Finally, Summer Holidays Have Begun

img_1795Finally, the school holidays have begun for ALL the children. Until this week, poor Gigi had been trundling off to school each morning, trotting down dusty streets whilst her siblings all snored in bed. Mid-afternoon she would return in the heat of the day, the sun pounding on her back as she trod homewards, her footsteps echoing on the centuries-old pavements that many have trod before her. Sweating, her backpack heavy with books and her thoughts on the pool and not at all on homework, she’d remarked more than once how UNFAIR it all was.

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But at last we now have two months of summer fun, a yearly treat that stretches out in the sunlight like a long footprint-free beach. I remember what this time of year was like when I was a child like it was yesterday; it never seemed to rain, skies were always clear, and there were endless hours of swimming, ponies, friends and laughter, a harmony of memories under a cerulean blue sky. There were dusty hot days on the farm, and of course my father worked long hours, especially during the harvest – every time I see a combine at work the memories come flooding back; farming is in my blood, it’s a part of who I am, it’s a strand of DNA as interwoven into my soul as a golden ear of corn on a nodding stalk.

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But back to summer.

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I lay awake a few nights ago wondering how I was going to fit it all in; the five children wanting and deserving my attention, so many activities in the planning, and so much to do. I still have to find time to work, the house still needs to be run, the garden needs to be watered and tended; the list goes on and on. But I am determined to enjoy my summer too and so I decided that the key to all of this is organisation. For a start the TV can happily be ignored all summer long (apart from Wimbledon, of course) for there are plenty of dark evenings in the winter when one can catch up with whatever one may have missed. Summer evenings should be for dining al fresco, a time for friends and family, and a part of the day reserved for coolness and complete relaxation. We don’t have formal rules; the girls can eat in bikinis, they can leap in the pool whilst adults eat cheese and sip wine (which the younger ones always complain we take far too long over!) and they can then re-appear for dessert, bien sûr. But then that’s the whole point of summer, no one really cares.

But back to the organisation, I have a game-plan!

  1. I might lack a little sleep this summer for I am going to rise early and get some work done whilst the children still snooze. That will tick a few things off my list each day. I can then allow myself time to take the children to the beach, it’s just twenty minutes to our favourite haunt and there I can enjoy a power nap under the shade of the umbrella, I can actually read some magazines and relax.
  2. I am going to ask for a little help from all the children! If everyone does a little around the house – just half an hour each –  then that will save me two and a half hours of work. I don’t think I need to be a rocket scientist to work this out! It should be simple to organise and that amount of time should keep the house relatively clean and the laundry somewhat sorted.
  3. Millie has learnt to mow, another two hour job saved each week and it’s something she loves doing. We’ve gone beyond the stage where the flowers run away screaming in fear and if Roddy strims first then it’s a doddle.
  4. I’m going to teach one or two other people to water the potager in the evening, and while that is happening I can prune and deadhead as the smell of supper drifts down the garden from the open-air cooking…..the overflowing vegetable garden means Roddy has a wealth of goodies to conjure up something delicious with. The level in the well is high, so we’re good for garden water until the next rains come – by a miracle we’ve escaped a hosepipe-ban by the skin of our teeth. Our grass may be looking a bit sorry for wear, but we have colour everywhere and the hibiscus has finally burst into bloom in a major way.

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Summer is a real treat anywhere in the world, but after several seasons here, I feel more confident than ever that we will make the best of it this year, notwithstanding the lines of traffic onto the islands each morning and the sudden increase in shoppers in places that have been ghostly empty all winter. Many of our summer residents are from Paris, holidaymakers who have been coming here for years and many of whom own homes or apartments in the region, and the locals welcome their annual guests with relish each year as the season provides so much income for so many people – it’s a harmonious relationship that started in the mid 19th century and has not been much disturbed by an influx of foreigners.

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With a season of additional tennis tournaments looming for Gigi, Hetty has decided to get organised too. She sat down this week in secret and after an hour triumphantly appeared in the kitchen with a huge list she had made of all the things she wanted to do during the holidays – an adventure for each day. She’s been steadily working her way through them for a week, and yesterday’s effort was a treat for all the family – baked flipflops, a demonstration of imagination and culinary genius that strode triumphantly across a beach made of crumbled biscuit crumbs and onto our plates at a goûter-time she proudly laid out at the front door, and which thoughtfully included an arrangement of fruit that looked as though it had arrived in a fancy cardboard box from one of Royan’s more upmarket seaside eateries. She even made pink lemonade!

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The dogs were quite content for something to make a fatal mistake….. as always

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I love summer too for the light it brings to the region, and the colours that shimmer in the soft coastal air, a slightly salty medium that has echoes of the Atlantic each time the wind blows in from the sea. As I go deeper on my own journey into photography I’ve discovered an appreciation of light that has taken me quite by surprise, and I find I’ve developed a taste for details that once passed me by in my rush to be somewhere else. Summer is definitely a time to linger whenever you can, to see little scenes in places where the winter’s wind never blows.

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Whether it’s the region’s vast carpets of sunflowers, nodding deliriously happy in warmth,

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or someone else’s gardening efforts spilling over walls for the enjoyment of everyone,

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summer is a time of plenty.

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Above all though, it is definitely a season for the beach, too laze indolently under umbrellas while children squeal with delight,

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and it’s an opportunity to make the most of artisanal creations in cones. I know the rhythm of the coastal traffic now, and manage to mostly escape the lines of hot cars with Parisien numberplates, and sometimes it’s along those back-street journeys that one discovers the hidden treats.

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And if one’s delight in a day at the seaside has been in any way tampered by misfortune or a stray wasp, or perhaps a half hour of cloud, then it’s always possible to stop for ten minutes on the way home, in a little road I know, where two old ladies lay out tables of brocante in the evening sunshine for the lost tourists that stumble by on their way back from the beach. The girls love this too, it’s how searching for treasures in France always used to be. These are little things of little value, whose prices are as they should be – but above all they’re items of summer treasure that will punctuate the memories for years to come.

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115 thoughts on “Finally, Summer Holidays Have Begun

  • Oh lovely- I was there with you for a moment, I could practically taste one of those sweet flip flop cakes! The photos, as ever, are gorgeous, & those houses, so full of character. Enjoy the summer with your family Susan. x

    • Thanks so much Janet, I was so proud of Hetty and her wonderful treats, I had been out with Gigi at tennis and came back and saw them all, perfectly arranged. It’s all part of summer! xx

  • You have crafted such a beautiful story for us today Susan! A treat almost as sweet as all the goodies Hetty created!

  • Oh yes, summer really has us all enjoying long lazy days & so far lots of balmy evenings eating alfresco , somehow those meals can make a mere sausage taste so different grilled on the BBQ. We are so enjoying our new home, & making new friends.

    • I am so so happy for you Barbara, it looks absolutely idyllic, I did reply, but I am not sure it went through, we had two weeks with non stop internet problems as they laid new fibre optic cables in the village and they turned our electricity off for hours at a time! I so agree with you about outside being capable of making a sausage into a feast, it’s all about the setting isn’t it and the delight of dining al fresco late into the evening! Enjoy every second of your new home. Love to you both xxx

    • Thanks so much Suz, now I know you know this area well, you can probably imagine exactly where we are and know where half of the photos were taken! It is just the most perfect place in the summer xx

      • Yes – and why I like the blog and photos. I feel like I’m there. The colors of the area are the perfect palate. It’s such a peaceful place. Always something to do – even if it’s just a stroll. I’m sure you’ve seen the Hermione – is / was that not an amazing project?

      • There is always something to do here, which is why we chose the area, even in the winter, it is alive and vibrant. Hermione is fabulous, yes we have been around here and watched her depart and return, such an incredible project and such a wonderful thing to do. xx

  • We’re currently staying near Pontivy in Brittany and this post certainly chimes nicely with me. Shame the cloud has strayed over us for the past few days, but a wonderful al fresco meal with the hosts and other residents of the gites last night took our minds off the less than perfect weather. 🙂

    • The weather has been a little cloudy here today and yesterday too, but forecast to be fabulous as of this afternoon, hope it is for you in Brittany too, and as you say, there are so many things to enjoy whatever the weather. Hope you have a fabulous remainder of your holiday xx

  • Would love to see captions appended to the photographs to make them more meaningful.
    Summer here in Spain is a time to get inside close everything up so that it is like a cave to keep out the heat. The other day I decided to see just how hot is was in the sun: In the shade it was 36° but in the sun it was 63° (145° F) – hot enough for a medium roast. Today and tomorrow, the forecast is for 41° (106°F) in the shade, way too hot for anybody to be sunbathing.

    • Oh my goodness that it so hot, I cannot believe the temperature in the sun! We ran a little experiment in the heat the other day to see how long it would take to fry and egg on the bonnet of my black car! It took less than a minute, so imagine how hot it must have been. We have had it 36C in the shade here last week but this week is very much cooler. Thanks for the comment regarding the captions, I have always shied away from them as I fear they would break up the story, instead I try to only slot photos in where they are completely meaningful and in context, I am not sure what more I could add except exactly where they are taken! xx

  • I was very happy, until I reached that last photo…and then I was ecstatic! That lavender!!! Your plans sound like just the right combination between planning and over-planning and will make your summer much nicer, too. Lucky you to be so close the beach. It sounds like a wonderful two months although if those treats keep up, you may all have to go on a diet at the end of it! 🙂

    Enjoy!!

    janet

    • The last photo was a complete fluke, I snapped away as quickly as I could and in truth hadn’t even noticed the lavender until I looked at it afterwards and then I thought wow! I often stop on my way home from tennis at the little brocante stall, I just love it and have picked up some real bargains and great surprises here including two beautiful ironware tureens in perfect condition! xx

  • Wonderful images and I just love that blue, blue sky. The beach is certainly the place to be in summer, crowds or no. Oh, and the doggies waiting for cookie crumbs (or more…) is a familiar sight! Enjoy your time in the next two months.

    • Thanks so much! The beach is a great place to be in the summer and there is plenty of space to go round, fortunately. Arriving in the late afternoon is one of my favourite times, when the worst of the crowds are leaving and when the blistering heat is beginning to subside a little. Evening suppers on the beach are just the best as the sun goes down! Hope you are having a lovely summer too xx

  • Thank you for the lovely walk with you today, through your days and over to the beach. Good for you to ask for help so you can enjoy the season too. I really want to stop by that last place with you, smell the lavendar, and maybe take home the little pot on the right end?

    • I think sometimes we have to ask for a little help, it took me a long time to realise that and it’s been something of a revelation to me!! and the children have been fantastic, it has certainly made everything a great deal easier! I often stop at the little brocante stall, the ladies are so sweet and it is just genuine old things they are getting rid of, but I have picked up one or two complete bargains! xx

  • Lovely, lovely, lovely — the places, the overwhelming beauty of summer everywhere, and most of all, your lifestyle. Your family is so fortunate to have you, Susan. Looking back, through the eyes of a “senior citizen,” I know that the loosely planned days of summer at the beach, Girl Scout day camp, the Little League ballpark, or just hanging out in the neighborhood, knowing something fun would surely happen, helped to shape my character as those days gave me so much time to become a reflective person. You are creating such wonderful memories with your children and giving them the time to discover themselves. Wonderful!

    • Thanks so much Pat, summer days really are the best, I remember my holidays as a child so vividly and with nothing but happiness, of course it rained, of course it wasn’t all fun and I am sure I was bored at times, but I don’t remember any of those things, only it being the best time of my life! That now is all I want for my children! Hope you too are having a lovely summer xx

  • Sounds like you’re teaching your children the basics of motherly…juggling 87 things at the same time. Have a wonderful time relishing all the sights, sounds and smells of summer with a proverbial splash of sunscreen. 😇

    • Thanks so much Monika, there is certainly the smell of suncream lingering in the air most days and plenty of sand all over the floors! It’s all a part of summer isn’t it, along wth learning to juggle! But wouldn’t have it any other way!! Hope you too are having a great summer and that it is not too hot. xx

      • I can imagine, here it is just a lovely dry heat and we all revel in being able to spend so much time outdoors, but I do know how hot it gets with you. I’ll pray for the summer rains for you, we’ve finally had a fair bit here which has eased things immensely and the grass is green once more! xx

    • Ha ha Angela, I will explain, strimming is what I think American’s call weed whacking! Hope that makes more sense, although Gigi has just read this and fallen over laughing at the term weed whacker!!! xx

  • The different light and hue of summer adds a new dimension to photography. I have only taken one 3 hour class, but find that I move forward by snapping, snapping and snapping. In this digital era it is easy to delete – not like the years of film. I applaud you for integrating the children in your chores. That will leave more time for discovery for you!!!!!

    • I am like you, when I see something I want to take a photo of I snap away again and again, taking many photos, I adjust the settings on the camera, some on manual and some on auto and then when I get a chance I go through them and sort the good from the bad, I guess I am slowly learning this way! The children are being really excellent at helping which certainly makes everything a great deal easier. Hope you are having a lovely holidays xx

  • What a delightful post this morning. So love your writing and the beautiful photos. Hope you have a lovely holidays.

  • How I empathize with you! I am juggling things with the kids home too, but I shall follow your lead and put into action points 1 to 4!!! Great advice, bon courage!

    • Ha ha Amanda, the best advice is getting the children to their bit too, that eases the burden and certainly lightens the load immensely and half an hour is really not too much to ask, holidays or not!! Enjoy, before we know it, it will be winter again! xx

  • May I just say…sigh!!!! It’s crazy but my pulse and breathing always seem to slow dow when reading your posts! I’ve found myself waiting,when I see a new one, to read when I’m alone and have the time to escape. For your words always trick me into thinking I’m in the French countryside…sigh….
    But then, as this morning, I look up from your words while sitting on our deck at the lake house and see the Spanish moss dripping from the 100 yr old cypress trees, the baby bluebirds sticking their heads out from the nest above me, hear the water flowing over the fountain in the cool blue pool behind me while a crisp breeze blows my hair even tho I know our temps will be over 100 later today! So even as I dream of France, I’m taking the time to appreciate all of Gods work right here in a little bitty place called Uncertain Texas!!! Or as our lake house is called…Rio Bonito!!!!

    • Firstly, thank you so much Janey. Where you are sounds quite lovely too and you describe it so beautifully, sounds as if you are sitting in paradise despite the heat and at least you have a fabulous pool to dip into when it all gets too hot. I love Spanish moss, I saw lots of it in Florida, there they always told me it was, in the old days, used as a filler for mattresses and pillows, the children always shuddered when I told them this! But it is so mysterious looking to me as it hangs in strange ways, I can just picture it now. Enjoy your summer xx

    • Janey; wd love to see some photos too – how can we do that? We have, in Switzerland, ‘Islandic moss sweets’ (bonbons)…. but Spain doesn’t come into this! I might (or not) have seen hanging this kind of moss in sunken gardens in Florida maybe? If I rememer correctly – but it was such a long time ago…. Please do provide us with some pics. Thanks!

  • As always Susan….a complete pleasure. That last photo with the lavender is so quintessentially French. I feel as if I’m right there with you on your journey….
    What a talented group you all are.

    Ali xxx

  • Oh you transported me to France for the summer holidays, I can just picture the beach and the restaurants and the beautiful countryside. Happiness indeed, have a lovely summer.

  • Oh my goodness, I adore your blog. Eagerly awaiting new posts and living vicariously through you and your beautiful French country life. Thanks!

  • Marvellous, though I think mathematically challenged. If I calculated correctly, it seems that your scheme to wring 30 minutes help from each of your family translates to time to read magazines at the beach, power nap, photograph more, stop at brocantes and zip to a few more tennis tournaments than usual. It amazes me how much you get packed into a day already. Just think of how much more you could accomplish if you could get the dogs to contribute ten minutes each…
    What a clever treat from Hetty. No lack of energy or creativity in your household!
    I should be content to potter through the grandly improved potager every daylit moment.
    As you would expect, it leaves me quite envious. Best to all!
    Oh, strimming is so much more cultured than weed-whacking or weed-eating. The former can be done whilst holding a glass of chilled rose’, the latter a can of ‘lite’ beer.

    • Now if only those 30 minutes from each child allowed all those things, this has been a manic week, hence the fact I am only just replying to comments now, and right at this moment the thought of magazines at the beach etc is so so tempting but quite impossible! Love your description of streaming/weed whacking, I shall always now compare the two to wine and beer! xx

  • Loving your blog, the photos are always wonderful. We have just come back from Brittany, whilst we were there our offer on a house was accepted. I can’t wait until all the necessary paperwork has been dealt with. Once we pick up our keys, I intend to just sit in our new garden and pinch myself constantly, whilst I make lots and lots of plans. Enjoy your summer.
    Lynda 🌻🌻

    • It sounds fantastic Lynda, I am so happy for you. Where in Brittany have you bought your house? Is this a second home or a full time move over here? Good luck and I am sure it will be fantastic. xx

  • Lovely summer thoughts. I was right there with you, in the garden, at the beach, stopping at the brocante. I’m organizing for a leisurely summer off from teaching, more possible with an empty nest, although the grandchildren often come with their busy activities to delight the days. Hetty’s creations are wonderful!

    • These are the best places to spend summer Lorrie, although this has been such a manic week that at the moment it has been quite impossible to go anywhere! I am dreaming of the beach once more! xx

  • How I would love to spend a summer in France, you are giving your children such a wonderful childhood. I am sure they will have so many fabulous memories just like you say you have.

  • We just got back from two weeks in France. We stayed in an apartment that was just down the street from a school, and watched the children head off each morning. We wondered where they were on Monday … then realized it was holiday!

  • What a beautiful and poetic post as usual! You depict the scenes and the countryside so well that I can practically feel myself strolling down country lanes!!! It’s summer here too, lots of baby chickens and ducks everywhere! What a big mess, but so much fun!!
    Xx

  • Photos amazing! Summer plans very smart (good move on having the kids do more; it pretty much is a necessity but not always easy. Love your points! And those flip flop cookies are the cutest thing ever!

  • It would be my dream to wander those little streets, visit that brocante that looks so unpretentious and dine at that beautiful curbside restaurant. I can forgo the beach, not my style at all, but I could happily get lost inland.

    • I know just what you mean, I tend to like a mixture of the two, I do love the salt air and the sand, but not the crowds. However, I also adore the inland little towns and villages and as you say, the totally unpretentious brocantes like this! xx

  • I savour every post of yours, when I see a message in my inbox I know I am going to be in for a treat and then I make myself wait until I can properly spare the time and sit and enjoy it. You have such a gift and we are the most grateful of recipients. I hope you all have a most wonderful summer holidays, you certainly deserve it.

  • I so enjoyed a visit through your photos of a Summer in France….lovely. And I chuckled about working while everyone is still asleep…definitely. It’s nice knowing that I’m not the only one awake at the crack of dawn and happily working. The moments of quiet are always delicious. Happy Summer. 🙂

    • I think we have much in common! I love it when the kitchen is so cool, and the rest of the household sleeps! Before the heat of the day and before everything gets busy! Hope you too have a wonderful summer. xx

  • Susan,once again you have transported us away :this time to Summertime,and the livin’ is easy!(wish I could remember the rest of that song!)
    Absolutely gorgeous photos,and of course,your beautiful family!
    You write with such joie de vivre that we absolutely feel included in your life.
    Thank you!

  • It sounds as though you’re embarking on a summer to remember! It is the best season. That lavender in the last photo! And I love the little flip flop creations. Enjoy the next two moths — I bet it will be as lovely as you anticipate.

    • I hope it will be every inch as perfect as we hope, although this week has been so incredibly busy, hence I am only just replying to comments now, never known a week quite like it! I adore lavender, somehow it just speaks of France and summer! xx

  • I love reading about your adventures and family. You have a lovely home and garden. France is beautiful . I use to live in Germany only six miles from the french boarder. I really miss it there and I really enjoy all of your pictures.

    • There has to be organisation or else it all goes horribly wrong! this week has been manic, one of the busiest I can ever remember and everything has had to organised to the very last detail to make sure everything sort of works according to plan!!! xx

  • We will be in France for a few weeks in September. It was a last minute decision after watching the Tour de France. I am thrilled that we will be staying in a gite west of Nantes for one week and an apartment in Sarlat for another. We look forward to touring that entire area, especially the Charente Maritime, where we can’t wait to get our fill of oysters and moules. I love your blog and have gone back to previous posts about the area. Your summer plans sound wonderful. Enjoy!

    Nina in Michigan

    • Thanks so much Nina, it sounds as if you will have a wonderful holiday, although Nantes is well to the north of us and Sarlat south east by a few hours. However, hopefully you will pass through the Charente Maritime en route from one to the other, although you will certainly be able to enjoy moules and oysters everywhere. Hope you have the most fantastic time. xx

  • Susan – what a stunning post, redolent with photos of all the best things France can offer in summer. We loved it, thank you.I’m with you exactly about the early mornings and avoiding the traffic. By 10.00 we can’t move here without stepping on a dropped Mr Whippy. But, it’s all good in the long run.

    • Fortunately we don’t suffer too much with traffic here in the summer. The coast does get busy, but it always seems to move and there seems to be room for everyone! Mr Whippy, a 99, haven’t had one of those for years! xx

  • Delightful post Susan, which sees me even more eager to be on my way. (ten days and counting)
    Your photos are stunning and capture a side of France that I love best. Hetty’s flip-flops look very moreish and the fruit platter, delicious…I’ve been trying to identify the fruit at the edge of the plate. x

    • Thanks Fiona, the fruits at the edge were quarters of apricots, it is apricot season here and they are everywhere in abundance and so delicious! The countdown has begun for you, hope you have a wonderful time whilst you are here, weather is fantastic. xx

  • Thank you. I feel like I’m there too. It’s been freezing cold this week in Melbourne. The sushine has been gorgeous inside though. Your photos are fantastic.

  • Loved reading the amazing post…..great to know about French summer… beautiful home… pretty garden… lovely kids… appealing photographs…. I hope you have the best summer as expected…

  • Thanks for sharing an amazing post…. great to know about French summer which I am completely unknown to….loved your beautiful home…..pretty garden….wonderful kids….. appealing photographs….. hope you have the best summer as expected…

  • Susan,
    I did miss a lot, didn’t I? Only I would read the start of summer at the end of summer. 🙃
    I hope the summer turned out to be as wonderful as you wanted it to be.
    In reading this post I realized once again how very lucky we are to be able to enjoy the beauty of family, friends and our surroundings.
    I truly wish that the summer turned out to be even better than you expected…tennis was fulfilling for the girls…Roddy caught the “trophy” fish he’s been dreaming of…you “dressed” a few more houses…snapped more pictures than you ever thought possible…drank pictures of lemonade and wine…took hundreds of dips in the pool…stopped and smelled the roses multiple times a day…took time for yourself…saw many rainbows…and most important love that beautiful Family of yours.
    Here’s to the spectacular Fall as new adventures await you. Xo

    • Maybe I was a little over zealous on the pitchers of wine! Glasses of 🍷may have been a better way to address it! 🙄❤️

    • Thanks so much, I cannot quite believe that summer is coming to an end, and far too quickly, where did the time go. Yes it has been fantastic, possibly one of the best summer’s ever, supremely busy but very fulfilling in so many ways. But, as you so rightly say, we are so so lucky to be able to enjoy the love of family and friends. xx

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