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A tranquil artists’ retreat for sale in the unspoiled countryside of Ariège delights Nadia Jordan
An artists’ retreat in the Pyrénées foothills
Driving down the bumpy, tree-lined track to this hidden artists’ retreat, your mind starts to slowly shed layers of worry and stress. Upon reaching the house, nestled in a clearing of an ancient oak forest, the pressures of daily life have lifted. Suddenly there is space – real, genuine, head space for creativity and thought. There are no clocks here, no mobile phones, just peace and quiet, birds and trees, good food and, most importantly, time; time to breathe, time to be.
French foothills The Ariège department of France is a wild and unspoiled landscape of rolling hills, woodland and pasture with a backdrop of the snow-capped Pyrénées. It has long been a refuge for bohemians and artists looking to escape conventional lives and find space, peace and meaning.
Hence this artists’ retreat, tucked in at the foot of a 12th-century château, feels as if it is hewn from the history and culture of the area. It is as natural as its surroundings, blending seamlessly with its environment. Everything here is organic, from the stone house and barn to the furnishings, the garden and the food, although not at the expense of comfort. This retreat is no monastic refuge, rather a welcoming and comfortable sanctuary that provides physical sustenance while freeing its creative residents from daily pressures to concentrate on the art within.
Bordeneuve Retreat is the work of one very energetic and inspirational American, Noelle Thompson, a professionally trained musician and cook, who discovered Ariège on a working trip to France. Fate brought her together with Bordeneuve’s owner David Thompson, a composer and cabinet-maker, and she fell in love with him, the house and the region and never left.
After David’s unexpected death, Noelle decided to finish renovating the barn next door in order to share the unique and beautiful space that they had created together. “I wanted to create a place where people could delve into their deepest creative states,” she says, “where inhibitions are lifted and beauty is primordial.”
Silence and concentration In the last few years, Bordeneuve has hosted numerous artists, writers and musicians from all corners of the globe and with a huge variety of different projects. Residents are lodged in the barn, now converted into an airy loft, with a spectacular cathedral ceiling and a stunning area for yoga, painting, composing or simply relaxing. The large glass doors open onto a beautiful covered balcony. The downstairs is tastefully furnished with a rustic travertine floor, deep armchairs and a woodstove for the
A place where people can delve into their deepest creative states, where inhibitions are lifted and beauty is primordial
cold nights. “It is lovely, spacious, and filled with just what you need,” said Rebecca Stebbins, a painter from California who has already completed three retreats at Bordeneuve. “Food, silence, books, a deep bath and a wide balcony, places to sit, to draw, to paint, to play, to dance – yes, even enough room to dance.”
Meals come straight from Noelle’s garden and orchard, complemented by food from local artisans and bakers. Residents have the choice of a self-catered stay but most choose a half or full-pension option. Stays range from one-week to two months. The daily rhythm is one of silence and concentration, punctuated by a walk or bicycle ride. The evening starts with an apéritif followed by a beautiful meal and the week is bookended by outings to colourful local markets and cafés, the occasional walk in the high mountains or a train trip into Toulouse for a day of exploring La Ville Rose.
Noelle has now met somebody else and has decided that it is time to move on and begin a new life, which means reluctantly putting the house on the market. The property consists of the lovely, traditional stone, two-bedroom house where Noelle lives plus the independent, fully renovated barn a few metres away, used as the guest accommodation. Both have lovely character features and are beautifully renovated with wood-fired central heating and natural wool insulation. The property sits in lovely, peaceful gardens complete with wildlife pond and potager.
Potential buyers could continue to run the property as an artists’ retreat or indeed any type of holiday accommodation but it would also make a fantastic family home as it is situated on the edge of a village complete with primary school and restaurant while just 10 minutes from a thriving market town and under an hour from Toulouse. It is on the market for €435,000.
Space to daydream Space to create Space to think Space to relax
Space to dance, wander and breathe
Space to rest Space to wander Space to unwind