Stone cottages, nodding hollyhocks, ducks in the lane: Mareuil epitomises rural France, and the house sits in its heart. Arrive to a sweeping drive, an immaculate pool, a grand façade and Vanessa, who has travelled the world. After a final posting in Paris she landed in sunny Charente, and is very happy. Bedrooms are bright, airy and comfortable, with cosy bathrooms; dinners, in the ample dining room, are gastronomic, cosmopolitan, entertaining and preceded by pineau de Charente. You are surrounded by sunflowers and vines and Cognac is close. Friendly, interesting, great fun.