Three days after we arrived back from what seemed like an epic road trip to the Isle of Bute, we once again packed up our now bruised and battered mini (along with dog and baby) and headed this time for the South of France…another wedding beckoned.
I love the South of France, I have so many happy memories of childhood holidays in Aix-en-Prevence, Èze, Cannes, that the thought of heading back there with my own little family made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Why on earth did you drive all the way to Scotland and back, spend 2 days manically re washing everything and then squash yourselves into the car again and drive all the way to Provence I hear you say, I have literally no idea is my answer, we must have thought it was going to be extremely romantic, we would drop the top of the car (which never ever usually happens, who has a soft top car in London?) I would have my hair swept back in place by a scarf much like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly and we would drive easily and calmly through the French Countryside. Actually I should really blame Tony for us driving, wherever we go in the world I normally spend hours upon hours trying to see if there is any way I can bring him with us (I managed to get him into a plane, sat on my lap and flown to the states on one occasion, thats how hardcore I am about it) so car it was.
Two hours into our trip we arrived at Folkestone to hop on the Eurotunnel, I genuinely think the Eurotunnel is the best bit of public transport ever. Not only were they actually on time and super slick about getting all the cars on the train, but they had a freaking dog park, like a full on all singing all dancing park with assault course included…I mean come on how incredibly awesome is that?!? I realise this is probably entirely unexciting to the majority of people reading this, but to Tony (and I) this was Disney Land!
Disney Land for dogs
We planned to break the journey up which if we hadn’t would have resulted in divorce and even as it was, I’m not sure any of us were speaking to each other by the time we arrived into Dijon. It’s a good five hour drive from Calais to Dijon alone, and if you have children and dogs its going to be six plus, so don’t even bother trying to do the whole lot in one hit unless you really have to. I have to say once we arrived we honestly just wanted to lie star shaped in our hotel room and do nothing, but I always get that niggling sense of guilt if I don’t go out and a least attempt to do something vaguely cultured. So we dusted ourselves off and pottered round the rather wonderful historic town that is Dijon. can you guess what we came back to the hotel with, correct 10 pots of mustard.
In all honesty and please don’t hate me people of Dijon, but I just wanted to get to Provence, I wanted to feel warm, smell Lavender, and drink Rosé – is that too much to ask for???
I’m quite used to having to filter out hotels that will allow pets now, it does obviously limit you sometimes but my feeling is that I’d rather us all be together than stay in the fanciest 5 star going. *we moved to a 5 starer later on in the trip (insert awkward face emoji here)
Anyway, you know that slight moment of dread you sometimes get as you pull into a hotel that you’ve booked, fearing that it will be drab and dirty and its all your fault cause you booked it, well I didn’t get that even in the slightest when we arrived at Hôtel Le Moulin de valourie. Complete with blue shutters and surrounded by lavender fields we had arrived into our very own Provençal picture.
Wedding celebrations kicked off pretty promptly as Brute was an usher so after lazing in the sun and generally feeing smug about being on holiday we eventually had to order some Gin and Tonics, slope back to our room and get ready for the festivities!
The wedding was held at Chateau des Barrenques and began on Friday night with an enormous about of rosé and a pizza van, It really helps that the groom as his own rosé wine company (go buy yourself some Provencal Rosé).Then the actual wedding on the Saturday, much much more rosé . Finishing off with a pool party on the Sunday, just a bit more rosé, so as you can imagine by sunday night we were well and truly broken.
A real blessing from this wedding was that they provided nanny’s for the children so we were able to pretend that we were young and carefree for a few hours, that is until our own child was delivered to our table with nothing but a nappy on as the children were all keeping each other awake…oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
The rest of our time in Provence was spent idling around the pool, beating Brute at Pétanque and eating at the hotel’s landmark restaurant, all things I love! If you are ever in the area I can’t stress enough how much you must go and check out the restaurant at the hotel, the produce is all local, the vegetables are grown in the hotel gardens and the cooking est magnifique!
After having spent several days drinking wine, lounging around, eating and generally partying up a storm we thought that it would be sensible to take our holiday on to pastures new, we didn’t want to go home from a holiday needing another holiday after all, so naturally we decided we would spend the last three days of our trip in Champagne!
After a mere 1 hour 45 minute drive (it felt like a trip to the local after our monumental drives so far) we arrived in Épernay to La Villa Eugene on Avenue-de-champagne, man did it live up to its hype, this beautiful 19th century building used to belong to the Mercier family so we were safe in the hands of champagne making royalty.
The only teeny tiny thing that is not ideal for parents staying at this hotel with children is that the restaurant only serves breakfast (which is phenomenal, everything you could possibly wish for and lets be honest, french breakfasts are the best breakfasts) so you will need to go out for lunch and dinner, now this obviously isn’t a hardship, in fact its a serious 1st world problem. We were lucky in the fact that Rex was only 8 months old and so pretty flexible in terms of being able to sleep in his pram if we wanted to go out for dinner on holiday, now however, as a 14 month old I can fully imagine being escorted out of a restaurant with screaming toddler in toe followed by the piercing glare of other diners. As with all these incredibly minor issues you just work around it, there is always something that works for all. So having heard on the grapevine that Le Sardaigne served the best stone cooked pizza, we decided we would walk Avenue-de-champagne stopping in as many places as possible to sample the champagne before picking up pizza and going back to our terribly grand terrace (bottle of champagne in hand).
The obvious thing to do while in Champagne is drink champagne, but be sure to do at least one champagne house tour and if I could be so bold as to recommend one, it would be Moët & Chandon not only is the building beautiful but the cellars are the largest in the champagne area at around 17 and a half miles, imagine that, 17.5 miles of champagne bottles!! Plus at the end you get to try a selection of their different vintages, so really whats not to love.
On the last night of any of our holidays we always try and book in a blow out meal, this trip we hadn’t pre booked somewhere so we asked the hotel to find and book somewhere for us, so they duly booked us into the restaurant at Château Etoges it’s about a 20 minute drive from where we were staying through the champagne countryside, which is incredible. The food, wine and setting were fabulous in equal measure, the service left a little to de desired though. I am not a complainer but I did cringe as I watched one table get more and more frustrated as their waiter forgot time and time again to bring out the requested glass of red wine. BUT the staff were extremely friendly and I’m certain that it was just teething problems with new staff, and as I said the food and wine were amazing, so i wouldn’t want to put anyone off going – terribly British of me I know.
With that we were suddenly at the end of our trip and so with full tummies, full hearts, lots of memories made and our livers crying out for help we packed up our little mini one last time, and made our way back to London town.
Adieu France nous serons bientôt de retour