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MAS DES PÂTRES
In the distance, seen from the road that winds from the village of Arpaillargues eastward to Uzès, across brilliant sunflower fields and emerald-green vineyards that make this region a sprawling tapestry of color, Mas des Pâtres looms as an authentic emblem of old Provence. Its thick stone walls are a pale beige in the sunshine, its terra cotta tile roof a coppery red, and its hillside terrain, terraced into flat lawns and gardens edged by stone walls, a reminder of the pâtres (shepherds) who once tended flocks here. Approaching closer, one sees above the windows decorative carvings, now worn smooth by time, that were part of the original house erected some five hundred years ago.
Now thoroughly restored and equipped with modern comforts, including a swimming pool, powerful central heating system and the essentials of modern communication (telephone, fax, cable TV), this inviting property offers a high level of comfort at any time of year for up to eleven guests. With its large grassy areas and copses of trees, it is a paradise for children and adults alike. The mas' appeal is further enhanced by being close to Uzès, a prosperous and eminently photogenic Provençal town whose genuine antiquity and year-'round vibrant cultural life draw visitors (and movie directors in a search of a ready-made medieval set) from all over Europe. The town is also famed for its colorful open-air market on Saturday mornings, which is supplemented by a produce market every Wednesday.
While it is only slightly more than a kilometer from Uzès, and is situated above a road that produces some vehicular noise, Mas des Pâtres is exceptionally tranquil and private. Because of its elevated position, the swimming pool, courtyard and most of its 1.5- hectare (about three acres) terrain are completely protected from view.
Mas des Pâtres is entered through an electronically controlled wrought-iron gate that opens to a long driveway flanked by stands of cypress and bamboo. The driveway terminates in a parking area, bordered on one side by the swimming pool and on the other by flowerbeds planted with roses. Beyond a small stone house (retained for storage by the owners), and across the courtyard of crushed gravel with its plantings of young olive and fruit trees, lies the three-story mas with its five bedrooms, five baths and impressive common rooms.
Following a pattern typical of old Provençal homes, the living room lies on one side of the entrance foyer, and the kitchen on the other. The living room is quite spacious, and with its vaulted stone archway, beamed ceilings, terra cotta tile floors and French doors opening onto the sunny interior courtyard, it is imbued with the warmth and ambiance in keeping with a well-appointed Provençal home.
The living room has two seating areas, one with a sofa and armchairs arranged in front of a large white stone fireplace, and at the opposite end a cozy library with a small collection of books in English and French. In the living room are a television with satellite reception and VCR, and a compact stereo with cassette deck and CD player. An especially pleasing touch to this comfortable room is a small bar, constructed of white stone with a dark wood counter, behind which there is a little tile alcove with running water.
Beyond the living room is a formal dining room, perfect for convivial family meals, with a heavy wood table for up to eight guests. Like the living room, the walls are tastefully covered with fabric in light beige, and oriental area rugs add color to the polished terra cotta tile floors. French doors open onto the courtyard, and there are also sweeping views toward the scenic Cévennes mountains that lie in the distance to the west.
On the east side of the entrance hall is the modern kitchen, a perfect gathering place for family and guests at meal time. Appliances include a four-burner electric stove, wall oven, dishwasher, separate and side-by-side refrigerator and freezer, and microwave oven. There is a washing machine (no dryer) in the adjoining pantry, which opens onto a grassy area with a clothesline. The counters are of beige tile, and the floors terra cotta. A large window overlooking the courtyard brings in abundant light, and next to the window is a breakfast table for six.
From the living room a broad staircase with wrought-iron railing rises to the first floor, where there are four comfortable bedrooms, all with antique doors, marble or terra cotta tile floors and windows overlooking the courtyard. Each of the bedrooms is warmly furnished with simple but tastefully chosen country antiques. While each bedroom has its own decorative style, all have either an armoire or a spacious in-wall closets, bedside tables with good reading lamps, and full-length draperies that frame the south-facing windows.
The master bedroom is especially comfortable, with an extra-large king-sized bed (200 cm., 80" across) as well as a discreetly placed single bed. The ensuite bath, tiled in a subdued red and yellow pattern, has a stall shower but no bathtub.
The other three bedrooms on this floor have queen-sized beds that if desired can be separated to form twin beds. Two of these bedrooms share a handsomely tiled full bath with overhead shower just across the hall, while the third has an ensuite bath with stall shower. Guests may also take advantage of an additional bathroom with overhead shower that opens from the foyer on the ground level.
The crowning touch, so to speak, of this practically designed mas is the final bedroom, situated on the uppermost level. Here guests who desire special privacy can climb the wide, curving staircase from the middle level, close the antique wood door and enjoy their own little suite of rooms. The cozy bedroom is furnished with a queen-sized bed ( which can be separated into twins), an armoire and bedside tables with lamps. The ceiling has its original beams, and the terra cotta tile floor has been restored. The ensuite bath includes an excellent stall shower with lateral jets and glass door, marble-top vanity and - as with all of the five bathrooms at Mas des Pâtres - a WC. From the bathroom there is a lovely view west toward the Cévennes.
No less impressive than its interior features are the outdoor amenities at Mas des Pâtres. The recently completed 9m X 4.5 m (30' X 15') pool, surrounded by a terrace of crushed gravel and well equipped with chaises longues, is some 30 meters (a meter is about a yard) from the main house, and thus safe for children under supervision. The spacious grounds include numerous fruit and olive trees adjoining long grassy spaces connected by walkways fragrant with sage and rosemary. On the lowest of the three terraced levels are a hammock and swing set. In warm months meals can be enjoyed in the courtyard, where a table and chairs for eight, a large parasol and a built-in stone barbecue comprise a pleasant area for outside dining. A second, smaller table can also be moved over to accommodate larger parties.
Mas des Pâtres has a full alarm system for security and is a wonderful house for occupancy at any time of year, especially in late December, when Uzès is alive with seasonal activities and festooned with Christmas decorations. Art exhibits and a wide variety of musical events go on virtually non-stop all year 'round in the town and nearby villages, and numerous historic sites like the amazing Pont du Gard are within an easy drive. The Uzès cathedral, originally constructed in 1090, destroyed by religious wars and rebuilt in 1652, has one of the finest organs in Provence, and is frequently used for oratorical and chamber music concerts. For sporting enthusiasts there is a good nine-hole golf course nearby, not to mention numerous hiking trails and, for bikers, long expanses of gently rolling terrain on roads winding through vineyards and villages.
NOTE: The English-speaking owners of Mas des Pâtres offer guests the choice of having the property entirely to themselves, or in having the owners remain on the property in the stone cottage, in which case they would be available for sightseeing and perhaps even meal preparation.