Le Domaine de Perches: the perfect base for exploring Occitanie

by Michael Edwards

Le Domaine de Perches: the perfect base for exploring Occitanie. A 17th-century wine chateau restored with immaculate modern taste, is simply ideal for touring Auch’s Late Gothic cathedral, the medieval city of Albi and its Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, the cobbled village of Cordes-sur-Ciel floating in the sky on a misty morning, the abbey in Moissac, Armagnac and wine tasting, not forgetting the amazing Ville Rose – Toulouse.


And Occitanie? It’s the huge new region of South West France – the consequence of the shot-gun midnight marriage (on 31st January 2015) of Languedoc-Rousillion and Midi-Pyrénées. As Provence’s country sister, Occitanie does decadence in its own bucolic way – enjoying the traditional luxuries of good food, fine wines and the time to savour them. 

Perches is ideally located for visiting the area and Alain and Howard have taken the chambre d’hôte concept to another level. They are the ultimate hosts, sharing a pre-dinner drink with their guests; the venue is dependent on temperature and light – perhaps on the decking by the pool, or in cooler autumn, a picture window to admire the sunset.

They bring their guests into their gallic world, gossiping of the crops that are flourishing, the restauranteur who has bagged a great chef and another who has lost his Michelin star, the local vintner who is experimenting with an interesting rosé, a concert in Toulouse, the latest exhibit at Albi’s Toulouse-Lautrec museum.Table d'hôte, Domaine de Perches

Suddenly a delicious four-course meal emerges and neither Alain or Howard has been absent for more than a couple of minutes. Then they recommend some remarkable local wines to complement each course as they dine with you. Armagnac follows.

The chambre d’hôte concept is not for everyone, some want a silent, reflective breakfast, though breakfast is never served earlier than 8.30. But Domaine de Perches has a remarkably high percentage of returning guests who savour their slice of upmarket French rural living, while Alain and Howard give their take on all things French, and especially, on what to see in Occitanie.


Quintessential English Dream of France

The Quintessential English Dream of France


Maison de luxeBy Michael Edwards

Somewhat ironic that le Domaine de Perches, a chambre d’hôte located forty miles north-east of Toulouse airport, in a dreamy golden-wheat-sunflowers-vineyard landscape may be the quintessential English Dream of France. Ironic too, that most of us could articulate the rags-to-riches go-getting American Dream, but struggle to define an English Dream. For, post Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, almost every Waitrose-shopping Brit dreams of a “project” in Provence or Tuscany – or France’s  enlarged and re-named South West region, Occitanie. “In fact,” says Howard, “there are rather a lot of people round here from somewhere else. We may be the new Provence.”

In an alternative life, it might have been you, rather than Alain and Howard, hosting guests in this epic restoration. It could have been you serving a chilled gazpacho or a seared tuna steak to your fortunate guests who’ve decided to park the car for the night and indulge in some of Gaillac’s fine wines.


Chamber d'hote de luxeThe oatmeal-coloured, south-facing rambling house is the ultimate property porn: a crumbling wine chateau reinvented as a modern design classic. Morning sunlight flooding into the library – reflected off the light wooden floor, over the sisal matting and gleaming back from a wall of solidly bound books – which is just one of the four reception rooms that demonstrates Alain’s flair for interior design. Cushions are always plumped, vases always tastefully filled.

Domaine de Perches is a soothing sanctuary, where wage-slaves can live The Grand Designs dream for a few tranquil days –  you can almost hear Kevin McCloud purring his appreciation – with views over the valley vineyards to the Montaigne Noire. For Alain and Howard are indefatigable restoration heroes: cultured interior design visionaries with impeccable taste.Maison d'hôte de charme

“We were looking for something smaller,” says Howard, Perches was their second project in this region, “but we fell in love with this place.” He was unable to resist an understated wave that took in a four-hectare panorama of house, swimming pool, tennis court, lily pond and a vineyard that is now harvested by a neighbour. It is a vista waiting for a contemporary Monet.


Reproduced with thanks from ‘Trip Reporter’

Michael Edwards, travel writer, visited Perches in late September 2017