One of the most beautiful regions in France is the Lot, it is still relatively undiscovered and enjoys a micro climate of hot dry sunny summer days and cold dry winters. The landscape is made up of fields, forests, vineyards, farmland, historic hill-top towns, dramatic gorges and slow moving rivers. Here Marion talks about her life here with her family and her wonderful three child-friendly holiday gites.
We are a family of three – myself Marion a goldsmith by trade and originally from Germany, my husband Ray who was a Project Manager in London but is now a lumberjack, roofer, painter, pool attendant, etc and our seven year old daughter Katie who loves piano, ballet and Cbeebies (Katie Morag is her favourite programme at the moment)……….plus Milly, the cat. We lived in Teddington near London before we decided to move to the Lot region in France in November 2011.
Why did you decide to start your own holiday accommodation business
For seven years we holidayed in the southern regions of France and we always thought it would be great to be able to experience the French way of life permanently while running and developing a family oriented business. When Katie came along I had to stop running my jewellery gallery in London, and with my husband working abroad during the week and only being at home at weekends, we thought this is the time to make the move. I started looking for a house with gîtes for sale, and I came across these and we decided to make the big step.
What was the toughest part about setting it up
The gîtes were already set up for families with babies and young children, so the business was already up and running although there were a number of improvements that we wanted to make. Everybody who has moved to France will confirm that the toughest part of setting up a business here is the “red tape”. The French authorities do not make things easy! Things are explained on a need- to-know basis and it is not up to you to decide what you need to know. I once read that “In France, information is like a truffle. You have to go rooting around for it, hoping you strike lucky.”
And what was the most memorable/enjoyable
We moved into the house at the end of January 2012, during one of the coldest winters the region had experienced for many decades, but when spring finally arrived it was so amazing to see all our trees (and we have a lot of them around us) coming back to life. We have also had some fantastic families staying with us in our first two seasons, and seeing them relaxed and enjoying “La Dolce” really brings a smile to my face.
What couldn’t you live without and why
I love the space and openness the Lot region offers. It is so unspoilt and for me one of the most beautiful areas in France……….the vast fields of sunflowers, the soft rolling country side, the Lot valley with its stunning medieval villages, the wild life we have around us (great for the children to discover), the local wine and fantastic food,……….I could go on and on.
What does your average working day involve
We have of course the same normal family life as we did in the UK (household, school, activities outside school), I (Marion) am also an active member of the Parent Association of Katie’s primary school (e.g. organising events). We are also working through our improvement programme for the gites – last winter we updated all the bathrooms and the games room and this winter we are renovating the roofs . We were just awarded three stars in 2013 by “Atout France”, the official French body for hotel, gîte and chambre d’hôte classification.
I am also updating the information folder for our guests with new restaurants we have discovered, with new places to go and things to do, dates for the medieval festivals, evening summer markets and other summer events. We have just had our website newly designed, so we have been busy with this as well.
In the season we are busy maintaining the grounds and of course looking after our guests. Changeover days are normally extremely hectic, as I am very particular when it comes to the cleanliness of the gites.
What advice would you give to families wanting to holiday with you and why is your place so special
I think it is the beautiful and tranquil setting which makes our place so special. We are on 2.25ha of grounds, with the gites and our house in the middle, separated by a vast meadow and surrounded by trees. There is no traffic noise, all our guests will hear is the laughter of happy children during the day……and maybe the hooting owl at night.
If you could pick just two attractions/places to visit in your area what would they be
Difficult to decide…………but I would say firstly Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac (The Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac), one of the world’s most magnificent landscapes. These stunningly sculptured gardens wrap around a 17th century château that sits perched above the picturesque Dordogne valley, offering fantastic views. There is a maze for children and in summer they offer a lot of activities for little ones. The second place would be Château Bonaguil. This is our nearest castle and very much worth a visit. It is considered by the French to be the most beautiful fortified castle in France; and it was the last one to be built. Great for little ones to explore and a fantastic site for the medieval festival in summer!
Is there anything you would like to highlight that might be interesting to families with babies/toddlers/young children who are thinking of staying with you
Staying with us means parents can really travel light – no need for baby equipment and toys in the luggage. Domaine de la Dolce is a safe holiday haven, where the children will find new friends to play with while Mum and Dad relax and have a well-earned holiday.
In one sentence can you explain what life is like where you live
Wonderful scenery, friendly people, a lot of sunshine, great food and Cahors wine – what else does one need?
You can find these lovely todder-friendly holiday cottages on Holiday Tots here: http://www.holidaytots.co.uk/owners-properties-75.html