Of course France is all about its food and world class wine, but Infinity Holidays' manager, Sandra Cavallin has combined the enjoyment of great French produce with a wonderful, educational holiday for the kids.
After attending a family wedding in Italy, Sandra, her husband and two kids aged eight and nine took the train to spend a week in a truly picturesque part of Southern France – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
“Saint-Rémy is a microcosm of all the best bits of France in the most beautiful rural landscape setting,” said Sandra.
“We rented a lovely villa just outside of the village and just walked everywhere, particularly into the heart of the village to pick up our freshly baked French bread or to people watch over a café au lait in the town square. We really did live like locals for that week despite my appalling French.
"In this village in the heart of Provence, we wandered along the boulevards under the shade of century-old plane trees.
"And we explored the narrow little streets, and discovered squares with fountains. We also tried out many of the cafes and restaurants where they use local products. Mind you, the kids’ favourite place was a really good pizzeria.
"Saint-Rémy is nearby the Massif des Alpilles, now classified as the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles (Alpilles Region Natural Park), with the actual town at its base.
"We did have a hire car which was great to do things like the Alpilles (and do organise car hire before you go as it is about a third of the price) but for most activities we preferred walking. Though one day we hired electric bikes and rode a bit further afield, and to this day, the memory of the family riding through such a beautiful part of France will stay with me forever.
“I chose Saint-Rémy because I really wanted a rural setting and I got that plus so much more. You get wonderful food, restaurants and shopping, and all in an environment of beautifully preserved architecture with landscapes that come straight out of an Impressionist painting.
"I am a bit of a history buff too and Saint-Rémy has a real concentration of history of all types. I took the family to the Alpilles Museum which is housed in the Hotel Mistral de Mondragon, a former mansion from the Renaissance right in the heart of the town."
The museum covers a huge swathe of time and explains how the landscape, both natural and human, came to be in its current state. You get to walk back in time and space and learn about the Hypselosaurus, friendly dinosaur who once frequented the region, and of course dinosaurs are always popular draw card for kids.
"We also spent some time at the Glanum site which was inhabited by the native population from about 500 BCE, then by the Greeks and later it was colonised by Rome, from the 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE,” said Sandra.
Glanum became a substantial Roman colony, and there are a large number of preserved roman buildings that characterise the cities of Imperial Rome along a central road just outside the town.
Saint-Rémy is also the town that has the monastery where Vincent van Gogh stayed from May 1889 to May 1890.
The Saint-Paul de Mausole is a great example of Provencal Romanesque art, with one wing telling the story of when Vincent van Gogh was committed to Saint-Paul as a psychiatric patient.
“It was a great place to visit with the kids as you get to visit the reconstruction of the artist’s room. In the Van Gogh Field, you see more than 20 large-scale reproductions of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings on the actual site where they were created.
"I hold that trip dear to me because we got to do so much between the history, great food and beautiful surroundings, and importantly we all collected some truly beautiful family memories.
"I think the thing that I enjoyed most was doing really simple things with the family, but in European style – and for the whole week, there wasn’t an iPad in sight!”