Interview with Annemiek and Rendal from Domaine du Cammazet on 30PlusKids
Going on holiday with your children? Then it's great to be in a really nice, personal place where you feel welcome with owners who can give you the best tips to make your holiday a real experience.
To get to know the owners of the holiday addresses on 30pluskids better, we post an interview every week. This week with Annemiek and Rendal of Domaine du Cammazet in the Midi-Pyrenees in southern France.
1. How did you end up in this beautiful place?
When we drove through the beautiful entrance gate, we knew immediately! What a view, what an atmosphere, what a peace! Rolling green hills, bison walking almost in your backyard and yet not so far from charming villages and wonderful places such as: Mirepoix, Carcassonne and Toulouse. This was exactly what we were looking for. A little paradise to live, work and enjoy. It took us 3 years of searching, but we never regretted it!
After years of managing a large campsite in the beautiful Provence, we were ready for something else. We still enjoyed the work, but we regretted the fact that the number of guests was too high to meet all personal wishes. We sometimes felt that we were being ruled ourselves and could not fully enjoy the things we like to do best: live in the outdoors, enjoy nature and the sun, good food, a trip with our Mehari and so on.
We started searching for a small campsite in the middle of nature with at least 8 hectares of land. While we were looking for this, we realised that we would prefer something really small. No more camping, but a beautiful, large property with a characteristic French house to create beautiful, exceptional holiday accommodation. No restaurant with employees, but a cosy bar with a terrace and the possibility of having dinner together a few times a week. Everything on such a small scale that we could ensure personally that all guests have a perfect holiday. And still have enough time to enjoy the French life ourselves.
In those days we regularly went for a weekend to our dear friends Nathalie and PP who run a lovely little chambre d'hôte in a beautiful Maison de Maitre in the Aude near Castelnaudary. Each time we were touched by the stunning views over the rolling hills with the scenery of the Pyrenees and the charm of the French villages. The very France that we love. The authentic France, with , French men with Alpine caps playing pétanque, arms full of French bread, many flea markets, cosy restaurants with delicious and affordable menus and nice terraces in narrow streets and squares. The France that has not yet been discovered by mass tourism, where you can say to each other: hey, I saw a foreign license plate there! Then one day our dream spot popped up on the GreenAccres website. The photo was not that striking but we saw the beauty right through it. What a great place! An area of 13 hectares of rolling hills with a beautiful characteristic house on it. We could not wait to go and see it. When we drove up the long driveway and through the beautiful authentic entrance gate, we fell in love at once. A magnificent view on all sides and what a peacefulness. Opposite a park with bison and deers and in the evening the setting sun as a picture perfect backdrop. Everything was right for our dream to come true.
We meanwhile knew that we wanted to accommodate 5 or 6 families in luxury gîtes and glamping lodges. Obtaining the permits was, to use the French expression, quite a challenge. Especially for the lodges, because that was all new here. But perseverance wins the day. We now have 3 beautiful safari tents, 1 luxury gîte and we are working very hard on the second one because it has already been rented out for next summer. Furthermore, we have a very nice and sweet dog to go for lovely walks and 2 cute cats and chickens. The horses of our friend Eric's riding school complete the picture.
We have found our place and we will certainly be enjoying it here for a while. A beautiful place that Rendal, who can create anything with his hands, enjoys making even more beautiful every year. A place where I can give all guests personal attention so that they feel even more welcome and have an unforgettable holiday. A wonderful place to relax and enjoy peace and quiet and the real French life. What could be better than to share all this beauty with guests, so that even more people can enjoy it?
2. What do you offer families on your domaine?
During the summer months, Domaine du Cammazet is a paradise for families with young children up to about 10 years old. Most families come from the Netherlands and Belgium. Our domaine is large, but easy to survey and there are no cars on our property. So parents can safely let their children have fun, while they themselves can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet, the conviviality, the good food and, last but not least, the wonderful luxury accommodations. Families with sporty teenagers will also have a great time with us. Maybe also a part of this is due to the good wifi. In spring and autumn, we receive many parents with babies or couples who come for the tranquility and beautiful surroundings.
The starting point for everything we created on our beautiful domaine, was always whether we ourselves would be happy with it. In a climate with so much beautiful weather, you mainly live outside. That is why both the gîtes and the glamping lodges have an extra large terrace where you can sit in the sun or in the shade. Everywhere on the domaine, you can find cosy seats, picnic tables, rocking chairs and hammocks where you can be alone and enjoy the silence and the view. Or read that good book you never got around to.
Camping is fun and enjoyable, but when we got home, we always liked our own beds so much. What could be more wonderful than returning from your holiday even more refreshed, because the beds may even be nicer than the ones at home? And what about children who are known as difficult sleepers who, because of the quiet and healthy environment, suddenly sleep until half past nine? Locals have told us that because of the concentration of good earth rays on our domain, there is a kind of positive vibe whereby many people feel good, sleep better, have more energy and are more positive. So to take some extra rest in between, there are fine chairs and a nice couch in all the cottages.
Eating out on holiday is very nice. But if you love cooking, it's also nice to get into the kitchen and work with all the delicious things you just bought at that super market in Mirepoix. In our kitchens, you can let the kitchen wizards go to their hearts' content. And if something is missing, we'll be happy to lend it to you.
It is, of course, very important to us that everything in the accommodation and on the domain is in perfect condition and clean. A small exception to this is made for nice bric-a-brac objects such as the tables and wardrobes in the gîtes, the mirrors with baroque frames in the lodges and the bistro sets on the terrace. There the old charm is better than a rusty spot, a crack or a creak. Our love of beautiful French things is also reflected in our love of French old-timers. We have a Mehari, a Citroën DS and 2CV (deux chevaux or, for the Dutch, the eendje), an old Renault tractor and our henhouse is an old Renault Dauphine. If you ask nicely, Rendal will gladly take you with him in the Mehari if he has to go to Lapenne, and sometimes he will even drive an extra round.
There is plenty to do in the area, but try to get your children to come along. Most of them quickly prefer to, as they call it, 'stay at home': with other children at the swimming pool, on the trampoline or the swings, with the horses or building huts in the woods.
Our cosy terrace by the Peugeot van, which Rendal has transformed into a bar, is the perfect place for pleasant moments of conviviality. We start on Saturday with a pizza night. While Rendal bakes the pizzas one by one in the wood-burning oven, children of the same age usually find each other on the trampoline and the parents also get to know each other... A nice and relaxed start of the holiday and then a good night's sleep after having admired the beautiful clear starry sky.
On Sunday morning, we buy bread at our local bakery, so that the holiday can start off well. In the meantime, the first tips for the best excursions have been exchanged and the first plans made. Most guests prefer to spend their first Sunday discovering our domain and resting from the trip with a drink that you can take yourself from the fridge at the van and write down in a notebook. The same goes for the ice creams. We love this small scale and the trust we can offer our guests.
On Mondays, we serve a tasty daily dish for guests who enjoy not having to cook. Or just because it is so pleasant to sit on the terrace and enjoy the sunset. On Wednesday, we take an early start with the marinating of the chicken for our delicious chicken with garlic and rosemary from the oven.
We end the week with a great barbecue on the terrace. It is so nice to see guests who did not know each other at the beginning of the week sitting together at the table as if they had been friends for years. In the meantime, the children have usually claimed their own children's table and after their dinner jump into the floodlit pool for the last time. For the enthusiasts, we have a kids disco where the parents usually participate just as fanatically as the children.
On our domain, we only have one rule: No unnecessary rules! Why should we forbid something if everything goes well? An example is that our swimming pool is never closed. If you want to swim early in the morning, you are welcome to do so. If you want to swim in the evening, you can as well. Of course, don't forget to switch off the alarm!
We are not sure who enjoys it the most, our guests or we ourselves. It's so rewarding to see that everything is so relaxed and that people enjoy themselves so much. A compliment, a nice review or guests who return, feel like presents to us.
3. What are your top 5 family excursions in the area?
It can sometimes be so quiet that it feels like we are living at the end of the world. Yet there is so much to see and do in the immediate surroundings or within an hour's drive. Can we really only choose 5?
TIP 1: Nature parks
To start with, there are 2 beautiful nature parks within a 5 minutes drive of our domaine; La Ferme aux Bisons with its vast park with bisons, deers and other special animals where you can take a ride with a trailer behind a tractor. There is also a petting zoo with, among others, llamas and ostriches. If you drive in the other direction, you will soon reach the Parc aux Bambous with its enormous variety of bamboos and shady trees. Great to visit on a hot day because you can take a dip in the small river that runs along the park. In both parks you can also have a delicious lunch.
TIP 2: Mirepoix
We think that the medieval town of Mirepoix with its village square surrounded by colourful half-timbered houses with wooden arcades is an absolute must to visit. On Mondays, there is a lively hippy market. There are street musicians everywhere, and you can taste things that are made right in front of you or have lunch on a cosy terrace. For the children there is a beautiful antique carousel. Just ask us how to find a parking space because this great market attracts visitors from all over the region.
TIP 3: Cathar castles
We find it difficult to choose which castle in the area is most worth visiting. Carcassonne is famous and has a huge attraction for children because of the board game of the same name. You have to visit it once in your life. For smaller children, the castles of Foix and Chalabre, where they can take part in all sorts of fun knightly games, are also perfect. Whichever you choose, you are guaranteed to come home with a supply of authentic knight's swords and shields.
TIP 4: Swimming in natural water
Whether you like swimming in a river, a lake or in the sea, everything is possible. At 5 minutes distance there is an unspoilt small pebble beach at the river Hers and at half an hour distance the beautiful Lac Montbel where you can swim, canoe or paddle or rent a pedalo. In about 1.5 hours you can reach the Mediterranean Sea on a wide beach where you don't have to lie on your towel for a change and where you can eat delicious fresh oysters, mussels and shrimps in the nearby fishing harbour before you go home.
TIP 5: Active and sportive
Thanks to the location of our domaine near the Pyrenees, there is so much to do for sports lovers. We really cannot make a choice. Cycling where the Tour de France passed, walking along the Camino de Compostela or to a beautiful mountain lake in the Pyrenees, swimming with horses in Lac Montbel, rafting, canoeing, paragliding near Foix. For the children there are nice climbing forests and water parks.
Now we have secretly mentioned more than 5, haven't we? Too bad the interview is over. We have many more great tips. We'll just give them to our guests. We can't wait!