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Living France - - Contents - Petra Crofton and fam­ily Chel­tenham

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?

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