As I approach Chambres d’Hôtes d’Arquier, near Toulouse, I get the feeling that I am floating in a dream. The rays of an early autumn sun sieve through the branches of trees aligning a gravel road leading to a countryside mansion. Apart from the sound of slight wind rustling the leaves and the gravel shifting under my feet, no sound is to be heard. A flock of birds flutter in the air, and I start to understand why so many people fall in love with the French countryside.
And this feeling is intensified when I see the Chambres d’Hôtes d’Arquier itself: charmingly aged, over two-hundred-year-old brick building, shining in shades of pink and peach. The house is so beautiful it hurts my heart to see it: I have found my dream house.
But, unfortunately, I am here only as a guest for a night before continuing my journey to Toulouse.
The owner of the house, Pierre Espagno, welcomes us and shows around the house: my French is a bit rusty, so sometimes I miss a sentence or two, but with smiles and friendly gestures we speak the same language of appreciating what is around us.
Mr Espagno was born in the house, which his family acquired in 1922. The house was built in 1812, and much of the beautiful floor tiles you walk on are either originals, or replaced in 1900. Normally, in an old mansion house, you are accustomed to hearing wooden floor boards squeaking under your feet but in d’Arquier, it is the tiny click of loosened floor tiles that gives the house its own, personal sound.
In the beautifully decorated bathroom, Mr Espagno points out the wall tiles and tells that they are painted by his aunt and uncle, Marc Saint-Saens, great nephew of the composer Cecil Saint-Saens.
There are only three rooms in total in d’Arquier. A night for a single person varies from 95 € to 100 €, and doubles from 100 € to 105 €. A family suite costs from 150 € to 160 €. And this includes a French, homemade breakfast. And when I say homemade, I truly mean it: Mr Espagno announces that he himself made the yoghurt. The coffee is strong and tasty, and the juice is fresh. I assume the breads and croissants come from a nearby bakery – unless they are just baked in the house oven too: everything screams of homey quality.
And then there is the yard. In front of the house, you have a pool shaded by hundred years old Cedar trees. After strolling around and sitting down by the pool, I walk to the other side of the house, where the early evening sun makes the house shine in its peachy glory. I sit down on a bench under a tall tree and let the sun do its tricks. The whole setting looks like from a post-New York period Woody Allen movie set, and I can easily imagine a gramophone playing some classy jazz indoors, adults chatting on the yard holding champagne glasses, and children with home made lemonades trying not to run too fast; a scene from a distant past.
As d’Arquier is “Chambre d’Hôtes”, that is a B&B, they do not provide dinner: the nearest town is about 8 kilometres away, and Toulouse city centre is only about twenty-five minutes drive away. There are many well-rated restaurants in the area also. If I had been well prepared, I would have brought just a little evening picnic and enjoyed it on the yard before dark, but as it was, I drove about five minutes to a small village of Lacroix-Falgarde and had a pizza in a local pizzeria.
I stayed in the room ‘Marguerite’, named after Mr Espagno’s mother, and I wanted to spend a few moments writing by the old wooden desk before calling it the night. Outside, it is pitch black, and the wind storms. Momentarily, I hear an open window banging somewhere a few times before it is closed, and the wind keeps outside again. There is a warm family feel in the house and I feel lucky to have this experience of French countryside hospitality. Listening to the wind and the sounds of the house it feels like the house has a soul, and that I have found my soul mate; a house of my dreams.
P.S. I wish to thank Chambres d’Hôtes d’Arquier for the opportunity to stay in this elegant and historic Chambre d’Hôtes. d’Arquier is part of my series exploring Europe’s historic accommodation possibilities. The collaboration does not affect the content of my writing, as I choose only culturally and/or historically significant accommodations for the series. By this, I wish to ensure inspiring and atmospheric moments for my readers on their travels. Historic hotels are an integral part of the history of European travel, and with the series, I wish to support this part of our travel history.
Check out drone footage from Chambres d’Hôtes d’Arquier!