Sunshine and Butterflies…

We’ve just had a really relaxing and peaceful holiday, something I didn’t think was possible with a 20 month old (Freya) to entertain who is constantly on the go. The three of us spent a week in the Lot Valley at a Gite called Pagel in the South of France.  Pagel is a secluded hamlet in the Lot region, consisting of the owners’ farmhouse, four three-bedroomed Gites (ours would have slept 6 adults, two kids and a baby in a cot), a studio apartment and a heated swimming pool. It is about a mile from the nearest small village, and three miles from the town (which has a grocers, bakers, small supermarket and not much else apart from a beautiful lake to picnic beside).

The Gites have been lovingly restored from an old barn and have all the trappings a family could possibly want. Mark and Lara, the (English) owners, have two children of their own (Benjamin and Charlie), and have used their experience to ensure that every little detail is thought of – from cots, high-chairs, stair gates, etc., through to plastic cutlery and plates, and plenty of toys provided to suit the age range of your child. The welcome basket of  food and vases of fresh tulips provided the finishing touches and ensured that we felt really at home immediately we arrived.

The Gites don’t have t.v’s which had made us a little nervous (what no ‘Noddy’ Mummy??), but we were relieved to find that it is possible to hire one, and a video plus lots of tapes for all ages – however, we didn’t make use of the service all week. Freya didn’t even notice she was without her beloved Tractor Tom video (and I can’t say I missed it either). We also didn’t avail ourselves of the baby-sitting service offered by Lara and Mark – although that had been one of the main attractions when booking the holiday – we were just having such a nice relaxing time we didn’t want to go out! During the days (which were blissfully sunny) Freya was a blur of activity running from the playhouse (full of all sorts of toys), to the play fort, to the sandpit, to the trampoline (or ‘timpotine’ as she preferred to call it). She tootled around on an assortment of bikes, tractors and cars, ably assisted by both Charlie (3) and Benjamin (7) who were excellent hosts. Meanwhile we were forced to partake of the (extremely good) local wine and sit in the sun reading books. In the morning whilst we had breakfast in the sun on the patio we could listen to woodpeckers and cuckoos in the surrounding woods. We did venture out occasionally – the countryside is so beautiful that it was enough to take a picnic to the lakeside and watch Freya trying to catch butterflies. But there are also a variety of attractions within easy driving distance (and a good local bus and train service too) – plenty of grottos to explore and the spectacular Chateau de Bonaguil and easy hours drive away. Further afield there are the attractions of the Dordogne, and Toulouse, whilst the nearest major city is Cahors which is famous for its attractive medieval fortified bridge – alas I can’t describe these as we enjoyed Pagel so much we found very little reason to go further than the patisserie for our morning croissants! Holidays with children can seem difficult to organise and it might feel as if you need to take a small truck full of ‘stuff’ – at Pagel you can leave all the organising to Mark and Lara and prepare yourself for a wonderfully restful break (and prepare the kids for a fun packed experience). If you are looking for a truly family friendly holiday I highly recommend a visit – I know we’ll be visiting again soon.

Beccy Bowden

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