Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 1032: La Barauderie, Le Havre
studio cottage on a farm near Montrichard, Loire Valley
April - May 2004, 2 weeks
Le Havre is out in the country, on the edge of a field of winter wheat, about 6 kilometers from the small town of Montrichard, and maybe 5 kilometers in a slightly different direction from the smaller village of Pontlevoy. Montrichard is on the north side of the Cher River about 50 kilometers east of Tours.
The one-lane paved road that leads through the fields to Le Havre is shared only by the farmer who lives at the end of the road, the owners of the rental who live in La Barauderie, a larger house just in front of Le Havre and the guests at the two other vacation rentals managed by the owners, Karen and Craig.
It's a wonderful location. You look out over the meadow to the edge of the huge Montrichard Forest, where roads now closed to traffic make wonderful walking trails. It's very quiet, except for the birds, and at night it's so dark that the stars completely light up the sky. At dawn, the symphony of birdsong is a noisy surprise to start the day if you're a light sleeper. All day you can hear the cuckoos, and at night you'll occasionally hear the swoop of a great white owl's wings.
The location is also great for touring the Loire Valley. Amboise and Chenonceau are no more than 20 minutes away, Chambord maybe an hour, and Azay Le Rideau, Chinon, and Villandry are just over an hour away on the other side of Tours. We were soon distracted from these "big" chateaus by the smaller chateaus that appeared in every small town and along practically every back road.
It's a 5 or 10 minute drive into Montrichard, which has a large supermarket, several smaller grocery stores, bakeries, cafes and restaurants, as well as a fabulous market one morning a week. Pontlevoy has less in the way of business, but it does have a wonderful restaurant at the Hotel d'Ecole.
Le Havre is a small stone cottage which was formerly an outbuilding on a farm. It was completely taken apart and re-constructed from the ground up on a new foundation by the owners, Karen Kenady and Craig Cantor, Americans who live on the property in their own similarly reconstructed house. It's a single large studio with a huge bathroom/dressing room. It's made from the local white tufa stone, the same stone used for the chateaux. There's a beautiful high dormer window in the cottage that acts almost as a skylight. Karen and Craig salvaged it from the original building. They also took advantage of small vent holes in the original structure and re-created them as tiny windows (about 6 by 6 inches) in a few places in the cottage. The result is a cottage that looks like it belongs in the setting and has always been there, with a comfortable and modern interior.
Craig and Karen have perfected their approach to restoration with the three buildings on their property and have now restored more than 20 other properties in the area.
A long lap pool stretches out behind the house, and there is another small seating area between the front door and the owners' big vegetable garden. There are lots of flowers all around the property. The pool is shared with Karen and Craig. They were to break ground this spring on another pool just down the road at their other rental (more about this later).
The cottage was beautifully decorated and very comfortable. The furniture is all wonderful old pieces found and restored by Karen and Craig. Everything was spotless. The linens were especially luxurious.
The double bed was very comfortable, with a down comforter in a linen duvet cover.
The bathroom/dressing room was stunning. The huge walk-in shower is about 4 feet by 8 feet and the room is about 10 x 20. There's a huge old armoire with plenty of space for all your belongings. The white porcelain pedestal sink is set before a window that looks out over the pool (there's an extension mirror to the side).
The kitchen (really just a corner of the single big room) was adequate for the kind of casual cooking we do for ourselves while traveling - bread, fruit and coffee for breakfast, an occasional salad and simple pasta for dinner. There was a two-burner hotplate, refrigerator, microwave and sink, and basic dishes. There was very little space to work, though, so I would not have attempted a complicated meal or to cook for anyone else.
Problems or Bonuses
No bad surprises at all! Maquis the cat adopted us and stopped by frequently to play or take a nap in one of our chairs. I always consider that a bonus.
Karen and Craig were a big bonus. They were enthusiastic, friendly, helpful, and just a whole lot of fun to be around.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Update: owners now have firstname.lastname@example.org !
I booked the rental directly with Karen by snail mail and fax after getting her number from Ann from Hawaii, another Slow Traveler who stayed at their other property, La Petite Souper, a few years ago. Karen and Craig are not the least bit interested in computers, so there is no website and no email. It wasn't a problem, though, because Karen was always very responsive with mail and fax.
We paid $700 a week for Le Havre. Check with Karen on price. They were very flexible as far as arrival day, and do sometimes rent on a daily basis.
Their mailing address is Karen Kenady & Craig Cantor, La Barauderie, 41400 Pontlevoy, France. The telephone/fax is +33-(0)2-5432-5944. (From the US dial: 011-33-2-5432-5944)
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I definitely recommend this rental for two people who aren't interested in doing a lot of cooking. The other cottage on the same property, La Petite Souper, would be a better choice if you want more room and a more complete kitchen. It has the same sort of fabulous bathroom, a separate master bedroom, and a loft as a second bedroom. Next time, I would stay there, just for a little more space and a bigger kitchen.
Karen and Craig also manage a third house on the edge of their property. This third house is a large rambling house with several bedrooms (5?) and a couple of bathrooms. It's the summer home of a Parisian family, which Craig and Karen rent for them when they aren't using it. It's a beautiful, homey house, not fancy, that would be great for a larger group.
Things to do in this area
There are SO many things to see and do in this area. Chateau visits, eating, winetasting, garden visits, eating, winetasting, lovely drives in the country, eating, winetasting. Shopping was pretty much non-existent in the smaller towns, unless you're shopping for wine and cheese!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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