The leaves are falling, the central heating is back in use, and school traffic is a thing once again. Yep – summer is officially over.
And so it feels like a good time to reminisce… it’s safe to say this summer will live long in the memory. It’s been a joyous stretch of endless sunshine, Royal weddings, football nearly coming home, and Love Island. It’s difficult not to invoke thoughts of Bryan Adams here, but it will go down blissfully as The Summer of 2018.
And right at the heart of this glorious season was a week-long stay in French heaven; a dreamy and utterly charming place just oozing rustic tranquillity against a backdrop of rolling hills. If you can picture a vast, ivy-draped 18th century farmhouse in the heart of Limousin – France’s most underpopulated region – you start to get a sense of just how effortlessly serene this place is.
Introducing you to Manoir La Croix de La Jugie – the highlight of our summer; a place truly full of joie de vivre.
Joie de vivre
- a delight in being alive; keen, carefree enjoyment of living.
“they seem to be filled with joie de vivre”
And we were filled to the brim; that summer in our beautiful French manoir. A place that made you feel blissfully cut off from the wider world and free of life’s normal tribulations. I think back to the time we spent there and smile.
We converged on this stunning, sprawling location with three of my closest friends and their families; Claire, Lauren and Jules who you may know more distinctly as @ThisLittleHouse_, @HuntersandHeels and @ThisIsJules. Four families all with BOYS aged 1 to 9 – yep, we were very much ‘commes des garçons’.
I’ll run you through the whole gang – Claire, Mikey and their little fellas Caleb and Archie; Lauren, Colin and their boys Archie (known as Big Archie throughout our stay), Ollie and Rory; and Jules, James and their little star Oscar who is soon to be a big brother to (finally!) the first little girl to join the troop.
With such a huge crew, our home for the week had to be something substantial and spacious with ample mods and cons to keep everyone content. And so it was. We wanted for nothing. This rambling 8-bedroom country pile is built for families with travel cots, baby baths, high chairs, sterilising equipment, stair gates and a gated swimming pool. All we had to do was turn up.
After a cheap Ryanair flight into Limoges and a very straightforward 30 minute drive to the Manoir, we pulled up outside and marveled at the sheer splendour of the place. We headed through the huge rustic arched front door and pitched up in the room at the top of the house on the mezzanine level which was absolutely gorgeous… a large en-suite bedroom with traditional wooding flooring and exposed beams against a backdrop of pastille whites and baby blues.
We then explored the rest of the house, wandering through living rooms, dining rooms, a billiard games room, a library and TV snugs.
Each bedroom had its own authentic style and was teamed with an en-suite or a bathroom close by.
Jules, James & Oscar’s room
Claire & Mikey’s room
Archie & Caleb’s room
Lauren & Colin’s room
The Gallic farmhouse kitchen was super spacious with French doors leading out to the terrace which is where we’d often congregate to eat, drink and relax. More often than not, Lauren’s soon-to-be-husband Colin took on the mantle of Head Chef and rustled up some incredible breakfasts and evening meals – he’s a fantastic cook with that knack of just throwing stuff together that looks and tastes divine. Ayman also did a sterling job on the BBQ and Claire prepared some trademark tastebud-tingling brunches! With 16 mouths to feed – of which 12 belonged to hungry boys – it’s safe to say we got through a LOT of food over the course of a week. And wine. Lots of wine. Why wouldn’t you when the good stuff only sets you back 3 Euros a bottle?!
Hugo and Remy had such a fun-filled week with their fellow little fellas. Hugo still talks about ‘Big Archie’ and ‘Little Archie’ and Ollie and Oscar and all the gang. They all played so brilliantly together; non-stop giggling, running, chasing, eating, swimming and just generally being beautiful boisterous boys. He asked if they were all coming on our next holiday (we’ve been gearing up for a family trip to Majorca this week) and he seemed despondent when we told him it was just the four of us!
We made some incredible memories at Manoir La Croix de La Jugie. I can’t describe the sense of sanctuary and retreat that I felt that week. Of course it was often loud and raucous with eight boys in tow but that was our noise in our own little world and it didn’t detract from the wonderful feeling of solitude and much-needed detachment.
At times we’d head out in our cars to explore the wider Limousin region and would be hard-pressed to see another person or vehicle for miles. The towns were adorned with beautiful rustic shutters that had our Instagram heads turning at every point, we really were living the French dream.
It was the perfect setting for a family getaway; I would wholeheartedly recommend this particular area of France – and it was a mere 1hr 30 min flight away plus a half-hour drive. Even when factoring in airport waiting times, it would probably take us longer to drive to London.
I want to say a huge merci beaucoup to Clio and her husband Bryn – the owners of La Jugie – for inviting us all to stay at their stunning manoir deep in the French countryside. There is nothing quite like quality time spent with friends in a setting like this. We collaborated with La Jugie on this holiday and, as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Have a great week!
Lots of love