As holidays go, it did not get off to a promising start. In fact, when my parents suggested a last hoorah before I went off to university and started dodging both daylight and their calls, a road-trip across middle-of-nowhere France was not quite what I had in mind. Especially a trip in a surprisingly small people-carrier that included both my grandparents and their notoriously travel-sick dog – a trip during which I quickly realised that, as the youngest, I would be relegated to what I can only describe as the boot, with the thoughtful addition of a single seat facing the wrong way. The dog (due to the aforementioned travel sickness) rode shotgun.
But what I’d failed to appreciate in my typical teenage surliness at being forced to drive for hundreds of kilometres with my knees round my ears was the utter beauty of the French countryside. Never having been beyond Brittany, I was caught off guard by the picturesque nature of French provincial life as we neared central France and our final destination in the Corrèze département of the Limousin region, Davignac – a town of around 200 people, seemingly outnumbered by cows by around 10:1.
The sheer density of untouched forest surrounding the old stone town gave the possibility for days of losing yourself in walks and fairy-tale architecture, while the history of the area is fascinating. Our visit coincided with the annual summer festival, during which a woman selling cookery books explained the curious naming of local towns such as ‘Meymac near Bordeaux’ (in fact, the two places are 350km apart). This anomaly came about at a time when most people knew that Bordeaux produced fantastic wine but had little idea of where it was situated, let alone how far away it was from Meymac – and the simple change in name, engineered by a cunning wine salesman, lead to a single bottle of Meymac-près-de-Bordeaux being sold for more than 70 francs (the average daily wage at the time being 3 francs). The story in part explains the wealth and architecture of the region compared with others relatively close by.
The festival itself was fairly small but infinitely charming, with lots of traditional food and music – although I have to admit that this view may have been swayed by the hours of wine-tasting that accompanied it. The idea seemed to be that the drunker they got you for free, the more expensive wine you’d buy of your own accord, and indeed, the number of bottles we attempted to jam into the car to take home really don’t do anything to disprove this theory.
It wasn’t an action-packed holiday, and there were several days when there was nothing to do except read a book in the square, once the forest had been exhausted of its walks and we once we’d exhausted of swimming in the lake. But as it drew to a close, I began to realise, much to my horror at having to admit it, that my mother had been right – it was the perfect last family holiday, with incredible scenery, incredible sunshine, extremely good wine and lots of quality family time. Add in the festival barn dance and even the dog managed to look cheerful.
PV Holidays has a family-friendly apartment complex, Les Belles Rives, with a swimming pool and free children’s activities, in the Corrèze.