Another characterful old French house to add to my collection of 'amazing old French houses I've stayed in'! How do I find them??! Vaysette is in south west France, department of Tarn & Garonne, close to the dramatic Gorges de l'Aveyron. It's an ancient farmhouse built in beautiful pale limestone and very sympathetically restored (actually quite unusual in France where they tend to over-restore, eradicating all evidence of the old fabric of the building). We spent a very tranquil week here during the summer.
The roof beams are stained black from centuries of smoke from the huge inglenook fireplace. In this region apparently they were rather inefficient chimney builders - the climate is very good so perhaps they weren't as focused on keeping warm like in more mountainous areas of France. But of course the fire would have been going most of the day for cooking purposes so cough cough I assume!
These shallow sloping roofs with overlapping hand made terracotta tiles are typical of the architectural style of the southern Quercy. Beautiful proportions.
Like nearly every country French house I've stayed in, the rooms lead in one to another with no corridor - that's including the bedrooms.
The piece of stone on the right is an old stone sink - in these old houses the sinks were always built inside the thick wall in front of the window so that the water could drain straight outside.
The big square stones cantilevered from the walls carry a drainage channel for the water from the sinks on the other side of the wall.
All the stone flags and ancient terracotta tiles are original.
To the right of the door is one of the sinks mentioned (the window blocked in at some time). The interiors of old farmhouses are usually pretty dark and don't have huge windows like in northern Europe due to the hot climate of course. With exterior shutters on all doors and windows and thick stone walls these buildings are extremely well insulated, warm in winter and amazingly cool in summer. A few days during our stay the temperature got to 41 degrees but coming back to the house at lunchtime it was wonderful to be enveloped in a draft of cool air when we opened the door.
It made me wonder - yet again!! why modern architects don't introduce the incredibility efficient system of external shutters to regulate temperature instead of intrusive, whining, and energy-guzzling air con. There's no air conditioning in southern France and guess what ? everyone has survived fine for centuries!
The light that does filter in through the shaded windows and thick walls has a wonderful quality, just illuminating slithers of the interior.
The house is situated high on a plateau above the Gorges de l'Aveyron so there is no land mass to get in the way of the sunsets - which are spectacular.
I loved the simplicity of the rooms, just a few pieces of well polished old furniture against a background of whitewashed walls, beautifully coloured and textured old tiled floors and patterned rugs.
Actually the tapestry didn't come with the house - I bought it for 5 euros at a local flea market - but I thought it looked perfect on the mantelpiece.
The lady I bought it from did the tapestry herself when she was 14. I couldn't believe she wanted to part with it but she said she was sick of the site of it!! Incroyable. Anyway, she was delighted to know it would be finding a new home in London.
Vaysette is a wonderful old house, atmospheric and tranquil, set in massive grounds with views for miles across the landscape - and the best thing is, you can say there!
Here's the website: Gite de Vaysette
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