Brocantes, they’re the stylish French equivalent of the British car boot sale – and they’re fascinating! Full to the brim of traditional French treats for home, garden, wardrobe and toy chest. Read our latest blog to help you get the most out of your next visit to a Brocante. Plus details of our exclusive Brocante shopping weekend in October.Read More
Make planning easy with this guide to the essentials you’ll need (and details on how French Loaf has got it covered):Read More
I’ll never tire of time spent with family, breathing in the fresh Dordogne air, surrounded by the stunning natural sights of the region and with a spread of local dishes in front of us to devour! What more could you want? If you’ve been dreaming of doing the same, here’s a look at where you can settle down and do just that. The perfect way to spend a weekend at one of our properties:
Picnic at La Roque Gageac
Pack the wicker baskets and slather on the sunscreen for a lazy afternoon at this stunning family picnic spot. Just across the river from the village of La Roque Gagaec, park under the trees in the nearby orchard and set yourself down by the river. If you want to make the most of it, pack some colouring pencils and sketchbooks and challenge any young artists to capture the views.
Picnic at Castelnaud
Look across to the imposing Château Castelnaud and imagine the medieval drama which will have taken place in its surroundings. The picnic spot at Castelnaud is located in the grounds of the Walnut Museum. Follow signs to the castle and continue up the steep, winding road to the museum.
Picking one favourite is just too tricky, but you’ll find plenty of charming street cafes in which to spend hours amid the medieval architecture and relaxed French atmosphere. Take a walk through Sarlat, Domme, or Bergerac and look out for the tables and chairs signalling a quiet spot for al-fresco dining.
Château des Milandes
The beautiful gardens of Château des Milandes are another beautiful place to picnic in peace. Take in the calming scent of the lavender borders or sit beneath the shade of the yew trees. The Château is also known for its kids’ workshops, previously offering sessions in falconry, exotic bird feeding, and how to be a Muskateer!
Picnic at Cingle De Trémolat
Another lovely green spot to picnic is situated in the woods overlooking Cingle de Trémolat. There’s something about the vast French countryside that invigorates the soul! Pick a Tuesday if you wish to stock up on fresh nibbles from Cingle de Trémolat on the way.
Michelin-starred dining at La Tour des Vents
For awe-inspiring views of the Monbazillac vineyards (and amazing food) head to La Tour des Vents. Located on the highest point of Bergerac’s southern hills, you are in for a treat here as you enjoy the panoramic landscapes which stretch for miles and miles. There’s a children’s menu too, so little ones needn’t miss out on the chance to play eye spy out in the sunshine.
Just 10 minutes from our La Verger property, the postcard perfect surroundings of Château Monbazillac are an ideal place to have a family picnic. If you did want to soak up some history while you’re there, you can take a guided tour or explore the castle at your own pace. Wine lovers will be particularly impressed with the Château’s wine cellar featuring a wall of 6,000 bottles of Monbazillac!
Eating at your Villa
We’ve ensured that each of our properties are a tranquil home-from-home in wonderful surroundings - designed for loafing (and lunching) in peace with the people you love. Whether you decide to gorge on fresh fruit by the pool or cook a family feast together and enjoy it on the patio – our villas and cottages are the perfect base to have a stay where you do nothing but delight in food, glorious food.
Self-catering, the phrase is enough to give us luxury lovers a shudder. Holidays are about relaxing, not spending hours stocking the fridge or surveying a holiday villa trying to make it baby-safe and homely.
At French Loaf, we know this. We love making our properties a place where unwinding is easy. Whether you’re travelling as a couple or you’ve got a young brood in tow, here’s how we help make ‘self-catering’ effortless…
A lot of planning goes into your typical self-catering holiday. Working out what linen and baby equipment you’ll need to take. Deciding on meal plans and researching where to eat nearby… At French Loaf, we want to take the planning off your plate (unless you enjoy it!) by providing everything we can to make your experience hassle free.
On arrival you’ll find a detailed local guide to get to know the area and anything you might need: local markets, restaurants, doctors, fun things to do, and much more.
If you’re travelling with a family you can relax knowing our homes have been child-proofed as best possible – so little ones are free to roam, play, and create priceless memories. And packing just got easier too. Our properties are fully equipped to provide everything you need for a family getaway – all you need to pack are your clothes.
For children, we have:
- Books for all ages
- Bath Mat
- High Chair
- Changing Mat
- Booster Seat
- Child friendly plates, cups & cutlery
- Board Games and Puzzles
- Night Lights
And on request we can also provide:
- Bed Guard
- Bouncer Chair
- Baby Monitor
- Toilet Training Seat & Potty
- Play Mat
- Baby Bath
- Food Blender
Foreign holidays are for adventure. But when you want to loaf about, our properties have been made to be a home away from home.
Our kitchens are fully equipped (and beautiful). We have free wi-fi access, Freesat TV & DVD players. Plus, each of our properties is stocked with all linen and towels, including pool towels.
Luxury touches & optional extras
We want your self-catering experience to feel like an indulgent treat. Your treats start as you reach our stunning properties, kept to an exceptional standard inside and out. Each villa and cottage is beautifully furnished in subtle colour palettes with high-quality furniture, and have the charm and character of original historic features.
On arrival, as well as our handy info guide, you’ll find a lovely Welcome basket waiting for you. It is full of all the basics you’ll need, plus a few local treats – croissants, milk, tea, coffee, jam, wine – and of course, a French Loaf!
But it’s the optional extras which can really take your French holiday villa to the next level. We are delighted to able to offer a selection of extras to enhance your break further and make your stay abroad effortless. Forget the myth that you’ll have to do everything yourself. Phew.
Choose to have your kitchen stocked and fridge full on arrival, book a professional chef to prepare your family meals, or book a daily housekeeper or babysitter. We have trusted staff available to provide all this and more – read our full list of extras here.
What most excites you about having a luxury French villa all to yourself? We’d love to know!
Hands-up who thought luxury went out the window when children came along? Nappy stops, grubby tops, crumbs everywhere… day-to-day glamour might be out the window most of the time, but I’m a big believer that we can still enjoy grown-up luxury post-babies. And a luxury French escape is the perfect way to experience it – even with the kids along for the ride. Here’s how…
Pick your accommodation wisely
Get your accommodation right and you’ll up level your holiday experience from day one! I get such a thrill from stepping foot in a beautiful family holiday villa (yes, even if it’s our own – we adore them even after numerous stays!). Attention to detail is crucial; elegant colour palettes, sumptuous furnishings, artistic flair. We take pride in making every French Loaf property an aesthetic gem yet a home away from home. Plus, each of our French family villas is stocked to provide everything you’ll need to ensure big and little kids are comfortable and safe. No need to pack an extra suitcase for all the baby equipment; the right property allows you to travel light – a luxury in itself!
Fine dine, alfresco
I think missing out on all those fine dining experiences you enjoy pre-child has to be up on the parenthood ‘cons’ for most couples. Though we think luxury dining experiences don’t need to be reserved for adults-only. Treat the whole family to fine dining on holiday (maybe pack some in meal entertainment just in case?) and enjoy the fun of traditional cuisine and new wines! Worried about the noise of young ones amongst the more distinguished crowd? Take a seat outside. Here you can enjoy the views of rural French landscapes or historic city quirks, and expect your children to be a little calmer out in the open air. If they’re not? Being outdoors among the background noise of birdsong or street bustle, you’ll feel slightly less pressure to shush them!
If a fancy-pants restaurant doesn’t appeal, there’s always a decadent family picnic to try. Explore the stunning scenery of Dordogne, pop down a cashmere throw, and settle down with a fresh French loaf and accoutrements.
Treat yourself to the extras
A holiday is a perfect excuse to treat yourself to the luxuries you toy over back home. Remove the pressures of the daily grind and book yourself a team of professionals to cater to your families’ whims. At French Loaf, we know how hard you work outside of your holiday periods, which means we want you to feel completely indulged and rewarded on your stay with us – it doesn’t matter if you’re booking a weekend break or a week-long holiday. You can spoil yourself with everything from a ready-filled fridge (hurray, for no dreaded ‘food shop’) or personal chef, to in-villa beauty treatments and housekeeping.
Enjoy the luxury of quiet
Peace. It’s such a luxury as a parent, isn’t it? Of course, a family holiday isn’t complete without the clamber of sweaty headed children and the squeals of swimming pool escapades… but sometimes, silence is bliss! And it shouldn’t be limited to post-bedtime hours. Enjoy the luxury of quiet by booking professional childcare (which we can connect you with) to use how you wish. Stay home and lounge around the pool while they’re entertained indoors or head off for a leisurely lunch with your partner. Yes, luxury can be achieved with little ones in tow – but isn’t it marvellous when we get a little grown-up luxury time too?
There might be a chill in the air but we think it's the perfect time of year to step away from the keyboard, put down the smartphone, and look out at the world. Get outside and spend your days breathing in fresh-air! Here’s what to do in and around beautiful Bordeaux.
Get on your bike
If you’re ready to uncover the marvels of Bordeaux city, start on your bike. Bordeaux By Bike provide smart guides and fun rides across the destination. Bordeaux was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, and has since been transformed. The city uses ‘soft transportation’ with the Tram and extensive bicycle paths allowing a stress-free way to get around and soak up the history. Bordeaux By Bike currently have 6 different routes to choose from.
Wander the vines
Wine, it’s what Bordeaux is famous for and the main business sector here. With over 117,000 hectares of vineyards in the region, there are many tours to choose from. Popular tours include: the Rustic Vines Napoleon tour, Bordovino tours, and Ophorus’ Bordeaux vineyard tours. Many tours are very welcoming of children, particularly Chateau Soutard with its mini train and ‘safari trek’.
Visit the Zoo de Pessac
A zoo trip – it’s the ideal family day out! At Zoo de Pessac, be taken on a journey from Africa to South America and Asia – meeting lions, tigers, giraffes, pandas, tapirs, and even dinosaurs. This zoo is well laid out with plenty of shade for on those hot and sticky summer days.
Visit Place des Quinconces
Soak up Bordeaux’s culture and history at this expansive city square, one of the largest in Europe. The principal monument (Le Monument aux Girondins) featuring bronze horses and French Revolution troop is remarkable, and there are several other sculptures to captivate.
Climb the Great Dune of Pyla
If you’re looking for a challenge, take a trip southwest of Bordeaux to the Great Dune of Pyla rising 351ft above the beautiful Arcachon Bay. Not one for little children, here you can tackle a sandy hike up to incredible views or try your hand at ‘sandboarding’ (or snowboarding in the winter).
Make a splash at the Miroir d'Eau
Opposite the Place de la Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau translates as ‘reflecting pool’ and you’ll soon see why. This unique installation has water periodically recede underground and return as a mist that your children will adore to wander through. If it’s a hot day, don’t be surprised if you spend over an hour here!
Family fun at ‘Ferme de Exotique de Cadaujac’
Another excellent animal attraction in the Bordeaux region, the Cadaujac exotic farm has over 1,000 animals of different types and origins. Other highlights the children will love, include: horse and pony rides, camel rides, mini train rides, donkey-drawn carriage rides, circus shoe and carousel.
Explores the Landes de Gascogne
The natural landscapes surrounding the city of Bordeaux certainly aren’t the most adventurous of Southern France, but the Landes de Gascogne is a nice base to play explorers. It covers 315 hectares of hiking and horse-riding opportunities, and has a bird sanctuary in which over 300,000 migratory birds take rest.
Hit the waves at Lacanau
If you’re in the mood to get wet and have a laugh (or show off your natural talent) try your hand at surfing on the coastline of Lacanau – considered to be one of the best surfing spots in the whole of Europe! In the summer water temperatures can reach a very comfortable 21c.
Cruise the Garonne
Another chance to take to the waters, why not spend a day canoeing/kayaking on the Garonne River? Or take a more leisurely approach and book a spot on a river cruise ship – much more appealing for those who’d otherwise be hung up on trying not to capsize!
Marvel at Église Sainte-Croix
If you want to take in the history of Bordeaux city, don’t miss the early 12th century Église Sainte-Croix (Church of the Holy Cross). You can take a pleasant walk from the old town along Cours Victor Hugo and arrive here for a photo opportunity – and if you fancy, a look inside too. Look out for the imposing Grand Organ.
Browse the Marché des Quais
Take a stroll along the riverside with a stop by this charming producer’s market. This lovely weekly market takes places every Sunday from 7am-4pm and offers edibles, crafts, books, and more. (Food stalls close at 1pm).
We love the festive season at French Loaf and were more than happy to play Christmas in advance for our winter photoshoot (shot back in September). Here’s a glimpse of what we got up to behind-the-scenes…
It’s all in the preparation
A lot of planning goes into sorting a property photoshoot, particularly a Christmas themed one. Flights booked, housekeeper in, decorations ordered, fresh flowers arranged… Our properties are always kept to the highest standards though, so other than an all-over clean and a quick walk round to plan our shots – we don’t need to do much to get a property photo ready, bar add a few beautiful extras.
My favourite Christmas additions are the beautiful Hydrangeas in this year. And our amazing tree from Balsam Hill. It’s a fake (but very realistic) European Spruce – gorgeous, and perfect for around little children who are tempted to pick up needles from a real tree.
How the day unfolds…
It’s a super busy few days on a French Loaf shoot, but we treat it like an added holiday in the calendar. We may have business to do, but we make use of all the luxuries we offer our clients – like a private chef! Helping me on the shoot is Claire Ashman Smith - Florist & Stylist from Waterbaby Flowers and the amazing photographer Sara Platt. I’ve worked with both of them for the last four years and they are both fantastic at what they do.
- 3.30pm – Quick check all is in order (Helen, our housekeeper, always does a fantastic job at keeping our properties spotless).
- 4.30pm – Claire and I go on our market trip for the essentials – fresh bread, marshmallows, hot chocolate, fruit, cheese, flowers, soaps, and a few extra props we’ll need.
- 7pm – Home for supper! We always have something delicious pre-prepared by our French chef.
- 8pm – Start putting decorations up.
- 11pm – Time for bed.
- 7am – A bright and early breakfast.
- 8am – Finishing touches to decorations.
- 10am – The shoot begins… I’m always clear about the shots I want but there’s a lot of playing around and trying different things to suit the light and time of day.
- 11am – Once the main house is decorated Claire moves on to the cottages and starts styling/decorations here.
- 2pm – Lunch time! Pates, cheese, a French loaf – you know the drill.
- 3pm – Review the photos so far then keep on shooting the cottages.
- 9pm – Dinner time. Another delicious French homemade meal – yum.
- 8am – Up and breakfast.
- 9am – Take all the decorations down and pack away.
- Noon – Trip to Eymet for a stroll around the market and take some local area shots.
- 2pm – It's a wrap! Time to head home to our familiies.
- As you can imagine, we’re pretty tired afterwards but it’s worth it to remind ourselves and our customers how beautiful a French Loaf Christmas is.
What you can expect on a festive break with us
There’s so much to look forward to on a Christmas holiday booking with French Loaf. All the decorations, the gorgeous welcome basket of food and goodies, and a little present for everyone…
Not to mention the local Christmas markets. We love the amazing Christmas market at Bordeaux. You’ll find little wooden huts selling great presents – I love the French linens.
Sarlat Christmas Market is gorgeous for foodies – cheese, meat etc. And Bergerac is a must for wine lovers.
Fabulously French Festivities
If you asked me what my favourite thing about a French Loaf Christmas is – it’s the fun our boys have! They love the French tradition of giving presents on Christmas eve – for them its usually some Christmas Pyjamas and a little gift. Plus, they’re always fans of the pool being heated well into the winter!
I love the sunny yet cold days come December. The early morning mist across the fields. The long walks, fire in the wood burner, and copious amounts of wine.
We always try and have the traditional Galette des Rois (the cake of the three kings) around Christmas/New Year too. It’s a scrummy almond cake which is sooo buttery. Baked inside is a small figurine or coin – the lucky person who finds it gets to be the king for the day and wear a paper crown. Well, this is just my boys’ idea of heaven!
Fancy booking yourself a festive French escape with the whole family? Browse our French holiday villas and cottages for availability.
If I had to pick one thing I liked most about our French escapes - aside from spending time as a family, the fresh country air, and the chance to sit back and relax in the luxury of our villas… OK, it’s too hard to pick one! – there’s nothing like French cuisine. Scrumptious.
Next time you’re pondering a weekend break or umming and ahhing about booking a longer Dordogne getaway, imagine these culinary delights served to you with the added class of a French accent:
Black Périgord Truffles
Also known as ‘Diamonds of Périgold’, Black Truffles are the region’s unique delicacy. Look out for truffle dishes on the local menus or head to a French truffle market (typically held between December and March) where you’ll be drawn in by the subtle fragrance and earthy flavour which can be likened to rich chocolate.
If you do purchase some of Périgord’s truffle treasure, why not enjoy them like the locals with a Black Truffle Omelette for breakfast. Back at La Verger, pop fresh eggs and a black truffle into a basket and leave overnight. The next day the aroma will have spread into the eggs and will make a delicious omelette – on which you grate just a little more truffle. Voila.
If you’re fancying a hearty dish, perfect for warming the spirits on a winter weekend escape – try a cassoulet. This heavy stew comes from the province of Languedoc, but is a firm favourite in Dordogne too. Look out for the Cassoulet of Périgueux which is a mix of pork, lamb, sausages, and beans – sometimes with added duck confit. Make sure you order with plenty of chunky bread so the children can enjoy dunking it into this brothy favourite.
Cabécou Goat’s Cheese
Cabécou has a deliciously soft and creamy texture and a slightly tangy taste acquired from the maturation process - in which it’s dipped in brandy! As the cheese ages, it grows a blue mould, and becomes smellier and hard enough to grate. Perfect with a cold glass of Chardonnay.
Dordogne food is unapologetically rich, so after a few days of feasting you might want to opt for a lighter option. At lunch, try the Salades Composées which are salads topped with meats and cheese. Something which can easily be recreated back at the villa if you’re having a lazy day by the pool…
Simple but delicious, you’ll find this dish on every regional menu in the Dordogne; Potatoes, fried in goose or duck fat and garlic then tossed in parsley. A divine side to duck confit.
Pastis du Quercy
Time for something the children will love – the sweet delight of a Pastis du Quercy. These apple pastry desserts used to be reserved for high occasions but can now be bought, freshly baked, at local markets.
Another sweet French treat the Dordogne’s love is Bordeaux’ canelé. These petite rum and vanilla flavour pastries have a soft custard middle and a caramelised crust. You’ll find them everywhere from the bakeries and patisseries to the supermarkets.
Let’s finish with a quick round-up of the region’s finest tipples – because you’re on holiday after all! You’ll already know that Bergerac is famous for its wine (being home to some of the world’s most-loved vintages) so there’s plenty to try, but don’t miss: Côtes de Bergerac sweet white wines, Côtes de Bergerac red wine, Bergerac dry white wine, and Bergerac’s red and rosé. It would be rude not to?
The Dordogne may be awash with enchanting historic towns and picturesque château, but for those who’ve yet to shed their childlike sense of adventure - it’s all about the great outdoors! Here’s a look at the regions finest thrill-seeking spots, ideal for when you want a break from lazy days loafing:
Balloon flights over Périgord
Described as the ‘most beautiful village in France’ by Raymond Poincaré (the 58th Prime Minister of France), Périgord is a spectacular cliff top village surrounded by giant oak trees, the glistening Dordogne river, and thriving vineyards. So, what better way to soak up the views than from above, where you can see Périgord in full glory?
Canoe rides through the Vézère Valley
Glide upon the waters and uncover the beauty of the river Vézère which joins the river Dordogne in Limeuil. Canoe rides here flow leisurely through the Périgord region so explorers can admire ‘The Valley of Mankind’ (La Vallée de l’Homme) which features overhanging cliffside chateaux and is a tranquil way to step back in time (while satisfying any need to keep active).
Explore La Grotte de Villars
Nothing beats the awe that lights up little faces as you uncover a mesmerising natural treasure like La Grotte de Villars. These prehistoric caves are packed with stalactites, stalagmites, gourdes and draperies. And they’re also home to authentic cave paintings dating back to more than 19,000 years ago.
Treetop acrobatics in Route de Périgueux
Clip on a harness and take to the treetops, if you’re feeling brave enough. The Périgord region has several sky-high forest adventures to choose from. Expect rope bridges, zip-lines, and Tarzan jumps to test the agility and daring of the whole family. And if you’re feeling especially brave, there’s the Airparc Périgord which is the only adventure course in the area to cross over the water.
Historic boat rides down La Roque-Gageac
Adventurous in spirit but not feeling the urge to swing from the treetops? (No judgment here). Consider a ride upon the historic Gabares. These replica flat-bottomed boats have been created in the style of the ships used since the Middle Ages on the River Dordogne. Loaf in the open air as you’re taken on an hour-long guided tour.
Natural waterslides at Monceaux Sur Dordogne
Not many families holidaying in Dordogne will discover the unique opportunities that await at Monceaux Sur Dordogne – the region’s natural outdoor waterslides! This rather damp, but unforgettable, day out will take you on a waterfall adventure across forest streams and up and down cascades. Life-jackets and safety helmets are provided (and compulsory) but it’s not an activity for little ones, or the faint hearted.
Bergerac Aqua Park
Expect a chorus of cheers when you suggest an afternoon at the water park local to our properties. Bergerac Aqua Park is located on the route towards Bordeaux, near the big Leclerc. It covers 2 hectares of land and has pools, slides, plenty of space to sunbathe, as well as ping pong and beach volley facilities. If the children are old enough to venture off on their own, there’s a jacuzzi for the grown-ups too.
The Prehistoric Park
Situated in the heart of the Vezere Valley, this park aims to recreate scenes of prehistoric life. Walk around this outdoor museum and you’ll find scenes depicting both Neanderthal living and examples of how our direct ancestors – Cro-Magnon man would have lived. The park offers a kid’s booklet with prehistoric puzzles to solve as they walk round but if that’s not their thing, there’s plenty of space to simply roam through the woodland looking out for prehistoric creatures.
Dordogne valley rambling
Get lost off the beaten tracks as you uncover Dordogne on foot (with a picnic safely packed on back, of course). The region has many different rambling trails to try. Pass by everything from medieval ruins and prehistoric caves to tranquil woodland glens, and delight in the simple joys of watching your kids running wild amid nature. It’s what family holidays in France are made for.
If you thought our French holiday home rentals were suited purely to those who want a lazy break away, think again. While I relish the chance to escape and do nothing much but soak up the sunshine, what I love about the Dordogne is there’s so much to uncover! No matter how ready-to-relax we’re feeling, it’s hard to resist a venture to take in the historic charm of the region. Here’s a look at the gems worth considering on your trip:
Bergerac Old Town
Situated on the northern bank of Dordogne River, look out for the signs for ‘Vieille Ville’ if you want to discover the old town of Bergerac. Here you will find both the 12th Century Old Cloister, Maison de Vins de Bergerac (home to the Bergerac wine exhibition!) and the half-timbered Medieval designs on Rue St Clar. Each ready to take you straight back to a time long gone.
If walking through the Medieval street warrens of Bergerac isn’t your thing, make sure you seek out the beauty of Monpazier. This stunning French town was founded by Edward I in 1284; Monpazier is home to a mix of Medieval, Classical, and Bourgeoise architecture and has a historic market hall complete with the original weighing and measuring equipment used on it's establishment. Step inside and vividly imagine the olden hustle and bustle, order a coffee and watch the world go by.
Hanging Gardens Of Jardins De Marqueyssac
Chateau de Marqueyssac was built in the 17th century at Vezac, Dordogne. But it wasn’t until the 1860’s that new owner, Julien de Cervel, chose to plant and carve thousands of boxwood trees – creating an eccentric landscape of rounded hedges. History books say the garden lost its appeal during the centuries (read: lost its attentive gardeners!) and it wasn’t until the 90s it was restored with a water feature. It is simply stunning and a must for any green fingered enthusiasts.
13th Century Hilltop Domme
History buffs and avid ramblers, make a point of visiting the enchanting fortified town of Domme with its cliffside promenade and breath-taking views across the Dordogne valley. You’ll also find a 17th century covered market hall and historic wall carvings at the gate towers. An interesting spot for history-reluctant youngsters who love graffiti at home!
More ancient wall art can be found at the famous Lascaux caves. These Palaeolithic cave paintings are thought to be around 20,000 years old. Featuring large animals once found in the Dordogne region. A true bucket list visit.
Château de Bridoire
Located in the heart of the vineyards of Monbazillac, Château de Bridoire is 12 km south of Bergerac and only 20 minutes from our beautiful La Verger villa. The château is open for visitors in which you can wander the historic furnished receptions rooms, preserved kitchens (complete with gleaming copper pans) and vast living room with knights in armour! In the château’s garden, discover the medieval games which both children and grown-ups will love. Or immerse yourself in the labyrinth forest, a two-hour walk with puzzles and conundrums along the way – a favourite spot my boys never tire of.
Nestled at the foot of a ragged cliff, picturesque La Roque-Gageac looks like a model village from a far. Arguably one of the most beautiful villages in France, you’ll be able to capture postcard perfect holiday snaps as you stroll the line of golden yellow houses upon the river. One of the best ways to see this town is by boat or canoe. A brilliant family day out and if you take a picnic you can stop along the way and enjoy the views. Look up the cliffside and see the troglodyte fort if you want to go further back in time!
Issigeac is another medieval highlight. Always particularly popular on a Sunday morning, this village hosts one of the best markets in the area, especially for fresh produce. So take your wicker baskets! In July and August, there is also a Marché nocturne (their fabulous night market) held every Thursday from 7pm. And if that’s not enough, Issigeac is home to the Foire aux Paniers et à la Vannerie (a willow weaving festival held in July, where you can buy baskets, gorgeous ornaments, and plants for the garden) and Medieval Day (August) a parade where locals dress in medieval clothing and entertain the crowds with the likes of jugglers and street theatre.
Château de Castelnaud
Find a spot to perch and take in the grandeur of Château de Castelnaud, Dordogne’s most famous Chateau. If you’ve got the kids in tow, they’ll love to pretend they’re Knights & Crusaders as you march around the defences and see the replica trebuchets which are often in demonstration firing various items from cabbages to balls.
Another glorious stop-off just a few kilometres north of the River Dordogne is Sarlat-la-Canéda (or just Sarlat if you’re a local). Wander the winding Rue des Consuls, pass the south-eastern Cathedral, and enjoy the Place de Payrou. Time your visit nicely and there’s no better spot for a breakfast coffee; as early morning sunshine hits the yellow sandstone buildings expect to see the town at its finest. It’s the perfect illustration of Dordogne’s enchanting history – and a great example of why we love it here!
Close your laptop. Pack away the iPads. It’s time to fully unwind, be present, and relax -as a family. Set your intentions from day one of your next French getaway with these steps to a blissful family break that will leave you feeling fully rejuvenated and better connected to the ones you love. (Heightened wellbeing with the kids around? I promise, it is possible!)
What parent doesn’t feel the twang of digital guilt every time they check work emails or find themselves carrying out their daily (OK, hourly) social ‘loop’. Escape the norm of both ‘real’ and virtual day-to-day, by setting your devices to airplane mood. A foreign escape is the ideal time to be present with fresh surroundings, and removing the temptation of our screens is crucial to noticing the full beauty of a holiday destination. Not to mention those we’ve brought with us.
It might take some gentle limit setting with children who are used to their swipe-and-click entertainment, but you’ll soon realise they know exactly how to explore new surroundings. What grown-up doesn’t wish they could see things through a child’s eyes!
Get your adrenaline pumping and have a giggle while you’re at it with active session for all the family. Pick up a map (go paper for the real feel of adventure! Google maps takes that element away…) and hike amongst the French hilltops, set up your yoga mats on the patio, or get playful out in the garden of your holiday villa. Rough and tumble, egg and spoon races – a holiday that boosts wellbeing doesn’t need to be a lazy one!
Not forgetting the bliss of having your own swimming pool to enjoy. (A must when we were choosing our luxury French villas.) Grab the armbands, chuck in the lilos, and get splashing. Highly recommended for hilarity: family synchronised swimming.
Keep them entertained
We all know a happy child makes a happy parent, so prioritising our kids’ holiday contentment is a sure-fire way to boost our own happiness. At French Loaf we try to make holidaying as a child as comfortable, and fun, as possible. Expect toys to play with, beautiful bedrooms to make dens in, and a family DVD player for much-loved movie nights. If you start hearing the dreaded ‘I’m bored’ murmurs, don’t panic. With no 9-5 commitments, you’ve got all the time in the world to get playful, be silly, and connect with the minis – you’ll soon remember how great their smiles are for your soul.
Delight in the holiday food
French food! It’s one of the biggest perks of every getaway we make to Dordogne. Explore local eateries, browse the markets, and pick up the freshest ingredients to cook as a family - or get the BBQ on for a late-night, starlit grill. Delicious. It’s not just the food itself, to sit and chat over a family meal is a chance to make memories you’ll remember for a life time.
Reconnect as a couple
Let’s not forget the importance of connecting with your other half on a weekend break or summer getaway. With the kids in bed (and phones still on airplane mode!) it’s time for completely uninterrupted chill time together. Snuggle up with a DVD and a glass of wine or chat out in the garden with nothing but the sound of crickets to distract you. And if you’re feeling daring, a skinny dip under the stars is sure to get the endorphins flowing! After all, laughter is the best medicine.
Thank you to Melissa for the wonderful feedback and the beautiful pictures used in this blog from her holiday at our La Verger property.
It's with a sigh of relief that we start the Summer Holidays. We have survived the flurry of summer term activities which built up to the customary end of term craziness. Summer fayres, parents evenings, sports days, camp outs, and numerous assemblies have left us tired and ready for six weeks of fun and relaxation. My boys are always giddy with excitement about the holidays and I am looking forward (bracing myself) to spending more time with them.
It's a tradition in our house to do a Summer wish list, writing down all the special things we’d like to do. This year there are plans for cycling, den making, swimming, camping, Lego building and much more. I’ll also be making sure we have time to just loaf about and recharge our batteries.
It's the last summer holidays before my youngest starts school in September. I’m conscious of time whizzing by, so I want to make the most of my time with him. To help me do this I’ve pulled together a Summer Holiday Calendar. With space for our wish list, days out, our holiday to France and other planned activities it has pride of place on the kitchen wall. I’m hoping some organisation will also allow us time to kick back and enjoy, knowing we’ve got time to do everything and nothing.
If you’d like a copy of this calendar you can download it here or by clicking on the image below.
One thing is for sure is whatever we do I know there will be fun, adventure, good times and some lovely memories.
Wishing you all a wonderful Summer!
I often get asked why I started French Loaf and my number one motivation was so that I can drop and collect my two boys from school and nursery every day. I realise this is not something everyone can do or wants to do but after a 24/7 job in the city it was what I wanted. You see I can remember only a handful of times when I was collected at the end of the day from school as at the age of eight, I went off to boarding school.
I was always giddy with excitement counting down to the holidays. My trunk would be packed weeks in advance, we’d have our end of term midnight feast and spend the last day of term waiting for the bell to ring.
It was the holidays that gave me some of the best times with my family. We’d have walks to the local shop to buy sweets, den making with my older brother, games of hide and seek. Just the simple pleasures of childhood.
When we actually all went away, now that was an adventure! My dad being a Commander in the Royal Navy meant everything was executed with military precision. We had checklists, route maps, eta's and emergency supplies to last a month. Though our destinations were either Cornwall or France we were prepared should we be shipwrecked or struck with monsoon rains.
Camping in Cornwall was a religious pilgrimage for us. With everything packed into our brown Ford Capri, four children on the back seat, my parents, and Neil Diamond playing loudly on the radio it was always an interesting (note sarcasm) eight-hour journey. Once there though we were in our element. Body boarding until the skin on our stomachs was red raw, making sand ramps, playing in the rock pools and getting lost in that time together.
On our many trips to France I can remember the long drives, past sunflower fields and beautifully evenly spaced trees that lined the side of the roads. The taste of sweet cordial and the smell of Gauloise cigarettes smoked by the locals. We had daily trips to the boulangerie where we'd practice our French then while away the day playing in the swimming pool.
These holidays have given me some of my happiest childhood memories. If I can help other families create anything like the holiday memories I have I'll be very happy.
Last Summer on our holiday in France, we were staying in one of our holiday homes, Peche, with Grandpa Tim and Granny Sue next door in Poire. My two boys in an effort to avoid going to bed realised if they kept asking questions to Grandpa they could buy themselves some more time.
It was this game that started the "what's that?" question of the numerous starry names and patterns overhead. Being in the Navy, Grandpa's knowledge of constellations, (apparently necessary when navigating ships at night) was pretty good. We discovered the Big Dipper, Milky Way, Polaris, Saturn and much more.
Did you know you can see a galaxy 2½ million light-years away with your unaided eyes and craters on the Moon with binoculars?
This stargazing of the night skies was a complete fascination, especially on such a clear hot summers evening in France. It got me thinking of all the ways to help children in their discovery and knowledge of the skies above.
The first step is simply to get them to look up and ask, "What's that?". If they begin gazing at the stars they'll be taking the first step towards cosmic exploration.
Get some books
Comb the astronomy shelf for books in your local library. You'll find books with the basic knowledge you need to know, and guidebooks to what you can see out there in the wide universe. Read about those stars and constellations and about how the stars change through the night and the seasons. We found this great book on Amazon that was the perfect first book for our four-year-old.
Start stargazing with binoculars
Even lightweight binoculars will reveal hundreds of cosmic wonders, from lunar craters and double stars to galaxies millions of light-years away. These children's ones are compact enough to pack in a case, won't get lost when kept around their neck and did we mention they have night vision?
Art and Craft
We always pack an activity book or two when we travel to France. At the moment the boys love the scratch and sketch ones. This one on constellations is great fun. Creating rockets with any rubbish like cereal boxes, yoghurt pots and the like is also always a winner!
One of the undisputed glories of France is fresh bread. Bakeries are not permitted to use preservatives so boulangeries must bake fresh bread several times a day! Here’s our recipe for the perfect French Loaf:
- 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
- 2 cups water
- 6 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with 2 cups water, 3 cups flour, salt, sugar and vegetable oil; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Divide dough half. Roll each half into a 9 x 12 rectangle and roll up jelly roll style, starting at long edge. Seal edges and place seam side down on a large baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
- Use a sharp knife to slash each loaf diagonally 3 times. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cover and allow to rise 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.