|Villa Toto||Self Catering||Flexible||5||10||3|
Villa Toto is set in a tiny hameau, there are only 5 other houses and the road doesn't lead anywhere, so it's rare to see a passing car - and the drivers always wave!
It has 5 double bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a large L-shaped lounge and a fully equipped kitchen. There is room for 10 to dine in comfort both inside and out, and the terraced gardens lead down to the large pool which has a fence to keep little ones safe. There are plenty of loungers and chairs, and the west garden is shady in the afternoons if you need to stay cool.
The well-maintained gardens extend to almost an acre, and are planted with lawns, herbs and trees. There is a rose garden next to the pergola which bursts with colour and fragrance in the summer months. To keep everything looking its best all the gardens are automatically watered with recycled rainwater every night.
Part of the parking area can be used as a boules court - and you'll find the boules provided along with a full size croquet set for fun on the lawns. Although rural in location, Villa Toto is just a ten minute drive to everyday shopping and is half an hour from Carcassonne. A twenty minute drive takes you to either Limoux or Mirepoix and the property is located in the fascinating Razès area of the Aude. The views from the garden are spectacular - to the south the Pyrenees, and to the north lie the Black mountains. The Mediterranean beaches are under an hour's drive to the east and the Pyrenees about the same to the south. If you search for Villa Toto on the web you'll find our own website - villatoto.com - with much more detail and lots of links to local activities and places of interest.
The spacious kitchen has all the preparation, serving and cooking items you're likely to need and has enough cutlery for 10 people plus guests. It is fully equipped with an induction hob, automatic fan oven, dishwasher, large American style fridge/freezer with cold water and ice dispenser and a microwave oven. There's also a toaster and coffee maker, an automatic washing machine, iron and ironing board.
The airy and bright dining room is on a split level with the kitchen and has a large table with ten chairs, a radio/iPod/cd player and double doors which lead directly out to the outside dining area.
The large L shaped living room has comfortable seating, a library of books for all tastes (including children), a wall mounted television and a log burning fire if it's chilly in the winter.
There are 5 bedrooms, all on the first floor. Two with king sized double beds, one regular double bed, one with 2 single beds and on bedroom with bunk beds. All have bedside tables and lights and spacious wardrobes for storage.
There are 3 bathrooms: one with wc, washbasin and a bath (and a balcony) and the other two have wc, washbasin and showers.
There are 2 woodburning stoves - one in the lounge and the other in the dining room.
There's a large wall mounted tv in the lounge which receives broadcasts from the UK and France, a DVD player - with a selection of dvd films for all ages.
In the dining room you'll find a radio and cd player with an iPhone socket.
There is free wi-fi which works throughout the house.
The pool is 10 x 4m so plenty large enough for a good swim. It has a roman end for easy access and is equipped with the latest UV system with automatic dosing, so no chemical smells and no red eyes however long you stay in.
There are plenty of loungers and chairs around the pool, and the west garden is shady in the afternoons if you need to stay cool. The well-maintained gardens extend to almost an acre, and are planted with lawns, herbs and trees.
For outdoor dining there is a large table with 10 cushioned chairs set out under a pergola which has gentle lighting so you can enjoy dinner in the warm evenings.
There is a rose garden next to the pergola which bursts with colour and fragrance in the summer months. To keep everything looking its best all the gardens are automatically watered with recycled rainwater every night. Part of the parking area can be used as a boules court - and you'll find the boules provided along with a full size croquet set for fun on the lawns.
There is plenty of room for parking off road.
The villa is not suitable for wheelchair users as the pool and gardens are set on separate terraces. It's ideal for children of all ages as the pool is fenced with a safety gate.
When children arrive at Villa Toto, they'll find a teddy bear tucked up in their bed to greet them and make them feel at home straight away. The bears assemble in North Buckinghamshire (our English home) in the early spring and - as you can see above - pack themselves into a suitcase for their journey to France. We're not quite sure what they get up to when we're not there, but they have made a few short films for children who want to know about their holiday home and what there is to do at Villa Toto.
We think it's a nice idea for our younger guests to have a small furry surprise when they see their holiday bedroom for the first time - but it's up to you. Whichever way, the bears will expect to go home with their new owners.........
When we're not in France relaxing at our lovely villa, we live and work in north Buckinghamshire with, from time to time, an assorted collection of children and stepchildren and an abbyssinian cat - Morag - whose shape bears a passing resemblance to a butternut squash.
|Year property purchased||2010|
|Why this location?||Having visited Carcassonne for the first time some ten years ago and fallen hopelessly in love with it, when the opportunity arrived to buy a house in France it just had to be in this wonderful area of the Aude. While Carcassonne and its magical medieval castle is an easy half hours drive away, Villa Toto itself is in a tiny hameau in an area of unspoilt peace and tranquility with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. The house needed total renovation, and we have had a happy time turning it into the perfect holiday home. It is beautiful throughout the seasons - surrounded by soft greens of the vines in the spring, fabulous fields of yellow sunflowers in the summer, rich browns and oranges of the vineyards in the autumn and spectacular snow-covered mountains in winter.|
|Unique benefits of property||As the property has only just finished being renovated, everything is brand new and has been designed for the sole purpose of creating an idyllic place to relax. A few steps from the kitchen/dining room take you to the table under the pergola where honeysuckle and trumpet vines provide you with shade. There you can sit with a glass of the local wine and gaze out over the pool and beyond to the rolling hills of the beautiful countryside and gently think about what you might want to do - or not do - tomorrow.
Villa Toto is so easy to get to as it's only 30 minutes from Carcassonne airport and the car hire deals are excellent, even in the summer. The Mediterranean sea is about an hour away, but there are fabulous sandy beaches at inland lakes just a few miles away.
Carcassonne is a major tourist attraction - and with good reason. The Cité is a UNESCO world heritage site and is the only complete medieval castle in Europe. Set high up on a hill, the spectacular range of turrets, drawbridges and fortified walls dominate Carcassonne - and is the second most visited place in France after Paris. The narrow streets of the Cité are thronged with visitors in high summer - visiting the shops and galleries, taking tours of the central keep, and watching the jousting knights in armour. But even on the busiest days, there are still quiet places to eat or drink, or to simply gaze at the spectacular views.
Having exhausted the Cité, you can relax in the lower town (the Ville Bas) where you can enjoy an authentic Gallic experience in the network of small streets containing a huge range of restaurants, bars and shops.The centre is the Place Carnot - bordered on all sides by restaurants and bars from which to watch the world go by. Three times a week a food market takes over, and in the summer there are free concerts on Sunday evenings. You can find what's happening locally here.
The town always has something going on - there are concerts, opera and theatre throughout the year and two major festivals - jazz in April, and from June to August the main festival stage which is in the amphitheater of the old Cite hosts an impressive range of performers which in recent years have included Elton John, James Blunt, Sting, Lang Lang and Franz Ferdinand. Dance - modern and classical, circus and opera also feature in the listings. It's a truly unforgettable experience in a wonderful setting.
Although it's the newer part of Carcassonne (in Carcassonne that means the 13th century) it's surprising to learn that the roads are designed on a grid system, which makes it easy to find your way about. There are shops and supermarkets of all types and sizes, and restaurants and bars to suit any pocket.
Mirepoix is an ancient bastide town about 20 minutes drive from Villa Toto. It straddles the river Hers and is a must to visit. The centre is the Place des Couverts, surrounded by timbered medieval houses and arcades. It is beautiful and very colourful with the houses and their coloured shutters painted in pastel shades, and a very relaxing time can be had at one of the many restaurants that spill out from beneath the arcades. The carving on the timbers of the houses is worth close inpection - especially the 'Maison des Consuls'.
The little church of St Maurice was built in the 13thC, and was transformed over the following 300 years into a cathedral.
Today, the cathedral of St Maurice boasts a magnificent nave - the second largest single nave in Europe, a gothic gate and an elegant 60m high pointed bell tower.
The Mirepoix calendar is a busy one which every year includes a jazz festival in April, and an apple festival in October where all manner of apple products are available.
The weekly Monday market is not to be missed, as it is an explosion of colour with every kind of produce on show to taste and buy.
Limoux is an attractive town with the river Aude flowing through it. There's a weekly market on Fridays, and an evening market on Tuesdays during July and August. The heart of the town is the Place de la Republique, buzzing with cafes and bars. The residents certainly know how to enjoy themselves - each year there is a spectacular carnival (La Fecas) that lasts from January to March. It is claimed to have continued uninterrupted since medieval times, and seems to involve everybody - locals and visitors.
Limouxians boast that they invented the way to make the sparkling wine we know as champagne - but they stick to a glass of deliciously elegant Blanquette de Limoux.
A very comfortable, well-appointed residence in remote countryside (10 minutes to the nearest small town). In a tranquil position where it is very easy to relax, with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Property was very clean and everything worked, although TV reception fluctuated during our stay. Excellent customer service and general support. Ideal as a place to get away from everything and the villa was large enough to accommodate our party of 7 adults without us getting on top of each other. 40 minutes to Carcassonne and various Cathar castles, 20 minutes to Mirepoix and Limoux. Best local restaurant was La Dominicain in Montreal but give yourself plenty of time as service is rather slow! La Table Cathare, Fanjeaux, is also good value.