Friday, January 1, 2010

La Galerie Toscane, B&B in Lasalle, Gard, France

Views from the gallery looking across the valley.

Even a sudden heavy rain was beautiful to watch from the gallery.

You can just see the Galerie Toscane from across the valley.

We stayed for one full week in late April at one of the very best B&Bs ever, La Galerie Toscane, which is hidden away in the Cévennes in the medieval village of Lasalle. We selected this B&B because of its easy access to numerous villages and towns in the Cévennes, because it promised to feature gardens, and yes, because we soon figured out that Geneviève speaks English (and was also willing to speak in a very clear and simple French when we indicated we wished to practice a bit).

The official website gives the important information. The home was reconstructed over a period of time, but the most important changes were made shortly after 1898 in a grand Italian manner after the owner had made his fortune in Italy and decided to retire in beautiful Lasalle. In particular, he created a wonderful balcony, or galerie in the style of Tuscany. We requested the guest room which has access to this balcony and the balcony proved to be one of the highlights of our stay. We could sit there in solitude, reading, listening to the birds and enjoying the views of neighbouring mountains and the valley. We could watch (and photograph) the sudden spring rain in dry comfort, all the while being in our own little world.

The estate's garden consists of three usable levels and is slowly being developed once again after decades of not being used (top priority was obviously modernizing the home itself). The former 18th-century owner bought rights to the excess water from the local public fountain, piping that water into his covered cistern. This enabled his staff to water the various gardens with relative ease as the water flowed from one level to another. The property fronts onto the village's river which regularly overflows the uncultivated lowest fourth of the land, yet it is beautiful to watch.

Geneviève was not just a very gracious host but she is also an accomplished cook, so we enjoyed several evening meals with her, which gave us additional opportunity to learn about the history and sights of the Gard, the Cévennes and Lasalle itself. Breakfasts were always more than ample and very tasty, often featuring a number of local cheeses, breads, fresh fruits, and her homemade jams and jellies. She also volunteered to phone on our behalf to make reservations at special restaurants within easy driving distance in the surrounding villages and hills, establishments we would otherwise have not encountered.

Geneviève delights in showing visitors the grounds and talking about the history of the village, this very special property, and gardening. For instance, since there were times of severe persecution of the Protestants in Lasalle, so La Galerie Toscane included a small closet with a carefully concealed false floor which gave access to a hidden room where the residents could safely hide from the king's men.

Some of my other blog entries provide photos of sights we enjoyed during our week of explorations in this general area: the small village of Lézan, the Château de Fressac, another small mountain village, St Jean du Gard, the major Roman city of Nîmes (we took the train from Paris to Nîmes where we then rented our car for the week), the village of Durfort in Gard, the unusual La Bambouseraie (Bamboo Gardens), the village of Uzès, also Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie (obviously known for its pottery), and the famous Roman bridge and aqueduct, Pont du Garde. There are many other places to visit, all within an easy drive from La Galerie Toscane. We hope to return soon!