Huriel – a French artists’ village

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A pretty little town.

When you’re in the center of France, driving along the highway A71 and following your way westwards you may arrive in a small artists’ village, called Huriel. It’s a pretty little town and we decided to stay there for several nights.

The first thing you notice when you enter the village is the Roman keep (in French ‘Donjon de la toque’) overtowering the village. The square in front of this old tower has a parking lot. This is also the location of the Town Hall (‘Mairie’) and the post office. If you want to visit the keep, you just enter the Town Hall and ask for it. The view is spectacular according to my husband and some parents I spoke to. In exchange for an ID you get the key to open the front door. The door at the bottom, that is.

Surrounding the keep is a nice garden with a fountain. This is one of the places the town’s youth gather together to refresh themselves when the sun shines too bright. One evening I saw an enormous flock of birds fly over the keep. It was beautiful and very impressive to watch. Living near the Oostvaardersplassen we regularly see the geese fly over. But never that many!

At the other side of Huriel one can find an old church from the 12th century. Inside it you will find two things of special historical value: a painting and the grid near the altar. But personally I mainly liked the outside with its round shapes. Like the rest of this town it breathes peace and quiet.

The children.

The playground, which is next to the keep, is one of the places we ended up spending lots of time. As I might have mentioned before, my daughter Eryn is very outgoing. It did not take long before she had befriended the local children. I was pleasantly surprised to see how kind they were. Even the older ones, that were about 5 times her age, started playing with her when I translated her urgent question to them “Play with me!” More than once they tried to communicate with her using some English and German. But even when languages failed, I believe they understood one another quite well.

There were also a few children more or less Eryn’s age. She quickly became friends with a five-year-old girl who on more than one occasion carried a baby- doll around in a buggy. Soon her friend was pushing the swing she was sitting on. Until they saw a horse-drawn carriage. Everyone ran out of the playground towards the horse. The mother of her new friend put in a good word and soon both girls were sitting in the carriage holding the bridles. They went for a ride around the block. When they reappeared both girls had a huge grin on the face, proud, entertained.

The puppet artist.

When we were visiting Huriel it was off-season, therefore we saw no other tourists. There are many artists living and working in this village, but all the houses – although marked – seemed closed. Or at least their hatches were shut. One day one of the windows opened its hatches and Eryn and I noticed a Persian cat finding herself a nice spot to sunbathe. It was a gorgeous grey cat with long hair. As I started taking photos a lady appeared in the window. She was an artist who made puppets. She started talking about her cat, which she had rescued two years ago and listened to the name ‘Madame Ly’. When I asked her about her profession she invited us in.

Her atelier was filled with all sorts of puppets. Some had strings, like Pinocchio, some didn’t. They had one thing in common: they were all made with love and it showed. We felt special to be invited into her domain. The lady suddenly disappeared and when she showed up she was carrying some sort of fluffy animal. This hand puppet – though not made by herself – was her gift to Eryn. My daughter became very fond of it and still plays with it.

Our accommodation.

The gîte we were staying at, called ‘Les Calaubys’, was clean, warm and comfortable. It had two bedrooms (one with ensuite toilet) and a bathroom upstairs and a spacious living room with kitchen and extra toilet downstairs. As a parent of a young child there were a few things I would change. Firstly I would put the tv high up against the wall or on a sturdier tv cabinet. We now were a bit afraid our daughter would damage it with her enthusiastic temper. Another point of concern was the steep stairway with the top one being askew, probably because of the way the house was build. Apart from that it was quite child friendly and we had an excellent time there. We had a bakery next door that made the best bread and pastries we had had all holiday. That was a huge bonus.

If you ever end up driving on the A71, get off track and get to this pretty town, enjoy your stay there and say hi to Madame Ly and her owner, Geneviève Pavaly, from us!

More information.

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To book the gîte, click here.

More on Geneviève Pavaly: see below (sorry, it’s in French). Her atelier is situated at 1 rue du Pressoir (near the Donjon).

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