Roomy rural gite to let with pool nr Marmande - AT006567

Vares (9km from Tonneins), Lot et Garonne, Aquitaine Reference: AT006567 Advertiser since: 29 August 2018
Property Board Arrival Bedrooms Sleeps Bathrooms
Larrival Cottage Self Catering Saturday 2 5 2

About this property

Spacious Cottage With Pool In Delightful Countryside. This cottage/gite is in a rural setting.

Larrival Cottage Is set in the countryside, near Tonneins, Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine and comfortably sleeps up to five in two large double bedrooms with two bathrooms.

A Bit of History

We first saw the cottage in spring 2007 at the bottom of the garden of the 250 year-old farmhouse we were buying. It was no more that four walls covered in brambles, open to the sky, a burnt chimney stack and broken shutters. Even then though, we knew it could be a lovely place for our guests and with careful restoration over the next few years that is what it has become – a beautiful, spacious two-storey cottage offering all modern comforts which also retains its original features with exposed limestone walls and oak beams.

Its Setting

Larrival Cottage is set in 5 acres of garden and parkland and surrounded by farmland. Part-shaded by trees, looking across sloping fields to a stream and woods beyond, this calm haven is an ideal place from which to explore all that this region of France has to offer. French windows from the lounge and kitchen open onto a large terrace, with ample space for sun-bathing, barbecues or just sitting with a glass of wine, reading and enjoying the views.

Our Pool

A stroll across the garden leads to our salt water swimming pool (kinder on the eyes and skin than a chlorine pool). It has a generous terrace with loungers for sunbathing and a spacious pool-house should you prefer the shade. We also provide inflatables for those who enjoy lazily floating on top of the water.

A Holiday for Everyone

You may be content just to laze, read, swim and potter. Should you wish to venture further afield, Lot-et-Garonne is a part of France where it is still a pleasure to drive along traffic-free roads through unspoilt countryside. There are local “bastides” (fortified medieval towns) to explore; restaurants to sample that range in their offering from a simple local menu to Michelin starred; two great rivers with their beaches and pleasure boats to enjoy; a canal to stroll or cycle along; in summer, free concerts and firework displays. Then there are flea markets to rummage through, or local produce markets from the small to the grand and night markets where you eat under the stars and dance late into the night to live bands.

For days out, head south for Gascony, Amagnac country, Pau and the foothills of the Pyrenees; to the south west lie Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz; to the north we find Bergerac, Monflanquin and Sarlat (two of France's "Plus Beaux Villages") and the famous Lascaux caves; to the West there is Bordeaux, St Emilion and the great wine chateaux; to the East, Toulouse, Carcassonne and Cathar country.

And should you need help deciding what to do out of all that is on offer, the owners live within easy reach.

The Cottage offers Space and Comfort

The spacious cottage becomes the owners' home during the winter months and is therefore constructed, furnished and kitted out to a high standard of comfort, including double glazing, under-floor heating and generously proportioned rooms. In summer the thick old stone walls, insulated roof and tiled floor help keep the cottage pleasantly cool.

Easy Communications

Despite its feeling of seclusion, Larrival Cottage is only 10 minutes easy drive into Tonneins on the Garonne river. Tonneins is a bustling small town with ample amenities: a choice of good-sized supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, small boutiques and restaurants. The A62 motorway is 25 minutes away and St Malo is just over 6 hours drive. Bergerac airport is an hour and Bordeaux airport 80 minutes. There is a train station, with direct trains to Bordeaux and the TGV (Paris in 2 hours).

Your Comfort and Enjoyment

It’s important to us that our guests have as comfortable a holiday as possible. So, for example, we provide a generous Welcome Pack, but we make sure it is right for you and we ask you beforehand what you would like included.

Nowadays with sat nav it is often easy to find where you are staying in rural France, but we also provide detailed directions with maps and photos, just in case.

Unfortunately our accommodation is not suitable for young children as we have two friendly but bouncy dogs. Teenagers who are comfortable around dogs are very welcome and many of our guests enjoy having our dogs’ company. If you are not a dog person and do not want the dogs around we will make sure they are kept out of your way.

Flexible Booking

Although our terms and conditions specify Saturday to Saturday, in fact in practice we can usually be flexible with arrival and departure dates and times. So just let us know what suits you.

We never book our guests back to back. We always leave a few days between each booking. This ensures that we have time to get the cottage "just so" for our next visitors. This means you do not have to arrive and leave on a Saturday if you don't want to (which can be helpful if you want to book cheaper mid-week flights). And there's no rush to get out on your last morning, if you want to take your time packing.

A Few of our Reviews

July 2018: “This is our second year at L'Arrival and it certainly won't be our last. Sue and Todd are the most accommodating and welcoming owners, as are Bertie and Vita, their lovely dogs. The property is always clean and well stocked and it is found within a lovely French countryside. The pool is an added attraction and is welcome on a hot day. The cottage has everything you would need for a holiday. Next time we may fly over instead of driving as we didn't need half the things we brought with us! Thank you Sue and Todd for yet again making our holiday a memorable one.”

June 2018: “We are just back from a 2 week stay in this fantastic cottage. We have stayed in Gites all over France for the past 13 years and this is truly the best cottage we have stayed in. The cottage has been thoughtfully restored to a very high standard and is extremely comfortable with everything (and more) that you might need. The pool area was kept immaculate with plenty of loungers both in the sun and shade. The pool was a joy to use. Our hosts Sue and Tod were extremely helpful and hospitable giving advice about the area when asked but at the same time keeping a low profile. We were visited daily by the lovely Vita and Bertie which we loved and they made a great contribution to our holiday. We were blessed with very good weather so were able to sit in the many areas around the cottage and admire the views across he countryside. If we could give more than 5 [stars] we would. The Gite and owners come highly recommended .”

June 2017: “For me this is amazing place is perfection. Just everything is just right. Beautifully clean. Comfy beds in spacious rooms. Brilliantly equipped with far more than you might think you would ever need. Lovely pool and gardens, with various locations to eat, seat and be, so you can follow the sun or the shade as you prefer - my own favourite place for breakfast meant enjoying the gentler morning sun with gorgeous views of the countryside, surrounded by pots of flowers. The owners have created a very comprehensive, excellent & interesting guide filled with things to do, places to visit, plus all the practicalities (shops, restaurants, markets) and much much more. They go above and beyond to ensure you'll enjoy your visit and/or make the most of relaxing. Bliss.”

Sept. 2016: “We have stayed at a number of holiday rentals and are delighted to say that this one is the best by far. If you are a couple and looking to get away from it all, if you value peace and quiet, if you value the freedom to do your own thing, this is the ideal choice. Sue and Todd are attentive hosts and the property is outstanding. Excellent value and great facilities make for a relaxed stay whether you want to sit by the pool all day or you are returning from a day out exploring the local area, this is just such a nice place to be."

Type

Cottage/Gite

Kitchen and dining

Our large kitchen / diner with its characterful old beams and tiled flooring has french windows that open onto the terrace. Ample modern fitted cupboards are well-stocked with quality crockery, cutlery, pots and pans and there is plenty of room for you to store your own provisions. We provide a dishwasher, washing machine, (tumble dryer in the bathroom) full-sized fridge-freezer, microwave, toaster, Senseo coffee maker, electric kettle, juicer and multi-mixer. The cooker (hob and oven) is fuelled by bottled gas and has an electric hood above.

In addition to providing a welcome pack, we also stock the kitchen with life's basics, so you'll find all sorts of useful things like condiments, spices, olive oil, vinegar, washing tablets, kitchen foil, plastic food bags and so on.This means you don't have to buy them yourselves when you only need enough for a week or two.

The dining table comfortably seats six (and there is an additional table and chairs on the terrace).

Living rooms

The lounge, like the kitchen/diner, has beams and tiled flooring, with french windows that go out onto the terrace. There is a comfortable three-seater sofa which can be converted to a double bed, two additional armchairs, coffee table and book case 50-inch tv, dvd player and humax satellite box, corner cupboard and writing desk.

Furniture throughout the cottage is an eclectic mix of modern and shabby chic which adds to the character of the property.

Bedrooms

Larrival Cottage offers flexible sleeping arrangements for up to five people.

Upstairs, the main bedroom has a super king size bed (which can be split into two singles) plus a further single bed. The second bedroom has a queen size double bed. Both rooms are spacious and airy and have large wardrobes, chests of drawers, dressing tables and comfy seats.

We also have free standing air conditioners in each room for exceptionally hot summer nights.

In addition, the ground floor lounge has a sofa bed which opens up to a king size double, an ideal solution for anyone with limited mobility.

All bed linen (100% cotton) is provided and for guests staying two weeks there is a change of linen during the middle weekend.

Bathrooms

The smartly tiled first floor bathroom has a large shower, wc, hand basin with fitted cupboard and heated towel rail.

The roomy downstairs bathroom is suitable for wheelchair access, with a wheel-in shower including hinged seat and grab rails, hand basin, wc and heated towel rail and tumble dryer. The downstairs bathroom also has a door to the utility room under the stairs with a large capacity hot-water cylinder, drying rack, tools, iron and ironing board.

We provide hair dryers and a selection of Body Nature shower gels in both bathrooms.

Towels are provided, including swimming towels.

Heating

Normally through our long summers heating is not needed but all rooms have underfloor heating and windows are double-glazed.

In addition we have oil radiators if just a spot of warmth is required.

Entertainment

Larrival Cottage has internet/wifi and a 50-inch smart TV with Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Spotify, etc

The satellite humax box also provides all UK freeview channels

We have a dvd player and extensive dvd library.
Our games cupboard contains monopoly, scrabble, jigsaws, boggle and much more.

We also provide acrylic and watercolour sets for anyone interested in trying their hand at painting.
Books are to be found in the spacious hall and in each of the bedrooms.

We provide a 50-page information pack with suggestions about where to visit, where to eat, maps to help you find your way round and practical details about the cottage.

We have two bikes you are welcome to borrow and we can help you arrange bike hire if you need more.

Garden and outside

Larrival Cottage is set in 5 acres of garden and parkland and has its own private lawns with two large lime trees and flower borders. A sheltered terrace filled with flowerpots and overhanging passion flower vines extends round two sides.

A large gazebo faces west with views over the surrounding countryside, down to a stream and small bridge. Here we have a table and chairs for up to six and a charcoal fired barbecue.

We keep sets of "boules" for those who would like to try their hand at petanque on the grass under the lime trees on a warm summer's evening.

A stroll through the garden leads to our salt water swimming pool, described in more detail below.

Parking and garages

There is ample parking for up to three cars.

Visitor suitability

When we restored our cottage we made sure it would be suitable for guests with limited mobility. Access is straight from a car onto flat concrete pathways and terraces and the floors are tiled and level throughout.

The front door and internal doors on the ground floor are comfortably wide. The downstairs bathroom has ample turning space and a wheel-in shower area with grab rails and a seat. The lounge sofa converts into a very comfortable double bed (some mobility maybe required to get in and out of the bed).

Information about any additional facilities

Our Swimming Pool

Our pool is 4 x 8 meters (13 x 26 feet) and has a depth of about 1.5 meters (just under 5 feet) . It is the same depth throughout and has a ladder to get into it. It is heated by the sun and has a bubble cover to keep the heat in. During high summer the water temperature typically is in the eighties fahrenheit (28-29 celsius).

It’s a saltwater pool which makes it very pleasant to be in. The water feels “softer” and is kinder to hair, eyes and skin.

During your stay the swimming pool, surrounding terrace and sheltered pool house are for your exclusive use and we maintain it daily for you.

Facilities

  • Internet

  • No smoking

  • Linen

  • Private pool

Activities

Antiques/Brocante Market

Name of nearest antiques/brocante market: Clairac Brocante
Distance: 9 km

Cycling

Family activities

Fishing nearby

Species of fish: Black bass, carp, roach, zander,
Name of nearest fishing location: Lac de Pradingnas, Vares
Distance: 6 km

Golf

Name and address of nearest golf course: Golf Barthe, Tombeboeuf
Distance: 15 km

Horse riding

Name and address of nearest stables: La Chevauchée
Distance: 6 km

Sports

Walking

Name/number of nearest marked trail: Tonneins area IGN map 1739E

Watersports

Wine tasting

Name and address of nearest wine producer: Les Vignerons de Buzet Cooperative, Buzet-sur-Blaise
Distance: 25 km

About the Owner/Advertiser, Mrs Susan Hedinger

After a lifetime of living and working in and around London, we decided to retire with our two dogs to France – a country we had come to love through many years of summer holidays. We started looking in early 2007 and within weeks had found and fallen in love with an old farmhouse and a tumble-down cottage that we transformed into our comfortable, secluded gîte.

Year property purchased 2007
Why this location? We chose South West France and specifically Lot-et-Garonne because of its climate, tranquility and beautiful countryside.
Unique benefits of property Our guests tell us that staying at Larrival Cottage is like "home from home". This, in part, is because our spacious property is not "just" a gite but also where we live in winter and is therefore constructed, furnished and kitted out to the highest standard of comfort. The cottage sits within its own land and is totally secluded, so you have your own private space. However, if you need help or want suggestions for what to do whilst here on holiday, we can be on hand. And not least, for our guests who are dog lovers, Vita (our Airedale) and Bertie (a rescue mongrel) will take you to their hearts and contribute to the enjoyment of your holiday.

The Owner Recommends

Take a Dip in Our Pool

Our pool is a joy – using a salt-based system it is kind to eyes and skin and the water feels “soft”. Heated by the sun, in high summer the water can reach over 80°F (28°C).

A great way to freshen up after a sight-seeing trip. Or perhaps you’re just relaxing by the pool for the day and every so often you slip into the water, do a few slow lengths and then return to your lounger – to bask in the sun again.

Laze in the Shade

Two old lime trees stand on the lawn in front of our cottage, providing cooling shade. A place to relax and dream on a hot summer’s day. Maybe even getting into that good book is too much of an effort. Tip back the lounger, gaze up at the sunlight softly filtering through the greenery and, to a background of bees buzzing in the lime flowers above, gently doze off.

Go to Laparade Night Market

One of the joys of staying in Lot-et-Garonne during July and August is a chance to experience the night markets in the region and the one closest to us at Laparade we think is one of the best.

Every Tuesday evening through July and August the trestle tables go up in the square alongside the escarpment that overlooks the valley of the Lot. Lights are hung between the trees, stalls are set up and the food vans arrive from the surrounding shops and farms. The butcher from Monclar opens his wagon and lays out his tender slabs of beef and strings of sausages ready to cut to order and throw onto the adjorning barbecue. The family with the succulent rolled guinea fowl starts to carve and plate up sweet rings of stuffing and meat. Juicy melons are cut and placed in bowls, small plates of goats cheese and salad are laid side by side, prune tarts are unwrapped, fresh baked baguettes are stacked in large panniers, metal baskets filled with sliced potatoes are dropped into bubbling hot oil. Stalls are set aside for the local vinyards – bottles uncorked, plastic tumblers provided.

On a hot night Laparade will see as many as fifteen hundred people come to eat, to drink, to talk, to meet friends.

And as dusk falls, the band arrives and the dancing starts. If you’re lucky, it’s not the man who plays the accordian. Although even he can sound good on such a night and in such a wonderful setting!

Eat at the Crêperie de l’Eglise, Clairac

This is the place we always mention first to our guests, not least because Giselle’s restaurant is open every day, it’s only fifteen minute’s drive away and she speaks excellent English. So if you arrive late and tired from a day’s travel and just want to pop out for a quick meal, she’s there for you.

And then there’s its wonderful ambience – set in a small courtyard down a side street surrounded by the ivy covered walls from the old neighbouring buildings, simply furnished with shabby chic tables and chairs, look up at the deep blue evening sky and watch the swifts swooping in the hot air.

Her crêpes are tasty and filling, her wines cheap and good and her salads made from fresh local ingredients. The melon, only included when fully ripe in high summer, is delicious.

Visit the Water Lily Garden at Temple-sur-Lot

The unique water lily nursery “Latour Marliac Le Jardin des Nenuphars” is at Temple-sur-Lot, just 20 minutes drive away. The nursery has been in existence since 1875. Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac was the first to successfully hybridise these beautiful plants, introducing a multitude of different colours. This was the place from which Monet chose his plants for his famous pond at Giverny that he painted so often. The hardy lilies are laid out in open ponds, which date back to the original nineteenth century design. The tropical plants (including the giant waterlily from the Amazon, the leaves of which reach 1.5 metre in diameter) are in a glasshouse.

If you’re visiting in early summer, there’s a lovely wisteria arched walk to enjoy.

The nursery also has an attractive café in a pretty setting overlooking a small tributary of the Lot.

Indulge Yourself in the Thermal Baths at Casteljaloux

Just thirty minutes drive south, in the small town of Casteljaloux, stands a modern spa complex, built up round ancient thermal springs renowned for their health benefits. It’s a lovely place to play and even more fun if it’s a rainy day because the pools are so warm!

If you arrive just after 11.30 you will have the baths virtually to yourselves as the French head off for their lunch. Order your salad in the restaurant beforehand and then luxuriate for two hours in the warm waters of the indoor and outdoor pools. Water jets ease the stress from your muscles. Bubble baths, saunas, jacuzzis, hamams all add to the fun and your enjoyment of the experience.

Enjoy Street Theatre in Miramont

During July and August South West France is buzzing, with concerts, art exhibitions, pageants, fairs, theatre and much of the entertainment is free. One of the best events, just half an hour’s drive away, is a whole weekend of street theatre in Miramont-de-Guyenne, the first weekend in August. Jugglers, acrobats, actors, musicians vie for your attention and because so much of it is visual it really doesn’t matter if your French is not that good. The only challenge is to decide which act to catch. And then at the end of the day, in the warm night air, sit at one of the long trestle tables eating “moules et frites“, drinking rough red wine and listening to the distant music from the latest jazz band.

Eat at Le Vigneron Restaurant, Buzet

Restaurants around here? We’re spoilt for choice. But if you want a classic, generous French menu one of the best is the Vigneron at Buzet.

The starter buffet table can be a meal in itself (you can go back as often as you like) and the sweet trolley is heaving with choices (this is a place where you need to pace yourself). There is also a soup to begin with and a typical French main course aimed at the workers in the area. Lunchtime is particularly good value, but be prepared to wait; the said workers will be served first.

A stroll after such an ample meal may be in order, so head down to the crowded marina where the River Baïse meets the Lateral Canal. This is the one crossing point between the two great rivers of the Garonne and the Lot and the canal, so it’s not unusual to find boats moored here that have come from all over Europe.

And whilst in the village, why not take in the wine cooperative. Buzet wines are very drinkable, but without the exhorbitant price of their neighbouring Bordeaux cousins. One of our favourites is a red, Baron Ardeuil.

Enjoy a Day out in Bordeaux

If you hanker after some city life while you’re here, Bordeaux (only an hour and a half away) is a delightful place to spend a day. Take the motorway and then park and ride or perhaps take the train from Tonneins. The modern tram system in Bordeaux is excellent for getting around.

Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, the city has 362 historic monuments (in France only Paris has more). Part of the joy of Bordeaux is that it just looks beautiful. For example, stroll along the quayside, with its magnificent 18th century buildings taking in the fun and magic of the “miroir d’eau” reflecting pool across from Place de la Bourse. For some serious shopping, rue Sainte-Catherine is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe and has all the big brands and some quirky ones as well. Or, maybe head for the modern shopping area at “Quai des Marques” with its factory-price boutiques, restaurants and cafes and a fine view of the new Jacques Chaban-Delmas bridge.

Another new addition to the “must do” list in Bordeaux is “La Cité du Vin“. Sited in a breathtaking building the museum takes the visitor on an immersive experience of wines of the world. In complete contrast, explore the grand elegance of the Opera House, considered to be one of the most beautiful 18th century concert halls in the world.

Take your pick of restaurants on the quayside and watch the world go by, or dive back into the side streets to find cafés run by a new generation of young chefs offering good value bistro food. Alternatively embark on one of the Bordeaux lunch cruises and take in the sights of the city from the comfort of a floating elegant restaurant.

Visit the Roman Villa at Montreal-Seviac

For something a little bit different, how about a trip to a third century Gallo-Roman villa just an hour away? There are extensive well-preserved mosiacs and the site includes the ruins of a large thermal complex with pools and heated rooms. There is also an interesting back history showing how the villa was constructed and how in recent years it has been restored.

Perhaps make the visit to the villa part of a round trip taking in Nerac, the miniture towered village Larressingle, Condom and the ancient Cistercian Abbaye de Flaran.

Visit the Rose Garden near Duras

Come to this part of France in June and you will be overwhelmed by the number and variety of roses. Every patch of ground, every garden is awash with their beauty.

A special place to see climbing and rambling roses at their best is the Jardin de Boissonna. The visitor is invited to wander through six different “rooms”, the borders packed with more than 700 roses over 460 different varieties soaring up into the branches of old evergreen and deciduous trees. The family gardens organically and so this is a haven for birds and insects.

The place has a very English feel (the daughter having lived in England and fallen in love with the less formal way of gardening) not least because cream teas are served in a sheltered glade, with rose jam and scones!

Maybe as part of your trip take in the Château nearby at Duras. Or explore other lovely gardens in the area such as Les Jardins de Beauchamp and the Cloister Garden in Marmande.

Visit the Teich Bird Reserve

If you are a serious bird watcher or photographer, give yourself the treat of a day out in the direction of the Arcachon Bassin, beyond Bordeaux. Here you will find the Teich Bird Reserve, one of the most important ornithological sites in Europe.

110 hectares of wooded areas, reed beds, meadows, saltmarsh and water are the natural habitats for over 300 bird species. The reserve has been designed in such a way that visitors can observe birds at close quarters, with well constructed pathways, twenty roomy comfortable hides, useful information panels and the chance to hire binoculars. High tide is the best time to be there as that is when most birds return to the reserve.

If, on the other hand, you are loathe to stir far, birdwatch from our cottage garden. From late spring onwards we have cuckoos, hoopoes, nightingales, golden orioles, black redstarts, swallows and housemartins, as well as all the usual garden birds. If you are lucky, you may see a hen harrier swooping low across the field below the cottage. And buzzards, kites, falcons, merlins, all are to be seen hunting the surrounding farmland

Try Agen Prunes

An absolute MUST to try and buy while here. Nothing like the dried up prunes one buys in the UK, Agen prunes are large, beautifully juicy and full of flavour. A real delicacy!

They come from the magnificent local Agen prunes and are semi-dried (mi-cuit) so they retain their moisture. They can be eaten on their own, or stuffed with prune conserve, soaked in Armagnac or coated in chocolate. Take them home as gifts for friends – they will beg you to get more next time you’re here!

Agen prunes are also made into jams and conserves and used as a filling in tarts, clafoutis, crêpes and as a sweet/sour addition to duck recipes. So lots of ways to try them while you are here on holiday.

They can be found in most supermarkets but the best way to see them and understand the importance of this local treat is at the Prune Museum near Grange-sur-Lot. Or, if you are fortunate to be here at the end of August there is a three day festival in honour of the prune in Agen.

(NB: For the French “prune” means plum. The English word “prune” translates as “pruneau“.)

Star Gaze on Hot Summer Nights

This is a region of France that has little or no pollution. There is virtually no heavy industry and it’s too sparcely populated for traffic to cause problems. Also, there’s little light spill. So on clear nights with no moon, our skies are inky black and filled with stars, including the Milky Way.

We have a special treat in early August – the Perseid meteor shower. At its peak the shower can reach as many as 60 meteors per hour. So drag out that lounger, bring a light blanket and a pillow and maybe a glass or two of wine and lie there in the dark, watching the magic of the heavens!

Stroll (or Cycle) beside the Canal

Imagine at the end of a hot summer’s day, taking a leisurely stroll along the towpath of the Lateral Canal, shaded by the great plane trees, dappled sunlight through the leaves, an occasional passing pleasure boat to wave to. Then wander back to a canal-side restaurant for a delicious evening meal.

Feeling more energetic? Borrow our two bikes (or hire from town) pop them in the car, head for a convenient carpark by the towpath and then set off further afield, passing hamlets and villages, old bridges, churches, small châteaux that border the water. You could go on forever – Bordeaux in one direction, Toulouse and the Med beyond in the other!

Mess about on the River

We are ten minutes drive from the Garonne river, fifteen from the Lot – two imposing waterways that wend their way through Aquitaine. They have such different characters.

The Lot is peaceful, just right for pleasure boating. Head for the pretty viilage of Castelmoron, cross the bridge and park by the small beach where there is safe bathing and the chance to hire canoes, motor boats, paddle boards or pedalos then revel in the verdant tranquility of this great river as you slip away from the shore.

In contrast, the Garonne is faster flowing, with eddies and rapids, great fun for kayaking. Pop into Tonneins in July or August and hire a kayak from the local club - they will make you very welcome.

Go a Little Crazy at Chateau Le Stelsia

Old château meets pop art! Startling colours, giant topiary, crazy golf, glitter decoration in the restaurants, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an “event” and definitely a place for a fun day out. Take a camera and your inner child and leave behind your opinion of what a French Château "ought" to be.

Head for the Coast

An astonishing endless sandy beach that borders the Atlantic stretches some 150 miles from the foothills of the Pyrenees in the south to the estury of the Gironde, north west of Bordeaux. Take a day out and zoom along the motorway, or meander through pine forests in the Landes, until you reach the sea. Head for one of the resorts - Lacanau-Ocean, Mimizan, Biscarrosse - and revel in the choice of restaurants, the ice-cream parlours, the myriad small boutiques with their garish beach gear. Wait til lunchtime when the French leave the beach to eat and claim your spot, pitch your umbrella, lay out your towel and dash across the sand for the Atlantic rollers. If you're a strong swimmer, perhaps this is the moment to hire that surf board.

Or maybe you prefer the elegant calm of Arcachon, set on the edge of its sheltered lagoon. A step away from the town centre you'll find small bars where you can try the oysters fished from the bay - safest when there is an "r" in the month! Then south of Arcachon head south for the Dune du Pilat - the tallest sand dune in Europe. Be prepared for an energetic climb, either through the sand or up the steps, but it's worth it for the views from the top and the sheer scale of the dune.

If you prefer to avoid the crowds (this is the summer playground for the northern French), the beach is so immense that you only need to turn your car away from the resorts, drive north or south, then head down a sandy track between the pines to find you have all the space you need.