A DREAMY GUESTHOUSE THAT’S LIKE STAYING AT A FRIEND’S HOME 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 design hotel in France. Like 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 design hotel 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.

 

 

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 village house 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.

The mood is instant as soon as you receive confirmation of your stay. A little Serge and Jane.

 

The Decor of Camellas-Lloret

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…

 

Camellas-Lloret greenhouse

This was everybody’s favorite place. Everyone wants their own greenhouse… I just wanna nap with the dogs on those pillows. Annie said once they saw those stairs and the greenhouse, they were sold on the place, numb to whatever condition the rest of the house was in. I’d concur with that assessment.

 

Camellas-Lloret courtyard

The courtyard is the center of all activity. Morning, noon and night.

Camellas-Lloret sitting room design

Ya know, I humped along a big fat wide angle lens on this last trip just because I knew I was coming here. But the funny thing is, there’s so much to see in this evocative place that I found I couldn’t fit it in to a single frame, even 16mm. So instead, I’m just going to just show you little snippets, tight shots, of what I saw. Because being there, that’s how you experience it. So much love to see, you can only appreciate it one corner at a time. Little treasures from any angle. My pics are lousy compared to hers.

Camellas-Lloret stairwayI meeeaannn…..

 

Dining at Camellas-Lloret

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

camellas-lloret dining table

Dinner is ready.

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.

Colin fire Camellas-Lloret

Colin as firetender. Growing up in Capetown, a “brai” was the way to cook, like barbecue where I grew up. He uses old grapevine roots for added flavor and long-burning coals.

 

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.

Camellas-Lloret cocktail party guests

 

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…

breakfast at Camellas-Lloret

I call the breakfast room the Wes Anderson Room. I guess a previous guest had made an endearing comment that staying at Camellas-Lloret was kinda like staying in the Royal Tenenbaums’ mansion. I could see that. A great warren of rooms up and down stairs, marvelously decorated in a combination Elle Decor meets Elk’s Lodge, curved walls that turn into hidden doors, secret rooms that you didn’t know existed. . Made we want to go out to the local brocantes and find an old camel coat, some tinted Vuarnets, a Fila tracksuit and some wide sweatbands….

 

The Rooms of Camellas-Lloret

The rooms!

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

The first room I stayed in. Colin said as they restored Camellas-Lloret they’d live for two weeks in each room to get the feel of it; add things, subtract, adjust. Making everything just-so before finishing it. “Every room has its own energy, it’ll tell you what it wants.”

 

I had just driven 4+ hours all across the South of France from Nice, at a high rate of speed. Was still a little wired and white knuckled, but as soon as I walked into this bedroom I was like Must. Nap. Now. 💤 I think they should call it the Dopamine Suite.

 

 

The Summer Cabin at Camellas-Lloret

Later, I got to move into a new three floor apartment they created out of an old shop building out back. “The Summer Cabin.” It was huge, including this linen heaven of a bed.

They created this mini apartment out of a long abandoned workshop, put in the magical Annie Touch™ and made it a delightful three story aerie. Like a French Urban Treehouse, complete with these new frames of 100 year seeds snipped from an ancient seed scrapbook thingy.

 

Summer cabin room Camellas-Lloret

This was another dopamine-inducing room. In the Summer Cabin. Went in here to answer emails several times. Napped instead.

 

 

This is a thing of beauty.

 

 

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.

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

 

Exploring the l’Aude Region of Lanquedoc

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

Camellas-Lloret Languedoc

Camellas-Lloret is located in the middle of Montréal, a sleepy little village in Languedoc. Surrounded by rolling hills of farmland and vines, it suddenly pops up on a rise like a prairie dog. Barely making a cheep-cheep. And quiet is the point. Somewhere to dial back, lower the blood pressure and not be on your phone. (There’s barely a thread of cell service.). Just here to get in the groove of country life. Running to the butcher or baker every day, sometimes twice. Or picking wild figs on the side of the road from a hunchbacked tree, burdened with sweet sticky things. About the only time it’s crowded is when you run into a lumbering farm tractor on the narrow roads, fresh from scouring the wilted sunflower fields. I think you’d like it here.

 

 

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.

Saissac views

The tiny hilltop town of Saissac and its Cathar castle ruins, overlooking the vast plains of Languedoc. I tell ya, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a Cathar something or other around this region. 😾 I knew the name, but never knew much about them, I must have slept through that chapter in school. Impressive buildings and culture, way ahead of its time. They were Good Men. Until the Catholics came in and ran them out of town

 

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.

This is the genius 3D OG map that Colin gives you to take around. LOVED THIS. You really get a sense of where you are. You can see the L’Aude region, in the saddle between the Pyrenees and the mountains past Carcassone. Cap Leucate is the marshy area down by the sea.

 

Fine Dining on Cap Leucate

Colin, only knowing me for eight hours, asks “What do you like to do?” “See natural things. I love mountains and hilltop villages and coastlines.” “Great. Okay. So I have other ideas for you later in the week, I think maybe you’d might like to see the Cape? Cap Leucate. Beautiful beaches. Not far. ” Having just come from Greece, “Definitely.” “Perfect. Le Cap is amazing. Tall cliffs over the sea. You can have a walk ’round and then go eat here”, drawing all this out on a plain white piece of paper. Pointing out the regular beach. The nudist beach. And a big ✖️where the restaurant was. “”We haven’t eaten there yet, but always have wanted to.” “Cool!” “Annie? Remember that one restaurant on the Cap? Can you call and book Dan a table?”

 

So, unbeknownst to them, expecting some beach shack and possible nudity, I put on my hiking boots, cargo shorts and tshirt. I set the GPS and took off. I set the wrong beach, got lost and finally found it. An hour late. Not realizing it was a near-Michelin star restaurant. Le Grand Cap. All fancy and clean. I walk in, sweaty. Not flinching a bit at my appearance, “Monsieur Dan, we have your table ready” But instead of treating me like the rube I was, they welcomed me, like Forest Gump, giving me the best table in the house. Table for One, right along the windows, overlooking the glorious cliffs and sea. And then it only got better…

 

 

Exploring Mountain Towns of L’Aude in Languedoc

City Hall, Lagrasse

 

Lagrasse cathedral

Lagrasse is another cool town to visit in Langedoc. What I loved about Languedoc is that it isn’t overrun with tourists like other places, like Provence. Just real people living there, allowing you, as a tourist, to just sidle up in there and drink it all in. Wine’s good, too.

 

I believe this market stall dates back to Roman times…or else it is nearly that old.

 

 

Market Day in Revel

 

Dive in to Market Day in Beautiful Mirepoix

 

 

A Walk Along the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is an incredible engineering feat, carved hundreds of years ago to move barge freight across France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Nowdays you can rent houseboat/barges and putter along at your own speed, stopping at small towns and restaurants along the way.

 

 

You can walk along the canal, stop at cool restaurants or enjoy a picnic along the banks.

More Information on Camellas-Lloret and the l’Aude Region:

Here is the Camellas-Lloret Instagram page.. And website. Here are some amazing pictures of Camellas-Lloret by the famous photographer (and one of my fave Instagrammers) Jamie Beck. And a listing on Secret Places. And a great review by the talented Bon Traveler, look at her amazing shots.  A great article on the amazing design in Architectural Digest.

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. And a beautiful collection of photos from SF Girl.

 

Here’s a great website on the best villages of Lanquedoc. And a great road trip article on the Languedoc region in Travel & Leisure. And a great overview on Langedoc from Conde Nast Traveler. And a UK Traveller’s guide to Secret Places in Languedoc.

 

— Last visited October 2016 — 

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