Chateau Ribagnac, France
As 2 mums with 5 children between us (7, two 5 yr olds and twins 18 mths), we were looking for a short break somewhere warm, just a short flight from the UK, with plenty of space for our children to run around, key baby-friendly facilities and chance for us to relax and enjoy some beautiful scenery, good food and stylish accommodation. Chateau Ribagnac, just 20 mins drive from Limoges airport - itself a quick 1.5 hr flight from Stansted - looked as though it should tick all those boxes.
Château Ribagnac looks stunning on arrival with an impressive approach and beautiful grounds. We were greeted by the friendly owner Patrick who showed us to our rooms. There were some children's toys and a tent in the gardens so the children (including the twins) started playing straight away - a very relaxed arrival.
Rooms with views...
The rooms in the chateau are all individual, very attractive and provide excellent family space. The style and layout are different in each, which gives a good variety of options for potential guests. Most are suites, which are ideal for parents - with either living areas or separate rooms where children can sleep, or parents can relax, giving a good deal of flexibility.
We took 2 rooms - one was a very large room (Hydrangea suite) furnished in a traditional style, with a double bed, a sofa bed and 2 wooden cots with good quality cot linen. The other room was on the top floor - and more contemporary and minimalist in design - clean white walls, simply furnished bedroom with wooden bed and wardrobe and a spacious living area with sofa bed, tables and a very pretty double window overlooking the grounds. The toilet set in a turret - complete with tiny window - proved a big hit with all the children! The bathrooms in all rooms are very good - unexpectedly contemporary in styling with good quality showers and baths and attractive earth-toned mosaic tiling. The bed linen and towels were of a high quality and stylish throughout.
This is the first season for the Chateau and the renovation is still ongoing, so some of rooms have a slightly unfinished feel - it's advisable to speak to Patrick or Colette if you feel that anything is missing and they will do their best to provide it. The chateau is charming and atmospheric, and the rooms are stylish as mentioned, but not luxurious. There are no coffee and tea making facilities, although a room with kitchen facilities for the use of all guests is planned in the future.
There are 2 large common rooms for the use of guests. One is under renovation and the other serves as a dining room in cooler weather, and has sofas, tv, video player, cd player childrens books and guide books/info etc.
Dining under the stars...
After we'd settled into our rooms it was around 6 pm and we were provided with a very welcome kir and the children were served a delicious and healthy meal - pasta, chicken, fruit, yoghurt. Later on hors d'oeuvres and dinner are served for the adults and the quality remained high throughout our stay. Food was plentiful, delicious, well presented and interesting and accompanied by good wine. It's lovely to eat food which has been grown in the garden. The weather was perfect - hot and sunny and so both adults and children were able to eat outside.
The meals at the chateau are served at a single sitting and all guests eat around the table together. It was enjoyable to eat with the other guests, but meal times can get late as Colette and Patrick wait for everyone to be ready before serving the meal. Patrick is a genial host and was always very approachable and friendly. Each evening meal was an individual experience, and he played a central role.
Breakfasts were also of a very high standard - and served in a very relaxed manner.
Exploring the area
We spent our 3 days relaxing at the chateau and exploring the area. The children had a fabulous time. The lovely grounds provide a haven for children's play (wonderful for imaginative and physical play, adventure, learning about and experiencing wildlife and for exploring the great outdoors without constant parental intervention). The few play things (swing, slide, paddling pool, bikes) were ample. This gave us chance to relax and take in the tranquillity of our surroundings.
At the moment however there is no honesty area providing access to drinks, snacks etc for adults or children, so if you'd like to be relaxing with a glass of wine, a cool drink and perhaps a snack while your children play, then you'll need to equip yourself with this - we were at times without a car and were caught out by this. You'll also need to ask Patrick and Colette to store it in their kitchen as at present there is no communal fridge.
When we were mobile we explored - and there is a lot to see and do. Museums, cathedrals, markets, a Llama trek, lake beaches, theme park aimed at both younger and older children, safari park etc. Our older children really enjoyed the llama trek. The walks take from one to 4 hours and lunch and.or snacks are provided - the llamas take the strain of any hampers and bags! As it was so warm the nearby lake beach (there were 2 within just a few minutes drive of the chateau) was a huge hit - with soft sand, shaded picnic areas and clean, clear swimming (roped off sections for various ages) it was the perfect warm weather activity. Remember to take your own swimming towels however as the Chateau doesn't currently provide these.
The Chateau offers a variety of baby-friendly equipment to make life easier for parents - from good quality cots to sterilisers and baby monitors. All of these need to be requested in advance. Patrick and Colette will also purchase nappies and other supplies for guests if given enough advance warning.
Chateau Ribagnac is undoubtedly a lovely place to holiday with children, whether for a few days or for longer stays. The accommodation is spacious and attractive, the grounds beautiful and ideal for children to explore and play in, and the food is delicious. For us, it was helpful to have meals served on site since it solved the problem of having to locate either child friendly restaurants which serve food earlier enough for children, or of having to leave the children with a babysitter. You do sacrifice some flexibility however, in terms of dining times and choice of food. The grounds are great for relaxing in, and there is plenty to explore and do nearby.
The first season for any new business is always a key time for final adjustments and improvements, and the Chateau is no exception. We felt that a more information on the chateau and how things work would be a welcome addition, as would access to a fridge/larder or honesty area and the rooms could benefit from a few final touches to improve ambiance and comfort. None of this detracts from the charm of the Chateau however, and we enjoyed our break.
Special offer: Chateau Ribagnac is offering babygoes2 visitors 10% off bookings thoughout the remainder of 2004. Simply quote babygoes2 to benefit.
Contact: www.chateauribagnac.com tel: 00 33 (0)5 55 3977 91.