We fell in love with this city! Our Airbnb that was located outside the city centre (bbbbbbudget, of course), cancelled at the 11th hour and we were really unsure about what to do… we scoured Airbnb and all the booking sites and really didn’t find anything that fit our criteria and budget. Three days before we were due to leave our beautiful, fairytale oasis in The Dordogne, a new listing landed on Airbnb and we were SOLD…

So this is how we ended up spending the week sleeping on a boat in Bordeaux’s city harbour! In my hometown, houseboats are aplenty but most look like big, floating sheds (though can be super luxurious), they mostly look the same… but this! This! This boat was the dream boat I didn’t even know was in my dreams! The girls squealed with delight when we arrived on board and there was an ACTUAL captains hat! Apart from the sheer terror of keeping the children contained, you know, on top of the boat as opposed to falling off the boat, I felt like we could have moved in and worn that captain’s hat permanently (Jordan looked hot in it, though we all know who the real captain is… Sadie!) and sailed off into the French sunset!

We were about 3.5kms from Centreville but the walk into town was really nice, safe and straightforward; right along the boardwalk full of shops and, strangely, a number of Australian themed bars (?). On our first afternoon, we had an early dinner and headed into the city with the express purpose of checking out the Miroir D-eau, the world’s largest reflective pool: 3450 square metres of incredible reflection. The opportunity to splash in a public fountain is like Christmas for the girls who skipped the entire way into the city and squealed when they finally spotted it whilst in its mystifying mist (see what I did there?) stage of its three part cycle. We arrived right at the most beautiful moment, where the sun was just slipping down behind the buildings of Place de la Bourse but still peeking out enough to create this slightly magical effect where the last streaks of day glow were slashing through the fog of the Miroir. The girls did not even ask (or speak) they just bolted towards the water, fully clothed and spent the next couple of hours in mirrored bliss (aaaand ditto that every single night of our stay!).

We love wine. Like, LOVE wine. And we were in Bordeaux. And!! -we are on a trip for 12 months with our 4 and 6 year old children. WINE. So of course we had to visit at least one winery along the Routes de Vins. Saint Emilion won our vote because we had read that the town was worth a visit itself (hint: it was!) and we found that Chateau Soutard was supposedly family friendly. What we didn’t find was what would have been incredibly useful information: that you need to book a tour. One cannot just rock up to a winery in search of wine! Of course not, this is not bloody Australia, mate! The lady at Soutard seemed genuinely disappointed for us and we happily settled on sitting in the courtyard in front of the chateau and buy wine by the glass instead of doing the full tour.  In all honesty, this suited us really, after all, we do not realllllllllllly care how the wine is made, just how it tastes! At Soutard, they had a wee play structure pour les filles and ours were completely happy to leave us to pretend they didn’t exist for a few moments,  sample a few glasses whilst they played quietly (a Christmas miracle!) on the little playground. Chateau Soutard is beautiful and we were invited to ride or walk around the vineyards for free, we just weren’t able to show up and do a guided tour and tasting. So don’t be like us- book ahead!

Our last day and night in Bordeaux, was spent wandering the city and buying treats from the Sunday market… because they were so enamoured by the taste, they barely blinked when we disclosed what ‘cour de canard’ really was (quack!).  My watch told me we’d clocked 20kms – a new PB for our 4 year old! We saw all the must-sees of Bordeaux and of course ended the day with a beautiful picnic along the Quay of Garonne (with our bordelaise wine, of course!) and an after dinner splash in our favourite water mirror.

If we were in the city longer, we would have (SO SHOULD HAVE) checked out the Darwin Ecosystem on the right bank. I jogged past a few times and it seemed interesting and every night, from the opposite bank we could hear great music and lots happening over there. The space, is a green hub which houses an outdoor farm, huge skatepark, hosts live music, an expression space for graffiti artists, oh gosh I have to stop, I’m so disappointed in myself for not stopping in. Again, learn from our mistakes. Go here!

All in all, we absolutely fell in love with Bordeaux. Jordan thinks we could live there. It felt diverse and culturally rich, full of community and activity (one night we saw salsa classes on the Miroir, another area was sectioned off and held rollerblading lessons one evening, skateboarding the next). And !! AND!! Things were ACTUALLY open on Sunday- huzzah! Bordeaux has it all!! If you want the link to our airbnb boat, shoot me through a message.

The Dordogne

I think, apart from Provence (will it always be ‘apart from Provence’?), this has been the most beautiful area we have seen in France. The traditional, stone roofed homes, particular to the area have been mostly preserved and the plentiful, rocky hills offer panoramic views of the landscape that is saturated with castles, greenery and of course the shimmering eponymous river, Le Dordogne.

We stayed in the little village, ‘Auriac-du-Perigord’, which today, has just over 400 inhabitants. There are no stores in the village which seemed half abandoned, common for many of the small, rural villages we’ve visited. It is a beautiful place to spend a couple of weeks though as it’s quiet, the views are spectacular and our Airbnb is a traditional stone home, complete with pigeonnier tower-it looks to be straight out of the pages of the girls’ fairy tale books, there is a heated pool and amenities are close enough if you have a car. On Thursdays in the Summer, they have a quintessential night market in the town square where long trestle tables are set up and produce (including wine!) can be bought and cooked on site and enjoyed in the communal setting.

It has actually been an ideal spot to explore all that the domain of Dordogne has to offer and we managed to check out quite a few of the beautiful places.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac (The Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac)

We spent a happy few hours discovering the grounds and the girls were entertained by the hedge mazes and the adventurous play parks that are scattered amongst the grounds. The netted path was a highlight for us all, especially because it ended at a really enchanting spot with stone sculptures that were reminiscent of the trolls in Frozen… because of course Frozen is everything!

There was a tea house and restaurant there on the grounds with a most spectacular view but was not for the self catering peasants who settled for a picnic just outside the grounds, with an equally spectacular view of both Beynac Castle and Chateau de Castelnaud, and of course the river. We highly recommend a visit to this remarkable garden, with or without children this is an absolutely beautiful, enjoyable outing.

Chateau du Castelnaud

This place was super cool. It was built early on in the 13th century and has a really cool history of seizing, capturing and changing hands and burning down. A REALLY sordid, interesting past! It played a key role as a principal strong hold and was rivalled constantly by its enemy and neighbouring chateau, Beynac. Now it houses many of the weaponry used during its heyday and displays its history throughout the castle walls.

When we arrived at the castle, the beautiful surrounding village was worth a wander. Cute little shops stocked medieval costumes and one shopkeeper handed us wooden weapons to try (shrug!). He also let the girls borrow some princess crowns to wear whilst they explored the castle. Amazingly generous.

We paid 38 Euro total for two adult tickets that gave us access into both the gardens and Chateau Castelnaud. The girls were free for both. We felt that the gardens had more things to do but the Castle was more interesting. Probably the perfect combination for a day’s outing really! Check out this video below to see highlights from our day!

La Roque-Gageac

Another on France’s Plus Beaux Villages list, and it is so obvious why. It occupies a stunning position on the north bank of the Dordogne and backed by a steep, rocky cliff that shows the obvious remnants of a troglodyte fort which dates back to the 12th Century, apparently an important and strategic point of defense for the area up until the 17th century. The homes in the village are a mixture of the beautiful, modest French homes, with their tiny doorways traditional styles and amazingly grand homes like the renaissance style, Chateau de la Malartrie that cannot be missed. By the river there is a little playground and large picnic area with boats docked along the water. The ticket office for cruising is within site although we did not do this. 


The larger city within this area, centres around a Benedictine abbey and the Sarlat Cathedral, this charming town is full of art, culture, history and good food! The Saturday market is huge and famous and you can find anything you need there (from delicious treats to clothing and souvenirs. Its history seemed to be lovingly preserved, as the entire city has retained its traditional, 14th century style impeccably. 


We visited on a windy afternoon and seemed to be the only people around! The town sits on either side of the river, Vezere and the old town is small but lovely and the highlight is the Place Bouquier which is has some great buildings and a little garden area with a little labyrinth. Lots of really great looking cafes and restaurants but all were closed during our visit as it was between service times. 


This is another Plus Beaux Village and possibly my favourite so far. It’s ADORABLE. There are some amazing restaurants (Le Petite Leon- a New Zealand chef!), cafes and sites positioned in a perfect little loup of the river Vezere. There’s an Eiffel style bridge (not super exciting but there and impossible to miss!) but I was most taken by an adorable little cafe on the banks of the river between the church and the Clérans Castle, Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (or, in English, Lunch on the Grass), which sells delicious plates of local specialties (foie gras, tartine, salad, cake, beer, etc!) which you enjoy right on the banks, either on one of the picnic tables or on one of the picnic rugs they have to borrow, where you can sit on the ground and enjoy your lunch amongst the cats and chickens that wander freely. We are going to head here for lunch tomorrow so I will update this when we do. The river is shallow and clear in Saint Leon and there are spots to swim that seem safe for little people. It’s SUPER cute and I would say not to be missed.

Conques, etc

We left our little slice of blissful vacancy on the Mediterranean to head north to de L’Averyon region in south central France. The drawcard had been Conques, another on France’s list of Plus Beaux Villages. I can’t remember exactly why but probably because of the budget, we ended up in a little village just east of there and it was totally perfect. 

Our little place in Senergues seemed right out of a fairy tale. It was very quaint. VERY. But perfect for us for our week there. There was a big garden, full of fruit trees and bikes for us to ride around the village. The house was spread over three levels and there was no wifi at all! I don’t remember the last time we’ve gone completely dark for this long but we kind of enjoyed it! I downloaded Shantaram on my kindle before we left Frontignan and finished that epic within our stay. Yew!

The village and neighbouring Conques are on the Compostelle route and this piqued my interest as I’ve always had a bit of a non-religious pipe dream to do a stretch of this with the girls one day. Achieving a great distance on a very well travelled (and signposted!) road has an allure for me that I think lies in the reflection afforded when physical endurance and nature are combined. 

Days earlier we had also talked about picking up a hitchhiker after we’d spied a pretty nefarious looking young fella along the route from Spain and joked about how he would go sitting in the back between the two girls. Staring out at the Pyrenees Orientales, I had thought about it some more and said then that I would definitely pick up a hitchhiker, if the right one popped up… of course Jordan’s response was to question how we would know this…

So, as these things play out, of course on our way to the village, along a very lonesome (and hilly!) stretch of road, we passed by a young woman on the side of the road with her thumb out. We sped past her but Jordan and I looked at each other and as if we’d made the decision, turned around to see where she was heading. We considered the distinct lack of other vehicles and thought about if our own girls were in that situation; that we were probably a pretty solid offer (if not her only offer!). So around we turned and up we picked Annalise, and bringing her back to our place in Senergues (more on that!) and then drove her on to her last stop, Conques so she could meet with friends in time for dinner. On the way, we talked a lot of the track, how easy it was, how comfortable she’d felt doing it alone, etc and when we left our place in Senergues to drop her off at Conques, she bequeathed me her walking stick so that I could do the last leg with it… so the decision was made here I suppose! How could I refuse?!

I am notorious for getting lost on walks (remember that one time we accidentally hiked through the forest from Tourtour to Villecroze without so much as a 300mls of water and a couple of mentos!?). I just turn down an interesting street/ fork in the road and forget which way I’ve gone or was going! I have a real talent for it actually. But, Annalise had assured me that it was very well sign posted (spoiler alert: it was!).

I loved the walk. I was alone for the entirety of it and had picked a gorgeous day to do it. It was not too rigorous (the last part heading into Conques was very rocky and the most intrepid of the entire route) and when I arrived into Conques I felt really proud of myself for doing it. Not in the doing of it, I suppose. 10kms is not a huge feat but doing it alone, I think, that was the big thing for me. Alone alone. Without the comfort of understanding the language, a knowledge of such foreign direction and of course, without the security of a mobile phone or gps. Jordan decided he would do it the following morning and felt the same sense of accomplishment when he arrived into Conques to meet his now experienced cheer squad/welcoming committee.

Conques was absolutely gorgeous! One of our favourites on the list of Plus Beaux Villages. It is set high up on the Aubrac plateau as you descend towards the Lot valley. When you enter from the Compostelle route, you arrive at the very top and work your way down, down into the stunning village through the array of half timbered houses cut into the terraces of the rock face, descending toward the beautiful Abbey of Sainte-Foy. 

Gorges du Verdon, France

We did some research on exploring the gorge with little people in tow (always, always a factor to consider!) and had some serious, heart palpitation inducing flashbacks to driving the Cabot Trail in Canada last year where our kids yelled at us the entire time and we immediately said no to driving the famous road (which would have taken most of the day). But the thing about life and the life we are trying to lead is that no should not be the default response, so we decided to do a little more research and chatted to the tourist office person who spoke wonderful English and we came up with a (keep Sadie from becoming possessed in the car) plan. Spoiler alert: it involved ice cream and lollies- but ! (And I’m just realising this now as I’m typing) no iPad! Or any other car entertainment (other than me of course, ha!).

We’re early risers so we were out of the airbnb, equipped with fresh baguettes still warm from the boulangerie in our commune, a bag full of fresh, delicious snacks and an over exuberant, ‘I think I can, I think I can’ optimism by 8am. 

En route, we stopped by Les Salles-sur-Verdon. An interesting place, the newest village in France because in the 70s the entire town was destroyed to allow the construction of the Lac St Croix. CRAZY! Our tourist office lady told us that the new town is not very nice and the locals were still resentful and bitter about this (when we stopped for a loo break and to grab some tomatoes from the market, we felt that maybe, just maybe this could be true- SORRY Les Salles-sur-Verdon!!)

On to the Gorges, we headed straight for the pont du Galetas where we knew we would be able to rent a boat. Already, at 9.30 there were a few kayaks and paddle boats out on the gorge as we crossed over the bridge and took in the spectacular views. 

A view from the bridge – Verdon not Miller.

The colors of the lake are a magnificent emerald. It seems a little surreal; its color is so saturated and the rocky cliffs of the gorge make for an astounding and dramatic backdrop.

We rented boats from Etoille right over the bridge at the gorge. There is a sign on the side of the road just beyond the bridge, you can’t miss them as you can see the boats as you drive. We decided on an electrical boat for two hours which set us back a cool 80 Euro (and included life jackets for the girls). You can rent 4-6 person paddle boats for 20 Euro an hour but it is tough to make it to the end of the gorge and back in this time and we were palpably aware that all of the things with kids take longer (especially with crazed three year old drivers who think they own the water way (and the sole right to drive!). 


The electrical boats weren’t ready until 10.30 so we took a walk back to the bridge (there’s a little path that was kind of rocky but many were pushing prams and strollers easily) and we took in the spectacular view.

By the time we got back to the boat rental place, there was a solid line and we were glad we had arrived early and didn’t have to wait. We packed our baguettes and cooler bag to make a picnic along the way, even though you’re not supposed to stop along the gorge. Or swim, or jump according to the signs but Europeans don’t follow rules and we’re here for an immersive experience!!

We genuinely didn’t have time to think about lunch on our 2 hour cruise though, we were so happy taking in the landscape of the gorge, swimming (the water is FREEZING!) and watching the young and uninhibited climb the precarious and rocky face of the gorge and dive into the water… Sadie wanted to have a go. We did not let her. 

Afterwards we picnicked right by where we had rented the boat and then took a drive around towards the beautiful village of Moustiers Sainte Marie, which gave us some insight into the views we would have had on the half day drive. We would have loved to stop in Moustiers Saint Marie- it looked delightful but there were no parks, the girls were napping happily in the back and ain’t nobody want to mess with that/poke the bear(s).

We’re really glad we got there early and snagged the first fleet of electric boats, it meant not having to kill time, wait in a huge line or grapple with the huge afternoon crowds.

We had the most wonderful day and highly recommend this as a family adventure.

Check out our video below!

Yay for the GORGEOUS Gorges!

Lyon, France

Lyon, France

… Began with a dismal forecast of ‘wet and cold’… and it was really, ‘wet and cold’ and I had left my jumper (my only jumper) at the airport in Hong Kong (just to be clear: that is on the way to begin our year of travel, not during… I am the reason I can’t have nice things).

We started at La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière and actually I think it is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen (I’ve seen a lot!). Walking out, Rosie asked hordes of questions that got a little complex (we are not religious, but spiritual and happy to help the girls explore the important ideas in the world) and Sadie, earnest (EAR.NEST!) in her attempts to interrupt, posed her own question:

 “but but BUT! Why did John Lemon get shot??”

Ummm. Yep! The important things.

After the Roman Ruins, which we found pretty cool, we made a beeline for the famous, ‘Les Halles de Lyon- Paul Bocuse’. This area is renowned for its culinary prowess and we had a guilty chuckle as we handed the girls a round of brown bread, turkey and cheese sangas whilst we perused the halls for lunch. 

I had tabouleh and this wee thing called a timbale de courgette au parmesan (I believe this is French for crustless quiche with zucchini and parmesan cheese… doesn’t have quite the same allure in English though, does it?). Jordan had salmon – Canadians can’t say no to salmon.


And of course- MACARONS. I bought 4 (with the complete awareness that 1/4 members of our party is deathly allergic to nuts and also kind of owes me for being such a legendary wife, so…), 4.

2 x chocolate and 2 x caramel butter (I had one of each but possibly enjoyed the caramel more as I didn’t have to quickly shove it in my mouth and inhale whilst eagle-eyed, freshly addicted macaron-lovers enquired constantly as to wha would be the fate of the remaining macaron).

With full tummies we had one last thing to check off the list: the Traboules de Lyon; secret, covered passageways that form a continuous passage throughout the city. Built in the 1800s for the silk traders to get around quickly they also helped Lyon avoid total Nazi occupation during WW2. You can imagine how intrigued the girls were… we had to look for a symbol on a door, push the door and see if it opened (spoiler: we pushed a lot of doors). We found the longest Traboules and walking through this was the highlight of the day for the girls who did not once demand ice cream afterwards (our new measure of good parenting!).

Secret passages of Lyon

Annecy and Rhône-Alpes with Kids

It was SO hot. Even as an Australian, even atop a mountain, it was hot.

Probably because of our budget, we made the call to stay outside of Annecy, at a guest house in the mountains of Manigod, about a half an hour drive from Annecy. We enjoy the smaller communes and here we felt like we had won.

We ventured into Annecy on Sunday, with the (completely non-unique) idea of checking out the market, buying some delicious picnic provisions and then sitting by the lac, swimming and enjoying our loots.

By 10.30am the centre-ville was swarming with tourists with the exact same agenda (uncanny!). It was like Times Square right before Christmas and gave us flashing, anxiety-inducing imagery of how we are to cope in future Moroccan medinas.

Sadie was on my back, in the carrier, pretending to be constantly on the verge of sleep when enquired upon (she weighs 16kgs), Rosie, who never complains, in a voice, so perfectly whiny it would suggest otherwise, insisted that she too be carried, because (and rightly), she never gets that opportunity and she never complains (that kid stores truths). As team managers (aka exhausted pack animals), we willingly made a motion to call the proposed agenda too ambitious and head home for an afternoon of down time which was spent in terrifying anguish whilst we hissed at the children to ‘STOP CLIMBING DOWN THE CLIFF TO CATCH THOSE KITTENS!’

The cats/ The view – choose whichever you prefer!

Armed with the knowledge gained from yesterday’s fail, we woke early (easy with little people), and headed back into Annecy to take 2, this time at 8am in the morning. It was peaceful and there were barely any other tourists, and unfortunately no market either but we didn’t mind. We parked at the Hotel D’Ville and it was cheap compared to other places we’ve been. The street art was visible and the flower adorned bridges were bare, so the girls could run around freely and did not make demands to be carried.

Afterwards, we headed for the Lake, at D’Angon which was suggested to us by our lovely host, Aurelia. There they have a patrolled little stretch just beyond the private beaches. It cost us €5.60 as a family to ‘get in’ which I always find a bit funny… who owns that? But it was perfect. A little stall sold ice creams, drinks and snacks, pontoons were anchored close to the beach but far out enough to dive from safely and the views of the mountains were gasp inducing. The littles played happily in the shallows whilst we swam and read and were satisfyingly exhausted and happy to head home when the suggestion was made.


And home for the week was surrounded by jutting mountain ranges that have for me, an allure that I can’t quite explain or perhaps comprehend. The girls told us, emphatically that it was their most favorite place so far:
Us: ‘ah yes, we know; that view!’,
Them: ‘No, because of the cats.’.