What a magical place! We were stunned when we arrived - Peycibeau completely exceeded our expectations
or call Julia Tomkins
+44 7973 561 012

Long-term Vacation

An extended holiday - highly recommended

In the winter of 2009, we received an enquiry from a couple living in Melbourne Australia who were looking for a property to rent for up to 12 months. We responded positively, though pointing out that unfortunately the cottage wouldn't be available for the peak season months of July and August, when it is usually rented out to larger parties of guests together with the rest of the grande-maison. Our negotiations continued back and forth by e-mail and finally we came to an arrangement whereby Mr and Mrs Barrins would rent the cottage at Peycibeau for 6 months; April, May and June and then September, October and November.

As we were going to be next door-neighbours for such a long period, and to give each other reassurance of our integrity and trustworthiness, we asked a previous visitor to Peycibeau, John Healy who also lived in Melbourne, to contact John Barrins and have a chat. This was all very positive and so we prepared for the arrival of John and Margaret on March 25th 2010.

We can truly say that it's been a huge pleasure having John and Margaret here as long-term guests, sharing the seasons and the comings and goings of life at Peycibeau. There is a happy balance to be struck in this situation, of being friendly without being intrusive, and we have all managed this very well. As the cottage comfortably sleeps four or five, there have been other members of the Barrins family and their friends visiting them from time to time, and it has been a pleasure to welcome them all here.

Here is their story . . .

It is certainly many a person's dream to be able to take time off from the routines and demands of one's job to spend an extended period of time in the south of France. My wife and I had toyed with this idea for years, and finally decided to cast off the trappings of a fairly typical urban lifestyle to come to France, for a year's relaxation and travel.

An unassuming sign at the roadside pointed quietly up the gravel driveway: Peycibeau My wife and I were at journey's end - a journey that had started not just in distant Melbourne, our home, but in our imaginations when, after two wonderful cycling holidays in the southwest of France, we had started to think about spending a year here. As we drove slowly up the driveway past forest oaks and walnuts trees, the Grande Maison emerged, presiding placidly over the green fields.

This was indeed our vision of a Dordogne house, a striking picture of earthy stone, coloured shutters and perfect proportions. Glenn and Julia were there to greet us and we knew on first encounter that they would be easy people to relate to. The resident hound, a vivacious Vizsla, greeted us a little more noisily, and then, his canine curiosity satisfied, wandered off. Margaret and I were to occupy the cottage attached to the main building, and Julia showed us into our new tastefully furnished and well-equipped home, with all necessary facilities including wi-fi internet.

We arrived at the end of winter and enjoyed the seasonal transition to spring and then to summer. Gradually we eased into life here, assisted by two very accommodating hosts - Nothing, we were to discover, would be too much trouble for Glenn and Julia. Though we had arrived with a workable knowledge of the French language and culture, Margaret and I were offered useful insights into la vie franšaise: shopping, opening hours, doctors and dentists, French bureaucracy - and French driving habits!

We learnt quickly that Glenn is a touche-à-tout, indeed an authority on everything (plumbing, electrics, building, computers, cars and coaches) - and that it is not a bad idea to remind him de temps en temps of what a marvel he is! Julia is hospitably helpful, always friendly and considerate - she drove us 46 kilometres to pick up our bicycles; she took Margaret to the doctor, and she offered us the use of their DVDs and books. Not long into our stay, we were invited us to join them with their friends for a lovely home-made pizza meal in the summer house by the pool - Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, Glenn is a great pizza chef too! During the year we had visits from family and friends, who were always made welcome, and who prompted us to travel even wider than the Périgord. Spain - Barcelona, the Pyrenees and Bordeaux are within easy driving distance.

I had a reasonable command of French, Margaret less so, and we decided to go to French lessons with a local expatriate who had found her niche here teaching languages; this helped to extend our vocabulary and give us more confidence. The owner of the local salon de thé, "O Moulin", organised a gathering of Anglophones and Francophones in the area who wanted to practise their language skills - a great way to get to know people.

We soon discovered where the best salons de thé (with their delicious tartelettes abricot or tourtieres) and cafés were. Ironically however, many French restaurants in this part of the world are oh-so-limited in their menus: what makes so many restaurateurs think that tourists want only duck, foie gras and truffles? Nevertheless, we did find some excellent and not too pricy restaurants.

To work off the excess poundage added through our cheerful indulgence in French food and vin rouge we purchased bicycles, went for cross country walks, even jogged and power-walked - at least at the beginning of our stay! áThe rail-trail from here to Sarlat in one direction and towards Souillac in the other direction is great for families - flat and safe. For more serious recreational cyclists, there are lots of back-road routes to many of the tourist spots. áLonely Planet's "Cycling France" (2001) and their more recent "Cycling in France" (2009) both recommend the area highly.

Peycibeau does not belie its name, "pays si beau", whether you are referring to the estate itself or the countryside round about. The grounds are massive. If you're looking for space, for quietness, for time to reflect, to loll by the pool, then you can't go wrong here. We have spotted deer on the property at dusk, seen the excavations of wild boar, watched the varied bird life, and almost run over a strutting rooster.

What area of France is more picturesque than the Dordogne, has magnificent chateaux everywhere you travel, and is steeped in history from Cromagnon man to mediaeval religious and political wars? Of Sarlat itself, a mere five miles away, we need not speak. It is an exceptional town: friendly, interesting, and neat. One could scarcely choose a better base than Peycibeau for exploration of the Dordogne, Périgord, and Quercy.

At the end of last year we left Australia somewhat apprehensive. This week, a year later, we set out for home, totally convinced of the judiciousness of our decision. When Margaret and I drive down the gravel driveway for the last time, carefully avoiding the imperious rooster, and out past the unassuming little sign "Peycibeau", we shall have made friends with two very interesting people, understood a little more about the French people and culture, and been enriched by our experience in this lovely place.

John Barrins      November 2010

Contact Julia Tomkins by telephone - +44 7973 561 012 enquiries@peycibeau.com
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