Love at First Sight, Maison de Saint Jean

Love at first sight, Maison de Saint Jean

Love at first sight, yes it's real – or it was for my husband and I… Truly, we went out for dinner and came back having bought a house. We'd always fancied trying to afford a second home, somewhere to escape to with a kinder climate but otherwise all the benefits of home, no compromise.

So as a birthday present to my husband, feeling we'd never get down to it otherwise, I set up a long weekend house-hunting in France. As it was, his birthday dinner on the first night proved fateful; our search for a dream holiday home in France had barely started when it was all done and dusted. We got word that a very special property was just about to come on the market, took a look, had a conversation and job done, our love affair with Maison de Saint Jean and had begun.

Preparing for the trip, I'd spent hours on the internet comparing the climate, geography and culture and – most definitely – the food of all sorts of regions of France finally settling on the this little area which is not well-known but seemed very accessible with fantastic local produce and excellent weather. The region is known for its food markets and rich, flavoursome cuisine. Various articles told me the area was all about food and farming : soft fruit, cattle, luscious cheeses, walnuts and - surprisingly - great fish fresh from the sea. Turns out the area is only a 3 hour drive from the Mediterranean too. Mid-way between Bergerac, Bordeaux and Toulouse airports and close to good TGV rail and also road links accessibility was not going to be a problem. But most of all, it was the images of stunning scenery - rolling hills, wide valleys and big skies – that drew me in. And looking at the population density, it just had to promise peace, quiet and tranquillity surely.

Our house, Maison de St Jean is on the edge of a tiny village, typical of the area : Miramont-de-Quercy. The village was once the site of a thriving cattle market where local farmers gathered to buy and sell. The layout of the village with its open centre reflects this and also explains the presence of the excellent restaurant – L'Auberge de Miramont - in what seems such a small and quiet place today. Best of all, the restaurant is not the only attraction; just down the hill, Miramont has its own classic artisan French bakery (sadly, becoming a rarity in France as a whole). Both the bread and croissants are the best we've ever tasted.

Drawn to the village that weekend by a recommendation for the restaurant - and the chatter about amazing views out over the Quercy landscape – I duly booked us in. Not until we arrived and got talking to the waitress did we get to learn about the house that was to become our second home just a short walk away. Would we like to view, the Agent's there now in fact? 'Yes' we said, might as well…

Something about the artisan style – contemporary, elegantly smooth, deceptively simple...

It was the self-effacing door from the road that started the magic for us. Something about the artisan style – contemporary, elegantly smooth, deceptively simple – it offered an invitation to open and enter, so we did. Step inside and to the left, the entrance to the house - but then we were stopped short, dead in our tracks.

WOW! that view, that was the view everybody was talking about. This is quite exceptional we said to each other – whispering quietly in case the agent heard. We didn't want them to think they had us at the first hello of course.

Old medieval town of Lauzerte...

High up on the edge of the valley we could see over the tops of the oak trees below, the valley floor beyond them, opening out into the flood plain of some ancient river, rolling on to a hill in the distance and there perched on top, the old medieval town of Lauzerte, one of France's designated 'Most Beautiful Villages'.

Sunset on a hot June evening...

And a big sky, a huge sky – this first view was at sunset on a hot June evening but we've since thrilled to every single weather our sky has offered us. Sun, high white clouds, rolling mists in winter.

Later, as we've let the house, we've come to realise that people use us a painting retreat. No need to go further than the living room with its huge floor to ceiling windows to try your skill at capturing what you see on paper.

Originally a set of Quercy stone barns, the French sellers had worked with an architect to convert them into a 4 bedroom family home of space, light and comfort. Intriguing for us too was the fact that they'd not had a chance to complete their project, giving us the opportunity to add our own features and create the finish we wanted.

Sleek white to emphasise the airiness and sense of space...

Concrete floors we replaced with waxed French oak – lovely underfoot. And out went a strong colour palette in favour of sleek white to emphasise the airiness and sense of space. Critical for us as a family was a good, robust kitchen and we were able to design one to our own specification : open plan, well equipped (including lots of equipment and knives that really cut). Deluxe shower rooms, and an outdoor sofa seating also followed. From the outset we set about righting all the wrongs we’d encountered in holiday homes we’d rented in the past.

A full 12m x 4 m of sparkling heated pleasure...

That first viewing though, there was one thing definitely missing – and that was a pool. We'd set our sights on having one; for us no holiday home or villa is complete without a good-sized, heated pool. Happily the garden had a a perfect space beckoning; we could swim and watch the sky and see the hills at the same time just steps away from the house. Thanks to the the help of an excellent local specialist company in Jean-Luc Riviere EURL, who shifted tons of soil and manhandled countless slabs of travertine, we now have the private, heated pool we've always dreamed of. A full 12m x 4 m of sparkling heated pleasure, cleaned and filtered using the latest in UV/salt technology (so the smell and effects of conventional chlorine are kept to a minimum). It's a joy to use. Compliant with French regulations we have an electric cover which makes opening and closing the pool a doddle.

Take a look at some of our reviews and discover that it's been a hit with many of our clients too.

We only have one problem now - and that's not ever wanting to leave it once we're there. But then, if we didn't vacate, there'd be no room for you...


Outdoor dining

Outdoor dining

Maison de Saint Jean

Maison de Saint Jean


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This article may contain or reflect personal opinions and cannot be considered contractual.
Full property details and booking terms and conditions are available on the relevant property page(s).
Entry fees, opening hours and other information correct at the time of publishing, March 2019.