25 March 2013 by Chris Jones
‘Mimosa’ Eco Townhouse, St Jean Le Thomas, Manche, Normandy
Our property of the month for March is this eye-catching five bedroom townhouse nestled in St Jean de Thomas, a peaceful coastal village midway between Granville and Avranches. Close to sea and countryside – this holiday home is perfect for the breaks by the beach as well as visits to attractions including Mont St Michel.
In its heyday St Jean de Thomas was a bustling seaside resort with direct train links to Paris – the Parisien holidaymakers would even refer to the village as ‘Petite Nice’. Nowadays the atmosphere is altogether more peaceful. Walks along the coastal cliffs and country paths are the order of the day, along with foraging for shellfish on the clean, sandy beaches. The village looks out over the mystical Bay of Mont St Michel, an area rich in history, wildlife, flora and fauna. And the highlight for many visitors is a glimpse in the distance of the famous monument itself.
Sustainable living in an Eco-building
Mimosa is situated on a quiet street in the village, and was once the local café-cum-tobacconist’s shop. Converting the building into a holiday home was a labour of love for Douglas Beal, Mimosa’s guardian and a passionate advocate for sustainable and environmental architecture.
During the renovation, he used his green-savvy to incorporate ecologically-sound building methods and materials throughout. This included the use of much more insulation than normal. He also used hemp and lime instead of cement and concrete, along with plenty of recycled materials.
Step inside and there are several other green features, including a solar water heating system, and a wood-burner with a back boiler ingeniously connected to the radiators via an accumulator tank. All this green thinking has resulted in an eye-catching, energy-efficient and comfortable house – a perfect place to make the most of a stay in this corner of Normandy.
Family-friendly accommodation for 13
With five bedrooms sleeping up to 13 people, two bathrooms, and a large open-plan kitchen/dining area the house is ideal for groups of family or friends looking to enjoy a holiday together. Everything is child-friendly, and there’s an en suite bedroom on the ground floor which is suitable for elderly or less able visitors. And in keeping with the rest of the house, the garden is inspired by all that is green, with plenty of vegetables and herbs as well as a covered area for sitting and barbecues.
Things to do in St Jean de Thomas
St Jean de Thomas has plenty to choose from when it comes to things to do. There are the dunes and beaches of course. But there’s plenty more for children and adults alike, including playgrounds, a football field, pétanque area and tennis courts.
When it comes to amenities, there’s a general convenience store nearby as well as a baker, butcher, post office, hairdresser and tourist information office. L’Oasis Beach Bar serves cold drinks, ice creams and moules frites – perfect for dining while enjoying the sea views and often spectacular sunsets. Meanwhile the Hôtel des Bains serves local specialities including freshly caught fish and shellfish, cream, cider and calvados, salt marsh lamb from the bay and of course a good selection of cheeses.
Douglas’s favourite restaurant however is the local restaurant at St Michel de Loups – a short drive from St Jean. It’s only open on weekday lunchtimes, but is always packed with local workers who come here every day – a sure sign of good food and good value.
Local attractions and places of historical interest
Asked for tips on local visits and attractions, Douglas highlights the summer market held each Sunday during the summer, and the weekly art exhibitions afterwards where visitors can enjoy music and wine while admiring the creations of local artists.
He also points out the amazing breadth and depth of history to be enjoyed: St Jean and the surrounding area have a long history of attracting pilgrims and artists alike, due to the striking views of Mont St Michel and the bay. There’s a 900-year-old mural in the 11th century church, and on the beach there is evidence of fishing traps dating back over 3000 years.
And for a really unique and uplifting experience combining history, landscape and nature, take a guided walk across the bay of Mont St Michel. At low tide the waters recede, revealing huge expanses of sand which allow expert-led groups to set out across the bay to enjoy a breathtaking new perspective on the iconic monument.
Stays at Mimosa start from £100 per night.