Back in the early 2000’s, disillusioned with our busy London lives, we decided to look into the idea of buying a property in France, somewhere we could create a beautiful relaxing space for people to come for a holiday or a party. Bolstered by the then popular and almost daily TV shows highlighting the benefits of a life in France and a very seductive exchange rate, we took this idea out of the pub, onto the plane and started looking at properties.
The summer of ’03
We started visiting properties of all shapes and sizes along the south west corridor of France, from Montpellier to Narbonne, from medieval Carcassonne to cosmopolitan Toulouse. We fell in love with many of them only to discover a railway line at the end of the garden or to be advised that the local families would not appreciate a potential party venue popping up on their doorstep. Finally, at the end of a summer, whose blistering heat broke all records, we discovered Chateau de Lartigolle. Walking into the courtyard to the sound of Brazilian samba floating from the grand salon we were met by Magda and her partner and walked around with mouths open trying to hide our excitement. After a couple of visits, the negotiations were over drinks around the kitchen table, we shook hands and Lartigolle was ours.
All the best laid business plans
When the money had changed hands we set about putting together business plans and dreamt of a new life. Once we got the keys the fun started with a hectic schedule of renovations and decorating. We had foolishly agreed to have friends down to be our first guests so the pressure was really on. New boilers, repainting the entire place and finding and buying furniture for such a huge building all took its toll. Finely tuned budgets were busted, nerves were frayed and many, many hours of hard work slipped by. But we just about made it on schedule and, in the summer of 2004, we proudly welcomed our first paying guests through the courtyard gates. At that time we had just six bedrooms and a lot of enthusiasm. It was all about learning as we went along.
A flying start
We got into the stride of things pretty quickly, soon realising the relentlessness of looking after guests and catering to the many different tastes and requirements. We were fortunate to have had a great reception from the media. We were chosen as one of Harpers and Queen ‘Top 100 Places to Stay in the World’ which was more of an accolade than we could ever have imagined. Early one spring evening, we had a visit from the Guardian travel journalist Robert Yates. Arriving late at night we welcomed him in, offering all the region has to offer from a bottle, fed him with delicious local produce and sent him home a couple of days later wondering what impression we have made on him. Weeks later the resulting article appeared and it simply put us on the map, the phone line started to get red hot. We recently found the article online, so you can read what Robert had to say below.
Never do weddings
We quickly realised that if we carried on doing just holidays we would always be just one of thousands of places in France that people can rent for their holiday. Although the place is special we never felt we were really maximising our potential looking after a dozen or so people for a couple of weeks at a time. We were then asked to host a wedding for some local people we know and with the well meaning advice of friends ringing in our ears, ‘…never do weddings – they are a nightmare to organise…’ we plunged head first and quickly found out that we actually enjoyed doing them. There is something so special about meeting couples who are completely in love and getting to know them over a year or so as we help them prepare for their big day. Once the event is under way, we then have large groups of happy people to look after and their feedback and emotion during this shared experience is addictive. We love it!
100 weddings later
We must have loved it as we kept on saying yes to more weddings, and the guests must have loved it as they kept telling everyone about us. From day one we have never done any conventional marketing, or been to any wedding fairs, or advertised in any wedding magazines. All our marketing has been via word of mouth and recommendations. Trip Advisor and wedding blogs came along at just the right time too. We now find ourselves holding our 100th wedding and have, at the time of writing, gained 92 out of 92 five star reviews on Trip Advisor, something we are immensely proud of. However, what has been the most rewarding for us is to have taken our time to find some amazing local people to join us and become part of the Lartigolle family. Everybody who works here does so with a deeply felt passion for everything we do. They focus on the details and will go to any lengths to make sure our guests have the most wonderful experience here. It is this team that have earned our great reviews and we are very lucky to have them alongside us.
Let’s celebrate life
The landmark of reaching our 100th wedding is heightened by two other important events in 2016. First, the launching of this new website together with our new brand identity. This has been designed to really help us stand out as something new, progressive and innovative in what is a conventional and traditional marketplace. We have distilled everything that we want to offer into our mission to ‘CELEBRATE LIFE’. We want Lartigolle to be associated with all there is to celebrate in life, and all that should be celebrated. Whether it is being with your family and friends for a personal event, or just enjoying great, well produced food and wine together. We want to create new ways to bring people together to celebrate, to learn and to share something special, the memory of which will last a life time.
And then there were two
The third big event of the year is the launch of our new property Ferme de Labarthe. With it, comes a completely new way to think about holding weddings and other group events. The idea came from the numerous requests we received from couples wanting to hold smaller weddings where they could just go into the fields, pick the flowers and use vegetables from our gardens. We were just not able to offer that at Chateau de Lartigolle. However, our great friend Andy Cato and his wife Jo, had just the place where we could offer that, and much more too. Andy and his family moved to the area after frequently visiting Lartigolle and falling head over heels in love with the region. Their big plan was to start an organic farm and they set about creating Ferme de Labarthe. They recently decided to move on to a bigger farm so that they can produce a larger variety of organic crops and introduce livestock. As we were discussing ideas of what they should do with their beloved manoir, a new idea popped up and we suggested we develop it into a new venue. There is plenty on this website about the concept and how it will work but we are equally interested in what Andy has created with his approach to organic farming. We want to bring some of that passion and knowledge into our mission to CELEBRATE LIFE.
Everything begins and ends with the soil
Andy has attacked farming with a missionary zeal. His guiding principal is that everything begins and ends with the soil. Of the three things that create all life – sun, rain and soil, soil is the only one we can influence. Restore the soil to health and it has a direct impact on the nutrition of our crops and the people that eat them. What’s more, plants grown in healthy soil don’t need poisonous sprays to keep them alive. If they did, they wouldn’t exist. Thus the agro-chemical industry spends billions lobbying to obscure the simple fact that in a world of good soil they would be obsolete. At his farm, after only four years (not even the beginning of the blink of an eye in terms of nature’s timescales) we can see that given a chance, nature comes roaring back. It’s clear that an agriculture which provides health, nutrition and diversity is there for the taking. He has now moved up to the bigger farm so that he can be there to keep an eye on his fields and animals. This is why their lovely old home at Labarthe is now heading into a new era. Now we have Andy’s skills and the Ferme de Labarthe as part of our offer we will be aiming to come up with innovative ways we can incorporate this vision into our ideas for the future.
And there our story ends… or maybe it is just beginning.
Nick, Chris and Emma, June 2016
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT US...
EXPLORE OUR INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT TO SEE NEW IDEAS
SOME HELPFUL INFORMATION
WHERE ARE WE?
Lartigolle was born and raised in the Gers, south west France, formerly known as Gascony. It is a beautiful and untouched corner of France full of farms and agriculture, including booming organic production. There are rolling hills and beautiful historic villages at every turn.
These are google map links to both our properties:
HOW TO GET HERE
The local airports
There are a number of carriers that fly to the region from all over the UK. These are the most convenient airports that have regular flights from the UK and approximate traveling times from each:
Blagnac airport, Toulouse – 50 minutes - served by BA, easyJet and Ryanair (from November 2016)
Carcassone airport – 1hr 50 mins - served by Ryanair
Tarbes/Lourdes airport – 1hr 50 mins - served by Ryanair
Bergerac airport – 2 hrs - served by Flybe, Ryanair, Jet 2, BA
If you have a little more time then you could consider taking the train from Kings Cross to Paris, then Paris to Toulouse. Once you get to Toulouse you can then take a local train to Auch. That is the closest station to us and is about 15 minutes taxi ride away from Chateau de Lartigolle. Or 35 minutes to Ferme de Labarthe.
Taxi or hire car?
We recommend that you hire a car from Toulouse airport. Taxis are expensive, car hire is much better value. The roads are great and it is easy to get to us. Drive time to Chateau de Lartigolle from the airport is about 50 minutes and to Ferme de Labarthe is about 1h10.
These are google map links to both our properties:
DRIVING DIRECTIONS FROM TOULOUSE
Chateau de Lartigolle via GPS Lat: 43.611634 Long: 0.683041
Driving from Toulouse airport:
From Toulouse airport follow the sign towards Toulouse. After about 1km you will see your first sign for Auch. Keep following the signs for Auch. This will take you off the Toulouse peripherique and onto the N124. Follow the N124 out of Toulouse for 50kms, past Colomiers, Leguevin, past l’Isle Jourdain and through Gimont.
Just as you leave Gimont there is a roundabout. Take the third exit in the direction of Saramon on the D12.
Follow the D12 for 10kms and you will come to a roundabout. Turning left would take you to Samatan; straight on, Saramon. Turn right towards Pessan and Auch on the D349.
After following the D349 for about 7kms, you drive straight past the Aubiet/Castelnau Barbarens crossroads and continue on this road. There is another turning on the left to Castelnau Barbarens, do not turn here but keep on the same road bearing round to the right. You will pass a white water tower with aerials on the top about 50 metres from the road on your right. You are now on the D626.
After another 1km there is a turning to the left. This is the corner of our property. Take the left turning. On the left is an open field, on the right a bank topped with trees. After 100 metres on the right you will see a set of large white gates on a pair of sandstone pillars. This is the main entrance to the chateau.
Drive through the gates and follow the avenue of ancient oaks past the vineyard and orchard on the right, and the tennis court with views of the pool and the valley beyond on your left. The avenue then turns left and the chateau is straight in front of you.
These are google map links to both our properties:
LOCAL ACCOMMODATION FOR VISITS
Below are some of the local hotels that we use for the overflow of wedding guests or for couples that come for a overnight visit in the closed season when we may not be open for overnight visits.
Domaine de Baulieu – 12 mins from the Chateau This lovely hotel has 18 clean, modern, air-conditioned bedrooms, a swimming pool and views of the surrounding countryside. Very reasonable rates, and close. It’s a perfect spot for guests. They are very popular in the summer as they host lots of local weddings so best to contact them early if you want to be sure to secure their rooms for your guests. Contact: Karen (English speaking) Tel: +33 (0)9 51 23 04 65 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ledomainedebaulieu.com
Hotel de France – central Auch – 20 minutes from the Chateau A great location as it is right in the heart of Auch, our local town. It is a lovely old building in the main square, close to the Cathedral and near all the main bars and restaurants. The building is in the process of a long refurbishment so not all rooms are the same standard but the location is a real benefit Contact: +33 (0)5 62 61 71 71 Website: www.hoteldefrance-auch.fr
Hôtel Campanile – 12 mins from the Chateau This chain hotel that have been recently refurbished with new beds, decor and furnishings. It is on the outskirts of Auch so good access for the main access route but there is not much around withi walking distance. It very good value so well worth thinking about for more budget conscious guests. Tel: +33 (0)5 62 63 63 05 Website: www.campanile.fr Email: email@example.com
SOME THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA
Below are some of our preferred restaurants and places to visit in the area. These are taken from an edited version of a larger document we have put together as a guide to all we have in the area for guests staying at the Château. Just ask if you wish for a copy of the full list.
Our favourite local restaurants
Carpe diem - Pessan - 5 minutes
Chef Guillaume runs our local village restaurant and is producing magnificent food, lots of delicate flavours and he is fast gaining a reputation of the best chef in the region. Excellent value and on our doorstep. Lunches and suppers are both popular so booking essential to be sure of a table.
Reservations: 05 62 06 84 25
Auberge de Rantaures – Lussan - 10 minutes - Cash or euro cheque only - NO CREDIT CARDS
This is a lovely family run French, regional restaurant in a little village in the hills above the chateau. Chef Lionel cooks on an open fire in the restaurant and all the meat is sourced locally and great quality. Open Wednesday to Sunday evenings. Very reasonably priced. You must go. Reservations essential : 05 62 65 52 04
Café Le France – Next to the Cathedral – 20 mins
Popular cafe located right in the heart of the old town with good tasty food. Great huge steaks, good salads, omelettes and everything you would expect. Seats outside and in. No bookings usually needed, just turn up.
Brasserie Daroles – Auch, Centre Historic by the Cathedral – 20 mins
A typical French brasserie. Well located as situated in front of the roundabout by the Auch Cathedral. A new owner and chef have raised the standard so well worth a visit now. Free parking in the nearby car park.
Reservations: 05 62 05 00 51
Le Parc á Huîtres – Auch – 20 mins
If you like seafood then this is the place for you. Run by the wonderful Andre and his wife and recently opened in a new location with a contemporary modern interior, if only you had the views of the sea you would think you are on the west coast! Really great fish, very simple but always totally fresh. Lovely for lunch. Closed Monday’s.
Reservations: 05 62 70 07 40
Things to do with kids
Quad Biking – 20 mins
An ABSOLUTE MUST!! We have a fantastic Quad Biking range nearby where Lartigolle visitors receive a special price. You are given a tour with an instructor through vineyards, forests, farms and hills, utterly spectacular. Under 8’s can go with a parent or instructor.
Reservations: 05 62 05 19 44 or 06 03 85 16 59
Vert en L’Air – 15 mins
Suitable for children 6 and older. This is the Forest in the Air, where they have tree top adventure circuits of varying difficulty (with safety harnesses) – Great fun for young and old. Open afternoons only out of the summer season.
Reservations: 05 62 05 26 78 or mobile 06 85 59 86 70
Wakeboarding and Waterskiing – 30 mins
Recently opened on a big lake in Isle-Joudain. A series of pullies and pylons are set up to pull you (at various speeds) round the lake. Great tution and equipment provided. Also hire of pedalos and mini golf close by for these less adventurous. A small café and picnic area.
Reservations: 05 49 48 71 03
Space Museum, Cite de l’espace, Toulouse – 60 mins
This is great for a rainy day, or a sunny one They have a huge exhibition space with real space rockets, capsules and a 6 storey screen planetarium. They have constantly changing exhibitions so check their website.
Reservations: 05 67 22 23 24
ALL YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
We have tasked our house keeper to put together a list of all the questions that she gets asked all the time and to collate them in one place so we can share them with you and you can share with all your guests.
THANKS AND CREDITS
There are many people that have helped us over the years and that we would like to thank for everything they have given us in terms of the experience, enthusiasm and their undoubted many and varied skills.
We have been fortunate to have had some of the world's best wedding photographers and videographers come to the chateau and capture it in all it's glory. Many of the images on this website are down to them and without these talented people we would never be able to show everyone what it is we do here. So we would like to thank those whose work we have used in this website and encourage you to visit their websites and commission them when you can. Just click on their names to visit their own websites.
MATTHEW WEINREB - Matthew has been taking pictures for us for many years now and has provided our couples, and us, with so many wonderful images
DEREK SMIETANA - Darek recently moved in of the area and has covered a some of our recent weddings. He has a great style, captures all the details and is a joy to work with
SHANNA JONES - Shanna's work is consistently excellent, she just captures those most perfect moments every time
THOMAS WAGNER - Thomas has photographed weddings all over the world and is a recent addition to the Lartigolle list
MISCHKE WEINREB - Mischke shot her first ever wedding here, it was really good but her work has just got better, and better, and better...
MARK WILSON - Mark turned up one August day with a tiny drone plane and flew the thing all over the place. The result was the stunning film of Lartigolle that you can see on this website
ANDREW KELLY - We recently met Andrew via Darek and he kindly agreed to make a film of our new venture at Ferme de Labarthe. We hope to have him back to film at both our venues very soon
RODOLPHE - Rodolphe produced one of our favourite films for Steven and Deirdre, it captures everything we could have hoped for.
The website maker
SARAH AUSTIN - Special thanks must go to Sarah for her technical and web marketing skills and for always being on the end of a phone to help us produce our wonderful new website - she is a superstar
The music maker (and our new organic farming partner)
ANDY CATO - Andy kindly edited one of his tracks for us to use on our Drone film and has now agreed to hand over his fabulous organic farm and home so we can launch our new venture. He is a constant source of inspiration on all things nutritional and natural.