This fully restored village house, dating from the early part of the 16th Century faces South down the gentle incline of Rue de l’Hôpital, in the oldest and most picturesque part of the village of Nézignan l’Evêque.
L’Hôpital refers to the medieval hospice, kept on this site by a monastic order, which offered shelter to travellers, some on the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela.
The architectural richness of the village testifies, not only to a distinguished past as summer residence of the Bishops of Agde, but also to intriguing links with such mysterious organisations as the Knights Templar.
In keeping with this historical tradition, the façade of the house offered for rental is constructed in the honey-coloured stone of the region, and enhanced by mouldings and mullion windows, returned to their former beauty by a local stonemason.
To the right of the front door are a stone seat, an old village pump, and a small olive tree, which gives the house its name.
The front door gives access to a large open-plan ground floor, tiled in handmade terracotta, and completely vaulted with the magnificent original medieval stone arching.
To the front there is a fully equipped kitchen with ample storage space and an integrated washing machine, fridge/freezer, stove with gas and electric rings, a separate oven and microwave. A round kitchen table offers comfortable seating for up to six people.
A separate utility area conceals the central heating boiler (the heating is a great advantage for a stay in winter!), fuse-box and waste bins. The central vaulted area is dominated by an open staircase, rising from a stone plinth to the floor above, and to the rear of the ground floor is another vaulted space, with a seating area and concealed lighting, guaranteed to be one of the coolest spots in Nézignan on long, hot summer days.
On the first storey the handmade floor tiles are smaller, giving, along with the exposed wooden beams and stone niches, an altogether more intimate atmosphere.
The main bedroom to the rear of the house has a large double bed, chest of drawers and other furnishing, all hand made in waxed wood, and this quiet sleeping area is gently illuminated by a light well faced in exposed stone and hung with pottery and wrought iron.
Adjacent is a smaller bedroom with two single beds, which, along with the master bedroom, is served by a large bathroom with combined bathtub and shower. The walls here are tiled with Spanish/Moroccan “azulejos”, decorated with traditional patterns in blue and white.
The living room completes the upstairs configuration – a room flooded with light from the large double mullion window. A raised wooded dais has been constructed behind this window, complete with a bistro table and seating.
With the windows open and the hinged wrought iron railing in place one has a delightful open loggia area with a beautiful view – ideal for a sunny breakfast or a glass of wine in the evenings. The futon in this room gives an alternative sleeping arrangement should this be desired.
“L’Olivier” is a completely self-contained rental property. There is no access to the top floor loft, under the roof, but with a living area of approximately 150 square metres, there is ample space on the ground and first floors.
Parking is to be found just around the corner in the circular street which traces the ramparts of the former castle, and the house is within a few minutes walking distance from all the village shops.
Nézignan l’Evêque is a picturesque village, witness to over 1000 years of history, situated between the sandy beaches of the Languedoc coast and the green foothills of the Cévennes Mountains.
The valley of the river Hérault, after which Nezignan’s département, or county, is named, is a fascinating crossroads of history, where sun-drenched vineyards and the many vestiges of a rich cultural past vie with changeless, welcoming villages, and larger, dynamic, forward-looking towns, to give the visitor a multi-faceted, and unforgettable holiday experience.
The cultural life of the region is particularly rewarding to investigate. In summer, many art and music festivals are held throughout, and galleries in, among others, Montpelier, Pézenas and Lodève, show that memorable exhibitions are not the exclusive reserve of big cities.
History is everywhere – to set foot in the Languedoc is to trace the steps of many a great civilisation; from the ancient Greeks in Agde to the Romans who constructed their highway, the Via Domitia, and their great aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, to service towns, the well-preserved remains of which beckon the interested traveller.
The region inspired other superb feats of construction down the following centuries, the perfectly intact, walled medieval city of Carcassonne among them.
Ranking high on this list, too, is the Canal du Midi, a seventeenth century wonder of engineering, which cuts an almost impossible path through the difficult terrain north of the Pyrenees mountains to descend through many locks to the gentler shores of the Mediterranean, and which is now the haunt of pleasure craft, many for hire, which ply the waterways in the cool shade of a canopy of plantains.
Visitors who treasure the written word will find many traces of the authors who chose the Languedoc as their source of inspiration. The lyrical poetry of the troubadours is countered by the acerbic wit of Molière, who launched his career in nearby Pézenas, changed little in its centre since the young playwright wandered its streets.
…and what better, after a day spent on the beach, sightseeing, or buying local produce in a bustling market, than to sample from the region’s renowned wines, directly pressed from the surrounding vineyards that extend often as far as the eye can see, and which are inextricably bound to the culture and way of life of this fascinating region.
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