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AROUND THE CHATEAU

Apart from activities round the pool there is a lot to do in the park. We have a trampoline (with safety netting) and a small swing-set. There is plenty of space for ball games, soccer and rugby balls, frisbees and equipment for boules, croquet, badminton and a number of other outdoor games are available for the use of guests. There is a collection of children's toys including pool toys and a play tent and bikes (three adult and two children's). In the village there is a little-used hard tennis court and small children's playground which are no more than a few moments from our main gate. A number of way-marked walks have been developed in the surrounding countryside, two of which start in the square immediately in front of the chateau - guides can be found in the house.

There is also lots to do should you be driven indoors by heat or wet weather. There is a cupboard full of board games, playing cards and jig-saws. There are also two TVs - one on the top floor, which received French TV programmes and has DVD and VHS players with lots of DVDs and videos (including plenty for children) and a flat screen one in the salon which gets no TV but has internet connection and a DVD/Bluray player. There are also several CD players and a good range of CDs (mostly classical, jazz and sixties).  

In the games room there is a table-tennis table, junior bar-football and gym bench and weights. One of the great advantages of the house is that it is so spacious that individuals or groups can enjoy their chosen activities without disturbing each other. While a thoroughly rowdy game of table tennis is going on in the games room, one person can be reading peacefully in the library, another listening to music in the salon and others watching a video while a highly contentious game of scrabble is taking place at the dining room table.

There is wi-fi throughout most of the house and a wi-fi printer in the library. There is also an accessible mobile (cell) phone network though it is often difficult to get reception in the house. Our telephone calls are made over the internet and, as far as we can tell, are free.

There is no problem if you like reading. There are books everywhere (the travel editor of the Observer has described ours as 'the best English language library in south west France'). The range naturally rather reflects our interests and we are particularly strong on fiction, including plenty of crime and thrillers as well as classics, history, biography, humour, puzzles and children's books. There are about 3000 books in the library itself and others in just about every room: selections in the bedrooms, cookery books and gardening in the kitchen/dining-room, biography on the landing and a battered Chambers dictionary in the downstairs sitting room to resolve Scrabble disputes and assist crossword fanatics.

FURTHER AFIELD

There is so much to do and so many places to explore in this fascinating and beautiful region that it is difficult to know where to begin. There is wonderful countryside ranging from the gently pastoral and wooded foothills around the chateau to the raw magnificence and deep gorges of the high Pyrenees. It is an area with an exceptionally rich history ranging from early stone-age civilisation (wonderful cave paintings which we believe to be the last in Europe still open to public view and the 'parc de prehistoire' at Tarascon which is well worth a visit) through Saracen invasions, the Cathars and the Albigensian crusade against them and the bitter religious wars of the sixteenth century between Catholics and Protestants. In the twentieth century the Pyrenees provided several important escape routes for allied servicemen from occupied France - one of which can now be walked as a long-distance footpath. There are chateaux, fascinating and historic towns, religious sites, museums, working farms to visit (including a bison ranch and a mohair farm), and local produce to sample. A daunting range of physical activities including hang-gliding and white water rafting is available in the area. Tourist information and a collection of general guidebooks on the area can be found in the library.

The Pyrenees Adventure Company gives an idea of the splendid range available and will organise activities for you.

We would particularly mention:

The miles upon miles of glorious walking at all levels of difficulty. Two easy walks start from outside our front door. A comprehensive collection of walking guides can be found in the library.

The Pyrenees is a great area for horse-riding and there is an establishment only about five minutes drive from the chateau.

The tree-top walks at 'Sequoia Vertigo' (about 20 minutes drive) are not to be missed. They provide tremendous fun for all from tots through to adults.

Golf - there is a public course about 40 minutes drive away.

Skiing (both downhill and cross-country) is about an hour's drive.

Several lakes in the vicinity can be used for water sports. Two are within about ten minutes drive - but you will need your own equipment. There is a particularly large and beautiful lake at Monbel (about 40 minutes) where catamarans and sailboards are available for hire.

All terrain bike-hire, kayaking, white-water rafting, climbing, caving, hang-gliding, karting and even gold-panning are all available within the area.

Toulouse, Foix, Albi, Carcassonne, Perpignan and Lourdes are all interesting towns within range for a day's outing.

Concerts often take place in churches and throughout the summer there is a series of music festivals in the area (including jazz).

The neighbouring village of Artigat was the home of the original Martin Guerre. The extraordinary story of his return (the basis of the film and musical "The Return of Martin Guerre" and the film "Summersby") is a true one. In the nearby town of Le Fossat there is an open-air theatre where a dramatisation of the story is sometimes performed.

© Chateau St Martin, 2010 Site by: Wizbit