We recently ran a competition with Sunday Times+ for a stay in the beautiful Villa Du Fleuve, one of our favourite villas in Aquitaine. The prize was eventually snagged by lucky winners Hilary and Garry Banks, who took along their equally lucky friends Bryan and Sandra. By all accounts they had a fantastic time, and we were delighted when Hilary agreed to write an account of their adventures. If you’re curious to see what an Oliver’s Travels holiday is really like, this will have you looking for a villa to suit in no time!
My husband and I, together with two friends, were lucky enough to spend last week (at the beginning of June) in this fabulous property, and we had the most wonderful week exploring the area around Le Priotlet. The real ‘jewel in the crown’ however, was being able to totally relax in this glorious villa with its surrounding gardens and large pool with paved terrace and super comfortable sunbeds.
We arrived at Bordeaux airport late on Saturday afternoon after delays with flights and car hire, and so, as we were aware that most shops close on Sundays, we entered into a ‘Supermarket Sweep’ type attack on one of the numerous supermarkets on the way to Le Priotlet to get the essentials for the next couple of days (and of course, wine, beer and chocolates are essentials!)
We then hurried along, as we knew that Peter, the caretaker for the villa, was waiting to welcome us and show us around to familiarise ourselves with the various electrical items, etc. Fortunately we had ensured that we had his mobile number to hand so that we could appraise him of our delay and approximate arrival time.
Sure enough, Peter was waiting on our arrival with a warm welcome (and brollies as there was a terrific downpour just as we pulled up to the door). Any disappointment we felt about the weather was quickly dispelled as we walked into Le Priotlet. What a beautiful property it is, with a wealth of character, having been restored to the highest standards. We immediately felt at home in this lovely villa! Having decided to eat in that evening, we made good use of the very extensive kitchen amenities – everything you need is there including a large range oven, dishwasher and fridge freezer, and a good selection of very sharp knives for ‘professional’ food preparation (not that any of us fell into that category!)
The following day was my birthday, so we decided to follow the ‘Wine Route’ across to Bordeaux and beyond to have lunch at a recommended restaurant, Cafe Lavinal at Hameau de Bages, just outside of Pauillac. I can thoroughly recommend this lovely eatery, the food was superb and the setting very typically French, being set in a wine chateau domaine – a beautiful village to wander round after lunch to burn off some calories! The route along the wine trail was stunning, with vineyards as far as the eye could see, and glimpses of the Dordogne river along the way. As for the Grand Cru chateaux, well, there was no shortage of those to see, and they were simply stunning.
The following few days were spent exploring the area around the villa, including the small village of Flaujagues where it is situated. Being a small hamlet, it doesn’t take long to walk around but it does boast a small shop which stocks fresh baguettes each morning (except Monday when we were there) and all the daily essentials including milk, butter and a small selection of veg. There is also a cafe/pizzeria next to the shop, though we didn’t get round to trying that out. Further afield, we explored the beautiful town of St Emilion which is a ‘must see’, and a little further away, the town of Bergerac with its riverside walks and boat trips, and quaint historic quarter.
At the end of a hard day of sightseeing, there was nothing better than a cooling swim in the pool at Le Priotlet, followed by an evening BBQ in the secluded garden (all the BBQ equipment is provided) with a bottle or two of purchases from the village wine co-operative it made a perfect end to the day.
The gardens of Le Priotlet run right down to the banks of the Dordogne, and there are steps down to a landing stage from where one can set off in either a double canoe or a couple of kayaks for a meander along the river. These boats are provided for guest’s use together with life jackets, but again we were so busy exploring we didn’t make use of them. Fishing gear is available for use and judging by the fish we saw jumping in the river they are there for the taking!
The river flows to the nearest town of Castillon-la-Bataille, (which is worth a short visit) and where the nearest supermarket, the Intermarche, is located. There is a lovely drive from the villa along the Route de Dordogne into Castillon-la-Bataille, and there is a very good restaurant along that road called La Table Rouge overlooking the river where we ate one evening. A short but very good menu with traditional French fare cooked to a very high standard – not too expensive, and as a bonus they have their own wine cellar where you chose your wine to accompany your meal. Again, we can thoroughly recommend a visit!
Before we knew it, the week was over and Peter returned on the Saturday morning to check that all was well and to bid us a safe journey home. A week seemed all too short to pack in all we wanted to do, but having said that Thursday and Friday were so hot that we were content to laze by the pool at Le Priotlet and make the most of the seclusion and the facilities at the villa, and to cook at home and make the most of the fantastic local produce.
We came away with some wonderful memories and an appreciation of a beautifully restored villa that was part of the original old village priory – a lot of ‘heart and soul’ has been put in to make it the stunning home it now is. We would go back in a heartbeat!