What we call a “rental condo” in America, the French more musically term a “holiday gite” (pronounced jheet).
The Salamander gite, way up in the tiny mountain village of Usclas-du-Bosc, in the southwestern Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, creates its own music. The song involves rainbows, a grass-ruffling breeze and the crackle of a woodstove…just in case you like those kinds of things.
The Salamander belongs to my friend Christine’s pal Victoria, a hard-working expat Brit who’s built a beautiful country life for herself, her French-Italian husband, and her three kids in the Cevennes. She’s the kind of human whirlwind who can raise a family with one hand, run a British food stall at the farmers’ market in nearby Lodéve with the other, and find yet another with which to whip up a delicious meal. She keeps the Salamander swept clean, colorfully dressed, and stocked with firewood, the better to welcome you in from the cool air outside.
While hardly a hotspot on a North American’s tourist path, the idyllic and green Usclas-du-Bosc is near some noteworthy sites: the stunning cloisters and hand-painted roof tiles of Lodéve; the UNESCO World Heritage site of St-Guilhem Le Désert, the vibrant city of Montpellier, the medieval-era villages of the Canal du Midi, and the silvery blue Lac du Salagou.
Even just the winding drive up the hill from the local grocery store is a treat, taking you through a lacy maze of forest, past fields with stone farmhouses, wildflowers, or even a single, solitary white horse.
Once up here, there’s not much to do — but that’s pretty much the point. You can cozy up on the living room couches with some Wi-Fi and/or a glass of wine, gaze out at the mountain foothills and grapevines, cook up a storm in the fully-tricked-out kitchen, or wander out the door to discover backyard gardens, antique iron doors, a small community cemetery and a Roman-era cistern that still flows clear and cold.
The Salamander’s crowning glory is a fourth-floor sundeck with a table and two lounge chairs, an ideal spot for taking in the whole scene at once, including the post-storm rainbows common in this neck of the woods.
Just hanging out in the living room, on the deck and in the kitchen, laughing over our own ancient stories and crying over people we’ve loved and lost, Christine and I got to know each other even better than we could have imagined. So I speak from experience: if you two haven’t caught up in a while, and long to fill your days with beauty and your evenings with each other’s company, you could scarcely do better than this here holiday gite in France.
Contact Victoria via her site for the Salamander
to check about availability and seasonal rates.