On strict orders from my doctor to stay in Europe (to make a long story short, my appendix sucks), the next part of my holiday was spent in France. Having bummed around, working at home for a week, I was desperate to travel again, even if it meant (as it did in this case) tagging along on a friend’s family holiday.
Having never travelled with someone else’s family before, and with the added tension of never having met this family or travelled with this friend at all, I had my trepidations. Thankfully, my worries were quickly dispelled, as I realised that travelling with this family meant a BA flight, free wine, and a week in a gorgeous villa in southern France.
We stayed with rather wealthy family friends, one of whom was a rather eccentric woman of 50-something, with a love of river swimming. “Jump in!” she called at us one day from the bottom of a steep, muddy, rocky bank she’d just leapt across. Desperate to impress, I put on a brave face and waded in. With one step, the mud slipped beneath me, and I was nursing a broken toe that would leave me hobbling for the rest of the week.
I tried my hand at kayaking later – a glorious day on the river, punctuated only by a hot chocolate stop on a little island halfway down – and was rewarded with a riverside beer. In typical French-family-holiday manner, many bike rides were embarked upon, the most memorable of which was a velorail, which took us on little bike-ridden carts attached to a disused railway. The ride was bizarre, and difficult to get used to, but great fun when we weren’t being rained on – particularly when it came to speeding back down the hill we’d just pedalled up.
Exercise like this was sorely needed, since I ended up drinking more wine than I had in May Week (or, in fact, any week ever) and gorging myself on gorgeous French fine dining. A particularly fantastic evening was spent at a friend’s dinner party. This in itself was strange; it seemed the whole of North London had travelled to the isolated countryside of France profonde (‘deep France’) just to meet up for dinner. I suppose I should have expected it – I've found that North Londoners tend to travel in herds to festivals, the European rail network and hotels in South-East Asia. It was just a bit of a shock to discover that we’d probably be doing the same thing in our fifties as we had this summer.
But as I stood there in the open candle-lit hall (the ‘barn’) of a villa, looking across a pool that backed onto the rolling hills of rural France, drinking expensive wine and discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict (as if I had any idea of what I was talking about), I had to admit that it wouldn’t be too bad if this was how my friends and I spent our summers in 30 years; when we’re too old, snobby and boring for hostels in South-East Asia, there’ll always be the depths of France.