After the rush down to Abbeville, we had a really early night. Our goal was to reach our friends who live in Jussas; a small village situated between Bordeaux and Royan. We passed a lot of places I won’t mention in detail, but if you get a chance to visit them I would suggest:
A striking coastal city, with stunning architecture and a fantastic aquarium (Even without kids, well worth a look).
Mont San Michel
If possible stay overnight, as when all the tourists go it’s a beautiful place to walk around. A beautiful monastery situated on a small tidal island.
Again very touristy but an interesting stop off (home of the Bayeux Tapestry).
Mont San Michel
Charente-maritime and Aquitaine
The area we were heading too was between two prefectures: Charente-maritime and Aquitaine. Aquitaine famed for the fantastic wine, in which, is situated the Tuscany like Dordogne valley. Charente-Maritime is famous for its fantastic beaches and islands, including Fort Boyard (There are trips that go there from La Rochelle. The area is absolutely dazzling, as you drive through fields and fields of bright yellow sunflowers, drifting through tiny picturesque villages. During July and August the weather is at its peak and as we got there it was reaching 36 degrees.
The places we visited were limited as A, we have been to this region many times and B, we were on a tight schedule (a total three weeks to get to Portugal and back)
The day we arrived in Jussas we were all incredibly tired, it was nine o’clock and we had ‘bombed’ it down from Abbeville. The intention of said ‘Bombing’ was so that my husband could get drunk at the night market. Not me unfortunately, though I am not someone that is bothered about getting massively drunk. I do, however, as previously mentioned enjoy wine; my favourite wine happens to be from this night market.
Farmhouse in Jussas (courtesy of Victoria Langford Photography)
Montendre is one of the many night markets in this region in France. It is one of my favourites, the food and drink is remarkable and the entertainment (usually) goes on well into the night. The locals are very friendly and always happy to humour your French (mine is particularly bad, unlike our friends who are fluent). The produce is all local and like I said before my favourite vineyard have a stall.
As the night market in Montendre is only on a Tuesday night (during summer) we didn’t want to miss this. The friends that live in Jussas were already at the night market, drinking for us, as we turned up the wind started to pick up and by the time everybody has finished cooing over my daughter (who was only three months old) large dark storm clouds had started rolling in overhead. It was easy enough to feed her while sat on the market benches and we changed her nappy in the car before. She was a little tired but happily napped in her car seat pushchair (thanks to losing the pushchair in the previous post) We left pretty quickly before the most humongous lightning storm hit, we cowered in the bar of our friends newly refurbished French farm house as lightning struck in the distance. I love the smell of rain hitting the dry grass especially when it’s been so hot!
I would advise anyone going to the Charente-maritime or Aquitaine regions to visit Bordeaux, the food is absolutely fantastic and I would be as so bold to say, here is some of the best French wine (I love my wine more than most things). They even have a wine museum, La cite du vin. The Golden Triangle (Triangle D’Or) is the main focal point and well worth a look, with its spacious boulevards and fantastic restaurants.
We decided to visit Bordeaux the day after we got there (after the night market). We drove into Bordeaux, we unfortunately went during morning rush hour, this should be avoided at all costs if possible, as the ring road around Bordeaux is always crammed at this time (It is also crammed all Friday and Saturday as people use it to get north to south when going away for the weekend). We had a wander to La cite du vin, the wine museum. It was actually really good there was lots of multisensory stuff, so actually would be ok for children (and you get a free glass of wine at the end). It was baby friendly and they had no qualms about me breastfeeding inside, I carried my daughter in a sling, though there was access for pushchairs, I found it easier to get around. We went back around Triangle D’Or for lunch and had lovely steak frites (which is just steak and French fries).
For the next few days we stayed in Jussas with our friends at their house; this is a converted old farm house. They have made an amazing job of converting it! There are two villas adjoined each with three bedrooms and a workshop at the end (one of our friends Job is doing up 2cv’s and selling them) my husband spent the next few days with our friend living in the workshop and attached bar. Eventually we were joined by the rest of our group of friends each have children, one family was traveling with a two year old and ten month old. The other family was with one two year old both of them had travelled down on the overnight ferry to St Malo.
We had three days relaxing, on the fourth day in Jussas we travelled to go and pick up my other friend from the airport in Limoges. Having visited Limoges before we decided to do something different. We weren’t picking my friend up until 5 so we had plenty of time to do something.
Oradour-Sur-Glane is not somewhere you want to go for the crack of it. I already knew what it was and what to expect. June 10th 1944 a German Waffen-SS company massacred the entire village of Oradour-Sur-Glane. Women and children were burnt alive in the church and the men were taken into barns and shot. The village is a lasting reminder of what we shouldn’t forget. The entire place is sad and awful, it’s not a nice place to go, but it’s interesting and very humbling. I would advise going but expect to have a sombre day. Admission is free to the village but for a small fee you can also visit the museum. I think most of the visit would go over most children’s head (I wouldn’t have understood the gravity of what I was looking at properly as a child). It was hard to get the pushchair around so I would suggest a sling.
The next day was Sunday and we left the little farmhouse in Jussas with our friends with a pan to get across the border into Spain.
Tips for taking babies:
France is a baby friendly country, I haven’t ever been confronted for breastfeeding in France, especially down the west coast. People are generally kind to parents and there are plenty of baby friendly facility’s at Aires and in public places.
If you can find an Aldi the Mamia brand is the best. Most of the cheaper brands were thin and not very leak tight. Even the bigger brands such as Pampers still seemed to leak for me. Lidl (which is more common in France) also have a home brand Toujours which also were pretty good.
I never had any issues with breastfeeding in France, no one battered an eyelid at it. In fact most people smiled at you. I have heard from my friend that generally people are very accepting of public breastfeeding which correlates with my experience.
Although I breastfeed I took notice to see what Formula was available. There are different brands but Enfamil and Nestle seem to be the most readily available. They are available in most big supermarkets and easy to get hold of.
South France is hot! It reached 36 degrees while we were driving down. The best way of keeping cool during the day was finding places with aircon or keeping in doors during the hottest hours of the day. A good idea is to buy a portable fan (there are lots that you can buy with foam blades and clip on to the front of a pram/pushchair. We also had a 50+ spf sunscreen for the pushchair which was a lifesaver!
Places to stay
If you fancy this area of France there are plenty of options for accommodation. There are campsites everywhere! If in particular you want to stay near the coast I recommend pre booking but generally in land you are unlikely to need to. If you don’t want to camp I recommend Gîtes. Gîtes are a kind of rural cottage made for holidays. Two places in particular are Chatenet and sousmoulins. They are both run by lovely people that we know. Both have fantastic pools and are in amazing locations.
I highly recommend this region in France, especially the areas around Jussas.
on the way to Spain (courtesy of Victoria Langford Photography)
If you get a chance please also check out Victoria Langford Photography. The photographs feature in this post are hers, she has plenty more over on her page!
Love Kate x