People who turn their lives around and give up their organised lives to embark on a new and highly unpredictable adventure….I can’t help but admire them. And apparently I’m not alone in this, for we never cease to marvel at television shows that feature such stories. And how we gloat when it turns out that all the linguistic confusion is the result of a lack of preparation when it comes to acquiring the new language. But, you know, it takes a lot of guts to take such a step, and I can only respect that! Scores of people shout “I want that too!”, only to back down when push comes to shove. The Dutch couple Henk and Helen however did take the plunge…..

Over nine years ago, they made the conscious decision to move to France. Months were spent trying to find the right spot, a location that would bring themselves and their two children joy and that would allow them to build a business. During this extensive search, they stumbled upon a beautiful old house in a tiny ‘hameau’ (French for hamlet) in the Auvergne (middle France). The nifty old building with walled-in garden dates from the 17th century and originally housed a convent. In later years, the local notary took possession of the building. These days, the old details reveal the history of the house. Carefully and singlehandedly they started renovations, making use of old building materials that were creatively recycled. Bit by bit, their new home arose, and a beautiful Chambres d’hôtes along with it: La Paresse en Douce: “Lovely laziness”.

Even though we still have quite a drive ahead of us after leaving the highway, meandering along the narrow roads ‘a la campagne’ for the last leg of the journey immediately gives us that holiday feeling. Our surroundings are stunning, sloping green hills and the majestic volcanic peaks of, for example, Puy the Dôme in the far-off distance. La Paresse en Douce is located in the Livradois-Forez Regional Natural Park, also known as the Tuscany of the Auvergne, because it resembles this Italian region so much. The environment is perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling, and for winter sports in the winter. Sleepy villages are scattered among this pastoral landscape like pinheads, and it’s as if time has stood still here and in the hamlet that is home to La Paresse en Douce.

Helen and Henk welcome us warmly and it’s really as if we’re visiting friends….time to relax! As I’m traveling with my family, we are given one of the two XL rooms. A pleasant surprise: this turns out to be a complete apartment with separate bedroom for the kids, a modern bathroom and a lovely and spacious master bedroom with sitting area and comfortable double bed. Lots of space, great! In addition to the two XL rooms, there are three double rooms – equally spacious and comfortable. And above all, very handsomely decorated!

Tired as we are after our long journey, we sleep like babies in this quiet French countryside, and in the morning we wake up invigorated: time for an expedition of our surroundings! But first of all, the extensive breakfast at the large table downstairs offers a lovely insight into Henk’s cooking skills, 6 nights a week you can sign up for dinner. Helen proves a perfect host and helps her guests with tips for things to do…nice! We decide to take the train to the top of the Puy de Dôme, after which we will descend on foot. Admittedly, a rather touristic outing, but definitely worth it when it’s not too crowded (which it wasn’t when we were there), especially with kids.

At the end of the afternoon, drinks from the honesty bar in hand, we settle in the lovely garden of La Paresse en Douce. There are several sitting areas, so there’s room enough for all the guests to be comfortable. During the warm summer months, a small children’s pool is put up outside and when it’s colder, the wood burning hot tub in the back of the garden offers a lovely opportunity to relax. And then, the time has come to sit down at the table d’Hôtes – and, as is customary is France – the hosts join in for dinner at the long table! Henk is chef de cuisine and creates the most wonderful dishes….what a treat! He never serves the same thing twice to his guests and everything is equally delicious…I’ll bet you will join in for dinner every evening!

We’ve had two wonderful days! The surroundings are gorgeous and genuinely French, but above all, Henk and Helen’s hospitality is unsurpassed. They pamper you no end and go out of their way to please everyone. Henk and Helen really make the difference here and together they are this Hideaway’s heart and soul. What’s more, at La Paresse en Douce you arrive as strangers and leave as friends! Merçi mes amis, à bientôt!

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