La Garde is the perfect place for a large family or for two families vacationing together. It is situated in the Haute Saintonge, between the Atlantic beaches and the Dordogne, on five acres of park-like setting on the south slope of a hill overlooking vineyards, sunflower and maize fields and scattered farmsteads. The property is secluded, with the closest neighbor 250 m away. A long chestnut tree alley leads from the country road up the hill to the house. The small forest on the hilltop is part of the estate and separates the property from the nearby little village with its 13th century church. The grounds and facilities - which are shared with the renters of the near-by cottage (Property #573482)- include a pool (12 x 6 m), a small orchard of fruit trees and berry bushes, a boules (petanque) court, several outbuildings and ample parking space.
As this once was a working farm, there are several buildings on the property. Close to the main house is the former baking house, now converted into a vacation cottage, also available for rent (sleeps 4-5). Extending from the main house are former utility rooms and servants’ quarters (now the owners’ apartment) and a large barn, today used as a storage facility. Of the former stables only some walls remain; a car park now occupies part of that space. A huge barn, that once also contained the equipment for making and storing wine, cognac and pineau, stands at the eastern end of the property.
The main house, built in 1868, is a large “maison de maître”, completely renovated, with all modern amenities. It is furnished partly with traditional French furniture, including several sleigh beds and large armoires, and partly with modern furniture to satisfy today’s needs and tastes. The house is centrally heated and is wired for WiFi internet access. The water comes from the public water supply system.
The front door opens into a central hallway, with one sitting room to the right and another to the left, each with working fireplace and ceiling chandelier. Two large windows in each of these rooms look out towards the South. The room on the right has two sofas, of which one is convertible into a queen-size double bed. There is a combination radio, tape and CD player. A desk is located in one corner. The sitting room to the left, which adjoins the kitchen, has two couches, two coffee tables, a large antique bookcase with assorted literature and a large flat-screen TV with satellite reception (French, English, German programs).
The large country kitchen has oaken ceiling beams and traditional tile flooring and doubles as dining room when the weather precludes outside eating. It has a huge traditional working fireplace and is equipped with all modern amenities: double-sink, four-burner gas stove, electric oven, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, blender, coffee makers, water heater and lots of pots, pans and dining ware. There is ample storage space in wall cabinets, under-counter cabinets and an antique buffet for additional dishes and supplies. The long wooden dining table comfortably seats ten, more if the side table is joined to it. A door at the side of the kitchen leads to the pool and to a grassy breakfast terrace shaded by a maple tree. In front, the kitchen opens to the large terrace with its splendid view, the favorite place for evening meals and conversation.
Behind the kitchen is a pantry with storage shelves, a utility sink, a second refrigerator and a separate freezer; a door leads out to the big back terrace. Adjoining the pantry is the furnace room, which also contains closets with housekeeping supplies. There also is a shower and a separate toilet in the furnace room, with outside access from the pool area.
In the corridor running behind the main sitting room from the central hallway to the kitchen are two closets for storing vacuum cleaner, luggage, coats, games, etc. In the opposite direction this corridor runs behind the other sitting room towards a WC, a bedroom (two single beds 190 x 90 cm) and the laundry room. The latter has two washers, two dryers, a built-in ironing board, a folding table and a utility sink. (The corridor continues past an apartment that is occasionally occupied by the owners and into the garage, neither of which are accessible to renters.)
The stairs to the upper story ascend from the back of the central hallway and lead to a large landing that connects to three bedrooms and a separate full bathroom with tub.
The master bedroom with its exposed ceiling beams and two large south-facing windows contains a traditional French double bed (190 x 130 cm) and a smaller French sleigh bed (180 x 120 cm). A ceiling fan provides comfort during hot summer nights. The en-suite bathroom has two sinks, a shower, a toilet and a large storage cabinet.
The bedroom at the opposite end also has exposed ceiling beams, two large windows facing south and a ceiling fan. It has a traditional French double bed (190 x 130 cm) and a slightly smaller sleigh bed (190 x 120 cm), a built-in closet and its own en-suite bathroom with shower, sink, toilet and storage shelves.
A third bedroom between the other two sleeps three in a two-story bunk-bed and a single bed (all 190 x 90 cm). A large window overlooks the front yard and the chestnut alley. The associated bathroom is at the end of the landing and has a bathtub with shower, a sink, a toilet and built-in shelves.
A crib and a high chair are available for a small child.
A large terrace extends along the front of the house. Teak outdoor furniture allows for leisurely evening meals while enjoying the light of the setting sun on the countryside below and later the huge sky with the Milky Way overhead.
The huge back terrace, also with outdoor teak furniture, is reached through a door at the back of the central hallway and also from the pantry behind the kitchen. It faces the gently rising slope that leads to the boule court, the orchard and the children’s swing-and-slide set. The barbeque, at the side of the small pump house for the pool, is a few steps up the hillside.
The 12x6 m in-ground pool is just a few steps from the house. It is 2 m deep at one end, rising to 1 m at the shallow end, where steps descend into the water. It is shared with the occasional renters of the near-by cottage. To ensure safety, pool and pool terrace are completely fenced in. The water is continuously recycled and purified through salt water chlorination, which does not use chlorine.
Flower beds adorn the front of the house, the breakfast area and parts of the pool area. The front lawn is spacious, with a deep old well in the middle (locked with an iron safety grill); another well is in the back, also locked with a safety grill. The large grassy area in the back leads up the hill to the woods, where red squirrels, lots of birds, a badger family and an occasional deer make their homes.
The nearest substantial village, Archiac, is 5 km away; there are: a small supermarket with gas station, a very good butcher shop, a good artisanal bakery, two small grocery stores, a pharmacy, hair salons, car repair shops, a bank, a post office, etc. The larger town of Jonzac, 10 km away, has four supermarkets and all other essential urban facilities, including banks, doctors, dentists, hotel, hospital, restaurants, brasseries, train station, thermal baths, a casino and a large indoor water adventure world. It has market days on Tuesdays and Fridays and an organic market on Sunday mornings. A small airfield operated by the local aero club is nearby and some of the club members offer sightseeing flights for about 150 Euro per hour (up to 3 passengers).
The region is famous for the production of cognac and Pineau de Charente, and there are numerous activities and sights to enjoy, including day hikes and bike rides, visiting nearby villages, markets and old village churches. 15 minutes away is Pons with its impressive donjon and the old pilgrim hospital, both from the 12th century, and a picnic area where one can rent boats to paddle on the Seugne. 25 minutes away is Cognac with its famous distilleries. 35 minutes away is Saintes with its Roman amphitheatre and triumphal arch, its magnificent old churches, its shops and restaurants. 45 minutes away are Meschers and Royan with their fine beaches and water sports facilities; along the way are the fishing and leisure port villages on the north shore of the Gironde. 45 minutes away is the beautiful mountaintop city of Angouleme. Day trips are possible to Bordeaux (75 minutes), Blaye (70 minutes), where a ferry takes you across the Gironde into the Medoc, Arcachon (3 hours), the oyster beds at Marennes (80 minutes), Rochefort (90 minutes), La Rochelle (130 minutes), the Ile d’Oleron (120 minutes) and to Aubeterre (60 minutes), Riberac (80 minutes), Brantome (100 minutes) and the Dordogne.
The closest train station is in Jonzac, with connections to Bordeaux, Saintes, Rochefort und La Rochelle. The closest TGV connection to points north and south is in Angouleme (about 45 minutes by car). The nearest entries/exits to the Superhighway A 10 (toll) Paris-Bordeaux are near Pons (20 km) and Mirambeau (25 km).