Normally I wouldn't do an entire post about accommodations, but I am breaking with tradition on this one, because it deserves it's own description.
Located in the Midi-Pyrenees, area of Southern France, you travel about an hour and a half from the Toulouse airport to the quaint village of Puivert through a maze of winding highways nestled amongst stunning vistas and hills dotted with castles, churches, chateaus, and terracotta-roofed houses.
The village of Puivert is connected by a maze of trails and narrow streets that make you feel like you're in a fairy tale. It sits beneath the Chateau de Puivert, one of countless sites along the Cathar trail. There are a handful of restaurants and pubs, a museum, and L'Eglise de Puivert. The air is fresh and the sounds of music, clattering pots and pans, and lively conversation echo through the town.
It's spring, and everything is dripping with blossoms, especially the rose bushes that seem to cling to the side of every home and litter the ground with oceans of brightly coloured petals; the abundance of the local delicacy (escargot) is apparent - you can't walk 10 feet in any direction without seeing the huge crab-apple sized snails everywhere.
When you arrive at the Occitania, you are greeted with a lush English-style garden.
Along with a beautiful deck with chairs and an umbrella, the garden is an oasis - charming little seating areas are tucked into every nook and cranny - whether you want to sit alone and read or visit with a group of friends and some delicious (but cheap!) French wine, there is no shortage of lush places to relax.
The garden itself is a feast for the eyes.
The owners have collected sacred and beloved items from their travels and every were you look there are hidden treasures.
There's apparently a neighbourhood joke that says you can predict when it will rain by seeing if hosts Anaiya and Pete have hung out the laundry. (I have lots to say about Anaiya and Pete later - let's finish the tour first...)
It's really difficult o describe the way it feels crossing the threshold of this home, except perhaps to say it feels like coming home. You are greeted by the delicious smell of incense as you enter a room featuring soft hues, warm brick and stonework, and the gentle shimmer of pale pearlescent paint. The treasures continue indoors with a virtual museum of the hosts' personal collection of spiritual and mystical trinkets and collectibles.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you will also be greeted by the mistrusting neighbour cat (he likes to watch you...) as well as the resident furbabies, a hyper pup named Tilly, a chill old man named Patty, and a large cat who *may* try and climb onto your shoulders if you are not being an adequately active cat-petter.
In addition to hosting tourists like me, Anaiya does spiritual and yoga retreats, and has a dedicated room for this purpose. On the second floor, this spacious room displays a generous collection of beautiful stones and crystals, artwork, soft furs, and votives, along with a library full of books (including copies of the ones she herself has written!) in case you forget to bring one of your own.
Directly across from the meditation room is a cozy, inviting sitting room filled with beautiful light spilling in from the huge window overlooking the garden.
Up the stairs on the third floor are two of the bedrooms, each featuring a charming skylight and tiny windows peeking out from the slope of the roof. This room with a double bed and an inviting chair is decorated with warm wooden furniture and linens in shades of green and yellow.
Across from this is the blue room, where a trail of sparrows flies around the perimeter of the three single modern beds.
Back down the stairs and down the hallway is the fairy room, a double bed swatched in a symphony of crisp white, pastel violet, and cool aqua.
Beside this room is an incredible bathroom replete with mosaics and a HUGE clawfoot tub!
Adjacent to the fairy room and on the way to the plush potty is the office and another beautiful seating area. This is where creative juices flow, and is the spot where Anaiya and Pete connect with the world through writing, social media, and more.
And upstairs from that, another beautiful room with a comfy chaise, funky old trunks, and a large comfy bed.
This is the "winter" bedroom where the hosts relocate to when the temperatures drop and their (private) abode on the main floor with wide double doors leading into the garden is too cool.
It's a bed and breakfast, so of course I need to mention that in addition to the beautiful and generous vegetarian breakfasts of fresh fruit, juice, yogourt, crackers, jams, cheeses, and amazing artisan breads, there is a never-ending supply of hot water in the kettle for tea, any time, day or night.
But the MOST amazing part of Occitania isn't the house, the location, or even the never-ending eye-candy. It is the the hosts, Pete and Anaiya, who made me feel not as a guest but as an old friend. From telling me about the history, mystery, and mythology of the area, they shared with me personal stories about their experiences and adventures. Their knowledge and generosity helped me plot the perfect route home to hit sites I might not have considered before heading back to the airport. They are kind, warm, welcoming, loving, and adorable. Just trust me - make a point of asking them how they met and you will ~swoon~
Thank you, Anaiya and Pete, for welcoming me into your lovely home, sharing of yourselves, letting me take a ridiculous amount of photos, feeding me, keeping my cup of tea full, letting me love on your dogs, encouraging non-judgemental napping, and teaching me about the place you live and love. I feel like a piece of my heart now resides in a small village in the south of France, and I can hardly wait to come back with family and friends. Expect a knock at the door in 2019.