Once you have descended the rural road and reached this private valley and its charming huddle of houses – Le Cavaillé – you need not see another building until you leave. Built in the 17th century and most efficiently renovated, the two gîtes, which can be let together or separately, flourish every mod con. White all over – furniture, bedding, walls – with the odd black sofa or iron bed on warm floorboards, they give off that cleancut simplicity that makes for easygoing holidays – plus a few pleasing paintings and excellent kitchens. Outside, you have 16 whole hectares of pasture and woodland to roam through, a huge saltwater pool for all to enjoy and an all-weather tennis court to keep the competitive spirit alive. Favourite outings? Brick-built Albi, a UNESCO heritage site, lively Toulouse with its Romanesque churches and well-stocked museums, pretty old Castres and its music festivals, and amazingly pretty, tourist-trap Carcassonne looking for all the world like a film set. Enough culture? Try riding, hiking or kayaking – but Le Cavaillé is also great for doing nothing.