On France’s At­lantic coast “

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

THAT doesn’t sound very in­ter­est­ing,” says my fiveyear-old son with a frown. I’ve just bro­ken the news to him that we’re go­ing on a vine­yard tour. “To find out how they make wine!” I say, as if we’re go­ing to see a space­craft, hop­ing he’ll catch my en­thu­si­asm. He doesn’t. He’s strug­gling to com­pute that hol­i­days aren’t just about what he and his three-year-old brother want to do. It’s a tough les­son.

Plan­ning a sum­mer trip to meet the needs of my two en­er­getic sons, my su­per-chilled hus­band and some­where-in-the-mid­dle me was never go­ing to be easy. For the kids, the beach has to be safe for pad­dling and sand­cas­tle build­ing, yet I like beaches with waves strong enough for surf­ing. My hus­band likes sea swim­ming, surf­ing and sand­cas­tle build­ing too but he also craves the chance to un­wind with some de­cent food and wine.

Luck­ily we all love cy­cling, so we de­cided to come to the Mé­doc-Océan re­gion, north­west of Bordeaux, to see if it could meet our var­i­ous hol­i­day needs. We based our­selves at Village West­ern, a lovely, forested camp­site in Hourtin Port, which is not on the sea but by Lac d’Hourtin, France’s big­gest fresh­wa­ter lake. With shaded pitches for tents and comfy mo­bile homes, it was quiet, par­tic­u­larly for mid-Au­gust, and had a cow­boy theme, with on-site horse rid­ing, teepees and totem poles aplenty. The mostly French clien­tele flocked to evening classes in mak­ing las­soes and dream­catch­ers. Our kids loved the pool and the fact they could cy­cle ev­ery­where (there was bike hire on site): from our pitch to the pool, to buy wood­fired pizza in the evening and pains au choco­lat in the morn­ing.

The camp­site was just 5 min­utes’ cy­cle, via off-road paths, from the lake, one-and-a-half hours by bike from the Mé­doc vine­yards and an hour, ac­cord­ing to Google Maps, to the At­lantic Ocean surf beaches.

Ea­ger to hear the roar of the ocean, we set off first to Hourtin Plage on an off-road route through an­cient pine forests. It was 13km, so we put the kids in a trailer – great for them as they told Gruf­falo sto­ries all the way, but a lit­tle harder on our legs. We emerged from shaded for­est to the bright skies and buzz of the pop­u­lar surf­ing town an hour and a half later, dunes stretch­ing into the dis­tance on ei­ther side.

We grown-ups tag-teamed a quick surf each, the el­dest caught his first waves on a body­board, and the youngest jumped small but strong waves with my hus­band in the life­guarded sec­tion. Re­fu­elled by pizza at Le Gril­lon in town, we rode back to the camp­site as the early evening light slanted through the pines.

The next day we headed out for our first wine tour, the chil­dren baf­fled as to why we weren’t go­ing back to the beach. The 30km cy­cle, of­ten on busy roads, took well over two hours, and we ar­rived at Chateau Lynch Bages near Paulliac, hot and sweaty and with the kids al­ready rest­less. The tour (US$10) was, per­haps, a lit­tle too for­mal, the wine a bit pricey.

Château Larose, which we vis­ited a few days later, proved more of a suc­cess. We cheated a lit­tle by driv­ing to Paulliac, hir­ing bikes there and rid­ing through pretty vine­yards on quiet coun­try roads to the stun­ning 19th-cen­tury chateau, which was the first Euro­pean vine­yard to win awards for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Staff greeted us and our chil­dren with smiles, and I watched the boys play in the chil­dren’s area while my hus­band went on the (free) tour and tast­ing, and bought a crate, a seal of ap­proval.

To save the kids from wine bore­dom, we lim­ited more tast­ings to friendly lo­cal wine shop Cave l’At­lantide in Hourtin town and spent the rest of our time on ocean beaches, ex­plor­ing pine for­est trails, and at the nearby lake, where the wa­ter was as warm as a bath and su­per-calm, though it was life­guarded too.

The chil­dren loved charg­ing about in the soft, squelchy sand and swim­ming in the seem­ingly nev­erend­ing shallows. They played for hours, build­ing sand­cas­tles and watch­ing older chil­dren on dinghies, stand-up pad­dle­boards and wind­surfers.

I’m sure they would have been happy at the lake or the camp­site pool all week, but as we sat amid the pines while the chil­dren looped around us on the bikes, we raised a glass of our lo­cal wine to a hol­i­day that ticked a few par­ents’ boxes, too.

– The Guardian

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