A party of eleven adults taking a week’s holiday rental in South West France with only one occasional linguist between us was definitely a gamble of sorts with our summer vacation time. Getting there was easy following Dominique’s Villas’ instructions – a flight to Bordeaux complete with ear plugs as the plane was awash with screaming kids all buzzed up by their own holiday excitement – then a rental car ride south on the motorway – no not an all exhausting stress producing challenge M25 style but a smooth cruise easily punctuated by a restful pull off for ablutions with no graffiti no rubbished landscape and the loos worked – nice start and nice surprise. The mill house was exactly as it looked in the brochure but smelt and felt of so much of Gascon heritage that its personality immediately embraced us with wonderful vibes for the week to come. Good old Dominique! No problem allocating bedrooms here as there are six en suite doubles of varying style and layout but not a “loser” among them plus a kitchen that Gordon Ramsay could operate if he wished to branch out into French country cooking, and the final touch was a photograph of our illustrious leader Tony and his wife Cherie in the main room taken when they recently stayed there. So something for everyone here and no shortage of local contact as we had regular visitors walking in asking to book for the restaurant (a previous occupation in the life of this house) which might have given us a rent free week had we taken their deposits for tables the following week.
A sharp reminder of holiday pitfalls then spilled out of the woodwork as the short straw winners set out in preparation of our first in-house meal for eleven with the pans sizzling, oven roasting and music blaring that first evening when whammy! Out went the electricity supply for the whole place and suddenly we were forcibly transported back to bygone days when it was all done by candlelight and wood stoves. Fortunately us Brits do have the top humour rating in Europe and boy did we need it that night with goodly crates of wine luckily purchased that afternoon at the French rate of 4 Euros a bottle for something eminently drinkable. After much Gallic shrugging and a call to Dominique in London our problem was solved by the local electrician the next day – pretty good service all things being considered.Not much to do in South West France which seems to have English type weather plus a few degrees?... well, considering the diversity of age and lifestyle within our group we found the swimming pool and garden easily took care of the sunny bits including a forerunner to volleyball at the Olympics which brought out competitive edge bonding big time, then the locality easily filled in the rest with street markets, wine tasting, armagnac supping, fishing, boating, mountain biking, and châteaux bashing. Phew! Time to go home already with memories of a soft and easy piece of France with tidy organised countryside, open roads reminiscent of England in the 1960s and populated by locals with friendly faces and pleasant manners – just remember they all disappear from twelve to three each day so don’t expect too much!