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Your views of life in France
During May halfterm, we took our children (7, 9 and 10) on a fortnight’s road trip crisscrossing France. We drove from Calais via Paris, Troyes and Grenoble to the hills near Grasse, and back up north via Arles, Reims and La Baie de Somme. The trip was rich in many ways. We skipped around the Eiffel Tower at night, trying to avoid the thunder and rainstorms. We searched for fire salamanders in the Forêt d’Orient (east of Troyes), warming up by the log fire at night. The Vercors, south of Grenoble, was different again: snow covering the ground at 1,000m, and fields full of orchids and wild daffodils. When we finally arrived at Les Courmettes, a nature conservation centre in Alpes-Maritimes, the sun was shining brightly. The air was heavy with Provençal fragrances: thyme, rosemary, lavender, and the blue sky filled with eagles, vultures and butterflies.
We were guests at the A Rocha nature conservation centre (arocha.org), where we joined in with various activities: hosting a fête for the locals with goat’s cheese making, pizza baking and donkey rides. The site around the centre covers 600ha and is an unspoilt nature reserve 12 miles from the Mediterranean coast, with room for 80 guests.
After saying our goodbyes, we headed west to the Roman town of Arles. Here, we used to live and work with A Rocha 15 years ago, protecting the precious wetlands and Alpilles hills (now a regional park). We had long wanted to introduce our children to this stunning corner of Provence, meet our friends, stay at the A Rocha centre, Les Tourades, and discover more wildlife, especially the breeding beeeaters. The Arles arena and amphitheatre brought back many memories.
On our way back, we visited the wonderful First World War museum in Péronne and spent the final night in La Baie de Somme, watching storks and spoonbills in the Marquenterre coastal park. It was the holiday of a lifetime, in a country only a few miles across the pond. Why go further afield if France has it all?