I have a friend who lives in France and she and her husband owned a beautiful, old, stone house in the Lot in south west France which they have just sold. I visited twice and each time the house, the plants and the countryside left me enchanted. It is, of course, in a very good red wine area and the food and wine and general hospitality we were given were superb.

The terraced front garden of the house
The terraced front garden of the house

The house is built of pale stone with a terra cotta tiled roof typical of the region and white wooden shutters on all windows. I was there is early spring both times and the vivid green of the Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) was in stark contrast to the lovely pale stone. The informal garden in the front of the house, which is clothed in wisteria early in spring, is terraced down to the front field. A judas tree (Cercis canadensis) was just coming into flower on the first visit.

The upper garden terrace
The upper garden terrace
White wooden shutters set into the stone walls
White wooden shutters set into the stone walls

There is a long front lawn on the upper terrace which is used for outdoor meals and entertaining in summer and onto which some of the bedrooms open. They have deep snow in winter, so life is indoors during those months.

When the wooden shutters were open, you could look through the sitting room, which had a huge open fire place, to the garden terrace beyond.

Mist rising from the front field with the young judas tree in flower
Mist rising from the front field with the young judas tree in flower

This is a view from the upstairs guest bedroom early in the morning when the mist was rising. From here you could look down to the field in front of the house with the boomerang-shaped pond. (My friend, after all, was Australian.) When the grass was mown in this area the patch where a hare was raising her leverets was left long, so she could bring up her young in peace. They owned a small wood along the far boundary of this field.

Horse chestnut in the lower field
Horse chestnut in the lower field

In the lower field a magnificent pink horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) was in bloom.

A pigeonnier was part of the complex of buildings surrounding the country house and it had been converted into a spacious office and living accommodation for guests. To the side was a gravel courtyard accessed through a covered gate with Boston ivy hanging down from under the tiled roof at the entrance and covering the walls of the pigeonnier.

Pigeonnier at the end of the driveway
Pigeonnier at the end of the driveway

When we were visiting in May a vivid clematis was in bloom, growing through the Boston ivy. The perennial monarda was also in flower. My friend found this a very useful and hardy perennial as it spread throughout the garden and had the most glorious two-tone purple flowers.

Shutters on pigeonnier with walls covered in Boston ivy
Shutters on pigeonnier with walls covered in Boston ivy
Vivid clematis growing through Boston ivy
Vivid clematis growing through Boston ivy

There was a local golf course in the area and an impressive pigeonnier has been restored. The small chateau in the grounds is now used as accommodation for the golfers some of whom arrived by helicopter while we were having lunch.

Pigeonnier on the local golf course
Pigeonnier on the local golf course
Chateau used as accommodation on the golf course
Chateau used as accommodation on the golf course

One day we visited the nearby town of Bergerac on the River Dordogne, famous for the character, Cyrano de Bergerac, of which there were numerous statues in the squares and pretty gardens for which the town well known. There are many medieval buildings which have been authentically restored in this historic and attractive town and one we visited was the 16th century Couvent de Récollects which is now an information centre about local wine and where art exhibitions are held in the Cloisters and concerts in the evenings.

16th century Récollects Cloisters, Bergerac, France
16th century Récollects Cloisters, Bergerac, France