This week, we finally landed in France having Chloe’s constant asking “when are we going to France?” as she knew that was when we would be celebrating her birthday. It was time for cakes and fine wines…
Here’s what we got up to in Week 9…
Where We Went…
After a long day’s driving and one of the worst lunches possible (screaming, rolling on the floor, hair pulling…) with only 5 minutes to go before arriving in our new home for the week, we saw a Maison de Vins (a wine tasting and selling shop) in Barsac, and slammed on the brakes. It was Sauternes. Delicious sweet wine! That was needed!
We stayed in a beautiful country estate near the village of Cadillac about 30 minutes from Bordeaux. It was our favourite place so far. So relaxing and a great place to chill out. The kids loved it because of all the toys and we loved it because of the beautiful big skies with sunrises and sunsets, the grass, the vineyard, the fields of corn and the great little barn house with a modern renovation. Could really live here. Maybe the farm life is for us.
Our hosts of Frederic and Philippe were fantastic as well. On arrival, Frederic cooked us our “Calm arrival dinner” and she was always helpful and smiling. She recommended a great place of Chloe’s birthday lunch, booked it and even printed out directions. Then she offered to look after the kids while we went out wine tasting and didn’t want to be paid. The perfect stay really.
The town itself had some nice old buildings and importantly a great boulangerie. We visited it almost daily, sampling lots of great cakes and of course croissants and more croissants.
After a rolling drive through the endless winery countryside, we found ourselves at a delightful old hilltop winery town. Our first attempts at wine tasting here were unsuccessful as the kids decided it was a good time to run around the shop. Then it started raining, so we settled for a lunch in the square which had the potential to be very relaxing. Instead it was challenging and head in hands stuff. Luckily after the lunch, the chocolate crepe and foil wrapping turned into a ball keep the girls quiet long enough for Brigit and I to experience some of the St Emillion wines.
We visited a couple of wineries on the way home, where we were blow away by the wines of Chateau de Chatelet, particularly the €90 bottle which the quirky winery owner told us sells for €450 in Paris restaurants. Crazy!
Creon Cycle Path
Chloe has been bugging me for some time that she wants to go for ride on a bike. Today was her lucky day! We headed to a little town called Creon to ride part of a 42km track made along an old railway line. After we got our bikes we had to ride into town to pick-up provisions like a proper French family for our picnic. Then it was time to ride.
On a hot day, it was a very slow ride down a slight hill, when Brigit and I hardly did a full rotation of our pedals. Brigit found a too good to be true picnic table in the forest next to a river. After enjoying our French lunch of duck pate, salami, ham and baguette, the owners came along and told us it was private property. They were very polite. After 6 kms of slight downhill, we found a playground for the kids. Then it was time to return home. In the hot sun, although it was a bit slow, Chloe showed lots of grit and perseverance as she pedalled pretty much not stop back to the car, with her little red cheeks glowing.
Brigit and I were given the chance to have a morning wine tasting date as we hit the local Maison de Vins of Cadillac, Graves and Sauternes. There is just so much wine in this area with Greater Bordeaux having about 20 different wine regions and about 13000 chateaus (wineries). After almost 9 weeks without a break from the kids, it was fun getting three hours together and only have to put on one seatbelt.
Chateau La Brede
The girls have been pretty keen to see a princess castle, so we included this one on our itinerary. It is a stunning but small castle surrounded by a moat and some beautiful grounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t time our run properly, so we couldn’t get on a tour and Zara was most disappointed not to be able to see where the princess slept.
Dune du Pilat
Europe’s tallest sand dune was about an hour’s drive from our house, so we had to fit that in. Although it was August and it was heaving with people, it was truly an amazing spectacle. Chloe and I had a great time slogging our way up the hill in the ankle deep soft golden sand, while Brigit and Zara went up the conveniently placed stairs. After we enjoyed the grandeur of the place from the top, it was time to come down. So much fun, Chloe just run and rolled down as I jumped down with Zara. Chloe loved it so much, we went back up for another run down the hill.
Again, Brigit and I were lucky to get out on our own as we explore the lovely old town of Bordeaux. We just strolled around and admired the beauty of French things. Everything is just so neat and tidy and beautiful of course. The lettering on the shops, the wood panelling, how the products are stacked and the products themselves seeming full of love.
We had a delicious lunch at Côté Rue where the chefs have an open kitchen and do all the serving as well. Interesting concept. They spoke no French, so Brigit tried her best and we ended up with a menu of the day, that was full of flavour and beautifully prepared. Although cutting your apple for dessert on the garlic board was a bit of mistake. Overall, a very relaxing day that had us dancing on water!
What We Did…
Chloe’s Sweetest Birthday
Our big baby turned 6 this week and we celebrated with a great family day, full of fun and sweets of course. First task of course was for Chloe to find her presents that Zara had hidden around the house. Her favourite present was the flamenco dress and she was even upset when then was one in there for her sister as well. That made getting dressed easy and allowed a first for this trip, getting the kids into the car by 9.30am as we headed into town for breakfast. In town, we found some fresh oysters, a real treat, so we all had one of those before picking up the essentials from the boulangerie (plain, almond and chocolate croissants).
The rest of the morning was spent playing with the new presents and dancing around in the new dresses. We then headed to a local restaurant next to a cute little lake called Lac de Laromet. It was an amazing lunch, helped by the swing set outside, where Zara spent most of her time. We had the sweetest baby mussels and some lovely duck. Then it was time for dessert with some special candles in them. The lovely staff put in 6 candles (perfect) and delivered two super and massive desserts, chocolate fondant and ice cream filled profiteroles. Heaven and of course Zara returned for this course! Chloe had a gorgeous big smile on face.
After lunch we headed to a town called Bommes where they were holding a canoe festival. There were all these canoes dressed up with paper as things like Superman, a basketball court and even a birthday cake. Chloe loved it, especially when a boy tried to jump out the top of the birthday cake and instead knocked the canoe over and the cake ended up in the water. We had a family go in the dodgem cars where Brigit thought she got ‘whiplash.’
Back home, Chloe and Zara enjoyed another of Chloe’s presents, the film, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ We had just finished reading the book the night before. It was all very exciting for them. Then it was dinner. Chloe insisted on going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner on her birthday, so even though Brigit and I were a bit over food after our big lunch, off we went again. We headed to a pizza restaurant and the girls destroyed a pizza then they had a dance in the square to some really bizarre French indie band (blues, jazz and death metal).
And then finally it was officially cake time! Being full to the brim, we only nibbled on the cake (three delicious macarons and a mousse). Then to our surprise the town had some fireworks to finish off a big birthday. Of course, Brigit told Chloe she organised the fireworks for her birthday and she believe her. Good to know my beautiful (big) baby still has some innocence! What a fantastic birthday/family day!
What we learnt…
Kids finally realised that dogs are not all scary killing machines…
Our house this week come complete with two white dogs that looked like wolves. With the girls usual reaction to dogs, that is to run for the hills literally, it was a bit of a worry. But they were amazing (the kids and the dogs) and Chloe actually wanted to play with them and she even tried to feed them grass. Nice to see the love of animals.
Open air is where we want to be
This week further solidified a future move to a more airy location. Being able to sit outside and have big sky views really is good for the soul and our energy. Having a big veggie patch, a petite orchard and a few animals really would be cool.
We are back in the mountains of Pyrenees on the opposite side of France, where Brigit’s mum will be joining us for a few days. Brigit and I might just drop the kids and run for the hills!!