Situated in the middle of the lovely village of Tautavel, the house is close to all the basic amenities - less than a minute's walk from the local bakery, supermarket, central cafe and an excellent pizzeria.
It is a typical town house, with a Cave on the ground floor where we store our 6 bicycles and various beach paraphernalia.
Climbing the marble and iron staircase, you reach the living spaces. To the left is a charming, well-equipped kitchen, with a breakfast bar. Ahead is a large simple dining room, with beautifully decorative floor tiles. The dining table seats eight people comfortably and is ideal for family meal times. The wi-fi router is located here, along with the "Google Home" independent speaker, capable of playing music and radio programmes and performing Google searches - all by voice commands (sadly it understands only English).
To the right is a double bedroom, a bathroom with bidet, washing machine and shower, as well as a separate w.c.
Although located in the centre of town, you will be surprised by how bright and airy the house feels.
Climbing upstairs to the next landing, you enter a very spacious living room, which houses our entertainment systems: television and dvd player, turntable, tuner-amp and speakers. The tv is used to play films/programmes from our extensive dvd library and, thanks to the Amazon Fire HD stick, Netflix content - if you have a Netflix account. Two large click-clack sofas and various other chairs make this a comfortable place to relax in, listen to music from our cd/lp collection, read from our large library, or play one of our board games.
Leading off from the living room are two double bedrooms, one with a double bed, one with two single beds, as well as a storage room that leads to the second bathroom. This bathroom contains a sink, shower and w.c.
An open staircase provides access to a spacious roof terrace. We use the roof terrace extensively, but as the staircase is open, we must advise that it is to be used at your own risk. The roof terrace looks out to the surrounding hills and the roofscape of Tautavel. It has a sail to provide shade, when needed, a charcoal barbecue and attractive potted plants.
Although Tautavel is best known for the discovery of Tautavel Man, an early hominid discovered in the Caune de l'Arago, it is well served with fine eating places and an abundance of great wine producers.
Starting with our neighbours, at Domaine Bonzoms, delicious red, white and rosé wines can be tasted and enjoyed from the dozen or so vignerons in the village.
Our routine, on most summer mornings, is to cycle the 2.9 miles to Lou Barral in the next village, Vingrau. This 20 minute bike ride takes us through the beautiful vine-festooned Tautavel valley, past Les Gorges du Gaylerous (where we often swim in the Plein D'eau) and justifies our coffee and croissant at Lou Barral. Lou Barral is one of our favourite restaurants. It is friendly, has great food and features weekly live music throughout the summer months.
There is a host of other good restaurants in Tautavel: El SIlex, L'Os à la Bouche, Le For'Hom, Le Petit Gris and the Pizzeria I mentioned earlier, the Étape. However, one great thing to do is to visit the Chateau de Jau, which is on the small road between Tautavel and Cases de Pene. This is a wine-tasting Domaine and it would be prudent to agree a designated driver before visiting. For around 36 Euros, you get a multi-course lunch or supper, with plenty of wine to sample with each course. We had two whites, two rosés, two reds and two dessert wines on our last visit. The location is beautiful and there is also an art gallery attached, where you can stroll between courses or afterwards.
This is the land of the Cathars so, in addition to Tautavel's own ruined chateau Féodal, there is a host of other Cathar castles to visit: Queribus, Aguilar, Peyrepertuse and Puilaurens to name but a few. They are often perched on a high promontory, so the views are usually fantastic. Such a beautiful land.
We love going to the sea near here and our favourite place is Torreilles Plage, where there are excellent restaurants right on the beach (Maya, Zaza etc.) and it is only a 25 minute drive away. Good alternatives are Leucate beach or Le Bacarès. However, for a treat, we drive to a beach between Banyuls-Sur-Mer and Cerbère, where there is an underwater nature reserve - the best snorkelling to be found for miles around.
Once a week, we try and take the No.12 bus into Perpignan, which is great fun. The bus stop is behind the house at the Palais de Congrès (yes.....Tautavel has an amazing arts centre and a museum) and costs Euro 1.30 each way. One trundles through some interesting villages and lovely countryside in air-conditioned comfort, but the best part is the absence of worry about parking and alcohol. Perpignan has great cafés and restaurants, chic shopping opportunities and lots to do including a great art gallery, Hyacinthe Rigaud. We recently saw a lovely Picasso exhibition there.
Speaking of art museums, we love driving to Céret (40 minutes by car) to the Museum of Modern Art, which usually has an interesting exhibition on. The market there every Saturday morning is huge and a real treat for the senses. But do arrive early to ensure convenient parking.
Sometimes, we arrive in late March when the weather is usually quite temperate. We like then to drive up the valley towards Prades and beyond. Near the gorgeous village of Eus, there are orchards of cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines. Amazing photographs with the blossoms and with the brooding spectre of Mount Canigou in the background. We often drive to Villefranche, grab a coffee in our t-shirts and hop onto the yellow train to Font Romeu (the nearest ski resort). The journey into the mountains is spectacular. We have lunch there, throw some snowballs have a walk, then relax on the train journey back.
Depending on how adventurous you are, there is much to do. You can windsurf in Les Bacarés, or see African wildlife at Sigéan. There is horse riding on the way to Torreilles Plage. I took my 11-year old daughter white water-rafting on the road towards Foix. We have driven to Barcelona for the day, which did mean an early start. In addition, there is the Dali museum in Figueres, as well as his house in Cadaques.
Onto more mundane matters:
For everyday or more conventional shopping, you can drive to the mini Carrefour at Estagel (5 minutes) or to the large shopping complex near Claira (22 minutes), which has a huge Carrefour, Lidl, Leroy Merlin and others.
How to get here? We drive down from St. Malo once or twice a year, when we want to use our car. Otherwise, we take the plane to Rivesaltes (Perpignan) airport via Ryanair or Flybe. This is less than 25 minutes from the house. Alternatively, we fly to Girona (in Spain) or Carcassonne (in France), both less than 90 minutes away.