Dordogne, France 2012

As a child I have visited the Dordogne more than 10 times, as my parents had a motor home placed on a beautiful campsite in Belvés. We would visit every year, and spend every day keeping active, visiting a castle or heading to the local French markets before heading back to the campsite for a swim and some table tennis with my brother and sister. We would end the afternoons with a delicious BBQ with salad and French bread prepared by my step mum. I always remember watching the clear sky at night in a lounge chair next to my dad, hoping to catch a shooting star, and also seeing the International Space Station (ISS) fly over.

Good memories were made here, so when my grandparents bought the motor home from my parents I wanted to take Lennart to the place where all those good memories were made. So for 2012 our summer holiday was for 8 days in the south of France with my wonderful grandparents.

Zoe and Dad France 2003
Dad and Me back in 2003 by the river Dordogne, France

This trip was special for me as I was able to spend time with my grandparents. When I lived back in England I would see them very often, but when they retired early to move to France I was still very young. I had a strong bond with them both and with every holiday to France with my parents included a visit to my grandparents in their French home in Normandy. They had a beautiful old mill house with lots of land to grow vegetables and a little stream for some fishing, they were in their element. Since growing older and moving to the Netherlands the holidays stopped to France and I was travelling with Lennart more. Plus my travelling grandparents had lived in France for up to 10 years so last year they moved back to England to be close to family again. So this opportunity to have a vacation together felt perfect to rekindle the strong bond and to make more good memories with Lennart in the Dordogne.

Grandparents and Me

The week started off perfect with 35°c and a cool breeze. We were met with a warm welcome by my grandparents at the airport, as they were picking us up with their car. It was very exciting to be back, and I couldn’t wait to show Lennart what my summer holidays used to be like. For the week we had planned a day for renting canoes, a day for a visit to a castle or two and the rest of the week to enjoy the French markets, eating French bread and drinking French wine.

Well we first decided to get away from the warm weather into some caves called Gouffre de Proumeyssec. It was a perfect choice as we were literary baking outside in the sunshine! My grandparents also joined us inside to see the crystal formations and the pure crystal water. Since Lennart is 6ft 4 he found certain parts of the cave extremely low, but enjoyed the views and the coldness deep underground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA beautiful little place to stop for a drink and eat some ice cream is La Roque-Gageac. We took a walk to the top to see the amazing views of the Dordogne. It was so lovely to walk up and down the paths with Lennart and my grandparents that I had walked years before with my dad, step mum, brother and sister. From this little picturesque town we watched the canoers and kayakers go past, enjoying every second of our time together.

The castle we decided to visit was Castelnaud. To get there you need to walk up the hill, and by this day it was 40°c so we were all knackered as we reached the top! It was a little too much for my grandparents, so while Lennart and I paid for the tickets to explore the castle they slowly headed their way back down for a coffee and a slice of cake by the water. The last time I visited the castle was more than 6 years ago, so experiencing it again with Lennart was really nice. The exhibitions were explained well in English and from the castle grounds you have a fantastic panorama view of the Dordogne. A must see for all ages!

Me and Lennart at Castelnaud

Half way through the week we booked ourselves with a canoe company to take us to the starting point of the river where they sent us on our way. We decided to choose kayaks so we could both have the experience of our own boat and paddling, but we knew it would take a lot of energy and strength, so it was our vacation challenge. It was an extremely hot day so we were happy to have a big supply of water and sun cream with us. We had chosen to do 8km, where we followed the river Dordogne to finish at the canoe company, also where my grandparents would pick us up after their relaxing day. Lennart loved the adventure, catching glimpses of the fish through the clear water and viewing the castles and the little towns from our kayaks.

Lennart on his kayak

Me on my kayak

I had such a positive feeling with how we were having a great vacation, similar to all of my childhood vacations in France, and I was so pleased to share it with Lennart and my grandparents. My grandparents loved our time together too. The Dordogne is definitely a place we will find ourselves at again.

The view

On the flight home we had some bad weather entering the Netherlands airspace. Some of the worst turbulence we have experienced and we still had to land! We circled the airport a few times while we were in the queue to land as we had to take a different runway where the wind would not push our aircraft the wrong way. Well we got down so low with the wheels out that we must have been less than 5 meters away, until all of a sudden a massive boost of power took us back up into the sky. Everyone was clutching onto their partners and seats as it felt like we were on a rollercoaster! After another 10mins circling the airport the 2nd attempt was better and we landed. Well done Transavia. Such a great way to end the holiday!

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