Maison Beaufort — Your Holiday Home in the South of France

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to get to the house from Canada?

Is a car necessary? How do I arrange to rent a car?

What will the weather be like when we're there?

Who has the keys to the house?

Will someone meet us when we arrive?

Where do we buy food? How will find the things we need?

We like to stay active....are there bicycles? Places to run or walk?

We'll only be there for a week. What do you recommend we do and see?

What day trips do you recommend?

How do I stay in contact with my family/business at home?

Can guests stay with us for a few days while we're there?

What should I know about the French culture that will make my visit more enjoyable?

What do we need to bring?

 

Q.  What is the easiest way to get to the house from Canada?

A.  There are several ways to reach Beaufort. We have found that the easiest is to fly to Paris - Charles de Gaulle Airport and transfer to a flight to Toulouse or Montpellier, rent a car and drive to the house. Some airlines offer direct flights (on a limited seasonal basis) from Montreal to Toulouse. From Toulouse it's a just 90 minute drive to our house. Many guests choose to fly to Paris, London or even Dublin for a few days. From those cities it's often possible to fly (for much less) to Carcassonne, a leisurely 45 minute drive to the house. Our qualified Travel Agents have helped many of our guests travel to our area and can help you to plan and book your flights.

Alternatively, you might choose to take the train from Paris CDG Airport for a relaxing view of France before you settle in. Depending on the time of year you are traveling and how much time you have, there are many appealing alternatives. Our nearest train station is in Narbonne which is accessible by train from most major cities in France.

The TGV Méditerranée runs regularly from Paris to Narbonne via Nîmes, Montpellier, and Béziers in just 4½ hours. Booking information is available on the SNCF Web site, or you can consult your travel agent for your particular itinerary.

 

Q.  Is a car necessary? How do I arrange to rent a car?

A.  Beaufort is a small village and off the beaten track, so a car is necessary for the short trips to neighbouring villages and markets, to the wineries you'll want to visit, for sightseeing, to get to and from the airport. All major car rental agencies are represented at the airports and larger train stations.

Arrange the car rental from Canada —you'll save money! European cars are mostly manual transmission. You'll save as much as 40% by renting manual transmission. Cars in Europe are smaller. Consider your needs for comfort and luggage storage. Gasoline is 2 to 3 times more expensive.

Check your rental contract details carefully: Is there a surcharge for additional drivers? Do you get unlimited mileage? Are there age restrictions?

Fire and third party liability insurance is mandatory in France and included in all rentals. Buy a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) before leaving Canada, it can save you a lot of money! Look for all-inclusive car rental packages that include a CDW.
(Find out what deductibles are not covered!)

We advise that you famililairize your self with the French driving rules and road signs before getting behind the wheel. This link is helpful.

Please don't drink and drive! (The blood alcohol limit is 0.5 mg/ml.) Wear all seat belts provided and don't speed. The laws are very strict and fines are assessed when you are stopped. The speed limit in towns is generally 50 km/h, and 90 km/h on national roads, 110 km/h on highways, and 130 km/h on the Autoroute. All speeds are reduced in wet weather. Photo radar is common throughout France.

Road rules can be different in France. The old rule of "priorité â droite" (priority to the right) still applies if there is no road sign at the crossing. This means that you must give way to traffic arriving from the right hand side. This can be a dangerous for those unfamiliar with the rule. No matter what the excuse, if you collide with traffic coming from the right hand side, whether or not there was a road sign, it is your fault!

> Driving in France: general information link, road signs and rules.
> Autoroute information link ( for traffic, tolls, weather).

Please remember: the Autoroute is a toll road, so make allowances for necessary cash. If you plan to visit larger cities, we recommend that you park the car and walk or use public transit to fully enjoy exploring the city centre.

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Q.  What will the weather be like when we're there?

A.  Generally, the summers in Beaufort are hot and dry, with daytime temperatures frequently soaring above 30°C/85°F. However, it's almost always comfortable in the shade. While summer nights are usually warm and comfortable for sitting out, it can be cool enough to require long sleeves. Humid days are relatively rare, but do occur when a southeast wind (called the Marin, because it comes off the Mediterranean), brings moist air and, sometimes, rain.

Autumn, the favourite season of many people who live in the Languedoc, is a mellow time, with a special, soft light. The vendange (grape harvest) is in full swing from early September till almost mid-October. Fall weather is highly variable and can change not only by the day, but by the hour. September is usually sunny and warm - even hot - but not predictably so. Rain may arrive with the Marin in the morning and disappear with the Cers (the north-west wind that "chases" away the clouds) in the afternoon. Or vice versa.

Temperatures can fluctuate wildly, from mid-summer heat wave to grey chill and,
just as quickly, back again. October and November even more so, with temperatures in
late October occasionally reaching 30°C/85°F or, rarely, dropping almost to freezing at
night. Clothing should be worn in layers, starting with a T-shirt.
Winters are generally mild, with occasional cold periods, when night-time lows can drop
to -2°C (0°C = 32°F) or -3°C, or, very rarely, even -5°C or -6°C.

Pansies and Primroses thrive in the winter garden; occasional bumblebees and butterflies
visit. Colourful summer birds are replaced by, among others, Robins, Serins and
Chaffinches, whose intricate songs make it seem more like spring than winter. The Cers
can blow hard and temperatures may drop but, in a sunny, sheltered spot, you may still
need that T-shirt; even in winter, the sun can be very strong.

Almond trees fill with pink or white blossoms toward the end of January, along with the yellow blooms of mimosa trees, followed in February by masses of white cherry
blossoms . It's rare to see snow anywhere but on the Pyrénées, though a few scattered flakes might drift in the air in January or even in February and, once or twice a winter,
the upper slopes of the Montagne Noire are white with snow.

Spring is spectacular in the Languedoc. Long, sunny, warm days, fields of wildflowers, the air sweet with the scent of Spanish broom splashing the hills and untilled land with
brilliant yellow, bunches of purple wisteria draped over walls and fences covered in roses. Zebra-striped Hoopoes return in March; later, multi-coloured Bee-eaters soar
overhead and, through the month of May, Nightingales pour their hearts out day and night from almost every clump of bushes and brambles.
Vineyards grow thicker and greener as you watch. Daytime temperatures are usually in the mid-to-high teens (C) in early spring, rising to around 25-30°C (75-85°F), but there's
always the possibility of a few cool and/or wet days and, sometimes, the Cers blows hard, making it seem much colder.

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Q.   Who has the keys to the house? Will someone meet us when we arrive?

A.   Before you leave for France you will be sent an information package that will answer many of your questions or concerns about the trip. You won't be abandoned once you arrive, either. Maison Beaufort has a housekeeper who lives nearby in the village and will meet you when you arrive, show you through the house and explain how appliances
work, where to find extra bedding, what to do with garbage, etc. She can answer any questions about the neighbourhood and help you plan your activities, too. You'll have
her telephone number in case of emergencies or for special requests.

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Q.  Where do we buy food? How will we find the things we need?


A.  Many visitors say the best part of a French holiday is the food, and most of your time
could be happily spent browsing the markets, visiting local wineries, and preparing and enjoying your meals. We provide an information package to you before you go. The package describes where to find everything you'll need, where the markets are each day, which wineries are outstanding and which restaurants you'll enjoy when you need a break from the kitchen.

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Q.  We like to stay active....are there bicycles? Places to run or walk?


A.  There are lots of country lanes and interesting hilly trails to explore around Beaufort. The area is perfect for running or country walks. Within two minutes of the house you can be in the vineyards on your way to the next village or heading up into the hills.

Bicycles and helmets are available to rent from a company called Mellow Vélos (link) in nearby Paraza. They stock a good selection of road and mountain bikes by Giant, Focus, Islabikes and Lapierre -suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. They even rent electric bikes for guests who may want to take it easy.

MELLOW VÉLOS PARAZA, Route Neuve, 11200, Paraza, France
OPEN: 28 March to 31 October, 8:00 - 19:00 daily. Closed on Thursdays.

You can email paraza@mellowvelos.com to arrange delivery of their reliable rental bikes right to you at the house!

Or telephone Vince or Sara at:
(office) 0033 (0)4 68 43 38 21 or (mobile) 0033 (0)6 50 50 01 49

Cycling is a popular sport in the area – the 2011 Tour de France went right through Beaufort! Other years has gone by within a few miles!

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Q.  We'll only be there for a week. What do you recommend we do and see?


A.  It's possible to spend a week at the house and happily travel only a few miles in each direction. A typical day might be an early swim and breakfast by the pool; a short morning drive (before noon) to a local market for dinner ingredients; lunch on a nearby restaurant patio; a visit to an historical site or a winery tour, cycling along the canal or shopping for souvenirs; drinks and hors d'oeuvres while you contemplate dinner; cooking together and a relaxed meal that lasts until bedtime. It's a routine that never seems to get boring.

But there is also lots to see and do: Minerve is a Heritage Site only 8km away, a must-see village filled with historical significance and breathtaking beauty. Carcassonne, a magnificent walled city with the largest and busiest market around, is only 45 minutes away. The Mediterranean beaches are 45 minutes away at Narbonne Plage. The cities of Narbonne and Beziers are delightful. The Abbaye de Fontfroide is a restored Cistercian monastery nestled in a quiet valley only 40 minutes away. A good guide book to the area (Languedoc-Roussillon) will be a worthwhile investment.

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Q.  What day trips do you recommend?


A.  Within a day it's possible to get to Arles and Nîmes and explore some of Provence,
or even to visit Marseilles and return comfortably in time for bed! We have been to Barcelona for the day – a 2 ½ hour drive each way – and to Albi, the same distance to the north.

You can be in the Pyrenees within 1 ½ hours. A very satisfying trip takes you to Peyrepeteuse (a Cathar fortress high in the Pyrenees) early in the day and to Collioure (a
Mediterranean seaside fishing town) for the afternoon and evening.

Sète is another striking Mediterranean town to visit for a seafood meal. Pézenas is a charming village for shopping and dining. There are even prehistoric cave drawings to
be seen at the Grotte de Niaux, gorges and caves to the north and south, scenic drives to be taken in the Montagne Noir. Again, a guide book will be an important resource.

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Q.  How do I stay in contact with my family/business at home?


A.  *Maison Beaufort has a telephone and wireless Internet access if you wish to bring your laptop or wifi enabled smart phone.

Some US/Canadian/UK cell phones might work in France with high “roaming” charges, but most won’t. We suggest you talk to your cell phone provider about using your cell phone abroad.

We recommend you purchase a Telecarte (phone card) at the airport when you arrive in France. Phone cards work in all public telephones in France so you will never be out of touch.

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Q.  Can guests stay with us for a few days while we're there?


A.  If you want to invite others to join you while you stay at Beaufort, please let us know. The house sleeps six comfortably, but we have two single mattresses that can be made
up for occasional guests and our housekeeper will help you with the linens for those. Beaufort is a quiet village of mostly elderly people and we want to be good neighbours,
so large or noisy parties are discouraged.

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Q.  What should I know about the French culture that will make my visit      more enjoyable?


A.  There are some differences between our cultures and an understanding of those differences will add to the enjoyment that waits for you. Beaufort is a small town in a less sophisticated part of France and you will be a welcome guest there if you consider a few,
admitted, generalities.

The French value politeness. When you enter an office, a shop or even a stall in a market, when you meet someone on the street, say 'Bonjour, Madame (Monsieur)'.
When introduced to anyone remember to shake hands. Before saying anything else, asking for help, anything, be sure you have acknowledged the clerk or proprietor in a store. Stores are considered more private property than public - much the opposite of North America- therefore touching the merchandise and speaking loudly, etc., aren't popular, either.

Generally, the French are softer spoken than North Americans. French people tend not to volunteer information. It's assumed that everyone knows all they would want or need to know and that to offer information could be regarded as an insult, an assumption of ignorance. If you need information or help, ask for exactly what you need and that is exactly what you'll be given. On the other hand, there are a few magic words in French that will always get you what you want - “Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais j'ai une problème...”   Say that and you'll have all the help you need. We have never been let down when we needed help in France.

French people don't smile the way we do. We smile to reassure others of our harmlessness but to the French a smile directed at a stranger is regarded as phony, or as
boldly flirtatious. North America hasn't been invaded repeatedly, as France has, and so we don't share their suspicion of strangers. Smile anyway, but politeness and
attempting to speak their language are more effective – and you'll find the people of the Languedoc friendly and warm, regardless.

Money isn't the most important thing in France. Stores will close from noon until 2:30pm for lunch and you will be ushered out even if you are in the middle of making a purchase. Plan your day around a French schedule to avoid frustration - get an early start to the day, have lunch between 12 and 2.30pm, shop or do other business between 2 and 7pm and dine after 8pm when restaurants open again for the evening. National and religious holidays are observed more closely than ours are and may conflict with your plans, so consider them when planning your sightseeing and shopping. Many tourist destinations close in August, when the French traditionally take
their own summer holiday.

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Q.  What do we need to bring?


A. We have tried to furnish Maison Beaufort with everything you'll need to live
comfortably. The kitchen is equipped for cooking almost anything, with a full complement of small appliances and a barbecue just outside the door. The bathrooms have large sinks and showers, with lots of towels; the bed linens are plentiful. We have ironing boards and irons, a washer and drying rack.

There is a CD player and a collection of CDs but bring favourites if music is important to you. There are also games and cards and some books. There are two sturdy adult-sized
mountain bikes and a child's bike, but helmets are not provided and if you are a serious cyclist you would probably appreciate taking your own bicycle.

The electrical voltage in France is 220 volts, 50 cycles. We do not provide adapters or transformers, so we advise you to pack them if you are bringing any personal grooming appliances, shavers and dryers, etc.

There will be soap, toilet tissue, facial tissue and paper towel enough to begin your stay in the house but you will probably have to stock up on them during your visit. Some condiments and non-perishable foods will be left for your use by previous guests but bring particular favourites with you. Many people bring items not easily found in French shops, like peanut butter, or a particular brand of tea or coffee.

If you arrive on a Saturday afternoon you may want to shop for groceries before going to the house. There is a store on your way through the town of Olonzac, just 3 km from
Beaufort. Buy enough for Saturday evening and Sunday breakfast, and then consider visiting one of the markets – St. Chinian or Narbonne – on Sunday morning to stock up for a few days.

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Please feel free to us with any other questions you don't see answered here.

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Springtime in Beaufort.