April in Pagel (written by Kate Howells, visiting member)
Widowed with children and holidays do not make easy bedfellows. The very idea of trying to have a ‘normal’ holiday often seems out of reach but now there is Pagel in April. Page, in the LOT region of Southern France, is an old farmhouse with guest accommodation run by Mark and Lara Bishop. In April each year, Mark and Lara offer WAY members the opportunity to go and stay for free in their beautiful Gites.
Pagel is a paradise for children up to the age of 12. There is everything for kids, heated swimming pool, trampoline, sandpit, numerous swings, slides and climbing frames, playhouse full of toys and books, a play fort complete with swords and shields and battery operated ride on jeeps! Each Gite is fully equipped for self-catering, including delicious fresh blue towels and interesting books. There is also a washing machine and all sorts of baby equipment that can be borrowed during the stay.
This year I stayed in a gite with my two boys and two other WAY members who came without their teenage children. As our balcony overlooked the pool and play areas, I was able to sit in the sun and chat with anyone who happened to be passing.
There were five other WAY’ers from all over the UK and we had all made our way to Pagel by different airports, in various travelling combinations. We all hired our own car, which was essential, as Pagel is rural.
Honestly we could have stayed at Pagel all week, and for two days we did just that. There are lovely walks nearby but what my children adored was playing with the other children (‘all without Daddies’ as my son commented) My favourite sights were of little Fleur aged 3 holding hands with Hannah 20 months negotiating the path up to the swings and of the boys sitting behind a huge sand wall just chatting.
Bedtime rather went out of the window, my boys went to bed as the sun began to go down 9.00pm and woke about 9.00am in the morning eager to go out to play. I sat in bed and read my book (unheard of at home as I get involved with making ‘warm honey milk’ and organising the TV viewing – not so at Pagel!). Both children were up and dressed, clinging onto a huge pain au chocolat as they raced out of the door to ‘bag’ the trampoline.
We explored this beautiful part of France too; a wonderful boat trip in Cahors, caves with prehistoric paintings at Ruffingnac, The Abbey and Castle carved into the rock at Roccamadour, and the medieval city of Carcassone by horse drawn carriage!
My lasting memory will be of a long table set for lunch for about 20 adults, where we all sat and ate delicious balsamic onion and goats cheese tart, chatting and laughing. We had made it – a holiday after all the heartache. We were meeting other adults, sharing our stories, shedding tears amidst all the laugher and joy that can be found in the middle of the turmoil. Somehow we were all in this together and these friendships would see us through. Pagel friendships would last much longer than the week’s holiday. A big ‘THANK YOU’ to Lara and Mark for a most precious gift.
If you would like to be considered for a place at Pagel in April 2005, please contact:
Carole Ellis via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via the WAY telephone number 0870 011 3450.