19 September 2012 by Andrea and Steve Storey, Chris Jones
Le Grand Theuillac, nr Royan, Poitou Charentes
“It is a rare delight to find a luxury holiday property that over-delivers in every respect…”
…a sentiment echoed by all visitors to Le Grand Theuillac and it might seem like a strange business approach to advertise a luxury property and be so modest about its merits and qualities. However, the visitor book from which the above statement was taken is clear proof that it pays dividends.
A thoughtful approach and consistently high standards result in an extraordinary level of repeat business with many visitors re-booking before they leave. Regulars do occasionally go elsewhere, of course, but they tend to book for their return in two years otherwise they may never get their preferred weeks again!
Demand often outstrips availability by 20:1 – an enviable position but certainly not one that leads to complacency.
“Remembering our own holidays we have optimised our approach. Expensive holidays have flaws and even the cheapest offer some gems. Our bread delivery idea came from a campsite in Provence and extravagant venues inspired our best quality ironed bed linen, comfortable beds, spotlessly clean accommodation and sharp kitchen knives!”
Its proximity to Royan and a wide range of beaches, a reliably sunny climate and a long summer season make this the perfect base from which to enjoy the delights of a seaside holiday although this is by no means all the area has to offer. There are numerous important Roman and mediaeval sites across the region, forts, beautiful churches in every village, maritime museums, wine routes amongst the world’s greatest vineyards of Médoc, St Emilion, Graves and Bordeaux and tours around the famous Cognac establishments.
The commune has three noteworthy vignerons and a supermarket with excellent choice. Cozes has every manner of shops including a ‘traiteur’ (French takeaway!) very popular with locals and holidaymakers, and an excellent weekly market.
Andrea and Steve are on hand to assist with local or practical information although, as they are quick to point out, “…everyone is different but we know people are here principally to relax so we try to ensure their privacy and aim to be invisible unless they need us.”
Built on Roman foundations, the villa is a former dairy, renovated expressly to create a luxurious four bedroom holiday home incorporating all its original beauty and character, not least an exquisite 18th century oak-framed roof. Its purpose-design, very high quality fittings and a subtle combination of contemporary furnishings and beautiful French antiques make it atypical but the feature that really sets it apart is its size. At 3,000 square ft, it is twice the size of many four bedroom holiday properties. Nevertheless, most summer season bookings still consist of well-heeled parents and two or three children with the occasional addition of grandparents and, off season, either families with pre-school children or groups of mature adults. It is rather too peaceful a place for most teenagers and young adults.
High ceilings with exposed beams throughout compound the feeling of space; the lounge has the highest of all at over seven metres with a full height stone fireplace, stone spiral staircase to the mezzanine, magnificent original beams, and a gigantic arched picture window filling the room with light.
Apart from the odd step to cope with ancient quirks, the villa is on one level throughout making it particularly suitable for small children. Small children are well catered for in many respects here with a surprisingly long list of useful items provided as standard. Enclosed and with a child-proof gate, the pool is surrounded by a large comfortably furnished terrace with a beautiful honey-coloured stone barn, a bank of lavender and two handsome olive trees giving a rather Italian feel. Solar heating extends the swimming season by two months and easily gives a water temperature to 28° or more during summer.
When choosing a holiday property, people routinely spend an enormous amount of time researching advertising sites but if someone is parting with several thousand pounds for their holiday rental, you can understand their circumspection – they are, after all, taking quite a risk. Andrea recognises the importance of building confidence when dealing with new clients, believing it is essential to respond quickly to questions and provide timely and accurate information.
Everyone looking at holiday property these days uses Google Earth so perhaps they are to be thanked if everyone arriving at Le Grand Theuillac for the first time is so pleasantly surprised at the scale and beauty of the place. Seemingly it cannot be grasped in anything less than genuine 3D reality!
What is visible on Google images are traces of a Paleolithic site and Gaulish ditches, the earliest settlements. Otherwise, civilised living began in the 1st century AD with a grant of land to a retiring Gallo-Roman Officer whose name Tullius gives us “Theuillac”.
Parts of the domain are Roman, some 11th and 14th century but nothing later than 1787, by which time it regained its original Roman size and was the home of naval officer Gabriel Pillet (Legion of Honneur) whose monument stands in Cozes. “His name shall be on the Pantheon”. His ship, The Vengeance of the People, was sunk by The Brunswick off Nantes in 1794 following which he did a spell in the hulks off Southampton at His Majesty’s pleasure where he was treated well, became an Anglophile and returned to live the rest of his long life at Le Grand Theuillac. The last of his antecedents to own Le Grand Theuillac had an English maid and ritually took morning tea – zut alors! Even today, unlike many estates of its type, it remains under one ownership.
Please visit the property page for more information including lots of photographs of Le Grand Theuillac villa and the surrounding area. A week’s stay starts at £1200 including bedding, towels and beach towels. And from mid-September until the end of October guests booking via Holiday France Direct can enjoy 10 days for the price of 7.