We just wrapped up a long holiday weekend (thank you, Ascension Day!), in the southwest of France, and I learned some new tips that I wanted to pass on!
Now, it will come as no surprise that short stints in the French countryside are simply amazing. There is definitely that 'je ne sais quoi' that immediately transports you into vacation mode (being with French people helps too - if there is a people that inherently knows how to vacation, it is the French:)).
Disclaimer - I did not organize a single aspect of this - 2 friends deserve all the recognition for this amazingness. Since these friends are French, and vacationing is in their blood, I actually learned some great new tips on how to actually have a relaxing family or big group vacation!
There were 16 adults and 12 kids. So I would say those additions were pretty necessary to actually have a somewhat relaxing stay:)
Here are my tips on organizing a RELAXING stay in the countryside. 3 things are key:
This one is the most important. You need to find a large old home on a big piece of property, or in this case a compound with lots of tiny homes. Ideally there are some farm animals roaming around (a mix of donkeys, goats, chickens is great), a pool and a playground. Oh, and a BBQ is key. Basically - you need there to be enough entertainment to be able to hunker down for the majority of your time there, only leaving to go to a local market or out for ice cream. We often find homes on AirBnB, and then search online for the direct website of the property - this saves us money in platform fees, and the owners receive a better pay too!
This time stayed at Le Hour, located about 15 minutes from the city of... Condom. Very unfortunate. It was nothing fancy inside, but the wonderful part is that we were basically never inside! The sprawling property was enclosed and the kids could run wild (which they did, starting at 6AM!).
This weekend had some bonuses to ensure a relaxing trip - the property provided a breakfast spread (laid out on the outdoor tables each morning), and our friend found a local caterer to handle all the meals. Now this is the BEST idea for a large group vacation, and I'm never going back. Pricewise I think it was actually comparable to us grocery shopping and cooking ourselves, plus a few restaurants, which we surely would have done to avoid cooking (I am also sure we would have regretted it with such a large group!). So relaxing.
Now this idea was genius. Maybe not so much for my kids (at 4 and 7, they were happy roaming the fully enclosed property all day and didn’t need much supervision), but wowzers if you have littler kids this is mind-blowing . Three women from the local daycare came to babysit everyday. They were so thoughtful and clearly professionals. They arrived with huge boxes of activities - art supplies, ingredients for baking cakes for snack time, books, blankets to lay out in the shade. They supervised pool time, naps, and watched the kids so we could go out antiquing and exploring. Incredible!!!
I would also like to say that these services were surprisingly affordable. I never would have thought to do this, assuming it would break the bank. That said, it does most certainly help to keep prices low per person if you are traveling with a large family or group or friends.
If you want to try and organize these types of services, you could ask the property owner for recommendations on caterers ('traiteurs') or babysitters (here the English word has been adopted by the French:)). To converse with the service providers, it is likely that some French language will come in handy. If you need help, don't hesitate to contact me - this is the kind of vacation I would love to help you organize!