Helen Baron visits La Cour, an architect-restored maison de ville on the outskirts of Uzès
Words Helen Baron
The Languedoc might be seen to live in the shadow of its more famous neighbour, Provence, but in recent years the tide has begun to turn. More visitors are recognising the distinct advantages presented by a region with a Mediterranean summer climate, varied natural landscape and some of the most picturesque and historic sites in a country not entirely starved of such attractions. What’s more, the Languedoc is served by plenty of airports offering great-value flights from the UK, and a network of roads and autoroutes that don’t tend to get so badly congested as those of Provence.
What makes La Cour itself so desirable is that it’s in the Languedoc but close to the border with Provence – enabling you to sample the best of both worlds in a single trip. The nearest large town is Uzès, a classic circulade (a town constructed around concentric circular boulevards) atop a hill overlooking the local landscape. With a plethora of restaurants and bars, plus celebrated antiques shops and a weekly market in the leafy square, Uzès can cater to most needs not met by Bourdic, the tiny village in which La Cour is actually located (a mere fifteen minutes’ drive away). And when you don’t fancy the comparative hustle and bustle of small-town life? Enjoy easygoing walks to neighbouring villages like the lovely Garrigues Sainte-Eulalie, all sunflower fields and old stone churches.
La Cour is, above all things, a surprise – and of the very best sort. From the street, it looks like any other large village house, albeit with solidly imposing double doors that hint at something special within. But as soon as you enter, the scale of the place begins to reveal itself. A courtyard garden centres on a heated swimming pool set in a beautiful stone surround. Beside it, sun-loungers ring a lush lawn that leads to a cavernous, open-ended games room, complete with sandpit (our little ones were enjoying it even before our friendly hosts had finished giving us the tour), table tennis and all manner of pool toys and inflatables. Also close at hand are a laundry room – essential for families – and a pool shower.
The main house encircles half the garden while the other sides are walled in by neighbouring properties. Everything is arranged in such a way that you won’t find neighbours peeking at you while you soak up some rays.
The ground floor features a summer kitchen and movie room complete with plush seating and an overhead projector, perfect for movie nights, while there’s also a toy room stocked with plenty of goodies for under-fives.
Upstairs you’ll find the family kitchen (complete with large American-style island, a favourite gathering place), a huge living and dining room and a snug: this is where our dog (permitted on request) liked to curl up and ignore the noisy antics of our girls come evening.
Beyond the snug lies the master bedroom, a stunning double-height space with an adjoining dressing room and mezzanine bathroom. A dorm-style bedroom on the second floor contains four single beds (great for youngsters), with two double bedrooms and two additional bathrooms along the hall. We travelled in a family group of six adults and two children and had space to spare.
The size of the property is startling, but even on the odd rainy day (we went in May, when the weather was still changeable) it’s easy to get cosy. Such versatility hints at the fact that the house is still owned by the architect who transformed it. It took over two years and a lot of ingenuity to turn what was a semi-derelict village house to the considered, comfortable luxury pad it is today. The results, however, make all the effort all worthwhile: this is a destination for those who demand something special. So many modern conveniences are tucked into a venerable structure that still retains much of its original character, not to mention a sense of modern minimalst style. Designer furnishings sit perfectly alongside the crumbling stone and sultry, old-world romance of the first-floor terraces, with their preserved stone balustrades and sun-dappled dining tables set under pergolas of
lush foliage. It’s “Call Me By Your Name” with a contemporary twist – though one thing that does need saying is that there are quite a lot of steps for families with younger children, and no fencing around the pool. But if you can keep an eye on the little ones, it’s a perfect home-from-home for families looking for French rustic charm at its most luxurious.
Places To Visit
Uzès aside, the local area offers tons to do. The jaw-dropping Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, is within easy driving distance and is an ideal sunset excursion; it also offers plentiful (and easily accessible) opportunities for wild swimming.
We also drove a couple of hours for a day trip to Provence for a visit to Chateau La Coste, a beautifully restored estate and vineyard dotted with sculptures by some of the world’s most celebrated artists. With a cute café serving the chateau’s own wine, it’s a brilliant way to spend a day.