So, there we were, sitting on sun-loungers by the pool, cocktail in hand, open copy of something glossy in front of us, coated in a very high SPF, chatting with a naked MP. A cute one. And a naked author. And a naked lawyer. And some people in TV with shorts on. Now that’s what we call a holiday.
The location of the nudie chat is a guest house in a small village just outside Beziers in the south of France with an actual airport you can get to from the UK, and handy for, well, lots of things. Places like Arles (you know the art town where Vincent Van Gogh lived and where they have the hugest cross-town photographic festival in Europe) or Avignon, which is busy and buzzy and full of history are a reasonable drive away. As is ‘the gayest town in France’, Montpellier.
Oh and the funny ‘sex town’ of Cap d’Agde, where mainly straight swingers from across the globe come to show it off and get it on is even handier than that. And the place is surrounded by vineyards, so there are plenty of tasting opportunities, and beaches (including gay ones) and beach clubs and lakes with beaches (including gay ones) and countryside… one of the guys took us on a starlit drive in his Mercedes convertible through same countryside, the air warm and thick with perfume.
But for this afternoon, we’re happy here in the sun, down some steps, through some artful vegetation, a fountain with bees dipping their faces in, past the al-fresco help-yourself bar and onto the loungers to make friends until Alex – one of the guys who runs the show, though it’s more like being at a rich friend’s summer house than anything commercial – launches a pool party, some music goes on, some inflatables get inflated and everything moves up a gear until the barbecue gets lit… Because Cinq et Sept – this place – is what flop-out holidays are all about, even if we do wind up on a group kayaking trip down a beautiful river with a stop-off for swimming and rosé and then a lunch, the next day.
The 200-year-old house that Cinq et Sept took over looks nothing in particular from the outside but step in and it opens out Tardis-like with stairs leading up and down, salons, terraces, dogs (though we think they’re not usually there). It feels like real life, not like a hotel – though they’ll order you up a cab and reserve your restaurants quicker than any actual hotel.
Our suite – and they’re all suites – has a kitchen, which means a trip down to the supermarket at the bottom of the village is an essential, though they will pick up breakfast pastries from the bakery for you of a morning. It’s big and rustic with a smart modern bathroom and a little table and some easy chairs for entertaining. And entertaining is part of the deal here: on our last night one couple (now proper London friends) invited us down to the pool to share a twilight dinner they’d made in their suite and all we had to do was bring the champagne. The restaurants in the village are, by the way, of an almost ridiculously high quality bearing in mind its size.
Weeks are broken up with gourmet pizza night, dinners out, even one in a meteor crater under the stars, wine-tastings, a big Monday night dinner down by the pool, where you can meet your fellow Cinq et Sept-ers over wine and food (and all these are extras, so you only pay for what you actually want to do). And it is quite a community: the Facebook page buzzes all year round with cheeky messages and you enter onto the WhatsApp while you’re in residence so you don’t miss out on anything. People come back year after year, have their favourite rooms, are prepared to change rooms mid-stay to get into their favourite, maybe the one with the terrace that looks down on the pool.
No, it’s not appropriate if you have kids. And it is very much a gay male environment so if you like a more mixed crowd, perhaps it’s not for you. But if you need a getaway (actually any time of the year: their Christmases are the stuff of legend), need to be somewhere that seems out of the way but has plenty going on and you want to spend a holiday actually talking to people, making friends and not just sitting on your own or in your couple, there literally is nowhere we’d recommend more.
Cinq et Sept have launched a 0% deposit policy, with 50% payable 30 days before arrival.