I was runner-up in this competition a few years back with a piece I wrote about a holiday in Cheval Blanc. From what I can remember I had a brilliant time despite being with my family.
Holiday with your parents when you are in your forties and you run the risk of upsetting the owner of your French gîtes.
On arrival, my brother and I stepped out of the car to hear Madame exclaim, “les enfants?” with extreme disappointment. It was only later when we discovered a myriad of toys, dolls and chocolate animals that we realised pauvre Madame had expected us to be thirty years younger than we actually were.
Our home for the next two weeks was nestled on the edge of Luberon National Park, near the tranquil village of Cheval Blanc in Vaucluse.
The garden was vast and bursting with wildlife. Red Kites soared majestically on thermals, exquisitely-patterned lizards decorated stone walls like object d’art, red squirrels clattered through the trees scattering pine cones in their wake and giant electric blue dragonflies hunted wood wasps with military-like precision.
Being intrepid explorers my Dad and I undertook several of the well mapped out trails through the park. We searched for wild herbs up impossibly steep slopes which quite literally took our breath away. Whilst we stopped to wheeze under trees, local octogenarians would casually cycle past us and wave, completely sweat free.
Our holiday became a quest to find the finest of foods and like pigs on the hunt for truffles we unearthed many a delicacy from the bustling local market in historically-rich Cavaillon. Runny cheeses, fit to burst cherries, celeriac rémoulade, religieuses, lavender cordial, delicate poppy macaroons, obese olives, hearty wild boar sausages, soft pork rillettes, garlic bulbs which looked like they would fail a steroid test, still twitching seafood, buttery madeleines and ripe musky melons were all gleefully stuffed into our bags.
The search for great wines took us up to the dizzying heights of Bonnieux where we discovered Cave de Bonnieux and its award-winning selections. We also popped into Château Val Joanis in Pertuis for a rousing ramble round its scent-laden gardens before sampling some of the château’s very own treasure trove of wines.
An outing to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse swept us past several tacky stalls to a 230 metre-high cliff which was the towering source of the beautiful emerald green River Sorgue.
We became horribly lost in Lourmarin looking for the grave of Albert Camus which meant we had to drive past a sombre funeral procession four times, each time sinking lower and lower into our seats until just our hats were visible to the mourners.
All of us delighted in the coquettishness of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which was full of art galleries, designer clothes shops and a thriving café culture for the chic. It was here amongst the fashionistas, I noticed Mum and Dad wearing socks with their sandals.
Saying goodbye to our holiday home was a very unhappy occasion, almost as sad as my parents having their lavender honey confiscated at Marseille airport. Not to worry, I suspect we’ll be heading back en famille for another indulgent holiday soon.