Contact, Here & About
Kim and Alan would like to welcome you and your party to our website and in due course Sérénité.
We hope that these pages will provide you with the information that will convince you that Sérénité is the perfect location for your next carefree holiday.
We have been married for over 30 years and have had many a happy holiday in La Douce France. It is the accumulated knowledge and experience from these that we hope you will benefit from.
Please feel free to contact us (details at the bottom of this page) if you need additional details, have a particular interest or need or fancy a chat.
Luxury is quite a personal taste thing but for the majority of us spacious accommodation with a similar feel outside is a very very good start.
The accommodation (described in detail on the Accommodation Tab above) is perfect for a couple wanting a romantic getaway or two couples wanting a restful hideaway to retire to after sampling the delights of this area of France (like lunch in Monpazier as we are above) or friends holidaying together.
Whatever your needs our spacious, tastefully furnished, fully equipped private single storey accommodation is intended to delight.
Astruc consists of only two properties, originally one farm, and they enjoy unfettered views of the beautiful rolling hills and fields of the Lot Valley. To find us just type Astruc, 47150 Salles into a program like Google Maps (other Apps are available) and it will show you exactly where the house is. Be aware though that the satellite image is before the recent landscaping and new pool.
If you like to:-
sit and stare without a care, then this is the place to be;
at night in an absence of light, come see what you can see;
take an occasional sip or a cooling dip, then the private pool is for you.
Booking your next holiday should be exciting and we will try to keep the excitement high and the frustrating waits as short as we can.
We do not believe in jamming in as many beds/people as possible, we like to feel just a little spoilt when we holiday and try to pass on that feeling to our guests. You will find that both of the spacious bedrooms are equipped with solidly built double beds provided by local artisans and proper wardrobes and drawers for your belongings and of course each has its own en-suite facilities.
The Lot-et-Garonne was created on 4th March 1790 and was one of the original eighty-three departments brought into being because of the French Revolution. The ancient County Of Agenais formed most of the new department but parts of what had been Guyenne and Gascony were also included.
You will still hear and see these names used and most areas of France are referred to by both the old (pre revolution) name and the newer name and also references to the general area such as Pays de Bergerac and even a wider name such as Aquitaine of which the Lot-et-Garonne forms part. Don't worry if you find it confusing so do many of those that live here.
A little later in 1808 several of the southeastern parts of Agen and Villeneuve-Sur-Lot were separated to become part of the newly formed Tarn-et-Garonne.
Today the Lot-et-Garonne is part of the current region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine although the word Nouvelle is seldom used. The Lot-et-Garonne is surrounded by the departments of the Dordogne, Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Landes, Lot and Tarn-et-Garonne and is part of south western France.
In the North of the department the area between the Lot and Garonne rivers is a plateau formed of rolling limestone hills and valleys with clear streams very similar in nature to the downs in the UK. Although there are forested areas the outlook is mainly open with amazing views off into the distance under clear skies commonplace.
In the west of the department, the Landes Forest is planted in the sand which continues all the way to the atlantic coast and its many many miles of sandy beaches. The forest is almost entirely composed of maritime pines. Between the forest and Agen the area is called the Albret and is pretty hilly.
Sérénité is right in the middle of Bastide country. For those that don’t know Bastide’s (a walled/fortified town) date back to the wars with the English and many were built by the English to protect its people from the French. Others were built by the French to protect their people from the English. There is a great deal of disagreement about which was the very first but the contenders are all in this part of France.
Though once powerful citadels they are now thought of as quaint small towns with narrow cobbled streets, numerous restaurants, interesting individual artisan shops and weekly markets almost all are built on a hill top and afford great views and it is not difficult to imagine trying to scale the walls whilst the inhabitants were dropping all sorts of things on your head.
The Bastides are very individual and reflect the centuries they were built over, expanded, repaired and generally updated. They are well worth a visit and a great place to have a lunch or a good coffee and watch the world go by.
One of the reasons we chose to settle in this region was that, unlike so of the more tourist focused areas like the southern Dordogne, it does not shut out of season. Yes there are some business that open less days each week or less hours each day and a few that close for a period but whatever day it is there are places open although you may have a little less choice of activities out of season.
We are blessed with hundreds and hundreds of Kilometres of country roads/lanes. The combinations of routes are almost endless and even in the height of summer you will not have to contend with much in the way of traffic other than the odd agricultural vehicle.
If you want to bring your own bicycle we can provide storage but if you would rather hire one then there are a number of companies in the area although it may be a bit more challenging out of the summer season. As to where to start you can start at the end of the drive as our road rarely sees vehicles in double figures each day (ignoring the tractors). If you want something a little flatter then drive to the Lot, Garonne or Dordogne rivers or the Le Canal De Garonne.
The canal crosses the region for 87 km and much of the tow path benefits from the shade of old plane trees. The fertile valley through which it traverses is full of a variety of products and you can pass through the wine growing regions of Marmandais and Buzet, fields of sunflowers and numerous orchards. In Agen, it crosses the Garonne over the famous canal bridge which has 23 arches and a total width of 540 meters. We were lucky enough to cross at the same time as a fine yacht which was a particularly memorable sight.
None of the roads, even the Motorway, here are busy and on many of the smaller roads you are more likely to meet pheasants, hares or foxes than cars and there are a surprisingly small number of motorbikes.
The population of a little over 333,000 (similar to Wigan or Bromley or East Riding ) is spread across an area larger than Northumberland the largest English District and that means that there is plenty of space and peaceful roads.
The situation for walkers in the department is much the same as for cyclists and the same opportunities described above exist.
There are walks for all abilities both in terms of length and difficulty. If you like to walk around the towns looking at the ancient buildings it is wise to were sensible shoes as many of the roads are cobbled. If you like to wander through the countryside then normal rambling shoes and leg coverings would be wise.
Again you can walk direct from your accommodation or there are almost countless places you could drive to and investigate a different area or bastide or chateau.
A day on the water
With a number of very large rivers and numerous lakes there are plenty of water based activities within a short drive. A regular favourite is the canoe down one of the rivers, this is not quite as energetic as it may seem and almost anyone can manage it although if you are inexperienced you will find the Indian canoe a great deal easier to get in and out of and to paddle and steer than the Kayak type which many find difficult to paddle in a straight line.
The rivers are broad and have little in the way of what you could call rapids although middle disturbed would probably be a better description.
The French way is to ask you how long you want to be in the canoe, do you want to stop for lunch and then to agree where they will pick you and your canoe up and at what time. Unless you particularly want to do more your effort is little more than just steering and letting the river drift you to your destination. There are quite a number of small "beaches" along the rivers and you can, should you wish, stop for a picnic and watch the river and anyone on it drift by.
There are also boats to hire on a self drive basis or if you would rather someone else did the steering there are numerous different vessels from modern cabin cruiser types to more traditional Gabarre (flat bottom river boat) . During the summer season there are several different boats offering lunch on the water so you can combine some sightseeing with a decent lunch and a glass of wine.
Wining and Dining
Although we haven't yet tried all the available food and wine we do try, on your behalf, to sample what we can. We find it unwise to recommend any particular establishments as personal tastes vary so much, and some have several chefs and they too can vary. What we can say is that we have yet to have a bad meal anywhere in the area.
We have dined in Michelin starred for 60€ each and Café style at 12.50€ for a three course lunch with 25cl of wine and coffee. Every occasion has been enjoyable, they have varied in quality and presentation but that is understandable. However in every establishment we have enjoyed our meal and had decent service appropriate to the environment.
As far as the wine is concerned you really are spoilt for choice. Those that are really into their wine have more vineyards and Caves than you could visit in any number of holidays. Some of the worlds highest regarded vineyards are within an hour or two's drive of Sérénité and you can either visit Vineyards of renown or discover one or two of the smaller ones which do not figure on the international scene.
If you just like to have a glass of wine or two with your dinner then even the local supermarkets keep a wide range of wines and you can still get a nice tasting bottle of locally produced wine for moderate price.
Whilst we are in the countryside we are well supplied with shops within a short drive. Within 10k we have a range of supermarkets, bakers, butchers, chemists (you can't buy paracetamol or other drugs other than in a chemist in France) at both Monflanquin and Montayral. A wider range of shops both large and small at Villeneuve sur Lot.
There are local markets every day of the week all year round including Sunday within an hours drive and most evenings during the summer for those night markets which are really an excuse to eat and drink and usually enjoy some entertainment.
If you are a really serious shopper then Toulouse is within two hours as is Bordeaux the second city of France where just about all the designer labels you can think of can be obtained.
Something Less Formal
If you feel like a themed park, museum, art gallery, Cave or even a park then there are plenty to chose from. If you think you are up to the challenge, what is said to be the largest crazy golf in Europe is just down the road. It is perhaps also the classiest and is certainly very well kept.
The area around SÉRÉNITÉ is approximately two thirds used for crops and a small number of farms with cattle. However there still remains a reasonable amount of forest and Astruc is at the edge of the Bois d'Astruc or Astruc wood.
We regularly see Deer (Cerf) and Hare (Lièvre) in the grounds (this one was crossing the drive) particularly in the early morning and evening if we are keeping quiet. We have also had a couple of visits from Boar (Sanglier) but these tend to stay in the depths of the forested areas in warmer weather and only venture out looking for fallen fruit towards the end of the summer beginning of autumn.
Also of course there are Rabbits (Lapin), Hedgehogs (Hérisson) and you may even see the occasional Fox (Renard) or Badger (Blaireau). You may also spot the pretty Red Squirrel (Ecuriuel Rouge) so rare in the UK and the local very small and pointy nosed mice (Souris).
In the air there are a large range of birds and you may notice a particularly high number of birds of prey. These are protected now and as more and more farmers go BIO (no chemicals) they need the birds to help control the normal pests.
So birds of prey a plenty, owls, woodpeckers, wagtails, pigeons, robins, finches, tits and a family favourite Hoopoe in short many many birds.
Just like in the UK we have two native snakes although you would be quite lucky to see either as both try to avoid people. However unlike the UK's Adder neither here are poisonous. The whip snake is quite fast and can be aggressive if threatened whilst you are most likely only to notice the grass snake by tripping over it as they are quite docile.
Being in the country we do of course have insects but not being close to a livestock farm or stagnant water not, perhaps, as many as you would expect. We do though get a large number of butterflies particularly in the late spring and early summer when the lavender is in full bloom.
You may also be lucky enough to spot a Humming Bird Hawk Moth which as the name suggests are easy to mistake for their feathered namesake. They come in several sizes some of which are pretty small. But they all share the common very long proboscis and the ability to drink the nectar from flowers without having to actually land on them.
The first one we saw was one of the larger variety and we really thought it was a humming bird until it got closer to us.
Luckily we have very few mosquitos as there is no stagnant water close by for them to lay their eggs in. There are as everywhere gnats so if they like to nibble you its best to bring some spray.
Being close to a wood you may see the odd wasp or hornet but they seem more interested in collecting wood for their hives and seem to take little interest in us. Lastly if you like to ramble it is wise to protect your legs as, just like in the rural areas of the UK, ticks can be present.
Most of the local flora is that being grown by farmers and as such it rotates from year to year. Common rotation crops are Maize, Rape, Corn and Sunflowers.
There are however a large number of fruit trees particularly as you go towards the capital Agen.
The bulk here are plum trees which are turned into prunes and a very large percentage of the world prune crop is grown in this area and commonly called Agen Prunes. In the late summer these trees look particularly splendid heavily laden with their purple fruit.
Don't mistake these prunes for those you usually get in the UK these are particularly sweet and succulent. They are readily available in local supermarkets or markets and the French ladies swear by them as an aid to looking younger longer and we are told they eat them very regularly. We particularly like the Prunes in Armagnac which are a bit moreish but perhaps not quite as healthy.
The region is also blessed with numerous areas of wood, hedgerows and roadside wild flowers. The woods can contain a number of small orchids that are very attractive if you can find them and a large variety of Fungi. As in the UK it is illegal to pick wild flowers and unless you really know what you are doing the numerous forms of fungi are best avoided.
In our park style garden you will find Apple, Plum, Damson, Hazel, Walnut and Almond trees. In addition we have Acacia and Silver Birch and a number of smaller shrubs. The bulk of the area is laid to grass. A picnic in the shade of the trees is a summer treat for guests to enjoy.
The area between your terrace and the field is grassed so as not to detract or obstruct your view whilst lazing around the pool, standing at the BBQ, enjoying some al fresco dining or just a civilised glass of one of the fine wines of the area.