From Brighton to South West France and back again …. It’s official – we have just experienced the most incredible couple of weeks’ holiday we ever thought possible!!
Not just any holiday, may I add. Oh, nope. This was a holiday for a very special family occasion!
And it’s been very exciting indeed!
To give you a little of the back story … my lovely nephew Ross rang us early last year to let us know he was getting married and that the ceremony was to be in a beautiful Chateau in France. We were over the moon at his news of course, although my heart did sink a little when he said it was to going to be across the channel. The last time I holidayed abroad was many years ago, as I’m not a fan of flying or sailing, and the prospect was a little daunting for me, ridiculous as that probably sounds to most!
But I had to go of course!!!
The Euro Tunnel was the best option to allow for my travel phobia, haha, I knew I could just about manage that!! It did mean a long drive though so we decided that we’d make the travelling part of the adventure and thus booked overnight stops en route each way so we could soak in the French countryside as we made our way down to Lautrec.
In fact, we’d clocked up 1800 miles by the end of the holiday – just as well Lee enjoys driving, although he was ready for a good rest when we got back home!
To legally marry in France you have to be resident there for a period of time before the ceremony, therefore Ross and Michael had an official legal ceremony in Brighton Town Hall on the Sunday before. Simply a small gathering, just their parents and siblings with their families. Lee and I took my mum, Ross’s nan, who lives close to us, as travelling to France was not possible for her. Since we were taking her to Brighton, we offered to take our cameras to record the occasion. It was such a beautiful day and, in its own way, as magical as the subsequent celebrations in France. The weather didn’t look too promising earlier in the day, but happily the sun came out in time for the ceremony and afterwards we were able to take a few shots of the happy couple and families on the beach. We were in Brighton!! How could we not?!!!!
After that fab time, we headed home and had the next day to get ourselves ready for the drive to France. On Tuesday morning, Lee and I headed back to Brighton, to pick up our youngest son and his girlfriend, who live in Hove, and were travelling with us. From there we headed to Folkestone for the Tunnel. Just thought I’d mention … Lee booked us a Flexiplus ticket for the crossing, which is well worth doing! This got us complimentary food in the terminal and lets you bypass the queues, which made it so much easier!
We arrived in Calais late in the afternoon French time, and reached our first port of call, Les Airelles Hotel in the small town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, about three hours later, just in time for dinner!
Wednesday morning, and we set off after breakfast for the next leg of our journey to Limoges, stopping at Orléans on the way, where we spent an hour or two ambling around this beautiful city. A welcome way to break the long journey that day.
It was getting late by the time we arrived in Limoges, around 7 in the evening, and we were pretty tired, especially poor Lee and all that driving, so we just had dinner in the hotel and didn’t get chance to look around the town itself.
We set off early the next day for the final leg of our outward journey – our destination hotel in Cadalen, near the charming town of Lautrec and about 3 miles from the Chateau where the wedding celebrations were to take place.
Cadalen is situated in the Tarn region in the south of France, apparently otherwise known as the Tuscany of France. We were blown away by the beauty of the countryside surrounding us!
We were absolutely delighted when we arrived at our home for the next four days, Chambres d’Hotes de Cadalen
We couldn’t have wished for a better place to stay!!
This beautiful hotel has just four guest bedrooms in total, all decorated in a unique way. We had booked three of the rooms, and there was no one else booked in the fourth, so we had this amazing place all to ourselves, along with the lovely couple who own it, Sandra and Sylvain, who made us feel very welcome indeed.
Our eldest son and his girlfriend had flown into Toulouse and met us at the hotel an hour or two after our own arrival.
Since we were the only guests, we in effect had our own private pool and gardens! The pool was only completed this year and proved very welcome in the blazing sunshine!
Our hotel also boasted the most incredible views and such a peaceful location. Wandering around the grounds were two peacocks, two geese, and 5 cats, which was lovely! It was our own little haven of tranquility where we could spend quality time with our boys and their girlfriends, but whilst being just a short drive from the Chateau and wedding preparations. Simply perfect! Sandra, the owner, also went the extra mile to provide special breakfasts for the vegans in our family, including delicious pancakes, and her home made jams went down a treat!
On the Friday morning, we headed into the nearby town of Albi to have an explore. Another beautiful spot which boasts stunning views across the river and a cathedral.
Then came the WEDDING!! The celebrations spanned over three days, starting with an afternoon drinks reception on the Friday at one of the bars in Lautrec, which was a nice relaxing way to start the three day party!
The wedding ceremony itself was on the Saturday at the beautiful Chateau de Brametourte.
It was around 38 degrees so a little warm. Phew! We were there as guests (not photographers) which was super – we could relax and enjoy the day. And we did! The boys were led into the ceremony by their mums and the ceremony itself was amazing, and made even more special as Michael’s dad officiated. There were also two beautiful readings.
I couldn’t resist a few phone pics of course …
After the ceremony we relaxed in the beautiful grounds sipping champagne and taking in the remarkable scenery around us, for an hour or so before the wedding breakfast. This took place in a large marquee adjacent to the swimming pool, behind which were more spectacular views across the landscape which we enjoyed whilst tucking in to the delicious meal. Between the courses came various speeches. One from both mums together, in the form of a repartee, which was very amusing; some memories from a couple of the grooms’ dearest friends; and then one each from the grooms themselves, which were really funny as well as extremely moving in parts. Happy tears were flowing as readily as the champagne!
And how about this for a cake!
Ross and Michael’s first dance was fantastic! They must have spent ages practising it, it was so slick and brilliantly choreographed, not a step out of place!
We then all danced into the early hours and car rides back to our hotels had been arranged for any of us needing them which was a great help!
It was a very special day indeed.
And there were still more celebrations to come! Everyone was invited to a pool party at the Chateau on the Sunday afternoon, during which we were treated to a fascinating guided tour inside by the owner who told us some of the history. The Chateau is 1000 years old; when the couple who now own it took it on, it had been empty for 500 of those years, so you can imagine the challenge they undertook to restore it from its derelict state. A remarkable job they have done too. You can read more about the history here.
After all the thrills and excitement, Monday arrived before we knew it and thus it was time to say a fond farewell to the wonderful location and to start wending our way home. Lee planned a slightly different route back, with overnight stops in Tours and Montreuil this time.
We loved Tours! Our hotel there was great and we spent the following morning looking round the town before heading off. It was the first real opportunity we had during our travels to see a few shops, buy some gifts and take in the glorious views across the river.
Our last night in France was spent in Montreuil. A small town, very picturesque and only an hour or so from the tunnel.
In the morning there was enough time for a look around the shops in City Europe, just outside the entrance to the Tunnel, before boarding our train!
We came home via Brighton and we decided to finish off our holiday with a night at the Artist Residence Hotel in Regency Square. To our great delight and astonishment, we were told on our arrival that we had been upgraded to their very best room!! And I have to say it was awesome!! Talk about finishing our holiday in grand style!!
If you click the link to their website you will see the comfy chairs and sensational views from our room of the West Pier and i360!
The hotel was once featured on the Channel 5 programme The Hotel Inspector, you can read a little more about that and their story is here https://www.boutiquehotelier.com/from-zero-to-hotel-hero-the-dynamic-duo-behind-the-artist-residence/ and since then has gone from strength to strength.
Once again we were given a very warm welcome by the lovely folk there!
So here we are back down to earth after such an incredible time. Already it all feels like just a dream. Sigh. Holidays often do once you get home and back to reality, don’t they? It seems like forever ago but boy do we have some amazing memories to treasure and of course loads of pictures to look back on!
So glad we went and, now I have my passport, the world is (almost!) my oyster! As long as I can get there by train …