Famille en France
My parents live in the Dordogne region of France and so often we are told how lucky we are to have a cheap holiday destination to go to. With a family of four, nowhere can really be classed as a “cheap” holiday anymore it seems but it is certainly less expensive when only transport has to be factored into the spending. Especially as my parents have designed and built their house to make it perfect for guests and family with a fantastic pool in the back garden!
As the Bunny didn’t start her new nursery school until mid-September, we took advantage of the slightly outside of high season fares and booked a flight from Stansted with Ryanair, despite living only 30 miles from France! With petrol and parking the costs were fairly close to those of a ferry and driving, but marginally faster – we left at 13.00 and arrived at 22.00 local time. Next year, being tied to school holidays and having to pay for both children means that driving will probably work out slightly more economical. I figure we can catch a late afternoon ferry, drive for a few hours then stop overnight in a budget hotel and set off again early the next morning to arrive well before lunch. This way we only lose the night and make the journey part of the holiday instead of the stressful experience flying always is! And we also have the added bonus of unlimited luggage (to the point of space in the car at least!).
Back to the holiday.
Being a Saturday afternoon, the drive to Stansted was fairly uneventful which meant that we arrived with plenty of time to park at the airport car park, catch the courtesy bus to the terminal, change the Bear’s nappy (we elected to use disposables for the holiday to save on space and smelly washing), get through security, buy some tea, eat it and head slowly to the departure gate. We paid extra for priority boarding to ensure we all sat together, and despite reviews that suggested otherwise, this was respected on both journeys. The flight wasn’t brilliant, but the girls were surprisingly well-behaved and didn’t seem to suffer from the effects of take-off or landing pressure. I tried to breastfeed the Bear but it is always difficult to judge when to start as she generally only feeds for a minute or two at the time, so I am unable to claim her calm was due to this!
This was the first time I had visited my parents at their new house as the build was only completed last year and being pregnant/having a newborn are not times I wish to travel unless necessary! The house is on a large plot of land with a sweeping drive to the front, a side terrace area and large back garden on two levels. The ground level has a good size pool and a terrace from the lounge and kitchen and we spent most of the break enjoying this space!
Apart from one attempt at a public pool and a couple of times in the sea, the Bunny hasn’t really been in the water and the Bear has always been petrified each time we’ve tried to take her in the sea. I was determined having a pool outside our bedroom would change that! To begin with, Bunny was really excited at having a pool to play in, until, that is, we were stood poolside about to get in! Suddenly, she really wasn’t happy about getting wet. I suggested she start on the inflatable lounger while I pushed her round and she really enjoyed it. Then her grandpa jumped in and incredibly she couldn’t wait to get her rubber ring on and join him! By the end of her first session in the pool, she was swimming up and down with her ring on as if she did it every day! I really think that if we had spent a few more days there she may even have taken her ring off and started swimming unaided she was so confident. Even a visit to a lake didn’t put her off and she spent most of the afternoon in there. It was great to see her become a little waterbaby like I used to be. The Bear wasn’t quite as successful although we did get her to come in the water without screaming for a short while and I do believe she even quite enjoyed it in the end!
Another bonus of staying with family is the free babysitting service! My parents looked after the children and let us head out for a meal one evening. It was so blissful being able to concentrate on eating a (hot!) meal and our adult conversation without interruptions! We don’t often get much time to ourselves, so this was a real treat. My parents also took the children each morning so that we could enjoy some lie-ins – and did we ever! One day I went back to sleep so quickly and didn’t wake up until 10.30! I really think if we’d stayed a week, I might actually have started to catch up on 18+ months’ lack of sleep!
Suffice to say, despite some reservations, the holiday was a success and we all enjoyed ourselves. It was great for the Bear to get to know her grandparents better and see Bunny having so much fun with them. So often when they’re over, they only really have small pockets of time for her and have to fit her in around decorating houses and visiting friends and family, so this was a rare treat to have no interruptions and undivided attention. It was nice for us too as again, we don’t often get to chat properly when we speak on the phone as there is always something that needs discussing so there’s not time to chat about our lives as well.
It seems weird to think that next time I see them it will be for my little sister’s wedding, but great that we had this time together before the focus shifts again. I can’t wait until next year when we can drive down and stay longer. And maybe even get the Bear swimming!