We decided to look around for something to do at fairly short notice when our diary dates gave us just a short time to get away, and my sister suggested as it was nearing the end of the season, we might be able to get into Terry and John's place where she had just returned from.
So we got ourselves a flight from Stansted to Bergerac - a small, basic airport around an hour's drive away from Les Essards. We got the car and had no problems finding Lemonie - which is not in the nearby Les Essards village, but on a low rise opposite a small lake. The property is a number of lovely old building, brought up to very moderns standards inside, but retaining the quaint local look outside. I've pretty well honed my travel requirements into a few important areas. It has to be clean, comfy and have just a few essential features. A decent shower or bath, modern loos, a comfy bed and a kitchen able to knock up my favourite stuff. Wifi and electricity that is effective (so many aren't) is also a must have. Lemonie exceeds all these requirements easily - not a tiny kitchen, but a proper one - a good size so even a family would fit properly, and bright. Everything I needed and more.
Anybody who has never seen a real starry sky needs to visit this gite - the milky way slices through the night sky and the stars are simply amazing.
You need transport, as apart from a few other homes, it's probably five to ten minutes to get to the source of your breakfast croissants, and a bit further to big supemarkets.
The locals we met were not bothered in the least by my feeble attempts at French. We found none of that snooty behaviour so many other destinations have. Ali and I went for a fifteen minute walk to feed the donkeys a nearby farmer keeps in a field near the river. The walk was a simple one. Turn left, then follow the lane down to the river. We found a french chap fishing, and he happily wished us good morning and didn't flicker at my schoolboy French reply! Just past the donkeys there is a widening of the river, a weir with stepping stones and a wonderful view of a small chateau. At the time we visited all the fields were either sweet corn or sunflowers - and amazing sight! The gites are on a seldom used, very quiet road and the silence would be broken by the occasional distant donkey - but pretty well silence. On one of our walks, we took the owner's daft dog as he's a native. He wasn't much help and vanished into the sunflowers, but luckily he arrived back at Lemonie about half an hour later.
The gites have a really nice pool, shared with the other guests and I'd estimate it to be around 10m long so plenty of room, and clean and well looked after. We bumped into the other family staying when we were there and it's big enough to allow separation and privacy if you want it, although we spent a long time just chatting!
Terry and John are full of useful information on where to go and what to see, and we found wonderful villages, small towns, ravines, rivers and even river beaches - areas where proper beach sand had been brought in to create beaches on the river, which is clean and swimmable. Plenty of old things to see - churches built into cliff faces, beautiful old buildings along the river, terraces of old houses that vaguely made it more like Italy than France. In the big regular street markets we found all kinds of interesting stuff, and wishes Ryanair had more affordable excess baggage charges. Food is everywhere, and lots of different styles. One place we were recommended was a workman's style cafe - you pick a starter from the buffet, they serve you a main course and then you help yourself to desert - quite cheap and again, nobody bothered we were English. Plenty of very nice 'proper' restaurants with helpful staff make eating out easy.
We will certainly be going again - more exploring to be done. Weather while we were there was hot and dry. If it turned, we could easily have kept ourselves busy - we just didn't need to!
In fact, I'd consider this area if we every decided to sell up and move somewhere abroad.
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We had a 2 week stay at Lemonie Gites in 'La Grange' which is the 3 bed gite. We were instantly taken back by how beautiful the grounds are and how welcoming John and Terry (the owners) are. We had seen photos on the website and as stunning as they are, they really don't do it justice! The interior of La Grange has been beautifully renovated and has a particularly spacious open plan living area which is perfect for a family. John and Terry had kindly left a welcome pack of essentials; milk, bread, eggs, soft drinks, a lovely tea set and even wine and a freshly baked homemade cake! Which was delicious.
The brand new pool was a huge hit with our two young children and it was difficult to prize them away to visit some of the beautiful places that surround Lemonie Gites. There are so many places to go that we didn't have time to do it all so we are planning to return next summer. Some of the highlights for us were the local towns of Aubettere and St Aulay as they both have lovely river beaches and plenty of restaurants to choose from for relaxing lunches and evening meals. We also visited Brantome and St Emilion which are both breathtaking places to visit in their own right.
Another highlight of our stay was the fact that John and Terry were kind enough to take us to a couple of local village festivals where you get to experience real local life. This is something you wouldn't normally expect to do during a family holiday and the fact we had the privilege to experience this will leave lasting memories for our family, it was such a nice touch.
Another nice touch was the fact John and Terry hosted 'pizza nights' each Friday which brought everyone together where freshly made pizzas were baked in the outdoor stone oven, it was lovely. It's worth pointing out that all of this was entirely optional and there was no pressure to go along. I'm glad we did though as the night markets and pizza nights proved to be the best nights of the holiday!
In truth there was absolutely nothing negative about our stay at Lemonie Gites and we cannot recommend this place highly enough. We will be back again in August 2017!
This is a new gite complex nestling in Les Essards. I have been here for the best part of a week and it has been a while since I slept so well. Mine hosts Terry and John go out of their way to ensure that everyone is happy and catered for. The accommodations are beautifully finished and light and airy (see photos). The property is set amidst beautiful fruit trees and flower borders, and it benefits from a recently completed 12 metre heated swimming pool. The third member of the hosting team is Brandon, a griffon, and the Gites are dog friendly. On Friday night we had a pizza night where everyone chose their own toppings and the pizzas were then cooked in the outside pizza oven, with wine flowing freely and a convivial atmosphere. The Gites are only 10 minutes from Aubeterre and there are plenty of things to do within a short radius. I can't recommend this place highly enough. I will be back!!!!!