F-47360 Madaillan, near Agen, Lot-et-Garonne (44016* N, 0035’30″E)
The original 16th Century house at “Vergnes” was rebuilt in 1837 as an elegant manor house next to a charming ancient cottage. Set in a park of century-old cedar and oak trees, the three-acre property comprises a small orchard, meadows, a large south facing terrace, gardens, swimming pool (14m), poolhouse and a dovecote. It is surrounded by orchards, farm and woodland, and the hillside position gives a panoramic view across the valley. The property is secluded without being isolated.
The large terrace which leads to the north entrance of the house is a perfect place for cool alfresco dining with a view across the park to the pigeonnier and walled barn garden.
The spacious living room (400 sq.ft) with its magnificent fireplace is furnished with large sofas, dining table and chairs.
The library leads off the living room and provides further comfortable seating. There is a radio with an audio cassette and CD player, a colour TV set with a satellite receiver which receives BBC World TV and radio channels in addition to the French terrestrial TV broadcasts, a VCR, a DVD/CD player as well as a telephone/fax and Minitel. The instruction manuals are kept in the ring binder in the right corner of the bookshelf to the right of the TV set, satellite set, Video Cassette Recorder and DVD equipment.
In all, there are three double bedrooms and two rooms with two single beds. Two double bedrooms with king-size double beds have bathrooms en suite. The third double bedroom has a standard size double bed. It shares an interconnecting bathroom with the fourth bedroom which has two single beds. The other room with two single beds is on the lower (garden) floor where there is a shower room, a hand basin and a WC. The bedrooms and bathrooms are attractively and comfortably furnished.
The kitchen opens onto the north terrace and to the hall leading to the living room. It is equipped with a refrigerator, a small freezer, gas and electric hob, electric oven, espresso coffee machine, dishwasher, food mixer and a complete range of cooking equipment.
A spiral staircase leads to the lower “garden floor” where there is a laundry room equipped with washing and drying machines, a small bedroom with two single beds, a large games room with a table tennis table as well as a boule, croquet and tennis equipment, a lounge, a shower room and WC. A mobile barbecue is kept in the poolhouse storage room.
THE SWIMMING POOL AND POOLHOUSE
A short walk across the lawn brings one to the 6 x 14 m swimming pool. An automatic purification system and vacuum cleaner ensure that it is always in sparkling condition.
The pool house comprises two pavilions connected by a terrace shaded by a pergola. Meals can be prepared in the fully equipped kitchen and eaten on the terrace. The second pavilion houses a changing room, shower, WC and a store room.
THE GUARDIAN’S COTTAGE
The picturesque old farm cottage with its external double oven for the drying of the famous Agen prunes has been restored and is occupied by the guardian and his wife. During the working week they are away and their presence in no way interferes with the privacy of the guests. The guardian can assist with the operation of appliances and equipment in the house. He looks after the pool filtering system and the lawn sprinkler system.
THE PIGEONNIER, GARDENS AND ORCHARD
The imposing three-storey dovecote enhances the character of the property. The south-facing terrace and garden, the orchard with plums, pears, apples and cherries, and the garden in the former barn all provide peaceful sheltered places furnished with benches and tables where one can sunbathe, read or just enjoy the view.
THE WOODS AND LOWER TERRACE
A path at the edge of the orchard leads along a steep escarpment to a wooded area on the border of the property. A virtually unnoticeable unfinished stairway leads part of the way to the lower overgrown area. Do not allow small children to go unsupervised near the escarpment.
There are a number of villages in the area where one can shop and dine out (in Michelin grand style at Puymirol (**) and Pujols (*) or in the many less expensive local restaurants) but a car is essential. The nearest town, Agen on the river Garonne, has a charming mediaeval quarter, an attractive “covered market” and on Sunday mornings a farmers’ market in Agen’s Place du 14. Juillet, often referred to locally instead as the Place du Pin. Local specialities are superb and the markets are full of produce from the surrounding rich farmlands, vineyards and orchards, and fish, lobsters and oysters from the Atlantic.
There is much to enjoy in the area – history, architecture, festivals, markets, walks, gastronomy, golf – but the charm and tranquility of “Vergnes” tempt one to stay there and enjoy it most of the time.