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Anne-Marie Francis & family spend a superb long weekend in SW France
Tracey & Stuart Scher describe their Country Kids package as "Outdoor and activity holidays in France for city kids & their parents", but actually it is so much more than that.
We arrived at Toulouse airport (on EasyJet from Gatwick) on Thursday evening, picked up our rental people carrier and headed out into the twilight bound for Le Fossat, a small village an hour or so south of Toulouse. It was at that point we realised that we didn't have a map, just some directions emailed to us by Tracey before we left...we just had to hope that we could follow them in the dark.
As it turned out there was no need to worry - the directions were perfect and we arrived at the farm, Maurel, at about 10pm. We were enthusiastically welcomed by the Scher dogs, closely followed by Tracey & Stuart who helped us into our home for the weekend, "The Old Farmhouse". This tastefully restored and well-equipped farmhouse actually does feel like it's a home - there's comfortable, attractive and functional furniture here; an excellent kitchen; a lovely large dining table easily capable of seating a dozen adults; luxuriant beds with quality linen; a couple of great bathrooms, lovely art on the walls and a fantastic array of toys, puzzles, videos and DVDs to entertain us all. There was a complimentary bottle of local wine and a delicious-looking bag of nougat sitting on the table next to "our file" - we'll come back to that in a bit - and the fridge and cupboards were stocked with the basics that we'd requested prior to arrival.
After saying goodnight to our amiable hosts and putting our sleepy kids into bed we settled down with the wine and the nougat to explore the aforementioned file. Inside we found a personalised welcome note, details of the activities that had been organised for us, an outline of exactly what was included in our stay, an "extras" price list (including homecooked meals if required), local information, more information about the farm, even details on how to call the emergency services.in short a marvellously comprehensive collection of documents that left us feeling confident that everything had been thoroughly thought through for us.
We woke to a magnificent dawn and fabulous views across unspoilt countryside to the (recently snow covered) Pyrenees from the balcony of the farmhouse. Our children couldn't wait to get out into the gardens which offer an expanse of grass, trampoline, climbing frame, slide, swing and a sand pit. Each morning Stuart does his farmer's rounds and takes along any children (or indeed adults) that feel like helping to feed the animals - chickens, sheep, horses and donkeys - that inhabit the fenced fields around the central garden area. This proved to be very popular with our eldest daughter Phoebe (8) particularly, and also introduced us to the other facilities available on the farm - a fenced swimming pool, table tennis, table football and a pool room and endless bikes, ride-on toys etc.
The weather was fantastic for the time of year (October) - 25C or more on each day of our stay - so we were able to spend many happy moments with tea, coffee, beer or wine in hand relaxing on the balcony, by the pool or in the garden while our children quite happily entertained themselves. We realised that this was the ideal place to holiday with a mixed age group of children. We were here with two year old twins, a 6 year old and an 8 year old. All of them were perfectly content to stay at the farmhouse with everything that it had to offer including the company of the four delightful Scher children. In fact Stella and Henry (2) hardly left the Farmhouse at all and spent many hours in toddler-heaven rotating from trampoline, to climbing frame, to sand pit, to trikes and bikes, back to trampoline whilst I simply 'supervised'!
Included in the price of a stay with Country Kids are a certain number of organised activities, and a number of evenings' babysitting (proportional to the length of your stay). We got to sample 3 of the activities - horse riding, quad biking and tree-top adventure. All of the activities are delivered through arrangement with carefully selected local professionals, and are tailored to your requirements. The sessions are instructive as well as fun, and if you want them to be, challenging.
Even though we weren't paying directly for the activities (although you can elect to pay for extra sessions over and above the inclusives), we felt like we were getting really good value for money. The horse riding and quad biking sessions lasted about an hour and a half each while the tree top adventure (climbing, swinging and sliding with ropes in and among the trees, with different levels of difficulty) lasted the whole afternoon after which we had to practically carry the children back to the car!
Our two older children enjoyed all three activities, but the quad biking was the winner in the holiday-highlight show of hands. It really was great fun. After a few practice laps of a relatively flat paddock we headed out on an all-terrain adventure that took us down hillsides, under bridges, along dirt tracks, up muddy banks, through a forest, even through a pipe! Guess what's top of the list for Santa...
The directions to each of the activities as well as to local markets, attractions etc together with how long it would take to get there had been included in our file, which was really helpful (and show just how Tracey and Stuart have thought of everything!). We spent our mornings around the farm, in the pool or at one of the lovely local markets then hopped in the car after lunch and headed out to our activity. It was all so terrifically well organised and very easy.
And something for the grown-ups
Now to the adults' holiday highlight - an evening out. We left our four in the care of Tracey for the evening, donned our evening wear (that is, changed out of shorts) and headed off, armed with yet another set of directions, for the restaurant that Stuart and Tracey had recommended and booked for us - Auberge Des Traouques in Montfa. This was an adventure in itself! We drove along dark winding forest roads and parked at the bottom of a hill beneath what we were told was a tiny hamlet. Sure enough we arrived at a wonderfully cosy and rustic Auberge where they serve a fixed menu. Three yes three starters followed by a choice of one of two main courses, followed by a cheeseboard to beat all cheese boards, dessert, wine, wine and more wine! The food was fantastic, the company convivial and the environment truly French. We had a brilliant evening and ate like royalty for an unbelievable 22 EUR each! Walking back to the car beneath a perfect starry night we tried to remember why it was that we'd only come for a long weekend...
Being so close to the mountains Tracey and Stuart also offer ski breaks for families and are introducing Country Tots for 2006 - a holiday that provides some childcare provision for younger children. For more information on this, see below. If Country Kids is anything to go by these holidays will be superbly organised and fantastically enjoyable. We can thoroughly recommend a holiday with Country Kids. Unsurpassable service and flexibility ensure that you get the holiday that you want in a happy, friendly and safe environment in the beautiful foothills of the Pyrenees.
Anne-Marie Francis, October 2005
Following on from the hugely successful Country Kids, Tracey and Stuart are introducing Country Tots for 2006. This is designed to cater for the needs of parents with babies and young children within a self catering holiday environment - which at babygoes2 we know from experience is one of the most sought-after holiday options.
Included in the price of the holiday is...
Prices from EUR 1900 - EUR 3450 for a family of four per week depending on season.
Special offer for babygoes2 visitors:
All babygoes2 visitors booking a Country Tots holiday will receive either a FREE manicure, pedicure, facial or a ½ hour massage when booking Country Tots and quoting babygoes2.com.
Contact us to request a quote.