Holidaying with four teenagers, two of them not our own, was liable to be challenging. Amongst them their various dietary intolerances dictated that our catering excluded gluten, dairy, onion, garlic, eggs & avocado, so I have to confess that much as I was looking forward to our week at Les Coteaux I was mildly anxious at the prospect of feeding and entertaining everyone without resorting to more than one glass of rosé with lunch.

I needn’t have worried, we truly had a wonderful week. Adding a friend and a boyfriend to our family of four changed the dynamic in a way that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Our ‘guests’ were chatty, easy going, happy to help and eager to participate in any activity we suggested, from donkey races at a local village fête, anarchic bananagram games, local water sports and inevitably the odd episode of Love Island. 

We quickly and easily flew from Bristol to Limoges where we picked up a van in which all of us and our luggage could comfortably fit – I couldn’t face the thought of squeezing us into a smaller car with suitcases balanced upon our knees for a journey in 30+ degrees. I think I’m just all about comfort and convenience these days and in any case M thoroughly enjoyed harnessing his inner ‘van driver’ for a few days, and I have to confess that the height of a van does allow excellent opportunities for peering into gardens and houses while travelling!

Having stopped en route for the first (of several) supermarket shops we arrived in the village of Brigueil Le Chantre in the early evening, just as the light was beginning to look really pretty. The house itself is charmingly simple. A converted agricultural building, it is more rustic than Oak Tree Barn and simply but tastefully decorated and furnished. Justine who owns and manages Les Coteaux has another property in Wales called Harp Cottage, if you check out her Instagram feed you’ll see just what seduced me! Justine is in fact coming to run a workshop at Oak Tree Barn in September on creating the look of her houses and photographing them for Instagram, so if her look appeals to you too perhaps you’ll join us. In any case, having comfortably settled ourselves in the house we enjoyed the first of many meals around the table under the sails on the terrace and made some vague plans for the week ahead.

The village of Brigueil le Chantre is about halfway between Limoges and Poitier in the Poitou-Charentes/Limousin border. It’s not an area we have visited before so we thoroughly enjoyed exploring it a little. It is a wonderfully rural spot, peaceful, free of traffic jams and full of slightly abandoned looking shuttered houses waiting to be rescued and brought back to life. It’s fair to say that my imagination ran wild and I found myself living in a beautiful farmhouse and running residential retreats for cooking/gardening/writing/photography enthusiasts with a group of like minded women. Not really so very different from the life I’m building here, but there’s something romantic about an imaginary life in another country (and I do know the reality which you can read a little about here).

On our first afternoon we were lucky enough to spot the village fête in La Trimouille where we thoroughly enjoyed watching a spot of donkey racing, though I have to confess that we did elect to escape the blazing heat before we had a chance to see the brass band in action. With two red heads in our midst seeking shade was a theme of the week. On the Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in the little bar in the village, run by the villagers, where we enjoyed watching France win the Football World Cup. I think in reality I was quite glad that we were there to watch France against Croatia and not England…….!

Other excursions during the week found us canoeing on La Vienne from Moussac, cycling on the Vélo-rail from Chauvigny and waterskiing on the dam at l’Isle Jourdain. Anything requiring a paddle (or indeed racquet) has never really been my forté but I think I held my own other than a small capsizing incident in which M and I did somewhat struggle to keep our ill-advised flip flops on our feet. Made the kids laugh at least! If you haven’t encountered a Vélo-rail before and are heading to France do check them out, there is quite a good network of them around the country and it’s an excellent activity for families of any age.

Waterskiing is not perhaps for everyone, and this year I elected to record the activity rather than participate, but it was such a pretty spot and we enjoyed a thoroughly delicious meal overlooking the dam at Restaurant du Barrage which I would highly recommend. On our way back to the airport we made a quick trip into Limoges itself and enjoyed a picnic in front of the Hotel de Ville and a coffee in the very picturesque Quartiers de la Boucherie.

Much of our week was spent around the table eating and drinking together. The kids (if indeed I should still be calling them that) read, chatted, teased one another and even went for the odd stroll. I didn’t once have to ask anyone to put a phone away, get out of the bathroom or stop being sulky. It was a genuine pleasure. I do though often wonder what other people eat on holiday when self catering; pleasing everyone can sometimes feel impossible and on holiday I’m usually keen to find time to read a book and do a bit of loafing myself as opposed to spending all my time in the kitchen. I was hopeless at managing to photograph anything we prepared, but I kept a note of what we ate during the week in case anyone is interested. It is not a recipe book, simply a record of what we enjoyed and might perhaps offer some inspiration if you’re feeling low on it by this stage of the summer and you can download it here.

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