On discovering that I was pregnant back in July 2002, I realised that, for my husband and I, our days of long haul holidays were over for the time being. As a first time expectant mother, I had a very naive belief that our lives would largely continue as before, with perhaps a few minor changes. The birth of baby Barnaby in March this year shattered my romantic illusions. Now life was so unpredictable, surely a holiday abroad was out of the question?
The answer came when I spotted an advert in the back of the NCT’s ‘New Generation’ magazine. A gite in southwest France. It looked perfect. The group of gites offered child friendly facilities and could provide, a cot, a steriliser, and high chair. This immediately sorted out some of the luggage problems and meant that there was still room for the Kitchen sink in our baggage. Plus it was only a short flight from Stansted airport.
Despite the prospect of a short flight, an air conditioned hire car at the other end, I had visions, of calming a screaming child whilst waiting for a delayed flight, or pacing the aeroplane aisle with a air sick baby whilst other passengers looked on either tutting or smiling sympathetically. In reality neither of these things happened. The flight departed on time, and Barney bounced up and down on Dads knee, whilst Mum clung to her armrests. (I have always hated take off).
The weather was beautiful as we touched down and stayed lovely all week. Our hire car was ready and waiting, complete with a child seat that we had booked. We drove through ever increasingly beautiful French countryside. The flat fields giving way to stunning mountains, and sheer ravines as we got closer to our destination. Watching the vineyards and the traditional French farm buildings whizzing past, our moods were buoyant and the excitement increased. By the time we reached the main town of Cahors just 15Km from our holiday home, we felt the need to mingle with the French. The town was stunning. Cahors is a medieval market town with a picturesque river running through the town and a reputable French market. We were overwhelmed by the choice of restaurants, all with seating under large canopies in the street. We sat down and with the baby in his Buggy next to us, ordered in our best GCE grade 2 French, 2 salads and 2 Perrier’s (we couldn’t remember the word for water – at first!). We took our own food for baby as he was only in the early stages of weaning.
Our image of the French as aloof and slightly rude could not have been more wrong. They helped us with our language and smiled politely when we looked lost. They loved the baby and all the time we were stopped by people in the street who wanted to coo and play with Barney. They were particularly accommodating of children in restaurants. Which is very different from in England. Once when Barney started crying, I felt the panic rising in me as the attention of those around me was attracted. Far from frowning other eaters just wanted to help, and started smiling and laughing at him. With all this attention, the baby soon cheered up.
The gite was great. They were in attractive settings and well maintained. The group of gites were specifically aimed at attracting families and I only wished that Barney were a little older so he could enjoy everything on offer. There was a swimming pool, a trampoline, swings, dens, and a sand pit. After spending some days leisurely shopping in local towns, and others touring the countryside, we supped copious amounts of the local vin rouge (£1.50 a bottle!), and watched some of the most colourful sunsets we have ever seen, followed by wide navy skies full of zillions of stars.
We returned to England, happy and relieved, happy to be on home ground, but glad we had been a little adventurous on our first holiday with the baby and promising to ourselves to go even further a field next year.