The kids arrived from Bordeaux just after 2 pm in a very smart Fiat car rental. It was lovely to see them, having not been in their company since Christmas. We were also introduced to Nicole for the first time, Laurence’s girlfriend. They were as impressed by the house as we were. After settling in, the next day we went up to Domme, which is on the opposite hill to us, for what turned into a photo shoot! Nicole bought a dress in sale, a girl after my own heart! We were going to have a drink there but they didn’t open until 12 so we went on to Sarlat for Beers stopping at the supermarket on the way home.
We had an easy drive down from Chartres, lovely sunshine and thank heavens I got the air conditioning fixed the day before we left! We got some shopping on the way down and I had brought some cereal and Tea Bags from home (the French don’t produce good tea) so we were all set for when we arrived at the house. We tried to phone ahead to say that we would be there for 4 pm, as instructed but never managed to get through. The directions for the house were easy to follow, especially with my trusty map reader by my side who told me when I should be crossing single track rail lines and going under/over motorways etc.
The first drive into the house took our breath away because it was indeed a Manor House. Madame was there to greet us and gave us a tour of the house and introduced us to Fiona, who was English, and was contactable by phone, she herself was going away for the week. We allocated bedrooms, ours and mums were on the ground floor as the stairs were somewhat steep for Mum and Hyw. The first couple of days were spent getting lost in the house as there were at least two ways to get anywhere!
The Taiwan contingent weren’t due to arrive until Monday afternoon so we had the house to ourselves for the first few days. We went to the supermarket in Sarlat for more provisions and investigated the shops in Cenac itself. The weather was scorching at 36 degrees and we were grateful for the cool of the house and swimming pool.
Rather than hang around, anticipating the arrival of the kids, we took ourselves off to Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac, close to La Roque Gageac. It was really stupendous and I can recommend it to anyone. The kids made a visit there in the second week and enjoyed it as much as us. We had a super lunch there, my first ‘gesiers’ of the holiday, overlooking a drop and surrounded by peacocks who ate up anything you dropped.
Sometime in February, or it might even have been Christmas, Laurie suggested that it would be better if we had Christmas in a place other than Devon, having spent a particularly damp Christmas with few opportunities for bracing walks and bright sparkley mornings. As Laurence and Gwilym live in Taipei, this was their annual visit home, and although they weren’t too fussed about the weather, we felt that it could have been so much more memorable for them. So the idea of a summer holiday in France started to take shape.
I found a selection of houses we could rent in France, they had to be near airports and rail stations and they had to have a pool, sleep 11, be within walking distance of restaurants etc! I think we shortlisted it to 3 then we sent them via email to the kids and asked them to choose their favorite. Remarkably they all chose the same one, now it was just a question of finding dates that suited everyone.
Eventually dates were found, with Matt and Mo, and Verity and Rich, joining us for the second week. At the last minute we booked a ferry crossing from Poole as there were demonstrations about the ‘jungle’ camp by the citizens of Calais and the lorry drivers and farmers. This meant that I had to drive to Bexhill and back to collect my mum and then set off early the next day for Poole. Luckily it was a calm crossing and we arrived in France at about the same time as we would have arrived in Calais.
The hotel in Chartres was in the centre of town, a stones throw from the Cathedral and was a part of the Best Western chain. Not our usual choice but we had left it a bit late for booking and certainly I couldn’t fault it. Parking was easy as there was a massive underground car park across the road and the restaurant was lovely – I had oysters for a starter and they were gorgeous. There was an illumination festival in Chartres so after supper we went for a stroll around to see what they had done.