’ or days’ tuition either here or on an excursion to one of the many painting locations. The choice is yours – this is your holiday and our aim is to make it a truly memorable one for you, whatever your aspirations. The options are many – please feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements for an individual quote.
The Centre Equestre of Coumariaou can be seen across the valley from our garden. Here, Lorenna Sala (BEES 2nd degré) , who trained with the Cadre Noire of Saumur, welcomes riders of all ages and all levels. It is a very friendly establishment, where you can take lessons in the indoor or outdoor schools (including jumping), or go for 2 or 4 hour balades (hacks) in the surrounding countryside. At intervals during the summer you can also watch a "Spectacle", usually involving folklore entwined with some aspect of the horse in the history of this beautiful region
The small but wonderfully family orientated resort of Guzet Neige is 25 k away. Do not be taken in by the fact that it has only 40km of marked pistes- the variety contained within these is considerable, from the beginners slopes at Prat Matou to the blacks of the Freychet secteur ( the most difficult blacks in the Pyrenees). There is also some formidable off-piste and a good snow park. Being relatively little known, queues are rare at this resort,even in holiday periods; we have an excellent ESF. Prices are reasonable and class sizes small compared to the Alps, and we have the privelege of being classed the prettiest resort in the Pyrenees!
Most attractions for children open at Easter, and summer is obviously the season for festivities: The transhumance (movement of animals to the high pastures) takes place on 3 consecutive weekends during late May/June in 3 separate valleys. You can follow on foot, by car, bike or on horseback, and will be warmly welcomed.You will experience a long-standing rural tradition which is part of the agricultural life of the area, and not a spectacle put on specifically for tourists. Le Tour de France passes by near here most years during mid-July, and St Girons is often chosen as a Ville de Depart/Arrivee. August is a wonderfully colourful month- "Autrefois le Couserans" - a display of traditional agricultural customs- is a particularly joyous weekend festival in St Girons; The town also hosts "Le Festival de la Musique et des Danses"; St Lizier its " Nuits Gallo-Romains" and Foix the week-long festival "Il y etait une fois...." Everywhere villages are "en fete" and "Marchés Nocturnes abound; even small communities such as Oust and Seix put on wonderful displays of fireworks. There is a superb series of concerts in the beautiful Cathedral of St Lizier; and for those willing to travel further, the Cathedral of St Bertrand de Comminges. More energetically,you can take part in the Punjada- an annual shared French/Spanish picnic at the Port de Salau on on the Spanish border - the views are worth the 4hour walk! In September St Lizier hosts "le Festival des metiers d'Art", a wonderful weekend of arts and crafts by artisans from all over France. Please do contact us if you would like information on these or other activities, we will be delighted to help.
This is a selection-please contact us for a copy of our "livre d'or". "Marvellous! I had no prior experience of the Ariege. This is an area well worth a visit. But le Pichet more so. Away from the world and in the midst of spectacular scenery, ideal for walking/driving and of course honing painting/sketching skills. What makes a stay here even better are Eleri, Rodney and William. Nothing is too much trouble. We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here and the week has flown by. Thank goodness we drove down from the Channel in one day and added a day to our stay. The market in St Girons is a delight. I can’t help but think the French have a different (refreshingly so!) attitude to E U regulations! Thank you all, and your hospitable friends, for a wonderful stay. " (J and C,Oct 2015) "The cottage is beautiful and functional, the surroundings incredible, but it was the hostess who made the stay exceptional. Thank you so much Eleri for going the extra mile in ensuring our short stay at Le Pichet was a memorable one. If we are ever to return to the Pyrenees, Le Pichet will certainly be our first port of call." (A and P,Aug 2015) "Thank you very much for a perfect holiday! Le Pichet is a beautiful retreat and your generosity and advice of places to visit made for a relaxing break. It was a real pleasure to meet you all and get to know a little of your wonderful French home. Loved the cake, too (and the flowers)! Do know you will be welcomed into our home in Scotland if you fancy a visit, and hope to meet again at some point. Meanwhile, thank you again, a bientot!" (G and J, Sept 2015) "We have had a wonderful (but too short) stay at “le Pichet”. Thank you Eleri for being the perfect hostess. We shall miss you all. Perfect holiday!" (D,R, J and E, Sept 2015) And many more.......