Over the last 12 months David and I have worked really hard, both on the house and our day jobs. We have taken a few days annual leave here and there, but mainly to do work on the house.
We needed a holiday – a proper break to recharge our batteries.
We both love travelling and exploring new places, but there is one place in the world that we love to return to time and time again – David’s family home in France.
We arrived in Nantes early on Sunday evening, picked up the hire car and drove the familiar route to the house. We opened up the house, freshened up and hungrily made our way to La Roche Bernard for a late supper.
There is something extra special about that first evening on holiday – you can exhale and feel all your worries fade, smug in the knowledge that you have two weeks of holiday bliss ahead of you.
The following morning, after a relaxing coffee in town, we went to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. In the afternoon we did nothing but make ourselves at home, lounge in the garden, read books and drink Aperol spritz.
Come supper time, feeling slightly woozy, we rustled up a simple supper – fresh langoustine and salad.
Determined to make use of the bicycles stored in the garage, that evening we got them out, pumped up the tires, adjusted the seats and took then for a test ride.
All around the house is beautiful open countryside and David and I relished at being free in it.
Tuesday’s plans were scuppered by some morning drizzle – unfortunately Brittany’s weather can be just as unpredictable as the UK’s. We took it as a sign to lay low and spent the day reading and snoozing.
When the sky’s cleared in the late afternoon we went for a gentle stroll down to the river.
There is a little spot, not too far from the house, where a few rocks jut out forming the perfect platform to sit and enjoy the river flowing past.
The house is situated near the Lower Loire wine region, in an area known for Muscadet. Feeling relaxed and well rested, on Wednesday we were set to do some exploring and made our way to Clisson, just south of Nantes, in the heart of the wine region.
Clisson is a picturesque little town and we had been reliable informed it was an excellent spot for lunch.
After a long and scrumptious lunch at Restaurant de la Vallee, we found our way to Château de Cleray for a tour and tasting.
Thursday is market day in La Roche Bernard – an event not to be missed!
Stocked up with lunch supplies, we headed to Kerhinet, a small chocolate-box village in the centre of la Brière Natural Park – the perfect spot for our picnic lunch.
After lunch, and a quick stop at the tourist office, we mapped our route for an afternoon bike ride – through the National Park, winding our way through its pretty villages and thatched cottages.
That evening, hungry from our bike ride, we went to La Roche Bernard for a delicious supper.
The following day, we went to Guerande – one of my favourite towns in Brittany. It is a charming medieval walled town, it has beautiful shops and is the perfect place to spend a morning slowly wandering down its narrow lanes and exploring its markets.
Feeling the heat of the sun, that afternoon we hired a canoe and took to the water for a very laidback paddle and meandered our way up the river.
After a day of rest on Sunday, reading and snoozing in the garden, Monday called for a little bit more action – so we made our way to the Guerande salt marshes for a guided tour.
The Guerande salt marches cover 1,700 hectares of land and produce 15,000 tons of cooking salt a year, using the same simple methods as a thousand years ago.
On our way home we picked up some locally caught mussels and that evening we dined on homemade moules marinière. Simple and delicious!
Tuesday, the 14th July, was La Fête Nationale – what we Brits refer to as Bastille Day. It is a day of celebration to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789.
Towns and cities all over France celebrate La Fête Nationale, so we decided to spend the day in La Roche Bernard and join in the festivities. During the day we hired a motor boat to explore a bit further up the river.
David and I took it in turns to be captain – a role which David took a slightly more relax approach to!
In the afternoon we found a good spot on the trestle tables and enjoyed watching the festivities start up around us.
Everyone eats moules and frites and drinks cidre or Muscadet. Children stay up late, bands play and everyone joins in the fun.
The evening is concluded with a spectacular firework display over the river.
After a long, lazy breakfast on Wednesday, we took to the water again – this time on a yacht. Gael, our captain, offers a tour of the Gulf of Morbihan aboard his yacht, La Betelgeuse.
I took my place on the deck, watched the world go by and felt completely relaxed and at ease with the world.
David on the other hand, could not resist the temptation to get involved and delighted in the opportunity to help pull up the sails and take over the stirring.
Thursday was set to be another hot hot day, so we spent our penultimate day on the beach.
David had discovered this great little restaurant, right on the beach that hire out sun loungers. Arrive early to secure your spot and then, once you are ready, you are welcomed into the beautiful restaurant for a mouth-watering three course lunch.
After lunch you can return to your sun lounger and enjoy the rest of the afternoon on the beach, with someone popping out every now and again to offer you ice cold drinks – very civilised.
On our last day, we enjoyed just being at the house and took a final stroll to our favourite spot by the river.
On Saturday we went for one last coffee in La Roche Bernard before departing for London.
This holiday was exactly what we needed – the opportunity to refocus, reenergise and come back ready to start our next project. The garden.