Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Castelnau des Fieumarcon - mist falling on the rolling hills, figs, pear and rosemary. A very special place to stay....

The main reception room at Castelnau des Fieumarcon

Introducing a new location in South West France where we will be hosting painting, photography, walking, singing and cooking holidays. An estate tucked away in the rolling hills of historic Gascony, we are lucky enough to stay in France's only, privately owned, fortified village with 13th century origins. Lovingly restored over a period of twenty five years by the wonderful and eccentric owner Frederique, it is now run by charming Didier Billes who will be your host, along with your tutor for your weeks stay.

Stunning sunsets and views from Castelnau

The Authentic Adventures team stayed here for a long weekend at the end of September with two journalists and travel councellors who were invited to experience, and write about, a weekend of cooking. We had an inspiring time soaking up the atmosphere of Castelnau, enjoying the landscape and culture of Gascony and cooking and tasting with Anneli Faiers - our fantastic cook. We visited Chateau Monluc, tasting wines and Armagnac, lunch in nearby St. Puy, a gorgeous restaurant - our group took a table outside and enjoyed scallops with leek puree and other delights. A trip to the local town of Fleurance with its pretty market, and a memorable visit to Domaine d'Arton -the prettiest vineyard and elegant and charming hosts Patrick and Victoire de Montal.

Our cooking holidays at Castelnau des Fieumarcon are not cooking courses or classes, they are a complete 'culinary experience' with a chance to soak up everything that is wonderful about the landscape, food and wine of the region. Anneli is passionate about where she lives, and gave us an interesting history of Gascony cuisine, in particular their love of duck. Follow my next blog to read about it, and use a local recipe of 'Cake aux lardons avec figues et noix' - delicious.

Anneli Faiers - our cook at Castelnau

Anneli & Didier

We couldn't be more excited about launching cooking holidays from Castelnau des Fieumarcon!

The interior décor in the drawing room is stunning

This cottage is called Pressaic (where I stayed) - amazing views, high quality interiors.

All the bedrooms are decorated uniquely, and are comfortable. No tea making facilities or televisions!

A peep into another cottage - the evening light was beautiful!

Castelnau has won various awards for its restoration with beautiful detailing.

The lovely market at Fleurance

Linda Kember - our Operations Manager enjoying a cold drink

Our happy group outside Chateau Monluc - John Brough, MD, far left, Didier Billes - our host, next to him, Sarah Edmonds, Marketing Executive, far right.
One of our guests, Antonia, enjoying a cooking session

Enjoying the sunshine outside Chateau Monluc

A brief history of Castelnau des Fieumarcon:

The Castelnau des Fieumarcon is a private fortified settlement built in the 13th century, far away from noise and pollution. Located in the historical land of Armagnac in the South West of France and easily accessible from Bordeaux and Toulouse airports, the village lends itself perfectly our group holidays in all our specialist areas: walking in the beautiful countryside known as 'the Tuscany of France', singing in the grounds of the estate with use of the intimate, private chapel, painting - both the landscape and details of the ancient buildings, and cooking with local chef and award winning food writer Anneli Faiers.

The beauty of the Castelnau des Fieumarcon is the ability to have an entire world of your own where you can think, and explore uninterrupted, and of course enjoy the 'party house' feel in the company of other like-minded people who share your passion. Our aim is to provide a place in which to relax, or be as busy as you wish, use the swimming pool, enjoy the privacy of your own cottage, or paint, sketch, photograph, edit and discuss your work in the comfortable communal spaces. We feel that Castelnau perfectly exemplifies the style of an Authentic Adventures holiday - the décor is stylish, but not overdone, not overtly modern, no televisions or coffee making machines - it's more 'authentic' than that. A beautiful artistic retreat.

The stronghold is a perfect example of sensitive (and sensible) renovation. Built in the 13th century by local feudal lords, the village saw its population rise to 240 in the 17th century. As time went by and lured by the attraction of better living the inhabitants moved slowly away in direction of bigger towns. In the early 1960’s the population had all but vanished leaving most of the houses and the chapel in ruins.

The rebirth of the Castelnau began in 1978 when the Coustols family, local entrepreneurs, decided to change the fate of the village. 16 out of the original 32 houses were rebuilt, and the remaining space planted with scented and fruit gardens. The restoration followed the principles of the DaST (Design a Sustainable Tomorrow) Compass and the Venice Charter, the Castelnau received the VMF Award in 1992 and the RICS Award 2001 in London.

A quarter of a century, a lot of love and tenacity were necessary, not only to bring new life to medieval structures, but also in the particular attention that was given to the interior decoration. Furnishings, objects and tapestries (all sourced in Gascony) blend with more contemporary furniture designed by the owner, allowing history and present to combine harmoniously.

When John discovered Castelnau des Fieumarcon, he knew he had found something special - a place where our clients could enjoy themselves, relax, absorb the culture of this region, delight in Gascogne food and wine and share their passion for photography, painting, singing, walking or cooking.

For more information follow this link: