Earlier this month we returned from a fortnight’s holiday at La Grange Du Moulin in Charente Maritime in France. As regular readers will know in previous summers we have holidayed on boats in France with my family, but this year my sister decided they wanted to do something different and so we were left with a blank canvas and a bewildering range of options.
Living so close to Portsmouth and the ferry terminal it made sense to head back to France again and as we’d had the Charente region recommended by Le Boat, I casually started googling Charente and child friendly gites.
One of those searches eventually lead me to La Grange Du Moulin, a collection of six gites deep in the French countryside which are owned and run by a British family and targeted specifically at parents of primary age children (they in fact having a book system which allows you to see the age of the other kids booked to stay already). There are two pools, an enclosed garden and lots of organised weekly activities. It is also crucially only four and a half hours drive from most of the major ports that Brittany Ferries serve.
My own childhood summer holidays were spent at my parents holiday home in Spain which was on a small complex and offered opportunities to hang out with similarly aged children, so in a way I hope to recreate a little of this for Alice and Theo. My own ambitions for the holiday were quite modest, a chance to read a book, a little bit of sunshine and maybe some time by the pool, though I was nervous about not having enough to “do” on holiday. (Please tell me I’m not alone with this?)
There was only one gite left for the start of the summer holidays, so we avoided a lot of dithering and booked before it disappeared. We hadn’t been planning on going away for two weeks, but it was the minimum we could book for and having recently started using housesitters to look after our dogs (free ones at that) it was also suddenly, an affordable option.
We travelled on the overnight ferry to St Malo and because our pre-existing ferry booking didn’t quite match the dates, spent a day and a night in St Malo, before driving down to St Jean D’Angely.
I’d been following La Grange Du Moulin’s facebook feed in the weeks prior to our holiday and had been slightly lulled into a false sense of security with the weather. Although they had a good spell of temperatures in the 30s, our own two weeks were very mixed. We had one day which was properly hot (when everyone descended on the pool) but it was more often then not slightly chilly in the pool and the hot tub got good use!
Fortunately there was only one properly rainy day and on that day the kids just enjoyed the novelty of watching a couple of films, one inside our gite and a second on the tv in the laundry room!
Temperatures were usually in the low to mid-20s and we did wear shorts most of the time and we never had to really worry about the kids getting sunburned.
We had a few days out, visiting Rochefort for lunch (Moules Marinere) and the excellent zoo in La Rochelle, but tended to stay on site and enjoy the variety of weekly activities. There were family events like barbecues, local food tastings and a vineyard tour (Alice loved the sour wine grapes – strange child!)
And there were also child focused activities like a teddy bear’s picnic, pottery painting and fabric painting, all of which were a big hit and usually involved a glass of local wine for the adults!
The rest of the time the kids tended to amuse themselves with wonderful simple but inventive games in the garden, enjoying the novelty of nearly always having someone around who wanted to play….and yes, not only did I read a book, but I read a 500 page whopper of a book!
The kids really enjoyed their holiday and we also enjoyed the interaction with other parents and card games in the evening with a glass of wine, but I did get itchy feet and missed the daily change of scene that holidaying on the canals brings.
We have spent a lot of time since we returned discussing what we will do next summer. I think we’ll be going back to Le Boat, but perhaps we can arrange a second week at La Grange Du Moulin so that we get both holiday action and child friendly relaxation. Whatever the decision we had better book soon, Grange Du Moulin is almost fully booked for next summer already!
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