Cinq & Sept – a sunny gay resort in the south of France

Cinq & Sept – a sunny gay resort in the south of France

As well as featuring a relaxing summer lounge area and outdoor pool, ground-breaking gay establishment Cinq & Sept in the south of France is conveniently located close to Europe’s finest castles and the popular city of Montpellier. With all the 5-star luxury of a top hotel but with the homely vibe of a guesthouse, Cinq & Sept is a real treat, peaking in the evening when the pool-side parties get started. Mr Hudson speaks to Greg Taylor, one of the owners, about all that’s on offer at and around the resort, and some of his favourite places.

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Tell us a about yourself

Alex and I are both British. Alex is from Essex. I was born and brought up in Hong Kong and went to the USA for university. We were both in advertising in London before coming to France. We met in 1997.

What made you open Cinq & Sept?

We came to France in 2003 to escape the rat race in London. After a few years renovating village house ruins in small villages in the Languedoc region, we bought part of a huge mansion (which became Cinq & Sept) that needed lots of work. We only had enough to buy the ruin, and so decided to turn it into a guesthouse to be able to get the loans needed to pay for the renovations.

Alex and Greg

Alex and Greg

What can guests expect at Cinq & Sept?

Cinq & Sept has nine suites which are like apartments – each has its own ensuite shower room and fully-equipped kitchen. It’s quite upmarket – we have all super-king beds and aircon and Hans Grohe Raindance showers. Some of the suites have their own private terraces, overlooking the garden and pool.

The house itself is over 200 years old. It was built by one of Napoleon’s generals who returned from battles in Italy with lots of money. It has all sorts of original features, such as stone columns and arches, old terracotta balustrades, original wood beams and beautiful encaustic tiles. Nice Mediterranean garden and a big pool, with a ‘summer lounge’ where guests can chill and chat and help themselves to wine and drinks and snacks. At the bar, we make fantastic cocktails.

“The guesthouse has all sorts of original features, such as stone columns and arches, old terracotta balustrades, original wood beams and beautiful encaustic tiles”

But it’s much more than that. Over the years, we’ve added more and more guest experiences that are an opportunity to get people together to have fun. So it’s a more social experience than most guesthouses. We used to do one or two drinks evenings per week – just some wine and nibbles. Now we do something nearly every day, and the events have become more involved. For example, we organise poolside dinners, wine tasting and tours, group kayaking, pool parties and barbeque nights. We also have an on-site masseur called Pierre, who is very lovely and very good.

So lots going on and certainly keeps us very busy. It creates an enjoyable, happy atmosphere and it’s great to see so many guests making friends here. Sometimes they arrange to come when friends they’ve met here in previous years are going to be here. Sometimes you see guests who’ve just met having dinner together in the garden – or going to the beach together.

Tell us more about your retreats

We’ve run very successful Yoga retreats with an instructor who’s big in London, Nickles Spencer. Our Christmas House Party this year was loads of fun. And this autumn we’re planning on lots of new retreats – cycling, hiking, massage, Tantric energy, and painting. Hopefully, they’ll all be popular. Even more than regular weeks, retreats result in guests making life-long friends which is great to see.

How do you keep up with changing customer expectations?

We keep adding things, and now and then dropping things that don’t work so well. We’re not wealthy and retired, and so it’s much more than just a fun ‘hobby’ for us – it’s our livelihood, so we put a tremendous amount of energy into making the guesthouse better every year. Guests come with very high expectations, and I think we surpass them in most cases. We really do care that they get a great holiday. We created a 56-page hard-bound ‘Guest Manual’ that gives them great ideas on the best things to do and see, restaurants, beaches, wine tasting, etcetera. Guests take it everywhere with them.

“I can’t think of anywhere else in France or Europe or even the world where there is so much to do and see within a 90-minute radius”

Photo: Stanley Dai

Photo: Stanley Dai

Who is your typical guest?

Our guests are usually between 35-65, more couples than singles, and most are professionals. So intelligent, friendly people generally. The biggest group is from the USA, then the UK and northern Europe (lots of Germans, Dutch, Flemish, Scandinavians, Irish) and then quite a lot of Canadians and some Australians. Not so many French, as they tend to prefer to go to Francophone guesthouses. Our guests are not too ‘scene’  – I think the young clubbers and the big muscle queen Matinée-set stay in places in Ibiza and Mykonos.

What makes the south of France such a great destination?

I can’t think of anywhere else in France or Europe or even the world where there is so much to do and see within a 90-minute radius. We have 4 of the world’s top Roman ruins. The world’s biggest Medieval castle – and lots of other castles and abbeys. At least five great gay nude beaches. Tons of chic beach clubs along the coast. Amazing restaurants within 30 minutes of us – 2 of which within 15 minutes which have Michelin stars. Montpellier is one of France’s most lovely cities. Tons of pretty medieval towns and villages, many with lovely weekly markets. Amazing wine-tasting all around us – the area has become the most exciting wine region in the world, with winemakers flocking here from all over. And also some amazing natural wonders – the Cirque de Navacelles, Cirque de Mourèze, Lake Salagou and the Héric Gourges (great for swimming), the Camargue (full of pink flamingos, black bulls and white wild horses), amazing caves and the Pyrénées mountains are only 2 hours away.

Photo: Jason Leung

Photo: Jason Leung

What are some of your favourite places in the south of France that people need to know about?

Carcassonne is amazing – a Medieval castle. Espiguette beach is fantastic. Collioure is a gorgeous town on the coast. Montpellier is a great day out too. Lake Salagou for swimming – they even have a gay beach there. Going on wine tours here is great fun too.

Any recommendations for our readers?

Wine tours – if you’re into wine. The range of wines here is more extensive than anywhere in France. Our two Michelin-starred restaurants are a must go. Montpellier, Avignon and Nîmes all have great museums and galleries. Oysters down on the coast, at the St Barth restaurant, are the best in France. Alfresco dining in a meteor crater that is now a winery at the Domaine de Météore.

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