So, you’ve taken on the task of planning a family reunion? We applaud your bravery. And you’re considering hosting the whole thing abroad? While we wish you the best of luck, we’re out of here!
Only joking; we’re right by your side for the good times and the bad…
And after such a tough couple of years, largely spent distant and apart from the ones we love, a family reunion that reunites the gang and reminds you of your affection for each other feels so important, don’t you think?
Rather than all descending on someone’s house for a hurried cuppa, why not host your family reunion somewhere a little more far flung, but still within reach? If you’re wondering where that might be, then one place we think is particularly lovely is the French countryside. With its welcoming pace, serene lifestyle, and easy accessibility, it’s a wonderful place for several generations to come together and celebrate being alive.
To help you get the minutiae of the occasion just right, and deserving of the occasion, here’s how to throw a fantastic family reunion in France this summer.
Rent A Chateau
A chateau is perfect for the whole family, whether that’s nuclear, extended, or everyone from your grandma’s coffee morning chums to the postman. Chateaus, much like families, come in all shapes and sizes, whether that’s a feudal castle, a large country house or mansion, or even a French vineyard estate. Of course, you’ll pay for the privilege of staying in such refined surrounds, but that’s the beauty of holidaying as a larger family unit; everyone can chip in, keeping the costs down!
In fact, in the quieter parts of Northern and Western France, you’ll find chateaus to rent for as little as £250 a night.
The chateau-dotted landscape of France is vast and extensive, and there is plenty of choice and scope for renting. It might be better, then, to first choose a region with activities you’re keen to experience or local delicacies you’d love to try, and then look for a chateau to rent in that region, rather than falling in love with a property before discovering there’s not much going on in the surrounding area.
All that said, the most popular regions to rent a chateau in France are The Loire Valley, Aquitaine, Provence, Périgord, Brittany, and Normandy.
Meet In Paris
They say that lovers meet in Paris. But really, the city is also the ideal meeting place for your family reunion to begin. Since Paris Charles de Gaulle is the biggest airport in France and the city’s main train station Gare Du Nord is easily accessible, both from the airport and from London via Eurostar, it’s almost certain that most of your family will enter the country via Paris from the UK.
Meeting in Paris allows the whole gang to congregate in one place before the onward journey to the countryside. With so much to see and do in the City of Love, it might even be worth a night or two here, don’t you think?
Once you’re ready to leave the city and head out to your chateau, the best way to get all your family from A to B in one harmonious piece is probably via coach. There are plenty of companies offering the opportunity to charter a coach with a driver, which allows you to drive to your final destination as one big group.
You might actually want to hire your coach ahead of time, using it to tour the sites of Paris as a family. The BCS-BUS company, who offer coach hire in Paris, suggest that the easiest way to do this is to hire a coach with a local driver. They can take you around the city, make use of all the shortcuts, and negotiate that infamously chaotic city centre traffic! You’re on holiday to de-stress, after all.
Activities For All The Ages
It’s important to sketch out a rough itinerary for the reunion and try to find activities that appeal to every generation.
Wine Tasting: The French countryside is home to some of the best vineyards in the world, with France generally acknowledged as being the finest producers of premium plonk on the planet. In the country, any region with even a whisper of countryside will have vineyards and a rich history of winemaking.
Accordingly, you can go on some superb wine tasting tours of local wineries all over France. And because these vineyards are generally built on gorgeous, rolling hills, if you’re travelling with little ones, they can have a good stretch of their legs and a runaround while you enjoy a glass. Everyone wins!
Some of the best regions in France for truly world-beating wine include Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Provence and, of course, Champagne.
Bicycle Rides: The country of France and the pastime of cycling have been synonymous for centuries. It’s even said that bicycles with pedals were invented in France, in the mid 19th century, with the word ‘bicycle’ first appearing in a French publication in 1847 to describe a type of two-wheeled vehicle.
What better place, then, to enjoy some magnificent bike rides than with your family? Not only is it a suitable activity for all ages, but if family units want to break off and do their own thing, going on a bike ride is the ideal activity for those independent souls.
From riding through the lavender fields of Provence to traversing the Burgundy canal, we’ve written more about fantastic French cycling holidays here. Do check it out.
Boules: A change of pace, sure, but one which the whole family will love. The game of boules, otherwise known as pétanque, is the ideal summer garden game to enjoy while in France, and the best part? You don’t even need to leave your chateau! It’s a brilliantly sociable game, too, and just the right level of competition for family members to get invested, but not so competitive that people fall out.
A Canal Tour: France boasts over 8’000 km of navigable canals and rivers, enabling family members to enjoy the experience of being on the move whilst simultaneously kicking back. With the maximum number of passengers on a canal being 12, this can be a surprisingly sociable way to see the country, too, at a refined, regal pace.
When in France, Eat Like The French
Since you’re in France, the focus of the food and your family meals should of course be about traditional French fare. Many French towns still have thriving food markets where rural producers come to town to sell their wares, and these are the perfect place to pick up local produce to cook back at your chateau, or even on your canal boat.
Let’s break down the day…
Petit-déjeuner: Each morning, cultivate a continental breakfast for the entire family to enjoy. You’re in France and baked goods are not only delicious, but they’re an essential thread in the fabric of society.
There is no French meal – whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner – without the appearance of bread. The crusty, chewy, French baguette is a vital element of the French breakfast especially. Fig jam, a condiment that graces many a Parisian breakfast table, is ideal for spreading on baguette slices for breakfast, with slabs of proper butter, too.
The breakfast spread wouldn’t be complete without some freshly baked pastries; think buttery almond croissants, topped with crispy almonds and filled with frangipane, and of course, pain au chocolat, perhaps the most loved French pastry of all time, and a must for the younger (and older) members of the family.
If you’re keen to push the boat out, buckwheat crepes in the traditional Breton style are an excellent breakfast option and are a whole load of fun to make with the kids.
Déjeuner: For us, there’s nothing better than French lunch spread – al fresco, of course, and ideal for sharing with the whole family. Think French cheeses like Comté and Camembert alongside cured meats and some saucisson, and little jars of preserved treats, all to adorn a freshly baked baguette that you’ve picked up that morning from the local boulangerie.
Oh, and crunchy cornichons, of course; who wouldn’t want those? Not forgetting a terrine or pâté… We’re getting hungry just thinking about.
Though perhaps prosaic in appearance, a French lunch spread can be highly regional, and represents a great way to understand the traditions of wherever you’re staying.
Indeed, according to The Local, “estimates put the number of French cheese varieties as high as 400, though with the sub varieties on offer, some say it’s closer to 1,000”, with cheese and charcuterie traditions and specialities varying hugely from region to region.
The best way to choose cheeses for your family feast, then, is to buy what’s locally available from the market; hey, this thing has suddenly turned educational, and we love it!
Dîner: Catering for a large group is easy in France, as much of the local cooking lends itself to generous one pot wonders cooked over the fire, such as beef bourguignon, rabbit stew and even coq au vin. An onion soup will easily cater to the masses too, or, consider hiring a personal chef if you’ve the means.
And with that, we’ve noticed our tummy is rumbling; we’re off!
If your family reunion in the French countryside went so well that you’re already planning the next, then we’ve got just the thing for you; these essential tips for throwing a family reunion in London this Christmas. Have a great one!