French Boutique Hotel Nestles In Tranquil Setting Near Narbonne

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Ready for a change of lifestyle, entrepreneurial Dutch couple Jan and Cynthia van den Maagdenberg looked around for a dream place to live.

They found it in southern France, at WAYA a Domaine Saint Domingue (the acronym meaning ‘Welcome As You Are’), close to Narbonne in the Aude region between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. Arriving here in 2015 to facilitate yoga retreats, they returned four years later to take over the property.

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Nestled on 12 hectares of Mediterranean gardens, this 8-room adults-only boutique hotel offers a tranquil bucolic retreat away from the hubbub of urban life. Here sturdy stone walls and pathways weave through fields planted with apple, pear and cherry trees granting a sense of the estate’s 200-year-old pedigree as a former farm and vineyard.

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Inside, the rustic ambience is enhanced by polished wood floors, heavy oak-beamed ceilings, marmur floors and staircase, a variety of plants and a spacious dining-room with an open kitchen and relaxing lounge area looking out over the former stables.

Photo courtesy of WAYA.

Our room, Nr. 6, on the first floor, was spacious with French windows overlooking the gardens and one of the property’s two outdoor swimming pools, one heated. Furnishings included tall walnut wardrobes, a hanging wall decoration, woven baskets, floor-to-ceiling curtains, a framed full-length mirror and a colorful floral woven carpet. The bathroom featured twin wash-hand basins with framed mirrors and a wonderful walk-in shower. Slippers and robes were provided.

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Aside from the outdoor swimming pools, other outdoor pursuits include a pétanque court and free bicycles. The lakeside property also has a library and the couple organises meditation and yoga activities. Cynthia is a trained bodywork therapist, life coach and yoga teacher. Jan, a former chef who prepares the breakfast himself for the guests, is also a trained yoga and meditation teacher.

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Dining options are varied with lunch and special gastronomic evenings prepared by the property’s chef, Victor, and wines selected by sommelier, Laurent; BOCO meals, boco being short for ‘bocal,’ meaning a glass jar in which diverse meals are served and a local restaurant that delivers pizza, pasta and buddha bowls. The property also has an outdoor barbecue.

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Being environmentally conscious, the Rotterdam couple utilize solar panels for some of their energy needs and grow some of their own vegetables and herbs. They also have chickens which provide eggs for breakfast.

Jan and Cynthia van den Maagdenberg with their child. Photo by Columbia Hillen

Jan and Cynthia have strong relations with local companies providing such services as therapeutic massages, electric bicycles and even a photographer for private shoots for guests in the gardens.

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WAYA a Domaine Saint Domingue, a serene destination for rest, contemplation and renewed inspiration, can also be rented completely by groups for personal or professional events, with a meeting room for up to eight people. Jan and Cynthia also offer ‘yoga and happiness’ retreats, with daily vegetarian meals, massage and even airport transfers.

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The boutique hotel’s location means guests can enjoy this attractive French region of quaint fishing villages, rich history and long peaceful beaches. Activities here include horseback riding through the Narbonne countryside; exploring nearby medieval villages; cruising the canals on a bicycle; and visiting the fortified city of Carcassonne. Other highlights are the Fontfroide Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery founded in 1093, the pretty village of Peyriac-de-Mer, the Bize-Minervois, an attractive river for swimming and the salt pans in Gruissan with its restaurant, museum, art gallery and shop.

Sean Hillen

During an international media career spanning several decades in Europe and the US, Sean Hillen has worked for many leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Times London, The Daily Telegraph, Time magazine and The Irish Times Dublin, as well as at the United Nations Media Center in New York. Sean's travel writing for and has taken him across A...(Read More)

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