A MAGICAL LITTLE FIVE BEDROOM HOTEL THAT’S LIKE LIVING AT A FRIEND’S COUNTRY HOUSE IN FRANCE

CAMELLAS-LLORET | LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLION | FRANCE

[MONTRÉAL, LANGUEDOC] — Finally. Finally I’m here.

For over a year I’ve been following Annie Moore on Instagram, the amazingly talented owner/renovator/designer/chef of the remarkable Camellas-Lloret B&B in France. A voyeur peeking through an IG peephole into a glorious life in a quiet village in Languedoc. I flew to France just to stay here.

Along with her Zen Master husband Colin (more about him later), they welcome adventurous people into their five bedroom maison d’hôtes they’ve spent the last five years restoring with love.

Every single corner of the place is an elegant and evolving tableau of findings from their daily hunts through the local brocantes, put together in ways you could never think of, but are works of art. Little dioramas. Like a magazine spread in Elle Decor or Maisons Côté Sud.

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I’ve been stalking her posts for over a year now, watching as she brings home some gem from the local markets, like a proud cat dragging in a dead bird. Sometimes thinking to myself “What the…?” at some crazy-ugly 70s thing she bought and then… the next post… seeing it in place in her movie set of a house, going “Oh, yes. Yes, that’s exactly the right thing.”

This is not a hotel. Not a B&B.

It is altogether something else. 

It’s an Experience.

More than a place to stay, this is a place to learn how to live. A restored group of village houses opening onto an open courtyard, a rabbit warren of rooms, up and down. Each a work of art and place to call home for the week.

What’s best is several nights of the week, there is Dinner. A gathering, really. Where they put out a big spread in the courtyard around a big table, a fire pit, the observant dogs, and where you join with other guests and friends and family, just hanging out. Talking about life.

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So the story goes… thirty plus years ago a dashing South African rugby player met a cute and super smart American girl on a train outside Paris. He asked her to marry him the very next day. They’ve been cute together ever since. 

They lived in several cities around the world before finally settling down in France, where they raised three great kids (now in college) while breathing life back into several different historic properties that were in shambles — buying, fixing up and selling — before deciding to be innkeepers. 

They wanted to create something different. Something special.

And that’s how Camellas-Lloret came to be. 

Something special indeed.

 

You feel it the instant you get the email confirmation for you booking. A mod photo of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin holding hands at the top, describing how to navigate the quiet car-less lanes in the village and that there’s blissfully no cell phone reception.

You feel it the instant you walk up to the place, as I did, when a gregarious Colin boomed my name out the open door of a doctor’s office across the street — yes he’s the village chiropractor too, making straight the crooked townspeople — and then, barefooted, 👣 👣 👣 walking me up the nubby stone lane to unlock the ancient front door. Two mute Jack Russells flashed out the front door, buzzed around my ankles like fairies, with quick friendly sniffs. “These are The Gulls” (girls) he said with a slight Sou’thafrican lilt. We all nodded.

That dark doorway opened up to the bright light of a great leafy courtyard, sun pouring onto every surface. Every shade and texture of green was there, layered between trellised vines, big green hydrangeas, airy trees and sculpted yews, all against a backdrop a fresh white paint and weathered stone.

A fountain played water piano while a warm breeze wafted some groovy Spotify song all over the whole airy compound. A wood framed greenhouse served as a backdrop, big fluffy pillows looked perfect for napping in the shade and huge open windows upstairs showed hints of gauzy white curtains reaching out for the sun. “Annie’s been dying to finally meet you. She has your Negroni ready.”

And that’s how it started…

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The best part of staying at Camellas-Lloret: Several nights a week, the call goes out. “Annie’s making dinner tonight.” Ohboyohboyohboy.

Besides being an amazing designer, Annie can cook up a storm. There are five rooms in this place. Which means five different sets of people. All drawn together over wine, food and stories.

It was so delightful to hang out with complete strangers, leaving best friends. The vibe of this place just attracts the most interesting cats. And you get to hang out with them.

When I was there, there were two cool couples from Melbourne; handsome Greek brothers and their smart, fun wives. Coincidentally, another Aussie family on holidays, from Brisbane, on their way to Provence and Italy to explore family roots. We had a hoot of table discussion about the delicate balance this crazy world is in… and transit systems.

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Then, the very next night, a whole new cast of characters arrives for the weekend. The most delightful couple from Barcelona, successful restauranteurs, their two gorgeous daughters, and their super cool parents from Chile. And their pug, Lenny. They treated me like one of the family.

Everyone just goes out and explores the countryside all day, hitting the brocantes, lunching in small hilltop villages, or heading down to the beach. Then, like horses to the barn, everyone sprints back before dusk to see what surprises Annie has cooked up, Colin accompanying on firepit.

Every night a fire, some nights for warm conversation, others to cook up some fine lamb or local dry aged beef over the glowing coals, using old gnarly vine stumps for added flavor. The bones, added to the fire at the end of the night “as they should be, to thank the animal and complete the cycle” as Colin would say.
This place…

CLICK ON THE PICS BELOW TO OPEN UP THE GALLERY:

 

The rooms.

The rooms!

Each different from the other. Each a masterpiece of design.

 

 

L'Aude Map

I love this. It’s the anti-GPS.

 

One of the great things about Camellas-Lloret is exploring the Lanquedoc countryside and the region L’Aude.

Small hilltops towns, eegions of Cathar castles and great restaurants hidden in the rolling hills and golden farmland. Seemingly every skinny little farm road has been explored by these two and Colin knows them all, every hidden gem.

After waking up early and taking you and The Gulls down to the local soccer pitch for some yoga stretching and losening up, Colin will sit down over coffee, ask what you want to do and then draw out a fantastic itinerary for the day, in intricate detail on a plain white sheet. You interested in eating? Hiking? The Beach? Brocantes? He’s your Cruise Director, with a map. Sharing what he knows, making reservations at distant restaurants and cutting to the quick so you can get maximum enjoyment of your stay..

“Go to Revel first, the market is good today, on the main square, here, you can stop for a nice coffee. Then, scoot over to this ancient lac and look at that, it feeds all of the Canal du Midi. Then the Cathar Castel at Saissac, beautiful views of the whole valley, then stop for lunch right here, X, on the main square in Montolieu. Great restaurant, beautiful square, but the town is known for its bookstores. Dozens of them. Great exploring.”

And then he gives you this hunk of wood. One of the funnest things I’ve seen. A full-on 3D map of the region, mounted on a block of wood. “Here, take this, you can see where you are in relation to the land. Much better than Google Maps. You’ll get a sense of where you are.” Brilliant.

Stay for days so you sink into the vibe of this magical place. It’s like living a character in a French version of Stealing Beauty (without the old pervs and a naked Liv Tyler.) I have no discernible skills, but staying here just makes you feel like you’re part of someone else’s cool life. The life you’ve always wanted. You need to check out her Instagram feed and get some of that. Then start booking your stay before all the cool people find out.

You don’t just stop in for the night, lest you cheat yourself.

 

HELPFUL LINKS:

Here is the Camellas-Lloret Instagram page.. And website.

Here’s a great design website that has much better pictures of Camellas-Lloret than mine. Grrrrr. A great article in Desire to Inspire. And another cool design lifestyle website called Lovers of Mint.

A great overview article on a cool booking website from the UK called Sawday’s. And a great article from a site called My Scandinavian Home that came out right after I was there in early October of 2016.

And here’s a link to the TripAdvisor page for Camellas-Lloret.

 

Last visited October 2016.

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