It’s July and August; everyone it seems goes on holiday! But where would WE go that could possibly be better than right here? Our little slice of France is where those in the know flock to in their droves, and it’s a place that is also perhaps a little bit of a secret to those not lucky enough to have heard of this little corner of one of Europe’s most romantic destinations, tucked away on the Atlantic coast and nestled in its own unique micro climate.
Summer is our busiest time of year and we are never really able to go away on holiday due to other constraints. Occasionally the children will gaze longingly at a friend’s photo, where someone might be having the time of their lives in a new and exciting destination; they’ve gone away on vacation and our children sigh a little in envy. After that I always do my best to reassure them that staying right here is the best holiday we could ever have, and invariably it works out just fine.
However, it is easy to get sucked into daily life, and even if we have made a conscious effort to have a week off, the floor still seems to need washing, the laundry piles up and the emails keep coming in. Mobile phones never stop and the mail comes each day, we might in our minds be on holiday but to everyone else we are still here and still at work!
In the past I always thought a ‘staycation’ would be easy, surely it just took a little organisation, way less than if one was actually going away. But I’ve never managed to fully succeed in holidaying at home and whilst everyone around me seems to do just fine I juggle the usual day to day routine with the added pressure of holiday activities and just end up with even more on my plate.
This year we had friends coming to stay for ten days and we did our best to clear the decks so that we could do as much with them as possible. As I have previously mentioned, July and the start of August were manic months and I needed a break from deadlines and pressure, I was determined this year would work and I mentally made myself a few homemade rules.
Try to only do what work is absolutely necessary
Let the housework slide for a week
Cook as if you are on holiday
Dress as if you are on holiday
Enjoy that extra glass of wine or bubbly
Turn up the music and dance
And sleep in late in the mornings
Forget the garden and the weeding, I told myself, nothing is growing at this time of year anyway, it’s too hot and too dry.
What transpired was perhaps the best summer holiday ever, thus proclaimed by all of the children and the adults too. It started off slowly and gathered pace. Somehow we slipped into an easy holiday routine. I can’t deny it helped that the weather played ball.
We shared every meal for ten nights and ten was the minimum number around our table, frequently it swelled to 14 or more as friends arrived.
Evenings that stretched late into the night
and on into the small hours of the morning. The warm night air seemed to take all our cares away. Our terrace became an al fresco dance floor, the wine flowed and the conversation grew ever more lively.
The barbecue was in constant use.
I gathered roses from the garden
and between the two families we created some mouth watering delicacies with tomatoes and figs and grapes, salad and vegetables all straight from our own garden.
Without giving it too much thought I gallantly offered to make pancakes one morning, a favourite with our children and I thought the boys staying with us would enjoy them. I hadn’t quite imagined that it would mean an hour-long session as I poured, flipped and served one crêpe after another. But you know what, I loved it; they were eating just outside on the terrace and wafts of conversation drifted in through the open doors and windows; I had a cup of coffee in one hand, a wooden spatula in the other, and the air was filled with animated chatter and laughter. I could not imagine or wish for a more perfect atmosphere.
Our ‘staycation’ turned out to be the best of both worlds, and as there is so much to do in this area, it has to be a vacationers’ paradise. So many suggestions were made of things to do and in the end we only made a tiny dent in the list. For starters and to get us in the holiday mood we cycled 42kms on the Île de Ré as you know!
The beach was of course high up on the agenda; some were full day affairs, but there were also some evenings in the waves, a picnic at sunset, and a few games of riotous frisbee or football when it was so dark one could hardly see the ball.
One evening we enjoyed apéros in Mornac sur Seudre
and wandered down to the harbour
and through the old streets.
and of course we played that game that so many of us enjoy. We found a house in desperate need of some TLC and we imagined what lay behind those closed shutters, what we would do and how we would lovingly restore it.
We visited the Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes
and kayaked and paddle boarded along the Charente. And we all dreamt of owning this house in the background too!
and this one! Let’s be honest who wouldn’t?
We thought about a restaurant for lunch, but on this day it was closed anyway
and so we opted for plan b, salads and sandwiches from the perfectly situated snack bar.
Port D’Envaux, which sits on the banks of the Charente River really is a photographer’s paradise, it’s about twenty five minutes inland from us and whenever we visit we always say we could live there quite happily. But then it would mean being much further from the coast and actually I am happy to visit and have the best of both worlds exactly where we are!
At some stage during our ‘staycation’ tents appeared in the garden and the children decamped, preferring to spend a few nights under canvas. They did their best to persuade me to join them, but I wimped out. I mean I have nothing against camping as such, I’ve spent many many nights under the stars, but the problem is I do like really nice bathrooms and although I struggle with the communal ones on offer at campsites, I know our family will go down this holiday route some time in the future. Our friends who were staying with us are like-minded, and although they too have the same reservations as I they banished the demons and tried it for the first time earlier in the summer for just a weekend, and a very carefully chosen one at that. All was fine, sort of, I think it still took some getting used to, wearing flip-flops in the shower and driving to the loos in a rainstorm! But they were not too scarred and they will be doing it again.
Still, I happily opted out of sleeping on a one inch mattress in my own garden in a hot stuffy tent, when I could have a perfect eight hours in my own bed, still in holiday mode, but with my own bathroom, my own mattress and complete comfort!
So, I asked myself again “why would we leave here to go on holiday during the summer months?” “What would we want to swap it for and where would we rather go?” And this summer we all found the answer, right here under our noses, the proof of the pudding was in the eating (in more ways than one). We wouldn’t swap this summer holiday for anything and as school looms and we make the most of the last few days of holidays we very sadly said goodbye to our friends, keeping a tight hold of Evie for fear that they would sneak her out with them and tuck her away in their car.
We live in a very troubled world for sure, the daily news is horrific, but there is goodness everywhere too. This weekend at our last beach evening we will raise a toast to Dave, Sarah, Jaden and Levi, and thank you for making our summer so special xxx
The children have definitely voted ‘STAYCATION ROCKS’!