WOW what a summer! We had the best 30 days in France and boy did it fly by. We’re so lucky to get to spend all of the summer holidays at a house in rural France. This year there was an extra special occasion, which was my sister’s wedding on the last weekend of August. Half an hour away from the house, we all gathered at a beautiful boutique hotel called Les Orangeries- where lots of friends and family also came to stay and celebrate with us all.
I flew out to France on the 1st August with my two boys and spent two weeks with my parents there. After those two weeks, my husband drove out, then over the following days my siblings and their families. This year was a particularly FULL HOUSE! At one point there were 15 of us; 9 adults, 4 children and 2 one year old toddlers! There was laughter, singing, dancing, tears, tantrums… you name it, we had it all.
We all go back summer after summer and over the last few years we’ve discovered even more hidden gems and beautiful areas to visit. Considering we are so rural, it often on average takes between 20-50 minutes to drive anywhere. Luckily all of the children are used to those drives now, so it’s pretty normal for us all. Spending all year living in central London, it really is a breath of fresh air (quite literally) spending so much time in the countryside. We have everything we need at the house and when we are there we really don’t need much. We all have each other and with it being such familiar territory, the children and their cousins are all comfortable with their surroundings. It’s summers in France that always remind us how little we really need. Simple pleasures are what it’s all about.
The house is situated in a tiny hamlet, on the edge of a national park: Parc Naturel Régional de la Brenne, in the South West of France. We are spoilt for choice in terms of beautiful villages, towns and Lakes to visit. These are some of our favourite places we like to visit time and time again;
Known as the ‘City of Writing’, this is a very old and charming town, with a stunning gothic bridge over the river running through the town centre. Each time we’re there it’s beauty takes us aback. Montmorillon has everything you need- convenience shops, cafe’s, bars and restaurants. We love to have tea and scones in ‘Kim’s Cafe’ which is on the bridge and has a terrace on the river bank. Kim is an English lady who has lived there for years, so she has continued to be a great source of information for us. For yummy burgers and frites, there is a lovely small food shack on the other side of the bridge which has a large outside terrace and the food and drinks are so cheap: 1 euro for a glass of wine and 2 euro’s for a pina colada! Just up the hill towards the church is ‘The Cave’, a bar which in the daytime is a great pit stop to have a beer, and in the evening provides live entertainment. Every August Montmorillon has a fantastically large Brocante which is our favourite. It takes up a number of roads in the town centre and offers plenty of stalls selling everything from bric-a-brac, antiques and second hand clothes. My family often laugh at my approach to any Brocante…it’s as though I’m a frantic child in a candy shop! I have all of my small euro’s and notes at the ready with my bartering head on. I LOVE me some second hand junk! Especially French junk!
Chaillac is a small village, based around a central square (as most of them are!), with a couple of great restaurants and perfect for sitting outside late as the sun goes down. Just on the outskirts of the village is a large Lake. There are designated picnic areas, but the best thing of all is the sandy beach and the fact that it is a swimming lake! Not all lakes are, but the ones with the man made beaches obviously are. You’ll always find plenty of locals as well as holiday-makers. We have spent many a sunny day here.
Base de Loisirs de Bellebouche, near the town of Mezieres-en-Brenne, is one of the largest Lakes in the National Park. We discovered Bellebouche only last summer and what a find it was! With over 900 metres of sandy beach, the beautiful lake offers safe and warm swimming (on hot days it’s like a giant bath!), it’s lined with hundreds of Pine trees providing much needed shade, children’s playground and play areas. There is also a fantastically good restaurant on site which you often need to reserve a table at because many of the French specifically travel here just to dine for lunch or dinner. They do fantastic Moules and frites which the kids also love and large fresh salads. We love spending long days here on the beach and won’t leave to head home until 5/6pm. There is also a large campsite based at Bellebouche, which proves very popular during the summer.
This medieval village is listed as one of the top 5 most prettiest places to visit in France. We discovered it last year and have since made various trips there. It really is such a special place. At the heart of the village stands the ruins of the medieval Castle which is impressive to say the least. The quaint streets and beautiful houses are full of character and charm. The river Anglin runs through the village and has a small footbridge to cross leading on to a small grassy island which we love to have picnics on while the boys paddle in the shallow waters. There are a handful of restaurants and cafe’s to chose from including a nice tea room. This place really is so picturesque and worth exploring.
Considering the house is between Poitiers and Limoges, I had never visited Poitiers until this summer! It’s a stunning characterful medieval city. The town centre is lined with houses and shops you can’t help but ‘look up’ to admire the attractive shutters and Juliet balconies a plenty. We only spent a matter of hours here but I certainly intend to go again for a mini break and to explore further.
by Laura xx