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This page is particularly intended to address the concerns of those who fear that a self-catering holiday in a foreign country is likely to be hard work and may be a bit spartan.

The first thing to bear in mind about Chateau St Martin d'Oydes is that a lot of help is available. One member of the team which looks after the chateau comes in three hours six days a week and this seems to be enough for most groups, but more hours can easily be arranged if you wish. A cook is available. You will need to deal with her direct and make contact in advance but she is very flexible and will do anything from a meal on the day of your arrival to full catering. Baby-sitting or French lessons can be arranged locally.

The house is our own holiday home and we have set it up to be comfortable and easy to run. There is a comprehensive range of normal household appliances - dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, Nespresso and filter coffee machines, food-processor etc and everything is very self-explanatory. Of course, should any problems arise, the housekeeper is on hand to sort them out. We ourselves often travel to the chateau by air and realise that many of our guests will do likewise - or will arrive in heavily loaded cars. We have therefore equipped the house very thoroughly and you will find many things you would perhaps not expect in a rented house - from insulated picnic boxes and freezer blocks to plug-in night lights. All linen, (including pool towels) is provided. Obviously we have not thought of everything but, if in doubt, do ask us before you give up precious packing space to household items.

Shopping need not be a great chore and in the local markets can be tremendous fun. The walk-in larder, two refrigerators and use of the freezer mean that even quite a big party can survive on one or, at most two, supermarket shopping expeditions a week - there is a good Supermarket at Lezat (about 15 minutes) and a comprehensive hyper-market in Pamiers (about 20 minutes). Day-to-day requirements can be bought in the nearby small town of Le Fossat (ten minutes) where there is a small supermarket (with butcher/charcuterie), a pharmacy, a bank, a good bakery, an unbelievably comprehensive general store and a service station. There are markets within easy reach on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Even if you decide not to employ the cook, food preparation need not be a bore. The kitchen is a real pleasure to cook in. It has a good library of English-language cookery books and is extremely well equipped so you should be able to find culinary tools you are comfortable with and avoid the frustration of not having the right sized pots and dishes for your chosen recipes. If you do not feel like cooking, remember France is the home of ready-made food stuffs. The vast range of patÚs, cooked sausage, preserved meats, cheeses, quiches and patisseries - along with wonderful seasonal fruits and salads - mean you can serve up a never-ending series of simple and delicious meals with virtually no effort at all. And then there is always the barbecue - ideal for the justly famous Toulouse sausages.

The house is not city-smart nor is it furnished in the style of an eighteenth or nineteenth century chateau but it is very comfortable. You will not find yourself perching awkwardly on little gilded chairs anxiously wondering whether they will collapse, but you will find a combination of solid country antiques along with comfortable and relaxing armchairs and sofas to curl up in.

Lastly, we would mention two features of the chateau which are important to us and which we believe contribute significantly to a relaxing and harmonious holiday. First, there is plenty to do both indoors and out and secondly there is plenty of space to do it in - so that even on a wet day all members of a large party can happily enjoy themselves without disturbing others.

© Chateau St Martin, 2010 Site by: Wizbit