LAST SUMMER IN PROVENCE
All the pictures from last years family holiday to France have been coming up in my Facebook memories and reminding me of how beautiful that time was so I thought I'd document it here for myself and for anyone who might be looking for somewhere to escape to in Provence this year...
I came across Les Sardines Aux Yeux Bleus on my annual epic internet search for a family holiday and was entirely smitten as soon as I saw the pictures and read the reviews. A small family-run guesthouse, nestled in a little village in Provence with scandi-french decor and the wonderful hosts. SOLD.
We booked a weeks stay at Les Sardines and it was everything we could have hoped it to be. Peaceful, beautiful and fun.
The guesthouse has 3 big ensuite rooms and 3 apartments. We booked the small apartment which had one bedroom with a big bed and a travel cot, a living area (with a fold away sofabed), a small kitchen, epic bathroom and a private terrace. It was perfect for us with a six and one year old; ample space to retreat to during the heat of the day and it was so nice to have a terrace to sit out on in the evenings after the kids were in bed.
Each morning, Anna Karin and her team prepared the garden dining area for breakfast - tables fully stocked with fresh croissants, fruit, yoghurt, cereals, homemade jams, meats/cheeses and some sort of delicious home-baked option that rotated every day (think American-style pancakes, banana loaf, waffles and cakes). Everything about Les Sardines is effortlessly chic; the linens, the tableware (including hand thrown plates and bowls made by Anna Karin herself), furniture, surroundings - a charming rustic dream. We filled up and took our time over breakfast each morning and then usually went back to our apartment to get into our swimmers for a dip in the beautiful pool.
I was a bit worried about taking the kids somewhere so...nice. Would they wreck the place? Would we be annoying for other guests? Would the kids get bored? I'm so glad we went for it because all of my concerns were blown away when we realised how relaxing it was there. Anna Karin has her own (older) kids so there were plenty of toys and books around and having the pool there was such a delight (just be aware there's no shallow end for little ones and it's not a heated pool but that was perfection on those really spicy hot afternoons).
Provence is like a movie. Roads lined with acres of vineyards and sunflower fields. I could not get enough of the scenery. You really do need a car to get around but it's only a few kilometres from Les Sardines to the nearest big grocery store or the wonderful fresh local markets in Uzes (the nearest town). We went into Uzes a few days for a wander around the old town or for dinner and cooked in the apartment the rest of the time.
We also ventured to the Pont Du Gard - only 20 minutes away. Pont du Gard is a huge Roman aqueduct on the River Gardon. We spent the day at the waters edge, swimming in the river and jumping off the rocks.
We also went to a lovely little ceramic making village about 10 minutes away called Saint Quentin la Poterie. Even though it's just a tiny little village, it's famous for centuries of pottery making, ancient 13th century kilns and studios and shops in every street and alleyway showcasing the work of local potters. Maybe not one for lively children who like to touch things but you could probably distract them with an ice-cream while you browse in and out.
We hit up the Uzes brocante (flea market) which runs on a Sunday morning and sells all kinds of weird and wonderful things that I couldn't fit in our luggage home. Think french linen, rustic everything and a lot of baskets. Other things to do nearby: a really great water park literally 5 minutes drive away from Les Sardines which was awesome for the kids. Best moment was Dave being told off for wearing his swimming trunks and having to buy banana hammock swimwear from the gift shop because of French bathing rules. I'll spare you the photographic evidence of that. There is also a big Haribo factory/museum just outside Uzes. We didn't do the tour but we certainly did go to the gift shop.
It's so nice to look back on these memories and have them captured here - especially with the benefit of year-later-rose-tinted glasses and the short memory of crying children, sticky heat and all the other life stuff that continues on even if you're in the most beautiful of locations.
If you are looking for a quiet, family-friendly spot to go at your own pace and base yourself as you discover the local areas of Provence, Les Sardines is your spot.