|Minimum Stay||3 - 7 nights|
Les Manques is set in a beautiful valley between Mirepoix and Castelnaudary.
There are large private gardens and two lovely terraces suitable for outdoor dining (one shaded, the other south-facing – both with spectacular valley views).
There is a private 12m infinity pool with fabulous, uninterrupted, views of rolling hills and valleys, including 10m2 “beach” area (suitable for supervised water-play for very young children).
There are wonderful walks all around the house and guests can also enjoy more views while dining in the shaded summer kitchen (with built-in barbecue, range cooker, pizza oven, large fridge-freezer, stainless steel food preparation area, Belfast sink and dining for at least 12 people).
Within a short drive of Les Manques you can see historic castles, abbeys and ruins; sample local wines at numerous vineyards or gourmet food at nearby restaurants; buy locally-grown or produced food at picture-postcard markets; learn to sail, windsurf or water-ski; go rock-climbing, abseiling or pot-holing; see ancient cave paintings, visit a wolf park or African Reserve; fish for trout; ride horses through forests and lakes; lounge on a beach; watch the Tour de France or even pop to Spain or Andorra for lunch!
There is a varied and impressive landscape; from the dramatic mountainous peaks of the Pyrenees to the gentle rolling foothills and flat plains of the Lauragais with its sunflowers, cereal crops and vineyards, all of which provide a wealth of opportunity for photographers or painters to capture beautiful scenery, wildlife (particularly birds of prey) and clear star-lit skies.
The Aude and Ariege regions are historically known as Cathar Country where the crusades against the Cathars took place at the beginning of the 13th century and a wealth of Cathar fortresses, castles and ruins remain for you to visit.
With a climate of over 300 days sunshine a year, the Aude is part of the Languedoc Rousillion - the biggest wine growing area in France where you can sample local wines such as Cabardes, Clappe, Corbiers, Fitou, Malapere, Minervois, Muscat plus the impressive Blanquette or Cremant de Limoux which is the region’s own sparkling wine, thought to be the fore-runners of champagne.
Beautiful medieval villages sit on hillsides and grand cathedrals adorn the sun kissed market squares. Open air cafes, traditional street markets and shuttered houses create an ambience typical to this part of Southern France.
The local Cassoulet is a bean, duck and pork casserole made in Castelnaudary where the spectacular “Fete du Cassoulet” takes place at the end of each August with different Artisans supplying the food and live bands and DJs leading dancing in the streets.
The gourmet rich Foie Gras has its regional capital in nearby Belpech and other local specialities include pigeon, garlic soup, truffles, wild boar and aligot (a creamed potato full of garlic) plus, of course, all the local boulangeries, patisseries, chocolateries and fromageries.......it’s almost impossible to resist this delicious abundance.
Then there are all the fruits and vegetables growing “at home” in the garden at Les Manques for you to use in your own gourmet preparations or maybe just to sample while lazing around the house!
So, what if you over-indulge? Simple – there’s a VTT (mountain bike) course right behind the house for the more enthusiastic among you to work off all those extra calories!
Albi – 90 minutes away from Les Manques, is slightly off the usual tourist track but is a beautiful UNESCO classed World Heritage Site with a magnificent and imposing red-brick Cathedral and a similarly massive and fortified Bishop’s Palace, part of which houses the magnificent Toulouse Lautrec museum. The old city has really pretty narrow streets and historic buildings with lovely restaurants where you can sample the delicious local Gaillac wine.
Beaches – Narbonne/Gruissan are 80 minutes away or you can just keep going and the Cap d’Agde (Europe’s largest nudist colony) is only 15 minutes more in one direction or “turn right” at Narbonne and choose from any number of beaches with the Pyrenees as your backdrop.
Carcassonne – only 40 minutes away, the town is split into two very different parts:
La Ville Basse or Bastide (main town) has a central square with lovely cafes, bars and restaurants, some lovely boutique shops and a lively market (Tuesday, Thursday but best on Saturday). During the summer, some of the most surprising (and generally free) festival performances can be seen in the main square:
La Cite, a medieval citadel, is a World Heritage Site situated on a hill on the right bank of the River Aude is well worth a visit. You can walk the rampart walls, watch re-enactments of medieval jousting contests, have lunch, shop, visit the cathedral then, if you’re lucky, finish the evening with a performance at the exceptional Festival de la Cite in the theatre within the walls – past performers include George Benson, Tom Jones, Sting, Bob Dylan but you can also see philharmonic orchestras and opera/ballet (bookings essential – go to website www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr).
If you’re fortunate enough to be in the area for Bastille Day (14th July), there is an absolutely outstanding firework extravaganza set to music which is best viewed from outside the city walls – there is generally a theme (maybe love, flowers) but it always ends with the whole city “lit up in flames”. NB: The display starts around 10-10.30pm and this is one of the best firework displays in the world so is attended by around half a million people - take time to choose a place where you feel comfortable).
At the end of August/start of September, Carcassonne hold a Feria – a festive event with groups performing salsa, flamenco, tango, Occitan music, banda and brass band music in the streets every day and every evening with Seville-style dancing.
Castelnaudary – just 10 minutes away is the world centre for Cassoulet and has the Grand Bassin (large port area) for the Canal du Midi where you can take an organised boat trip, hire a boat or just sit outside by the canal side with a glass of wine from the excellent wine store/bar le Cave du Canal where the owner has a really impressive selection of local wines – he may not speak English but he is very helpful and has real in-depth knowledge of the wines he stocks.
Golf – also at Carcassonne (www.golf-de-carcassonne.com)
Lac Ganguise – 15 minutes away has a club house and offers lessons to groups or individuals for water sports such as sailing, catamaran, windsurfing, canoeing or funboard!
Leran – 35 minutes away is a pretty little town just 12km out the other side of Mirepoix and is worth a mention for two very special summer events: 1) the Friday night gourmet markets which take place weekly and have a series of different food stalls and a central table/chairs running through the main street – pick your meal, take a seat and join the fun with a range of other nationalities at your table! 2) the horse-riding; (book via www.randonnees-cheval.com) for anything from an hour to several days hacking, including taking your horse for a swim in the lake (Lac Montbel) at the end of the day.
Mirepoix – 20-25 minutes away, is a photographer’s dream – a lovely little town dating from the 10th Century with a large central square of half-timbered houses supported on wood pillars, creating a magnificent covered arcade (les Couverts) and a cathedral which originated in the 13th century as the small church of St Maurice. The market here on Monday mornings is not to be missed and there are also opportunities to see summer night markets.
Quillan – 1 hour away is within easy reach of Cathar Castles Peyrepertuse and Queribus, is right next to the very scenic Gorges de l’Aude but is also a popular centre for anyone interested in water sports such as kayaking or white-water rafting.
Revel – 35 minutes away is rather uninspiring on the outskirts but, bear with me....the centre has one of the most impressive medieval market halls in France with arcaded buildings around the edge and a Saturday morning market that’s been going for 600 years! There are some chic little boutiques here too. Enjoy the atmosphere then buy yourself a picnic lunch (perhaps one of the roast chickens with sliced potatoes cooked in the juices?) and take it up to Lac St Ferriol (5 minutes away) where you can sit by the beach or play petanque (boules) amongst the pine trees before taking a swim.
Toulouse (The Pink City) – 40 minutes away, is a buzzing and youthful university town, the fourth largest city in France, centre of the European aerospace industry and the source of the Canal du Midi. Toulouse lies on the banks of the River Garonne and is largely constructed of unique pinkish terracotta bricks (hence la Ville Rose). It has fabulous dining and a wealth of things to do but, frankly, I like to just sit in the Place Capitole with a coffee or citron presse and watch the world go by!
Wine Tasting – this is available throughout the region, but Domaine Gayda (near Limoux) is a vineyard with an excellent restaurant and a wine school (Vinecole) for anyone, run by Master of Wine Matthew Stubbs. They offer wine tastings for those looking for a brief introduction to wine to those studying for professional qualifications! (Reservations/information on www.domainegayda.com)
Spain + Andorra – both less than 2 hours away. Fancy lunch on the Costa Brava? Hiking in one of the highest spots of the Pyrenees (with duty-free shopping)?
Les Manques is our family home, lovingly created from a shell of a barn to an outstanding property with large open lounging and dining areas, spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms throughout and high quality fixtures and fittings; flower and grass gardens across different levels, an orchard next to the infinity pool and a vegetable garden with produce you can help yourself to at any time during your stay.
Les Manques has unrivalled views of the whole of la Piege valley from inside the house where each of the 5m bi-folding windows provide a "living" piece of art. You can sit at the dining table and watch birds of prey swoop across the terrace or just watch the sunflowers swaying....or lie in the bath of the master suite watching the breeze catch the trees on the other side of the valley.
Spent lots of time enjoying the fantastic facilities. Pizza oven had extensive use as did the outside kitchen. Our teenagers had a fantastic room each to retreat to. The main bedroom is fantastic and shower great.
Sunbathing and stargazing in August on south terrace was fantastic, overlooking endless field of sunflowers.
The owners could not have been more helpful and were on hand in 20 minutes if needed, but not obtrusive at all. We pick veg from garden and enjoyed the numerous seating areas. Very hot most of the time, the pool was a refreshing option with great views too.
Highly recommend staying here for well equipped, peaceful and relaxing break. Bakery 10 minutes away, supermarket (and town)15 mins, canoeing on local lake and Canal du Midi also 15 minutes. Toulouse & Carcassonne only 45 minutes.
Very well equipped kitchen(s) with oils, herbs etc. Couldn't have been made more welcome (bottles of wine in kitchen on arrival might have helped!)
Difficult to leave - Thanks guys
This house was perfect for a wonderful week with our friends and their grown up children because it is so spacious, ensuring that we still loved everyone at the end of the week!
The house is beautiful with a fantastic kitchen but the terrace and view across the open fields are truly stunning.....many a late night was spent just staring at the magnificent stars and maybe sipping a glass or two!
The outdoor kitchen and pizza oven was a hit with the 'big kids!' and the pool and gardens ensured that everyone had a space to relax.
Dawn and Jon are generous both in their help prior to the week spent at the property but also whilst there, without being obtrusive ( Jon was on hand if we needed his help).
I would recommend this property most highly.
A very spacious property, so despite being a party of nine we never felt that we were on top of one another. The location is superb, set in a very quiet valley, with fantastic terrace and pool. The house was spotless, and so much was provided in terms of consumables (herbs, oil, coffee, cleaning products, fuel for the BBQ and pizza oven), it felt like a home from home. We were made to feel very welcome and had a thoroughly wonderful time. We would be more than happy both to return in the future.
We honestly didn't think we could improve on our sensational Christmas and New Year at Les Manques - but then we came back in the summer!
Everything we already knew about the place (the beautiful house, generous contents, perfect hosts, fantastic views) were somehow even better the second time around with all the vegetables, fruits, early tomatoes and sunflowers just starting to show up all around.
We didn't think any improvement was necessary but Dawn and Jon have upgraded the south terrace from decking to marble, which looks fantastic. The new garden furniture also looks great - so much better than the website photos!
Our favourite holiday destination.
We will certainly be returning.
We have just had the most fantastic week at Les Manques and cannot recommend it highly enough. In a beautiful location, the views are stunning - sunflowers for as far as the eye can see! We enjoyed leisurely breakfasts looking at the view in the mornings and watched the sun go down over gin and tonics in the evenings. Les Manques is equipped with every possible thing you could need - definitely the best equipped property we have stayed in. We made use of the outdoor pizza oven (not entirely successfully due to operator error but we had fun trying!), the barbecue, the indoor and outdoor kitchens and ate at all of the front, back and side tables to vary the views!
The pool is a fabulous size, has a lovely view and provided a very welcome cooling dip in the heat of the beautiful Aude sunshine.
Jon, the owner, and his lovely daughter were so welcoming and made sure that we had everything we could possibly need to enjoy our stay - they even popped by with 2 bottles of local champagne as they found out it was my dad's 70th birthday whilst we were there - such a lovely and much appreciated touch.
We definitely hope to come and stay at Les Manques again.
We have stayed in many French villas, but none of them literally took our breath away as we approached after a very long drive from Calais. Les Manques is wonderful, inside and out. Dawn and Jon have thought of everything to make sure their guests have a truly memorable, relaxing and happy holiday. We loved it - the terrace, pool, vegetable garden, personal touches. The bath at home will never be the same after being able to sit and look out over the valley at Les Manques! We will definitely return at some point! Jo, Kenny & Fergus x
Lac de Regambert: 15mins/8km
Simple lakeside beaches, plenty of shade available and large open grassy areas for play.
Lac de la Ganguise: 20mins/10km
Watersports centre providing lessons, rentals and competitions - sailing, catamaran, surfboarding, canoe, water-skiing etc including small beach area and clubhouse.
Lac de la Cavayere, Carcassonne: 50mins/60km
Beach, swimming, play areas, forest walks, boating, lifeguards, O2 Adventure
Mediterranean coast (Narbonne or Gruissan): 120km
The house is situated in a very rural location and a car is essential.
Carcassonne (40 mins)
Toulouse (45 mins)
Beziers (90 mins)
Perpignan (90 mins)
10 min drive to nearest village with all amenities incl very friendly bar/cafe/pizza.
15 min drive to Castelnaudary - home of Cassoulet and the Grand Basin of the Canal du Midi.
25 min drive to the medieval bastide town of Mirepoix with its 13th century cathedral, beautiful half-timbered buildings and colourful market every Monday morning.
40 min drive to Carcassonne and its World Heritage site La Cite.
45 min drive to Toulouse with excellent cultural, dining and shopping experiences.
The local village (Salles sur l'Hers) is a ten-minute drive and has butcher, bakery, green-grocer (much of which is organic produce, including local wines), tobacconist/newsagent, corner shop (selling most things, including fresh milk), chemist, post office, hairdresser, doctor, dentist and a very friendly bar/cafe that opens all day providing very reasonable "menu du jour" at lunch time and excellent pizzas (for collection or to eat on-site) in the evening.
There are horse-riding facilities within 15 mins drive, watersports within 20 mins and vineyards starting within half an hour and including the excellent Blanquette or Cremant (champagne method) from Limoux.
There are several large supermarkets nearby - Castelnaudary 10 mins away, Bram 15 mins and Mirepoix or Villefranche 25 mins away.
There are several markets nearby but the exception ones are in Mirepoix (25mins) on Monday mornings and Revel (35mins) on Saturday mornings.
|Fees||No additional mandatory fees|
|Refundable damage deposit||$615|
There is No Smoking inside the property.
Guests are kindly requested to respect our family home by not smoking indoors. There are plenty of places to smoke outside (covered, if required) and we would be very grateful if you could ensure any cigar(ette) ends are safely disposed of for the comfort of any future guests.
Changeover is nominally a Saturday but we will try to be flexible so please ask if you wish to arrive any other day.
This large property requires time to clean properly so guests can expect full access after 4pm but may be able to use some of the facilities while cleaning takes place.
Guests will kindly vacate by 10am to allow us to complete changeover.
* Approximate monthly rate. Actual rate will depend on the days of the month you stay.