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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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.
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!