Patience, planning and hard work definitely reward
Sally Shaw talks about her delightful farmhouse in the Languedoc. | Domaine la Véronique - PUIS107
When Sally Shaw and her husband bought their lovely auberge in the Languedoc they weren’t entirely new to the hospitality industry. A previous life included owning a hotel barge offering gourmet holidays to small groups of bon viveurs. Peter was a chef and Sally has a talent for organisation so this lifestyle was a natural extension of their skills. After successfully running this business for some four years they decided to do pretty much the same thing, but this time on dry land!
Sally knew the Languedoc well, having visited the region for over 20 years. With her knowledge of this wonderful region, its history, geography, culture and cuisine, together with Peter’s considerable knowledge of architecture and building work, they set out to find the ideal property to buy and renovate.
Fate brought them to Puisserguier, a thriving little village just north of Béziers. Puisserguier is a lovely example of Languedoc ‘circulade’ construction, where the original village is built like a snail’s shell with the back of the houses facing outwards for defence and protection. It was just outside Puisserguier that they discovered Domaine La Véronique.
La Véronique is a 17th century farmhouse, picture postcard beautiful with sweeping views across the endless Languedoc vineyards as far as the Pyrenees. The surrounding land of La Véronique is steeped in history. Just up the road, the priory of Saint-Christophe was constructed in the 17th century over the site of a Roman temple. La Véronique was originally the nunnery linked to the Priory but which later became a wine domaine and then was split into three houses. In the 1900’s the site was abandoned and when Peter and Sally first saw it, all that was left was three walls.
Over the space of the next four years they totally renovated the building creating a space that incorporates all the features of 21st century living whilst remaining true to its ancient and prestigious origins. The garden, which they painstakingly hacked out of a wilderness, now boasts a wealth of Mediterranean plants, fruit and citrus trees.
So, how did they go about the renovation work? For the main construction effort they brought in contractors from Narbonne. Overall, this was a positive experience with fewer than usual employer/contractor gripes. One thing Sally is careful to point out however is that everything takes a lot longer than you imagine. If you think a job is going to take a year, then best to double your assessment. Things move more slowly in southern France and the pace of life overall is slower. Just be realistic with your time frames and remember that summers down here are hot so for at least two months of the year you won’t fancy working outside through the heat of the day.
The result, as you can see from these pictures is stunning. La Véronique cleverly blends comfort with style, authenticity, originality and not forgetting a little Je ne sais quoi. During the summer months Sally lives in a small outbuilding that she and Peter also converted which has its own entrance allowing the visitors complete privacy. In the Autumn she moves back into the main house and it is this that makes the house so welcoming. Unlike many rental homes which are furnished with the basic minimum, La Véronique is brimming with interesting little bits of furniture, ornaments and pictures that you simply wouldn’t find in a house that is used purely for rental. La Véronique is indeed a home, not just a house.
Since completing renovation work the business has changed direction slightly and Sally now just rents out La Véronique without the gourmet touches. “It’s a lot less work!” says Sally. Which is just as well since she is heavily involved with an international choir affiliated to the Mairie of the nearby village of Capestang. Capestang is a large village on the banks of the famous Canal du Midi very popular with Anglo-Saxon tourists and a great mooring point for boats cruising the Canal.
So why does Sally advertise her property with South France Holiday Villas? “I was recommended to Juliana Forte and her team by a mutual friend who knew them very well. Advertising on their site is simple and it doesn’t cost me a penny. They are responsive and accessible and easy to deal with and unlike some other internet sites, offer a very personal service to both client and owner. When it comes to setting prices I go with their recommendations and this business relationship seems to serve us both very well”.