Are you one of those people whose mouth waters at the thought of driving along unknown roads, discovering places for the first time and wondering what’s around the next corner? Do you dream of exploring ancient castles and abbeys and mooching around pretty villages and visiting bustling French markets? Does history and culture appeal to you more than lazing on a beach? If yes is your answer then Languedoc is your destination but remember its big so choosing the right location for your holiday is hugely important.
The choice of B&B accommodation is wide too but there is one special place I never hesitate to recommend, and its name is Sainte-Hélène Chambres d’hôtes a B&B in the little town of Olonzac. Its owned by Kay and Mark who I first met 8 years ago when I was busy expanding my network to promote my vineyard tours. An obvious way to do this was with B&B owners who offer the sort of accommodation my clients would enjoy. Comfortable places that aim to attract visitors with a sense of adventure and who appreciate quality and professionalism. The moment I met Kay and Mark I knew we shared the same values and after visiting their B&B I felt sure that my clients would love to stay in the charming home of these lovely people.
Mark & Kay are keen travellers and have selected the best things from their experiences to incorporate into their business. Kay is from New Zealand and Mark hails from the UK and they met and married 35 years ago in New Zealand. A family reason took them to live in the UK for a short while and when they were free to travel again, they decided they wanted to stay in Europe and France was the country that beckoned. They needed to keep earning and loved the idea of running a B&B and choosing the place to set down roots brought them to Languedoc. I asked them why they hadn’t chosen Carcassonne, surely that place throngs with tourism to fill such a B&B? The answer was they wanted to live in a French village or small town where they could become part of a community and join in with village life. During their search they happened upon the small town of Olonzac, tucked into the heart of the Languedoc region and surrounded by vineyards and stunning scenery. Mark loves to study maps and by sticking a pin in the middle of Olonzac and tracing a circle around it he discovered you could drive to Carcassonne in 30 minutes but also to the Mediterranean Sea and pretty villages such as Minerve and Lagrasse quite easily from this base. They were hoping to attract adventurous people who come to the region to discover everything Languedoc has to offer and they were sure this was the perfect spot.
Next they looked for a house to make their home and their business, after all chambre d’hote means the room of my host. They wanted to create their unique place based on their dreams and travel experiences and they found the ideal house a stones’ throw from the centre of this pretty town famed for its Tuesday market. They worked hard and transformed the large village house (built by a winemaker) into a beautiful and tastefully designed B&B where comfort is key.
That was 9 years ago and in the intervening years they have achieved so much. They quickly became the number one B&B in Olonzac and shortly afterwards they were in the top 25 B&B’s in France and have been in the top 25 in the region since then, quite an achievement. Could you put this success down to the location of the B&B, the comfort of their amazing beds or the delicious breakfasts? Yes, some of their success is undoubtedly down to these things but what makes Sainte-Hélène the place people keep coming back to is Kay and Mark. They are lovely people and go out of their way to make sure you have the perfect stay in their beloved adoptive region. They always go the extra mile for their guests and see that as part of the service but at the same time they ensure guests privacy, and their success is reflected in the number of people who return year after year. They proudly told me that in 2019 90% of their customers were returning guests or people who’d been recommended by previous guests. They often receive letters and messages thanking them for a lovely stay and recently one such message brought a tear to Kay’s eye when she read that staying with them had been the highlight of this guests’ European trip.
The same attention to detail and customer care ethos has been adopted for the Languedoc tour business they started a few years ago which uses their B&B as a base for guided holidays. Called The ‘Real’ South of France Tours, Kay and Mark were clear that they wanted to give the best service possible and to do this they strongly believed they should work with local experts. By choosing this option they know that whatever questions their clients pose during a tour the guide will have a wealth of knowledge and experience to not only answer the question but to bring it alive, peppered with anecdotes and real-life experience. So, I am proud that Kay and Mark have chosen my business to run the wine tour & tasting elements of their Languedoc tours.
They offer a choice of two 7 x day tours and a 5 x day too plus they are very happy to customise one just for you and your party of you want a private tour. They have filled their tours with special places to visit plus gourmet food and lunch spots, beautiful villages, abbeys, markets and delicious dining experiences. Each day you are chauffeured and entertained by Kay & Mark or if it’s a vineyard tour it will be one of the Vin en Vacances team.
Why Come to Languedoc?
Languedoc is undiscovered rural France and much less touched by tourism than other parts of southern France. Plus its very real if you know what I mean. The villages nestled in valleys or perched on hills surrounded by beautiful vineyards and olive groves are populated by people making a living from the land as their ancestors have done for centuries. This place has an incredible history that includes the Cathar crusade and there are vestiges of castles and ancient abbeys strewn across this once feudal region making it an amateur historian’s delight. The glorious landscape is almost encircled by the Pyrenees and Montagne Noire mountain ranges below which are plains and rolling hills that sweep down to the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, it has everything an explorer could possibly want from a holiday destination.
So if you’re looking to get away from it all come to Languedoc and stay a while in the heart of the most tranquil part of the South of France and you won’t find a better place to base yourself than Sainte-Hélène Chambres d’hôtes.
Getting to Languedoc is easy.
- 4 local airports and two of them are international: Carcassonne, Béziers, Montpellier and Toulouse
- Train to Narbonne, Beziers and Carcassonne from Paris and other parts of France
- By car