Tuesday 4 September 2012


(Warning. Only read this if you are bored and the only other thing you could be doing is watching Celebrity Big Brother.)

Ooh la la! Sixteen glorious nights in the South of France. Oh my heart could weep at the thought of it all being over, but alas it is and I am back, mes amies! Missed me? What do you mean, "non"...

What a grape time we had (sorry...)
We went to the Charente region which is about half an hour from Limoges.

May I point out that this post isn't about my cherry tree shop purchases because they don't seem to have any in France (zut alors).

The weather hit 40 degrees and we had a long drive down to the gite. My lovely parents treated us to the fortnight (along with my sister and her hubby). Sadly my brother and his wife live in Chicago and it was too far for them to come. Still, I managed to scoff the croissants they would have enjoyed, so every cloud...

We were the first to arrive (we did the Euro Tunnel), swiftly followed by my parents (who went on the ferry) and then my sister Anna and Danny (who flew).

The gite was incredible. It slept about a billion people and the space was divine. I needed a map to find my bedroom the first couple of nights (those who know me know that I have the worst sense of direction in the world, like ever!)

Straight away we felt at home.

Part of the front of the gite

View of the gite from the side
 It was a massive rustic farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Vines laden with grapes were growing just over the other side of the lane and cows at the foot of the garden. Bliss.

At night we could hear cicadas churping, a warm breeze would sweep its way through the balmy nights and the pond full of frogs would become a concert of croaking creatures all trying to find a mate. The frogs would often leap out of the pond and wandered up to us. A bit freaky at first, especially when a toad-like amphibian jumps right up to your plates of meat, practically breathing on your big toe. But we soon became firm friends.

The garden was glorious and there was a herd of cows at the bottom of the garden who would come up every evening to watch the children on the trampoline.

Although I've just noticed there are NO cows in this pic. There are later!

The inside of the gite was just as lush - and it had five bathrooms which is probably why things were so calm!

I spy my little sis on the trampoline

There she goes again with the Prince. Like Tigger.

I think everyone was happy!

We found some dear little kittens with their mother who regularly visited us:

The pond, filled with the loveliest frogs I could ever hope to meet. 

We breakfasted on the patio every single morning.

My mum's amazing homemade granola

And the odd naughty bit of croissant too of course!

We were inland but there was an amazing swimming lake with beach that we went to most days.

The Princess made friends with two brothers who were English (and by some bizarre coincidence, used to live in my home town, although we didn't know them) and they had moved to France seven years ago. The threesome became firm friends for the fortnight.

Look at her, trying to play it well cool.

They taught her French (they are bilingual) and they spent their days floating on the inflatable croc we bought (which the Princess lovingly named Austin).

Austin took up most of our car so my dad offered to transport him to the lake daily. By the end of the fortnight, Dad was gagging to pop Austin.

We actually used Austin to re-enact the famous scene from Crocodile Dundee early one morning (you know, the bit with the skimpy thong, the lake and the croc) which was a silly idea I cooked up one evening. Sadly it can't ever end up on You Tube as everyone banned me from doing so, but let me tell you, the Husband is a very good sport and that's all I can say...

Ho hum, moving on. (Is anyone actually still reading this? Maybe Celeb Big Bro has been hotting up).

Happy as Larry as long as there is a lolly in hand

Perfect for the bairns

Fifty Shades of Mahogany
Sneaking in another cocktail with me sis (terribly stressful)
Oh go on then darlin', just one more
(it would be rude not to, huh!)

En famille (Rob, you were WELL missed)
Danny and the Princess "chillin'"
Lazing around en famille, why can't life always be like this?!

I used plenty of this:

Don't fret, I used factor 30 too!

We had a bit of a laugh for the duration of our time together, it has to be said.

The Princess with her Auntie Anna, being silly, as always.
Men being men. Barbecuing MEAT (said in manly voice)

 Anna cooking some nosh

Eat your heart out Nigella

The early evening visitors
View from our garden

Which one of you will read me my bedtime story?
"And then one of us jumped over the moooon..."

Thank GAWD we didn't have steak on the barbie....

They were so gorgeous. Don't mention the horseradish...

Excuse me pinny, I was being all domestic, like.

We spent a day in a wonderful place with its own fairytale castle. We ate, shopped and watched a wedding (the bride was stunning and the guests were tres chic).

Look and learn, Malory Towers, look and learn.

Eat your heart out Hogwarts
 You could dress up at the top of the castle:

The Princess was in her element. 

The Husband. Yes I know. Very worrying.

I spy ma and pa

My favourite couple in the world
Oh get a room, already!
Everything was devoured. We had to order more. Oh dear!
Proof. What pigs. Cochons!

We went on the Velo Rail. An old disused railway line which you can now cycle along, on a weird sort of wagon. You all go off individually and need to keep 50m distance between each wagon. Two of you cycle at the same time and it was flipping fab!

Bradley Wiggins, hereth I cycleth. Look at the bairns!

See, you all start in a row, waiting for the others to join behind.

Then you split. There's my family in front, Anna, Danny, Mum and Dad. 
Gotta love the baguette when you stop the Velo Rail for lunch

We went out for some lovely meals. My kids ate snails!!! FACT!

This is the Princess's  "new" cherry tree dress.
It's lush, will show case it properly another time

Anna and Danny - AKA Danna
 The Husband and I attempted to go out for a romantic meal together to the gorgeous town below but guess what, everything was shut (this happens a lot in France!) but still, I loved the view. 

It was wonderful to spend so much time with my parents. They've been married a very long time (38 years) and I feel very blessed to have had such a brill holiday with them both.

I think this pic was taken just after we gorged ourselves silly on patisseries at the lake
They are an inspiration to me. It was our tenth wedding anniversary while we were in France (thanks so much for your lovely messages/cards/emails, it meant a lot as it's a bit of a milestone). It was lovely to spend it all together, reminiscing about our big day.

The husband and I spent time alone enjoying cocktail sessions and in sunflower fields (my favourite flower - although I didn't have them at my wedding as it clashed with me colour scheme!). The south of France and sunflower fields go together like Kylie and Jason, biscuits and cheese, me and the Husband.

It almost looks fake!

Yo! (what a coy pose!)

Happy Anniversary, Flower (ooh cherry tree cardie alert)

Then unfortunately we began to notice a change in the Prince. Normally a cheerful chap, he went stroppy.

Look at that lip...

And grumpy. And subdued.

No he isn't wearing Rimmel mascara.....

Then his temperature went up to 40 degrees. So we nipped to a lovely doctor, I spoke my best French (i.e. crap) and after a couple of days (and forty gallons of Calpol) the boy perked up and we were back on track for more larks.

And finally...

There is one highly important piece of advice I picked up on this holiday.

When in France...

One egg is always an oeuf...


 So now we are home. The Princess starts a massive brand new middle school tomorrow which we are all excited about and the Prince starts preschool for the first time next Tuesday. I find that more daunting. He is rarely away from my side. I go to hang out the washing, he follows. I go to the loo, I don't go alone. He is my shadow and I shall miss him very much. It's the end of an era. The Princess is more outgoing and I know she will be fine, she is very excited.

And if that wasn't all mad enough. Guess what?

We move house in the next week or two!!! We've gone and bought ourselves a little house and all being well, we complete next week. It's been a crazy and stressful time but the holiday was our saviour and we now feel rejuvenated and ready for a chaotic few weeks.

We certainly don't do things by half in this family!

*Bof! is the title of this blog post because it's the only word spoken by a French character called Claud that my sister has invented. She does a great sketch of Claud smoking and drinking on his own in some French bar and at the end of this five minute sketch, he just waves a hand in the air and says "Bof!", in the aloof way the French carry off so well.

PS If you did read this to the end, crikey, go give yourself a high five. I truly salute you.


Vintage Coconut said...

*High Fives self*
Your post went good with a fresh coffee as it turns out. Plus I am all caught up on Big Brother so seriously I didn't have much to do. *heheeh*

The Gite is gorgeous! So plain and simple and the red flowers on the sides of the door just bring everything together.
A frog pond sounds lovely I have always had a soft spot for frogs.

I have been telling my Husband I wanted a Austin all summer and he never listened! (I will just go ahead with the purchase next summer.)
I love your sparkle jelly shoes. *so cute*
At laughed at the pic of your husband at the top of the castle "OMG AHAHAH"

Great post makes me want to go on a vacation Asap!

justjill said...

Scrummmy. Set me up for the day. Thaanks.

Cuckoo said...

High fived and poked meself in the eye!

Glad the move is out in the open, thought I'd slip up at some point. Phew! Here's hoping it goes swimmingly.

I doubt you'll have time for a natter what with all the business ahead but if you fancy a wail and a giggle pick up the blower.

OMG, Big crush on The husband in a frock a top of a castle!

Julia said...

Yay you're back!! I have missed you and read your fab post to the very end, giggling as always at your take on life. It looks like you had the most fantabulous time, spent with the ones you love. Great pics and the gite looks amazing. Hope the princess has a good time at school and that next week goes well for the prince xx

sandiart said...

What to say, what to say!!!! What a huge post, so huge that at the end you can either click on 'Home' or 'Older Posts' haha. It all looked fab and I swear the Prince has changed a bit in his face, more 'grown up'
Congrats on the new home, you will feel so much more settled and you can do what ever you want inside and out.
xox Sandi

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

I AM HERE. I am finally here, waiting for you to come back to tell all.

Gem my dear, you are one of my favorite early morning EUROPEAN reads. You have brought such delight to me this morning....where do I begin? The HUSBAND DRESSED UP as a DEMOISELLE? The cocktails with your sister? The fabulous gite and all its comforts? Your wonderful and GORGEOUS PARENTS in love? DANG, WOMAN! You know how to live, let alone PARTY, TAKE A FINE VACATION (holiday chez nous, les américains) and take pictures that really communicate the fun.

I love France. I love being there with the ones I love and you have had a splendid time. It is so good to see you again and I LOVE THE COWS!!!!! I love the one where THEY are telling the prince a bedtime story.

You rock sista!!! Anita

Alex said...

*high fives all round*

All I can say is WOW! What a stupendously lovely holiday that was. I am full of envy.

And aren't you a good looking family?!

Anonymous said...

High five Gem! Great to have you back,I loved sharing your holiday snaps,it looks magnifique ;)
Very good luck to the kiddies on return to school and the prince starting pre school. So exciting with the house,hope all goes smoothly,take care lovely,Xxxxx

little homebird said...

High five Gem! I read to the end, love your posts! What a fab holiday you had. Sounds exciting about the move, looking forward to seeing pics of your new house. Hope it all goes smoothly for you.

Ali xx

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...


Do you know how thrilled I was yesterday to see that you had posted? And double thrilled to see that you came to see me? I often tell my husband about your antics on the beach with the surfers, the firefighter uniform "malfunctions" and other hilarious romps with your kids and I had to tell him about your husband posing as a demoiselle on the tower. He smiles. SO GOOD TO SEE YOU MY DEAR and I look forward to more beautifully written accounts of your life, your finds and your beautiful mind!


Marina said...

Yay you're back!!! Very pleased to see your post this morning - settled down with a cup of tea to read, only to be rudely interrupted by a wailing Baby Boy who needed a nappy change, now, after not one, but two stinky nappies later here i'm am finally getting to finish your wonderful post! Ohhh makes me want to be there it looks absolutely fantastic, what an amazing fortnight you had! Such great photos!!
I also thrilled to hear your good news re the house!! Sending you all my best wishes for the completion next week - I know just how stressful these times are so hoping it goes as smoothly as poss for you all!! Looking forward to hopefully hearing about the new house in one of your future posts? perhaps? No news really my end re the sale of our house, though we do have a couple of first-time buyers coming for a viewing on Sat morning - fingers crossed, you never know! :) Also wishing the Prince & Princess the best of luck in their new school & nursery this week!!
Marina xx - Thank you also lovely for the sweet comment you left on my last blog post xx

fee @ chipper nelly said...

2 comments from Anita? what joy! Your post has given me le blues all over again...and I thought MY post was photo heavy!!! your sunflowers look beautiful - they had pretty much finished where we were. And how hot was it??? flamin' roasting!
lovely post
fee x

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

GEM GEM GEM...I adore you.

I am very happy that what I seem to think will NOT WORK as a blog post maybe can touch someone, and your comments are so kind. I too have to tear out the old chapters of my life so I can get on with the unwritten, new chapters to come. And let me just say that for me as well, when I read your posts, I am uplifted, put in a great state of mind and transported to the world of a friend way on the other side, but who has a life that is beautiful and full of charm. And say "YO, MISTA GEM!" to your husband, with a Boston accent!

Have a lovely evening and I look forward to your next post! Anita

Unknown said...

What a gorgeous post,your family holiday looked idylic,just love your take on life and how you write thing's down,good luck with your new house,my house goes on the market next week,stress here I come.hope your little lovelies are enjoying school, bye for the now
XX Manda XX

Gem said...

Wow you weren't kidding when you said it was a long post were you.

Sounds like you had a great holiday though, although it's a shame about the prince feeling unwell, not ideal when on holiday hey.

Loved the photo of the guys at the BBQ, also couldn't help but notice what the cows in the background were up to tee hee (sorry very childish mind!)

How sweet are your mum and dad, I think it is lovely they are still together and so in love after all that time, very unusual now a days.

The photo of the waiter and the cocktails brought one thing to mind FIT, I wouldn;t have blamed you for staying there all day ;p

x x x x

Jay said...

A high five for me! Lovely, lovely post - hope the start of school & pre-school went well. At my daughter's primary school we have a dragon called Bof who, if you're lucky (!) you get to bring home and write his French diary with him - he only speaks French!

Tracy Glover said...

Hi Gem,
Right. You might wan tto kill me now. Your parcel was resent back here as the labelling had come off and it was partially opened. I have had a few probs with post here, so god knows what had happned to it. The contentsare intact, so I resent it yesterday. I am really sorry as I know you had waited a long time already. They said it should only be a week so I will check with you for its arrival. Sorry again Gem.
Your hols look great.

Missy said...

Mrs, I'm way behind on all me commenting and the such like, but had to pop in to say that your holiday looks flipping gorge and I could marry it tomoz. Looks like you had a fab time with all your fam and it has made me well jel.
Very happy for you that you are moving again and I hope you are not straying too far from the beach, you seem to have so much fun down there.
I hope The Prince and Princess are having great larks at school and nursery. I'm sure the boy will be getting into all sorts of scrapes, he has that look in his eye.
Glad to see you back anyway, lady and hope you all settle into your new abode.

Grammy Braxton said...

High five here! Love the post. So totally NOT boring. It looks like you had a great time. So sorry the Prince got sick but glad it was a quick deal. Congrats on the new house and to all the upcoming changes! I so enjoy your blog.

Annaboo's House said...

Well, Missus- what a truly epic post!
Your holiday looks absolutely blimmin' A-MA-ZING.
My fab pic has to be the one of the hubby in the dress. T'will live etched on my memory for a long time!!
Looking forward to catching up with you soon. Good luck with the house move, too.
PS I did that acting job and it was a good laugh- there might be some more work from it, but we'll see!