It’s taken me a while to actually sit down and write about my summer adventures and I think that’s because subconsciously I’ve been trying to preserve them. As if writing about them makes them a thing of the past. So here I am, sitting in my garden, off sick, trying to make myself feel better by soaking in the last rays of the sun, reliving the amazing time we had in France this August.
This summer, my family, Oli and I, ventured to Loire Valley, for a much-needed holiday.
The journey to our french Gite was a long, long, long, long one. Let me start by saying that. We left my parents house at 11pm and drove down to Folkestone to board the Eurotunnel, in convoy, Oli and I following my Dad, Mum, Sister, Brother in law and two little nieces. The tunnel itself was very swift, a grand 35 minutes in total, which when you think about it, is pretty impressive.
But driving from Calais all the way to Loire, took us about 6 hours. Mainly because we needed to stop quite a bit, to give the drivers some shut-eye, change nappies and to cook a full english breakfast, including black pudding, on a camping stove, on a french bench in extreme wind. It was interesting to say the least.
But after a long period of driving on the wrong side of the road, we arrived at our accommodation in the late afternoon and after being greeted by our lovely hosts, we headed straight for the pool. Boy, were we glad to get in there!
The main plan for the holiday was to relax, rest and recuperate as a family and that’s pretty much what we did. For the first few days we literally just chilled by the pool, reading, swimming and teaching my niece Sophie how to jump into the pool. She’s such a determined and brave little thing.
On our second evening there, our hosts held a wine tasting evening with some freshly homemade, tasty baked accompaniments. It felt really authentic to be stood sipping various glasses of wine, amongst our fellow guests, on a beautiful evening, from the very region we were staying in. The wine sommelier was extremely enthusiastic and keen on wine, he also spoke brilliant english which helped him to communicate his undoubted fascination with grapes. We liked the wine so much, that we bought a few bottles from him and had them with our dinner that night. I’m pretty sure that the alcohol he plied us with, during his grape spiel, had a direct correlation to his wine sales that evening.
The Loire Valley isn’t near the coast so instead of paddling in the sea, the locals tend to head to the Lakes. I once went to a lake in Germany and was having a great time in the water until two eels swam past me. I know, horrifying. Nothing is worse than a slippery eel brushing past your leg unexpectedly. Although, when I swam in the Amalfi coast a human poo swam past my arm, so that’s actually a lot worse. But anyway, I swore then and there that I’d never venture into a lake again. I don’t like fish and swimmy things flapping around me in the water, it’s off putting.
But it was so flippin’ hot (a grand 38 degrees) on our holiday that I soon abandoned my reserve and virtually ran and dived head first into the lake. And I couldn’t have loved it more. The water was warm, yet cooling at the same time, it was fairly clear although it was the exact rusty orange shade of photographic negatives. But aside from that, I loved it. There was sand and sun but also trees and shade if you fancied ducking out of the heat for a bit. It was the perfect place for us to chill, the whole family was happy. There was a little shop nearby too so we had icecreams and ice cold cans of Orangina inbetween sunbathing, splashing and naps.
When in France, visiting a Chateau is an absolute must. We chose to visit Chateau de Valencay and it’s gorgeous, regality didn’t disappoint. Although it did feel like we were at the Chateau on the hottest day of the French summer. It was a sweltering, sticky suffocating kind of heat that day. But despite feeling like we were melting, we had a ball. There was a surprisingly good restaurant in the Chateau as well as a small farm, and we had a very tasty three course meal for lunch.
Oli and I decided to investigate the cost of french supermarket wine for our wedding whislt we were in the French neck of the woods. We were extremely pleased to discover that the wine was as cheap as the rumours say it is. We managed to buy all the wine for our wedding, red, white and rose, 42 bottles in total for a mere 115 euros. We were chuffed to say the least. But slightly nervous about the drive home and the prospect of the bottles breaking. Oh and whether or not it would actually taste any good!
On our last day, it was my little niece Sophie’s fourth birthday and so we went back to the lake for a day of water based fun. That evening we went off in search of a nice place for a birthday dinner but everywhere was full, until at our wits end, hungry and a lot later than we had anticipated, we found a restaurant. We walked in dubiously, trying not to be too eager for fear of disappointment at there not being enough space for the eight of us on such short notice, on a friday night.
The entire restaurant was empty but the waiter seemed flustered and unsure that he could seat us. We were confused because to us it looked like there was ample room at the absolutely deserted tables before us. But all of a sudden he came back with a huge beaming smile on his face and gestured that we should follow him. He led us round the back of the restaurant, into what looked like a rainforest, momentarily I worried that he was leading us to an out-building where he would lock us up and keep us hostage. But fortunately the path bent round a slight corner and onto the most beautiful courtyard, complete with fountain and fairy lights and a whole lot of people, sipping at wine, nibbling bread and cheese and laughing. It was buzzing. He motioned to a table large enough for all of us and we sat down, thankful and hungry.
The menu was entirely in french with zero translation and the staff at the restaurant also spoke zero english which was fair enough, I mean we were in France after all. To make deciphering the menu even more difficult was the fact that it was written in an extremely illegible, cursive, calligraphy-esque font. But a few google translations later, we had successfully ordered our meals and were delighted at the delicious food that was brought out to us. It was amazing. And oh my word, carrots Julienne are out of this world. I’ve never tasted such fine carrots. It was the perfect end to a fantastic french adventure.
A week of eating copious amounts of cheese, doing BBQ’s, drinking bucket loads of wine, laughing, playing games, soaking in the sun rays, swimming, playing with my nieces and spending quality time with my family and future husband, was such a tonic. And I don’t mean the kind with gin in it, although I love those too.
I mean a tonic in the sense of restoring well-being, giving a renewed vigour. Of feeling invigorated. That’s what holidays are supposed to do, they renew you, they charge you up for the things ahead. Little did I know that this particular holiday was preparing me for a redundancy, but I guess that’s life. There will be ups and downs and bumps in the road but there will be tonics too. Things to make you feel better, memories for you to thumb through fondly, moments that put a smile on your face. Writing this post, has made me remember this holiday for the tonic that it was. I can’t wait for next year.
Thank you France. Au revoir.