We normally do festivals in the summer but after realising the amount of money that we spend over a few weekends of fun and hard work at festivals we chose this year to use that money and go on the cheapest holiday we could. We decided to take our 90’s battered old estate on our road trip from Frome, Somerset, 873 miles and back to Narbonne in the south of France where some friends of ours are living. The ferry was £70 return and fuel was 1 Euro a litre in France so it worked out cheaper to drive than fly…
The first small hiccup was that, with impeccable timing, the car decided to start not starting and leak oil, a few days before we were due to leave. I panicked and phoned the AA about the possibility of changing over the car policy, as we had taken out their full European cover with repair costs covered (essential in my opinion when traveling in such dodgy old cars) and they informed me that as we were within 72 hours of our ferry leaving they would pay for a hire car as the repairs would take too long. Winner!
So we got this posh Hyundai something or other that was supposed to be an estate, but I’m not convinced and if I was lucky enough to be able to buy a brand new car I can say I wouldn’t buy that one. But beggers, blaggers, bloggers can’t be choosers and it was about a million time better than our crappy car which in hindsight may have been quite unbearable in the heat as it has no such mod cons as air con.
AND WE ARE OFF!
The ferry was fun and we were in full holiday spirit. They have a manic soft play area on the DFDS crossing to Dunkirk and everyone was very excited. We chose to take the afternoon crossing arriving at a normal ( but every day we are optimistic )bedtime of 7 pm. The idea being that the kids would sleep and we would get some distance covered in peace and quiet and just transfer them easily into bed. What actually happened is the sat nav app that I had downloaded didn’t want to to download the France map as maybe it needed a better internet connection or something..hmm whoopsy..anyway..
WE HAD TO USE OUR OWN BRAINS TO NAVIGATE… AND WHAT HAPPENED
Determined to be unflustered by the fact that we didn’t have a computer to be our minds, we navigated our way pretty easily to our quick night stop in Reims.. apart from the bit when we got into Reims which wasn’t on the big France road map. I had luckily printed out a really basic map from their confirmation email and thought we had it nailed and where on the road that the hotel was on.. except we were on the right road but heading in the wrong direction out of Reims and into the deep dark country. By the time that we had realised this we had driven about 20k and it had gotten VERY stressful and VERY late. Lennie had not been sleeping like a good easy baby as we had planned and instead, inconsolably screaming for hours. I think it was that overtired thing they talk about.
Eventually, we headed back the opposite direction on the same road and headed into Reims and found our hotel.
The next morning we discovered that in this stress the bank card for the account had gone missing somewhere with all our holiday money ..so we had to cancel it and luckily my lovely parents lent us the money until we got back.
ORDER IS RESTORED AND GARGOYLES ARE COOL
So we are back on track. We composed ourselves, used our brains, looked at the map and managed to make a stress free journey down to Cluny where friends of ours are living. We stopped off in Dijon and It seemed like a really nice city from what we saw in a few hours. They have some really really amazing gargoyles; all totally different weird spooky creatures and fantastic gothic architecture. We also discovered one way to shut your kids up for a bit is to go into a massive church. I don’t know if that’s a consistent guarantee though..I wouldn’t go booking a guided tour of big fat catholic churches based on our one experience. They were probably just overwhelmed.
We head on for a stop in the Drome Region (which is situated just at the beginning of the alps), to my husband’s childhood friend Jake’s parents, Marte and Chris’s Eco farm/research project based on top of a mountain. They are nearly completely self-sufficient and have solar panels, a wind turbine, natural spring water for their water and power and grow their own vegetables. They make their own milk and cheese and eat their animals. They have a herd of cows who roam the land, sheep, chickens and horses.
Marte is a worldly renewed and respected expert in animal behaviour and eco-agriculture. Having written various books, most recently ‘Eco-agriculture: Food First Farming – Theory and Practice’. Which I have just ordered. She was one of the first researchers studying the behaviour of large mammals in the field in Africa and one of the first Animal Welfare Scientists.
Chris expertise is in alternative energy, designing, repairing and making farm & draught animal equipment, building eco-houses, arable & animal husbandry and welfare, animal handling and teaching. They previously owned and ran an Eco-farm/project in Devon near where my husband grew up which is where he became friends with their son Jake. You can read more about them, see their courses, apply to volunteer or book to stay on their website http://www.eco-etho-recherche.com
It was a great experience and really interesting to see how they live in such a self-sufficient way. It was great for our kids who are early risers and lovers of the outdoors. For them to have something to watch and engage with as soon as they had woken up in the morning was perfect, as on a farm the fun starts at 6 am. Although I do think they were a little bit too young to benefit from it as much as they could do. This particular Eco Farm is not in any way centred around very young children and is purely animal, research and sustainability focused… but it did make me think about what a great experience it would be for a family to stay on a working, self-sufficient farm that was kid friendly where, as part of the holiday the children can help and be involved in the everyday life of the farm. My husband grew up on a dairy farm in Devon and I know that from a very early age he was helping out on the farm. Wwoofer stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms http://www.wwoof.net and Marte and Chris have people regularly. I wonder what opportunities they might have for families…
From here we make the last leg of the journey down to Narbonne..TBC