Whether you want to plan a quality evening for your partner and children or you’re in the midst of organising a huge family gathering - here’s how to plan a memorable get together in France:Read More
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Make planning easy with this guide to the essentials you’ll need (and details on how French Loaf has got it covered):Read More
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).
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.
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.
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.