© my mad little family

the joy and delight of william hunter howell.

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Chenac (it's in France) Was More Than Just Our First Family Holiday. It was Perfection.

 

 

I’m one of those people that has a medically-prescribed thinking problem. I think too much. I overthink too often. I think about everything, all day and, rather exhaustingly, all night too (that’s the worst, when you wake up 3am with a million dollar idea, and you force yourself to roll over and write it in your notepad, and then read it back in the morning and realise that jelly shoes for cats is the shittest idea ever and that you lost sleep over it).

 

Anyway, where was I before my mind went off on one of its thinking-tangents. Oh yeah, I think too much. I remember when I bought my widescreen TV and I made a big deal over what I would watch on it first, as if this was a symbolic moment that needed to be approached with caution. In the end, I chose Anonymous because it was about the most famous storyteller of all time and my TV was going to be used primarily as a vessel to tell stories. See what I mean.

 

So when it came to our first family holiday and Phoebe’s first trip abroad, it had to be right. That’s why we went with Chenac.

 

Phoebe was only 5 months old and we were defeated parents, sallow in skin, waving the white flag as we lost more and more ground in the battle of babydom. Mum was exhausted from having to get up every 2 hours to breastfeed Phoebe and I was exhausted from having to listen to mummy tell me about how she had to get up every 2 hours to breastfeed Phoebe. So we needed to find a holiday destination that was relaxing, and I mean relaxing.

 

No busy beaches where we would have to be wary of high-tides and English football hooligans. No cities where we would have to navigate long flights of stairs with push chairs and baby equipment, and run the risk of sleepwalking into a busy road. No, we wanted quiet. We wanted peace. We wanted unrivalled beauty, and a place to exhale louder than a divorcee at her first yoga class. And we got it in the form of Chenac, which is on the west coast of France, nestled nicely in the vineyards between Bordeaux and La Rochelle. (Oh Chenac you gorgeous secret, you!!)

 

So we packed the car, headed to the airport and spent a week at La Blanchetterie, which is a staggeringly beautiful Charentais farmhouse and gite, which is the French’s very sexy and succinct way of saying they have a fully-furnished cottage that’s perfect for self-catered vay-kay’s. Of course, we opted for the catered option for three reasons:

 

  1. I can cook but it is limited to halloumi burgers and bolognese (not together).

  2. We weren’t in search of Relaxation, which is a mythical creature with four hooves and a horn on its head.

  3. Katie, our adoring hostess with the mostess, is the most incredible chef, and I mean incredible.

 

Basically we were looked after better than Jay-Z and Beyonce when they had their first baby. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner on the veranda of ab stone farmhouse, situated on the edge of the small village of Chenac in the Charente Maritime area of France, view looking out over the swimming pool and acres of garden, down over the endless vistas of vineyards and fields of beaming sunflowers, and on to the Gironde. It is like the most peaceful and relaxing place you can ever hope to escape to, except for those fancy and overpriced spa resorts where you pay £1600 to put old cucumbers on your face and bath in mud for 3 days straight. But even then, they don’t have the same views that Chenac has, then again not a lot of places do.

 

It’s so quiet there. I guess that was what was so nice. There was nothing tangible around us. It was just barbecues, boules and bicycles. Swimming, tennis and nice strolls in the afternoon heat, before bottles of local wine in front of endless skies, colourful and cloudless, streaks of rouge and heron reaching out as far as we could see.

 

But quiet doesn’t mean boring. Oh no. Not with us anyway. Actually, not with any family, as any parent will attest, because the moment you hear quiet is the moment you know something mischievous is about to go down. In this case we had an incredible coastline to explore, one that reminded me of the North Norfolk coast with it’s salt marshes, big skies, local markets, historical towns and fishing boats, oh so many fishing boats. Not to mention mussels.

 

But the best thing was, none of it was busy. It was a matter of playing in the gardens and swimming whenever we wanted without any interruptions and without worrying about our post-baby figures (what, I say we were pregnant which means I can use it as an excuse for my figure if I want to). It was a matter of grabbing lunches in quiet town centres, and zooming down to the local docks on a Vespa (and a car) to soak up the sun, feed some wildlife, enjoy a mad array of crazy tasty ice-creams and play in the parks, then go and explore (and we mean explore) the gorgeous labyrinth that is this old fortified town right on the coast that had something to do with an old King called Edward or John or Susan or something, with this picturesque cobbled streets, friendly-faces and some of the most taste-bud-tantalising dishes I’ve ever had. Head to the markets and eat cheese, smelly-smelly cheese, and buy fresh oysters and cold cured hams and the warmest of baguettes and tuck into a right-there-and-then picnic, and get a tan at the same time (unless you are me and you get burned by the light in your fridge). 

 

 

 

It may sound like the tamest holiday ever, tamer than a kitten born without fangs or claws. At least to anyone who hasn’t experienced the exhaustion of life with a newborn baby. But for anyone who has experienced what it is to be so tired that you pour a coffee and then put the kettle in the fridge by accident, or so tired you’ve left the house and got on the bus without remembering to put on their suit trousers, or accidentally used their partner’s breast milk when making tea for guests, if this is you, and you need a break that involves no thinking at all, then pack your bags, jump on a flight or take a road trip, and get to the sanctuary of La Blanchetterie where you will be waited on like a Kardashian or a Jenner, or Karjennerian or whatever the f**k they are called.

 

Now Go... Go. Go. Go.

 

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