AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE HOLIDAY IN FRANCE


The House in Apremont


When your good friends ask you if you'd like to pop over to France with them to stay a week in their holiday home - there's only one answer.  YES of course!!(And thank you!)

My friends bought their lovely holiday bungalow some years ago so I have visited two or three times previously, but they have completely renovated it since then, and it is absolutely gorgeous - and I'm not biased, I just love clean comfortable accommodation - ok, verging on luxury if I'm honest!

In fact the house is so popular, that they rarely get the opportunity to relax and enjoy what they have created, since it is rented out most of the summer months. The house is in the pretty village of Apremont in the Vendee region in the west of France.

Maison Blanc nestles between fairytale chateaux, ancient walled towns, traditional coastal resorts  and natural wonders. But best of all, it's a real home from home, with every modern convenience, from Sky TV and Alexa to a modern fitted and fully functioning kitchen. There is also a washing machine in the utility room, which means you don't have to fill your suitcase with more clothes than you need. Towels and bedding are provided.




From the UK it is possible to either fly or drive, and we have done both in the past.  This year we flew from Leeds/Bradford airport (local to us here in Yorkshire) to Limoges, but we have previously taken the ferry or flown from East Midlands airport.

For me the beauty of Apremont is the tranquil countryside and the peace and quiet, which may not be for you if you want to party.  It is the perfect spot for family holidays, with a double bedroom, two twin rooms, a shower room with loo and a separate toilet.  There are games and books in the cupboard, bikes in the garage, and the piece de resistance is the swimming pool in the garden, with plenty of sunbeds, so no need to get up at the crack of dawn to fight over your sun lounger. The home is tastefully decorated and furnished, and the lovely conservatory at the back of the house is light and airy. There are also a number of  nearby activities and places of interest to satisfy everyone in the family - leaflets are available at the house. 

Closest to the house is a small beach and river, which in summer has swimming and boating available to keep everyone happy, and the best thing is, it's just a 10 minute walk away.

Elsewhere, local amenities and nearby towns are only accessible by driving, so hiring a car is a necessity as public transport is nil.




After a busy and stressful year, I was ready for a little rest and recuperation, so reading a couple of books, relaxing by the pool and pottering around the shops was such a treat.  We ate out on the patio when the weather allowed us and there was one magical moment in the late evening when we turned out all the lights as we were locking up.  The night sky was a deep indigo and there were more stars than I've ever seen.  It was such a clear night - and no street lights - so we could see millions of stars - not all of them very bright, but it conjured up such a perfect feeling of peace and tranquility.



The village has only a handful of shops - a patisserie, a Spar grocery shop, a pretty jewellery shop (yes I bought some earrings!) and a couple of restaurants.  Highlight of the day was the stroll to the patisserie for fresh crusty French bread, buttery croissants and pain au chocolat.  I was lucky not to come back heavier than when I started, because the bread is so delicious, we ate it every day, usually sitting at the outside patio table in the early morning sunshine.



Days Out


One of the nearest towns is Challans, and we spent a couple of hours in the morning browsing the shops.  It is useful to note that although it wasn't high summer during our visit, the shops operate siesta times and close around lunchtime, re-opening in the late afternoon.  But there were still people drinking coffee and beer all day at pavement cafes - all very French!


St Gilles Crux de Vie is the nearest seaside resort to Apremont, with its charming small inlet harbour,  Unfortunately we mis-judged the timing and only had a short time there before the shops closed, but we enjoyed a coffee in one of the many cafes and strolled along the harbour after the tide came in.  There is also a fabulous old fairground carousel at the end of the pedestrianised street - very picturesque! It is also possible to get a ferry boat to the small island of Ile D'Yeu, though it is a place we have never been - maybe that's something for another visit.



St Gilles was originally two separate towns, St Gille de Vie and Croix de Vie, separated by the River Vie, and grew up around boat building, where today there are now five factories of leading boat builders. Anglers are able to hire boats for the day to take them out into the Atlantic for a spot of sea fishing if that takes your fancy.

Another day we ventured to the seaside resort of Les Sable de L'Onnes, which has the most amazingly long golden sandy beaches - a dream during the summer months, and ideal for young families.  It is also the largest local port, bringing in fresh fish to the restaurants.  There are plenty of water sports to choose from, though it was a little too early in the season to see much activity, other than wander round the boat yard and admire the small boats and yachts.

Les Sable is also home to the Golden Globe Yacht Race, last held in 2018, with a countdown to the next race in 2022.



I always love to visit La Rochelle with its traditional old harbour, and contrasting modern marina. There's also a fabulous 14th Century Lantern Tower and 15th Century fortress to explore, as well as an aquarium for the kids, a number of museums and a lovely beach. Of course we managed to find a few very nice shops along the way, pausing for lunch at one of the many harbour-side restaurants.


However much as I love La Rochelle it was a bit of a trek for our driver (otherwise known as my friend's hubby) and a six hour round trip drive, so it's probably worth spending a separate few days there. Being a port, of course, the seafood is delicious, and no visit to France would be complete without a meal of Moules et  Frites (mussels in a delicious cream sauce with fries for those who don't parle Francais).

There are boat trips around the coastline from La Rochelle, including one to Fort Boyard, which has had a chequered history and was latterly briefly used as a military prison. Am I the only one who remembers the strange  TV game show filmed there with Leslie Grantham (of Dirty Den East Enders fame) and Melinda Messenger?

Our last night in France as we made our way back to the airport was an absolute gem - and another place which we discovered was so interesting, it would be good to have spent more than a night there.  We had booked a small gite in Saint-Priest-sous-Aixe just outside Limoges so we were near to the airport for our morning flight.  What a perfect spot!  We didn't really know what to expect but the little hamlet was a touch of paradise.




Our little house was a converted barn, part of a complex dating back 1,000 years, and largely owned by one family.  The owner had an English father who served in France during WW11, married a French girl and stayed there. The little house had everything we needed for the night, including wifi, and a fully stocked, if rustic kitchen.  The rickety stairs led to two bedrooms - a double and twin, with a loo upstairs and a toilet and shower downstairs.

We enjoyed a relaxing glass of wine in sun loungers watching the kayakers navigate the small weir as they made their way downstream, which we followed up with a relaxing stroll along the riverbank, passing some very rusty tractors which haven't seen any work this century!  I think it was yet another one of those absolutely perfect moments where you totally let go and relax.



We ventured into the nearby town of Limoges, which was so pretty, with its porcelain shops and medieval buildings.  The Rue de La Boucherie is not to be missed, with its quaint doorways and beautifully restored architecture. The original butchers shops now house such diverse businesses as an historic library, antiques and a seamstress - not a butcher in sight! As always in France, there are museums and churches to visit, but our time there was fleeting, so definitely worth another visit.


The perfect end to a lovely week!

Booking information for Maison Blanc in Apremont available here or here or here (take your pick). With grateful thanks and much love, as always, to Paul and Gillian Hargreaves for a fabulous break.

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