The Domaine de Puychene is an unbelievably idyllic place to go. The Domaine is an old winery that was converted into a guest house some 3 years ago by the energetic and charismatic owners Phillipe and Veronique. It has that quaint southern French flair of a historical mansion with a well kept garden, guarded by big imposing iron gates. Inside, our 70 sqm. appartment with country style furniture was highly modern, well equipped and pleasantly clean. Our little gravelled patio, surrounded by bushery giving pleasant privacy, had a gas grill that we used often.
As the French always seem to say - "impeccable".
It has a nice pool, big enough to spend lazy afternoons reading and playing around with the kids. Philippe and Veronique live in the village, so they are available on site almost every day, but without being on your back. Both speak great English, and Phillipe surprised me almost every day with a few funny colloquial phrases in German, including a hearty "Mahlzeit" when I lugged back my Baguette for breakfast from the local bakery at 11:30 a.m. On our two week stay, they staged an evening for wine tasting with a local wine maker as well as an evening with delicious local cooking prepared by a friend for the guests. Mingling of guests is encouraged, and sitting outside on a warm summer evening with a cool glass of wine and some new acquaintances really has it's merit. On our arrival on day one, Veronique took lots of time to give us a whole row of good tips on where to go and what to do in the area, and they have a big collection of brochures of places to visit. Apart from the pool, they have table football, table tennis, space for a bit of football kicking and, never to forget in France, equipment for a match of Boules.
The Domaine is a great base for trips into the country. Of course we went to Carcassonne, but the smaller medieval villages of Minerve or Lagrasse are almost as nice to visit. There are a bunch of old abbeys to visit, we realy liked the Abbaye de Fonfroide near Narbonne, which had a great multimedia guide on a tablet in many languages, including of course German and English. In the Corbieres-mountain range you can find so many nice places to hike, and there are amazing canyons to see. Our favorite were the Gorges du Verdouble right below the medieval town of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. A brliiant row of water pools cascading from the canyon, perfect for a cool swim in the sweltering summer heat.
For those hungry for insight into the making of local products, I can recommend a visit to the "Oulibo", where you can book a 90 minute tour (even in English!) where you learn a lot about olive farming and the wide range of olive products. Oulibo is only 15 minutes away from the Domaine, so great for a quick afternoon excursion to round off a day lazing at the pool after sleeping late.
In regard to beaches, we liked the beach "Leucate-Plage" best, but that was a 40 minute drive from the Domaine - nonetheless worth the time.
Our longest drive was to Barcelona in Spain, which took us exactly 3 hours each direction.
On the whole, we really enjoyed the Domaine de Puychene. Quiet enough, but nonetheless nice for kids (maybe not so much for toddlers, better if they can swim and move around on their own). I liked the owners, always ready for small talk, information about the local sights and events, views on politics, France in general, and eager to stay in touch with the guests. For us (we were there with our 13 year old son), it was a great vacation.
This January a group of 7 cyclists from The Republic of Ireland booked a week with Phillippe.
The location was ideal, lovely accommodation and great hosts.
Bike hire was available locally and the rural area is ideal for road cycling.
Well worth a return visit at another time of the year.
We will definately be back again.