This week we are in France in the beautiful Loire Valley. Surprisingly for us the journey here was relatively plain sailing, or should I say flying. Unbelievably we managed to get a spare seat next to us on the plane which then arrived 30 mins earlier than scheduled. When does that ever happen? When you land in a field in Tours at an airport that literally only receives one commercial flight a day.
Luckily our wonderfully helpful hosts had pre booked us a taxi since there was no car hire from the airport ( found out after booking, obviously) and the bus I planned for us to get went to the wrong train station. Could have been our usual near disaster I feel. And we couldn't have just got a taxi since said field did not have the usual all hours taxi rank that city girl presumed it would.
However, we arrived safely and cannot recommend our gite / the little congregation of gites highly enough ( luxuryloiregites.com if interested). Exceptionally clean and heated pool with glass dome that they remove if sunny, gorgeous local cheese, bread, wine etc. upon arrival at our lovely gite (gaz pulled rank on the cheese front, think the mould and lack of any real label was a step too far and I couldn't even do my normal, "it says pasteurised". Though I did pop a slice of some sort of local meat in my mouth before that was vetoed also). Marie, the owner, cannot do enough for us including ringing local restaurants to check they have a high chair and choosing us a selection of leaflets for age relevant attractions for when we arrived. An hours drive from the airport and an hours flight from the UK! Yes I should work for the tourist board!
The only slight hiccup was that the cigarette lighter didn't work in the hire car so no sat nav. I sent G Kisby back in to complain (I am too polite/ rubbish of course) but they had no other cars. He returned saying we would just have to follow signs for the nearest big place.
"Oh my God are you serious?" came my response. Driving out of a city on the wrong side of the road with nothing more than a hope to see a sign to another biggish place.
Luckily he saw sense and ran back in to find a tourist leaflet with a map. So we pretty much found our way out of Tours using a map displaying cartoon symbols for tourist attractions. After an agreement to not get mad with each other (G Kisby gets stroppy with my directions, I get despondent and come out with phrases like, 'there's no point, we will be sleeping in the car', G Kisby gets more moody and so on until we end up with silence. We all know the routine) we eventually struck lucky and did indeed see a sign pointing us in the right direction.
Anyhow, since then I have made the outlandish statement, "this has been my favourite day in ages". Not a reflection on our everyday lives you understand but a testimony to just how lovely it is here.
I spent yesterday morning lying in bed listening to birds with the sunshine streaming in whilst my wee family went to the local boulangerie. We ate, we swam, we ate, we went to a local lake with a man-made beach which Mabel loved then we lay on the grass at our gite and played. No real routine, outside all day, no time constraints, late bedtime then a massive pan of garlic prawns and yet more bread with my favourite person to spend time with. Bliss.
However, today was possibly even better. After completely knackering Mabes out with new things yesterday ( yes granny you were right, very few plastic toys needed, outside the gite is a stoney path which might as well be a pebbled beach. She has literally filled her bucket, emptied her bucket, dug, raked, transported, drawn with and sorted stones for hours) she slept until 9 this morning. Longest sleep we have had since she was born 18 months ago. I woke up giddy, obviously at 6 checking she was alive and then every half hour afterwards just revelling at our luck and my misfortune at being desperate for a wee. After the obligatory eating of our weight in bread we then went up the road to France's biggest zoo, home to the giant pandas.
Now we both know Mabel is too little to fully appreciate a zoo and that actually this was a trip for one for the whole family, confirmed by us discussing en route which animals we were most excited to see. For G Kisby monkeys and birds of prey (what the hell?) Me, penguins and pandas. And it was a really good day out, expensive but worth it. Mabes missed half of it due to an unfortunately planned afternoon doze (unfortunate for her, we whizzed round as much as we could while things were quiet) but did enjoy the, er greenery at the side of every footpath, the ducks (wasted) and the crocodiles..at a push.
I am obviously now reflective about how we can make our lives more like this at home, loving being outside so much and feeling truly grateful about how lucky we are....
Ps G Kisby has promised his first blog post this holiday...