Hosted trip – accommodation provided by Gites de la Richardière, and ferry crossing by Brittany Ferries. All opinions remain my own.
My glass of Sancerre, bagged for 9 euros in the supermarche on route from our ferry at Caen, glitters in the sunshine, resting perfectly on the arm of my green Adirondack garden chair. The barley field ripples in the breeze, toasting under a glorious fried egg of a sunset. This is Gites de la Richardière’s ‘Sunset lounge’, a thoughtfully placed arrangement of garden chairs and small tables on a large lawn overlooking the finest Southern Loire farmland.
My youngest says it’s the best holiday because of the owner’s dogs, Rollo and Flora, who lie at our feet as we await the sunset like we’re the lords of the manor. If you’re not a dog person they totally get that too, and will slink off and leave you in peace.
Mr A is checking slack and emails from his deckchair in the sun, but he’s unwinding and loving the relaxed pace, and having plenty to do without having to go anywhere.
My daughter has fallen for the pool, nestled in a conifer sheltered garden where you can hear nothing but the lapping of the water and birdsong. She’s also befriended the owner’s daughter in real life and on snap chat. It’s fun to think travel is starting to mean friends all round the world for her now too.
We’ve been feeling like we have all been taken in different directions recently, and as if our two are ‘slipping through our fingers all the time’ of late, to pluck an Abba song, that Mamma Mia made famous lyric every parent can empathise with.
We’ve stumbled upon somewhere very special. An oasis of calm and natural tranquility, with perfectly placed deckchairs set on lawns offering 360 degree views across the countryside. The gardens are beautiful and there is a vast games lawn with ping pong, badminton, boules and a perfect pool. The family that plays together, stays together as the saying goes, and nowhere does it feel more true, or possible than here for us this week.
Gites de la Richardière
Gites de la Richardière is in the Southern Loire, known for its river, chateaus and wine, the gites are part of an old farm, nestled in acres of agricultural fields in this sparsely populated rural area. Even though we live in the countryside ourselves, it takes a while to pinpoint what the strange new feeling is; complete and absolute calm.
The calm extends to the decor, the gites are stone built, newly renovated farm buildings and wonderfully cool in contrast to the heat outdoors. There are three gites around a pretty courtyard, sleeping 4, 5 and 2 and they are rustic, with calming colours. Each evening we sink into the pair of double oat colour sofas. Fabrics on cushions, upcycled chairs and curtains bring a playful, contemporary lift. There are lovely views out into the beautifully planted courtyard as well as a small private garden with dining table, seating and a BBQ.
Pool and gardens
After lazy mornings exploring, returning to the gite for a siesta and some swimming in the pool, followed by an evening on the games lawn became the perfect way to spend time as a family.
We all (re) discovered a love of ping pong, and vowed to repair the broken table the previous owner’s left in our shed back in the UK. We have lots of outdoor space at home, but there is something novel about playing in someone else’s garden, especially when the equipment is all on hand and in one piece.
We made a lot of use of the pool – a super relaxing little oasis – and although there were other guests, didn’t ever find ourselves sharing it, although there are more than enough sun loungers and umbrellas for everyone.
Exploring the Loire
The Southern Loire is dotted with unspoilt villages, full of creamy cottages with windows framed with shutters and rose bushes. Petit Pressigny with its cafe, Michelin starred restaurant and boulangerie is just 3 km away. Grand Pressigny, less than 15 minutes away, has bars, pizzerias, boulangeries and shops which lie under the watchful gaze of the local chateau. Every village or town we visited had a chateau, and although we fully planned to visit some of the larger, more famous ones during our visit, we soon realised there are beautiful chateaus everywhere.
Gites de la Richardière is owned and run by Patience and Dave, a British couple who are perfect at judging whether their guests want to be left in peace or guided a little in their adventures. Feeling a little frazzled by a busy term we happily surrendered to Patience’s suggestions and kind offer to book things if needed. We were reliant on my GCSE French, which despite my A grade still freezes like a rabbit in the headlights outside the comfort of Madame Bevan’s classroom.
Rather than being immediately batted off with English as you would be in Paris or a touristy area, locals here are much more willing to speak French slower, battle along with you in fledgling English and smile encouragingly as you try. They are used to living alongside people learning the language as there are over 30 UK households in the local village.
I feel like Madame Bevan would be proud of me and for the first time in a long time actually really enjoy trying to use a foreign language on a family holiday.
Market Day at Loches
Patience’s suggestion of the market at Loches was exactly what we needed the day after arriving. Our supermarket shop was supplemented by peas on the pod, artichoke, blacked cheesecake, butter biscuits, macarons, cheeses. My daughter and I also had a giggle trying on clothes in the back of a van and smelling lavender and cerise soap. The boys bought a new board game. It was a perfect introduction to the area.
Afterwards we ambled around the narrow streets under the shade of the chateau, walked into the dungeons and admired the views over the village. Everywhere roses were exploding, lavender springing up – such a beautiful time of year.
Ferriere Larcon Car Boot
Another day we choose to spend a morning treasure hunting at the local car boot sale, my son’s, and my idea of heaven. I liked the fact it had an outdoor bar and a makeshift cafe serving plates of bread and cheese and meats served and eaten at trestle tables in a big marquee. There was a lovely feeling of community.
Picnic with family
My cousin, who lives near Paris, was in the area and visited with her family, and brought a box of incredible French cakes which we ate under the trees on yet another beautiful lawn I discovered while taking a stroll. Patience and Dave brought us an extra picnic table and chairs. It was the kind of alfresco extended family meal you feel only happens in films, or in warmer climates perhaps. Afterwards we whiled away a happy afternoon chatting and splashing in the pool.
One evening we headed to Chez L in Grand Pressigny for drinks and pizza. It’s a gorgeous place with a dinosaur in the garden. A Scottish chap we met at the car boot sale was singing. It was very busy that night and took a while to get served, but it was worth persevering, the beer and the pizza was incredible and we spent a happy evening playing cards at a table on the pavement, looking up at the chateau.
Clic’Lac – high ropes, tree nets & zip line
On our last day we drove to Clic’Lac, a really chilled out but beautifully put together high rope, tree top nets and zip line experience by the lake which caters brilliantly for all ages. There are seven high rope courses, varying from a small one for 3 years and up to a teen track for 14 years plus, to a zipline across the lake for the properly fearless. We all had a bounce in the treetop nets and also enjoyed the treasure hunt. It’s lovely and shady with picnic tables and hammocks, they sell drinks and ice creams but not much more, so take a picnic.
More things to do in the Loire with kids
We were very local and fairly lazy tourists. In our defence we didn’t have full week, we were in need of a rest and there is so much to enjoy here just on the doorstep! I loved being totally local and immersing myself in French life.
But if we had more time, we had our eye on the Loire’s most iconic Chateau Chenonceau where you can take a boat ride under it’s arches, and on Chateau Close Luce, the retirement home of Leonardo de Vinci and Futuroscope theme park, all of which are just an hour away.
With so many beautiful rivers you can also arrange to canoe locally, or borrow bikes – just speak to Dave and Patience – the roads are very peaceful. Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne is 20 minutes away and great for bird watching, wild swimming and nature.
We will have to go back and would very happily go back!
Our Verdict – Gites de la Richardiere
Holidays that bring you something unexpected, or give you what you need without you even knowing what you were yearning for, they are truly the best don’t you think?
Gites de la Richardiere reminded me that it is the little things that are the big things, watching a sunset together, playing ping pong, drinking a glass of your favourite wine, bread and cheese, family time, holding hands, the rustle of the wind in a field of barley, a perfect placed garden chair, a dog waiting for you when you get home, a dip in an outdoor pool, bird song, the smell of lavender squished between your fingers, a rose, a three euro candle stick bought at a car boot. I left with my heart full!
The final little gift was a bagful of cherries from the cherry tree on the games lawn. Dave invited us to raid it as it was dripping in fruit. One of my happiest memories has to be eating cherries straight off the tree while taking a break from ping pong. Takes me back to wandering around French markets as a kid with my Mum. The stuff of family holiday legend.
Travelling to Gites de La Richardière
Gites de La Richardière, is close to Petit Pressigny which is just south of Tours. This is west of central France, in the region known as Indre-et-Loire. If you have ever had a Touraine wine, then it is also sometimes called the Touraine region and that’s where it’s from.
We sailed with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Caen, you can do this as an overnight or a day crossing with or without a cabin – more on that to come soon, we loved it as an extra and very stress free holiday adventure. Gites de le Richardière is about 3.5 hours easy drive from Caen on great roads. Other Brittany Ferries options are Caen to Le Havre, St. Malo, Cherbourg; Poole to Cherbourg, Plymouth to Roscoff and St Malo Cork to Roscoff.
Gites de la Richardière can give you a discount code for your Brittany Ferries booking when you book direct.
Nearest airports are Tours, Poitiers, or further afield are Limoges, Le Mans or La Rochelle.
Booking Gites de La Richardière
For the best deals book with Gites de la Richardiere direct, quote GDLR – 19 to get an extra 5% discount via parentshaped!