“I grew up in Paris and always wanted to return to rural France…”
Le Tramizal, a simple and rustic stone farmhouse in a garden of fruit trees, overlooks the village of Rignac in the department of the Lot. Morning and evening, sheep and cows traverse the road in front of Le Tramizal on their way to pasture. Behind the house is a farmyard with ducks, chickens, and sheep.
Le Tramizal has two levels. On one side of the main floor is the kitchen and dining area. The kitchen, with its exposed wooden beams and stone walls, feels like a traditional farmhouse kitchen, but has all the necessary modern appliances a good cook requires, including a microwave oven, dishwasher, pasta press, waffle machine, sorbet maker and food processor.
In the living area, a comfortable couch faces the cantou, a large traditional open fireplace with a woodstove that is sufficient to heat the cottage. Upstairs are a large room with two double beds and a new bathroom. A cot is also available.
The cottage is more a personal holiday home than the conventional gite. Paintings, books, music and teddybears reflect the personality of the owner, a painter, children's book author and illustrator. Shelves are stocked with books and CDs, mostly classical and jazz.
The garden is private and shady, lovely for meals on balmy summer evenings. Guests have the use of a free WIFI internet connection for their laptops, two bicycles to explore the area and a telescope for star gazing. (We are in the middle of the Black Triangle here, with the clearest skies in Europe.)
There is another simple cottage on the other side of the garden. Some guests rent it as well for their guests or a work space. Email me for more info and photos. Catherine, along with her cats and border collies, lives in a barn on a separate property across the road, which has been converted into a painting studio and gallery. She is always happy to assist and advise.
Please note that if you are highly allergic to farm and/or domestic animals and hay (in summer,) Le Tramizal is not a good choice for you.
Rignac is a small, working village clustered around a historic 12th century church. The church is classified, which means no new development can take place in the village or valley.
Le Petit Rignac Café offers breakfast and light meals. It is a pleasant spot to sit outside next to the pond for coffee, a light snack or evening drink, perhaps after a game of pétanque. One can pick up fresh bread, eggs, sausage, fruit, and vegetables there and on Wednesday evenings an old battered yellow pizza truck pulls up next to the café and provides locals with excellent pizza made from local ingredients..
Three books to consider slipping into your knapsack to whet your appetite are Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik, The Lost Upland, by the 'local' poet W.S. Merwin, and The Generous Earth by Philip Oyler, a classic book on rural life in the area recently re-released in paperback.
Gramat, five kilometres to the south, is the closest market town with a tourist office, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, large municipal swimming pool with water slides, brocantes, butchers, cafés, an excellent patisserie, post office, doctors and dentists, and a great new cinema with frequently changing French and international movies. Next to the cinema is a media centre and library with internet access. The swimming pool, open in June, July and August, is usually empty between 12 and 2pm, and again between 6 and 8pm, and is cordoned off for swimming laps at the reduced rate of €2.
The best bread in the Lot comes from the boulangerie in Alvignac, two kilometres north of Rignac. Twice a month there is a big market in Gramat, but there are other markets in the area almost every day of the week. The Paris-Toulouse train stops in Gramat which is very convenient if you don't have a car, though a car is advisable to fully explore the area.
The Lot's rich and often violent history is evident in the area's impressive castles and fortified towns and bastides. Many castles tower above the Dordogne river just north of Rignac; some like the perfectly preserved medieval castle Bonaguil require a day's outing.
However the only possible disturbances these days are lively village fetes or classical chamber concerts on tranquil summer evenings. Venues for the Saint-Céré Festival include the Chateaux Castelnau Bretenoux and Montal. Some of the world's most celebrated jazz musicians perform in Souillac and Cahors in summer, and Cajarc even hosts an increasingly popular festival of African music.
The terrain is criss-crossed with hiking and horseback trails, including the national GR route and some of the loveliest parts of the St Jacques de Compostello pilgrimage route. A 3-hour walk from Rignac along the Alzou valley passes four old stone mills before arriving at the medieval pilgrimage site of Rocamadour, clinging precariously to the side of a cliff.
Country roads are perfect for cyclists and the Dordogne river offers lovely swimming beaches and canoes for hire. The dogs and my current favourite swimming spot is the lake at Tauriac, where we often picnic in the evening or have a glass of wine and light supper at the café in summer. The lake is fed by the river, but has a lovely calm and wide expanse of water for serious swimmers, as well as a safe roped-off area for young children.
For the adventurous, spelunking is a popular local sport. Some kitted out in full diving gear even plunge into small "puddles" to explore a vast labyrinth of dark watery tunnels... For the rest of us, a trip to the Padirac chasm is a must: visitors drift past towering stalagmites on a subterranean boat trip.
Another excellent excursion is to the 20,000 year old cave paintings at Pech Merle. And of course for archeologists and their ilk there is the Vezère Valley, site of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon habitations. The recently restored hanging gardens at Marqueyssac are exquisite, as are the formal gardens at Eyrignac. An excellent tourist office in Gramat which can advise visitors where and how to hire horses, book hot air balloon trips and other such activities.
The area is known for its strong and deep Cahors wines (which are excellent with cheese, especially the local goat cheese, cabécou), duck confit and magret, truffles, foie gras and walnuts.
"I believe that this great peaceful region of France will be a sacred spot for man, and when the critics have killed off the poets this will be the refuge and the cradle of poets to come. France will someday exist no more but the Dordogne will live on just as dreams live on and nourish the souls of men." — Henry Miller
“We were just sitting here talking about trips we've each taken in our lives. With husbands and/or friends. Would we prefer a city visit to Paris/Rome/Athens or your cottage? Your cottage hands down! We are having a lovely time. Thank you so much.”
Lynn T. - Nova Scotia, Canada
“We saw many lovely homes on the internet, but on closer inspection, the IKEA furnished interiors were disappointingly all alike. We chose your cottage for its interiors: warm and full of charm and character.”
Brid and Ian O. - Dublin, Ireland
“Thank you Catherine for everything. We are so happy to have visited Rignac. The memories are vivid and wonderful.”
Mark R. and Joanne P. - Australia
“Many thanks for our perfect stay in your cottage and for your generous hospitality. We so enjoyed the area, cycling around, and especially being able to go out with your walking group.”
Sue and Phil R. - Albany, Australia
“What lovely memories I have of our stay! I have shared your website and recommended your cottage to many friends and family members. You were very kind to us on that trip and I remember it with such warmth. ”
Anne O. - Perth, Australia
“We loved staying at your cottage! Everything was perfect! Thanks for your guidance as to places to visit and dine. It was such a pleasure to meet you and the dogs.”
Susan W, - San Francisco, CA, USA
“Our angels were surely with us when we found this dreamy little cottage. What was most special to was sitting napping by the fire, cooking our own meals in the well-stocked kitchen, and feeling so easily accepted as short term neighbors. Le Tramizal is now part of our hearts!”
Daniel L. - North Carolina, USA
“We could not have scripted a more perfect place for our honeymoon.”
Johanna and Aaron K. - San Francisco, California, USA
“As a person from a small Japanese fishing village, I never imagined my boyfriend proposing to me in a charming cottage owned by a South African artist in a magical medieval French village.”
Yuki D. - New York, NY, USA
“We will miss waking up to the sun streaming through the gable window and all the animals sounds, and Peaches the cat storming the front door and joining Tom each morning for breakfast. Even cereal tasted better in your cozy home.”
Wendy and Tom M. - Michigan, USA
“In Canada, we are so used to driving miles and miles to see anything worthwhile, and here everything is on your doorstep. We have had the best seven days here. Thank you for everything, until next time.”
Keith and Sally G. - Canada
“Thanks for a really peaceful and enjoyable stay at Le Tramizal last week. We were relaxed and rested by the end of our stay. The holiday will be in our thoughts for a very long time. Rignac felt like home. ”
Paul and Jo C. - Suffolk, UK
“Thanks for making our honeymoon very special. The cottage is just perfect. Thabo is an absolute delight- taking us for walks!”
William and Dalene C. - Magaliesberg, South Africa
“I can still hear the music playing from the Fete de Rignac. What a joyous time for me to have had so much fun in this most beautiful part of the world. You have given me a very special summer vacation that I will hold in my heart always.”
Liz R. - Florida, USA
“And the sky...well, no one told us about that sky. The stars were AWESOME!”
Al and David S. - UK
“A marvellous time at Le Tramizal. Evenings spent reading and listening to jazz have been too long absent from our busy schedules. As I write this, I listen to Ben Webster, a dove cooing, the sheep next door, and pause to watch two jetstreams moving away in the distance. Difficult to leave...”
George and Deborah M. - Ottawa, Canada
“Le Tramizal is everything we expected and a great deal more. Your handbook of suggestions for excursions proved to be invaluable. Bonaguil, along with Peche Merle, are highlights of our lives.”
David and Sue S. - Seattle, Washington, USA
“Your cottage is like a museum of treasures. You and Thabo are really the part of my holiday I will remember most fondly. A lovely place, a lovely lady...”
Tannis H. - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
“Merci mille fois for your kind hospitality and just a really good time. We will always cherish the fabulous walk to the site of the old mill.”
Steve and Deb C. - USA
“Thank you for making our first trip to Europe so easy with your generous hospitality. We have been so inspired here. Thank you for all the wonderful tips for places to go and paint. Every area had a unique charm whether haystacks, castles, chateaux, or churches in a small village. We dont want to leave!”
Sandi and Fran G. - Brimfield, Massachusetts, USA
“Le Tramizal was even prettier than the photos on your website indicated, and your thoughtful attention to detail- well stocked kitchen, maps, activity suggestions, etc really added to the experience.”
Mark and Erika H. - UAE
“We thought we had made a wrong turn when suddenly a large black dog appeared in front of our car, barking. At first we tried to shoo him off, but then recognised him as Thabo from his picture on the website. He was expecting us! And he led us to the front of this remarkable little house. As soon as we walked in we felt like we were home. Merci beaucoup for your hospitality and the wonderful memories.”
Elise and Ari M. - Philadephia, Pennsylvania, USA
“We love the area and your cottage - especially its lovely wood fires in the evening!”
Barbara and Andrew M. - Dorset, UK
“Catherine, thank you for creating Le Tramizal so that we could experience it - and also for your warm hospitality, and your introduction to the secret swimming hole in the Dordogne river, not to mention the Jazz Festival and the great conversation. We will miss the variety of experiences here, including the watercolor class! And we will be back soon!”
Don T. and Diana T. - Washington, DC, USA
“The details of your property on the Net were very enticing, but never prepared us for the warm welcome, your hospitality, and the beautiful surroundings in this area. Wonderful books too! It was a pleasure to spend some time with you and Thabo.”
Lorraine T. - Scrignac, Finistère, France
“Our memories include Thabo turning up within a few seconds of our lifting the door latch, delicious eggs from the madam with the cleanest kitchen in the world, cosy log fires, Jaap's wonderful pumpkin and ginger soup and the great jazz. Thank you for looking after us and being lovely.”
Marion and Jonathan C. - Sussex, England
“We have had a marvellous time, and I will pay Le Tramizal the highest possible compliment by comparing our stay here to cherished vacations at our family cottage in Georgian Bay, my favorite place in the whole world!”
Nancy H. and Joan H. - Orillia, Ontario, Canada
“Thanks for opening up your beautiful cottage to us. Thanks for the bicycles, the hammock, the fresh country air, the animal sounds, the friendly neighbours, the outdoor shower, the beautiful plums and raspberries, the lunch at Madame Malet's, the tasty bread in Alvignac, the sweet jam, the lunatic sheep dog who was sorely missing Thabo, the front porch lizards, the skittery barn cats... We look forward to a return visit!”
Vicky P. and Nicky M. - Dublin, Ireland
“Favourite Memories of Le Tramizal:
•jug of wildflowers on the table
•listening to music in the glow of the wood fire
•lying in the hammock under the walnut tree looking up at the stars
•having a lovely picnic on the river and watching you cook sausages while the rest of us talked and drank wine
•drinking milk warm from the cow- à la recherche du temps perdu (did someone else say that?)
•watching a kaleidescope of butterflies in the meadow
•eating plums,sun warmed, straight from the tree...”
Derek and Jane S. - Bournemouth, England
“We talked about Rocamadour becoming a lieu de rencontre. All Mme le Maire needs to do to achieve this is study Le Tramizal, with its wonderful mixture of South Africa, New York, and la France profonde -- a meeting place of cultures and people that exists thanks to your generosity and evident love for people and beautiful experiences. Thanks for the chance to be part of your lieu de rencontre, to meet some wonderful people who are all obviously deeply happy to have you as a friend, for the superb jam, the lovely selection of CDs, and the warmth of your welcome.”
Kay and Bill G. - Maryland, USA
“Your house is wonderful, surrounded by all the beautiful flowers, which you so graciously made into bouquets for us. And it was fun to be in a farm setting, hearing the cows and sheep around us.”
Brooke and John D. - Atlanta, Georgia, USA
“Catherine, the short note that we left does not sum up our true appreciation for how Le Tramizal inspired us. As you may have guessed, we are rather quiet people, and the pure solitude that you allowed us for our short stay was sheer joy.”
Gordon and Valery G. - London, UK