So Covid was still a thing. The travel guidelines were hard to predict and my husband’s job (as a doctor) didn’t allow for extended and un-planned periods of leave (well that’s what we thought!). Given the circumstances, and somewhat reluctantly, we planned to holiday (yet again!) in the UK. It should be known that I do love holidaying in the UK but I was, at this point, fairly desperate to leave the country! Now picture this, the week before we were due to go, the government announced they would change the rules for France and it would no longer be an amber list country. On an impulse we decided to go! Cue endless paperwork, panicked pre-departure Covid tests and plenty of doubt and concern!
Given the on-going situation with Covid, we decided to travel by car (figuring we’d be less likely to catch Covid etc than on a flight?!?) and opted for the EuroTunnel. Unsure how long the process of booking in etc would take (with all the extra checks) we decided to stay in a Premier Inn near Folkestone the night before our crossing. This has since become a regular stop for all driving holidays – it makes it far easier for us to get off in the morning and hit the French motorways!
Given the reduced number of people travelling it was relatively easy to find affordable accommodation in France at short notice. We stayed in a truly wonderful Airbnb near La Rochelle (location was based on being able to get back to the UK in one go if needed!). The gite had two lovely, bright and airy bedrooms, a family bathroom and a spacious downstairs area with a terrace. Our accommodation was one of a handful on site (the whole complex can be booked for large family gatherings!), sharing a large outdoor pool (and loads of pool toys!). We also had access to a wonderful games room (with table football, air hockey etc), honesty fridge (with wine, beer and ice creams!), washing machines, an outdoor play area with swings and slides and bikes. It was an idyllic family holiday location!
The holiday was all about rest and relaxation. We had all, in our own way, faced the on-going challenges and uncertainties posed by Covid and we just needed some down time to relax and re-connect as a family. It’s hard to put into words the feeling that we all had the moment we arrived in France – being back in Europe after so long felt truly wonderful. There was a real sense of relief and excitement. It is one that will stay with me for a long time. So this holiday was all about relaxing and enjoying the moment – good food, French wine, plenty of cheese and an abundance of quality family time. Our days were spent by the pool, going on bike rides around the sunflower fields (and watching local farmers at harvest time) and trips to the nearby town for ice-creams, croissants and the all important French supermarket shop!
I’ve written before about the balance and compromise that we feel is needed to ensure that everyone has fun on a family holiday. For us, as parents, this also means going off and visiting something in the local area. When rain stopped play mid-way through our week we settled on a visit to nearby Cognac (just over an hour from where we were staying).
We parked in the centre – there is a detailed webpage that you can use to locate parking and public toilets and found a bakery to put the finishing touches to our picnic. Now I had visions of finding a bench in a nice square to enjoy our French picnic lunch but by this point the rain was really heavy so we settled on a car picnic (yes they are a thing!), before dashing into the town to find a creperie!
The afternoon was spent at the Rémy Martin Cognac estate (picked entirely because the tour involved an electric train that the children would enjoy!). We spent an hour learning about the the history of Cognac and production and the tour culminated in a guided tasting (accompanied by delicious macaroons!). The children were made to feel very welcome throughout – they were particularly keen on the apple juice and colouring pencils in the tasting room room!
Given the Covid travel rules that remained in place, we needed to have full Covid tests to return to the UK. Thankfully our Airbnb host was able to help with this and we travelled to a nearby town to visit a French lab! The town was on route to La Rochelle so we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the delights of this pretty, seaside town on the Atlantic Ocean. Thankfully the weather had picked up so we spent the day on the beach – building sandcastles, splashing in the waves and generally feeling very lucky that we’d managed ‘to get away with this holiday’ (or so we thought!).
Early evening came around and having enjoyed a drink (and compulsory ice cream!) in a beach bar we decided to have an impulsive dinner in the town. We quickly settled on a lovely terrace enjoying the late afternoon sun and watching the world go by. Dinner was delicious – fresh fish (at least for the adults!) and plenty of local wine. It was whilst here that we first heard the government wasn’t going to change the rules and that France was to stay on the amber list and we’d have to isolate for 10 days on arrival – Ahh! After an initial period of panic, a few phone calls home (apologising to work for the inconvenience caused etc), and a last minute supermarket delivery booking sorted, we decided to embrace the whole experience and make the most of our final day of the holiday.
Our final day was spent making the most of the pool (it was surreal – knowing you’d be going home to self-isolate the following day) and chasing up the Covid test results with my less than adequate French (thankfully both negative!).
On route home we stopped in Wimereux, northern France – a lovely Belle Epoque seaside town on the Opal Coast, less than 30 minutes from the port in Calais. As we stood looking over at the Kent Coast we knew that a period of self-isolation awaited us but we also knew that we’d done the right thing in coming to France. We felt so blessed to be able to travel once again, to experience new things and to get back to doing what we loved.
The self-isolation back at home (or our staycation as we called it!) was made much better by unusually warm summer weather and plenty of time was spent in the hot tub!
Here’s to many more adventures (but less of the self-isolation!).
1 thought on “A stay near La Rochelle”