From time to time we ask a guest if they'd like to write the blog. This time Rachel's taken up the keyboard - and provided the photos.
It was a tough week at Le Couvent, Roujan. Firstly there was that hot weather – pretty much a constant 35 degrees in the shade, which coincidentally is where I spent most of my time. Then the long periods of pool management, often unaided, where I had to make sure that nothing untoward happened either by or in the pool.
Huge breakfasts for which it would have been rude not to have shown some enthusiasm. I particularly liked the fresh fruit salad, the juicy melon, the luscious pineapple, the perfect peaches, the pouting pastries, the dark seductive coffee, the still warm baguettes, the home made jam, the eggs laid by the cackling hens only hours before… the other stuff was fairly average.
Oh, and we had to go to this restaurant in Vailhan set on a hillside in an old monastery overlooking a lake, hills and the most spectacular sunset. A table on the terrace where, lets face it, there was a strong wind. Tough. And the food… smoked salmon to start, daurade in foaming mayonnaise for mains and chocolate gorgeousness for afters. Hard.
I walked - fast - each morning in the already baking sun to try and maintain some semblance of moderate body size. I focused on routes Dechetterie (look it up), Monastery and Margon and I would have to admit to taking in some rather beautiful scenery.
The locals seemed to wince at my breezy pace in such heat. “Non, non, non, Trop chaud pour marcher…” Having brought my sports bra and short lycra shorts, it seemed the right thing to do but meant I built up a fairly deep all over tan. Again, that might not be to everyone’s taste. Sometimes I just had to lie on the garden bench in the shade and watch the world go by.
Oh, and we squeezed in a visit to the market in Clermont L’Herault where there was a sort of whiny music in the air as we got out of the car. I commented how it sounded like someone playing the saw…
The market was full of bright colours, intriguing stalls and pungent smells – none more so than the air of wet dog that emanated from one of the charcuterie stalls. I’m sure it was very nice… A little hot but I managed. Oh, and I bought a new lilo. A new swim toy had appeared by the pool, a sort of hammock on the water, a cocoon on the lagoon, and I was feeling very sad that I had to leave it behind. Obviously tricky to wrap and send home but I made the best of it…
Oh, I could go on and I will. Obviously I jest. Le Couvent is just about my favourite relaxing sanctuary in the whole world. Ali and Lizzie have created a haven – or is that heaven – for all comers. A place for relaxation, for contemplation, for aperitifs and peaceful banter in the courtyard, regular dips in the pool, favourite rooms (mine is the yellow room, i.e. that’s my room, mine…) and bountiful jaunts – can you have a bountiful jaunt? I mean plenty of places to visit, explore and of course, to eat.
I also made my first trip up to Le Chateau Mal au Dos, the vineyard where Ali and Lizzie create and share more experiences with friends and strangers alike.
Wild fennel and rosemary, peach and pomegranate trees, fig and olive trees, a vegetable garden, a tumbling pool waiting to be filled, a crumbling stone cottage to host summer barbecues, winter sleeping bag snugglings and gatherings galore, and of course a few thousand vines. What a place.
But it’s not just the joy of being there. My mind was also flooded with memories of the times I’ve been there before – this was my sixth visit - wafting over me as I melt into a state of pure contentment. I was sitting by the pool one day when one of the other guests came over to me and said “You look very relaxed in your own skin – is that because you’re here?” Such perception. And what a lovely thing to say.
That was just a week but it has set me up for a good while to come. And I can always go back…
Thanks Rachel - you're welcome back whenever you can squeeze in a jaunt to Roujan. Lizzie & Ali xx