Summer Beauty : My Life in Summer Holidays....



My "summer holidays" thus far in my life seem to fall into two distinct categories....
a childhood of summer hols spent in the UK & then those as an adult spent travelling or abroad.

My parents weren't great travellers....I guess they are from a generation where people just didn't really consider foreign holidays. I don't think my mother has ever flown.

Our school summer holidays consisted of 6 weeks where my mother said good-bye to us in the mornings & we spent literally the whole day in the local park with friends, playing on the "climbing tree" & eventually running home hot,, hungry, tired and happy in the evening. 
We did this day after day, summer after summer & loved it....
freedom, fun and friends.

We moved to London from South Wales when I was 6 years old but we returned regularly to see our grandparents....the long long journey there (only 2 hrs now but back then it was about 5 hrs) was spent running up and down the aisles of the train which rattled and moved around endlessly.

We stayed in Cardiff which is a city but is only a very short distance away from lots of wonderful beaches....my most enduring memory is the enormous picnics that my grandmother would make up which seemed to take forever to pack into the car.

"Sunshine & Sand - Children on the Beach"

It probably wasn't that far to the beach but always had that childhood feeling that we would never get there....

I can still remember the exhilaration of finally arriving with several carloads full of uncles, aunts and cousins....

Huge amounts of food, my Dad sitting us on his shoulders and throwing us into the sea over and over again, the long run down to the beach across the sand and coming home late at night exhausted and slightly sunburned....the days before suntan lotion!

Other summers I escaped from my two younger brothers and got to stay with my mother's parents for a few weeks....I don't know exactly how many years I did this for, when I was a little older I got to take the train journey from London to Cardiff by myself which I loved.

I always say when asked that it was these particular summers which were absolutely the best part of my childhood....
my grandparents were the nicest and kindest people in the world and I adored my time with them....
they are really my happiest memories.
Even thinking about them now makes me feel so good.

Southerndown beach, South Wales....

It wasn't just the train trips to the beach, the days out, the treats that they probably lavished on me & the fact that I was the sole recipient of all this attention - it was simply that we had such fun together, the days did seem easy & endless, full of sunshine.
My grandmother would make sandwiches & off we'd go on the train to the beach.
I'd play all day long, she'd sit & read....and then late afternoon she'd take me to the funfair that overlooked the beach.  

It was almost as though I knew that time with them was a treat to be savoured & I loved absolutely every day of it....
I felt totally loved & special, I was happy with them whatever we did.

The first time I went abroad was on a day trip to France when I was 11.

A few school trips to Europe followed & then once I started Uni, I began exploring and travelling by myself and with friends.....
trips to Greece, Cyprus, Spain and a summer working in a children's camp in the US.

France and Italy traditionally "close" for August....those living in Rome and Paris leave the heat of the city for the beach.  England of course isn't as hot but for many people it's the time they take their summer break & head for the sunshine of the Mediterranean.

Whilst I do love a city break, I also love the beach & can quite happily spend weeks there, doing nothing but sunbathing and reading. Before my children started school we would holiday in either May or September but now we go in August.



Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that every year we go to the south of France....
each year I seem to add a day or two on to our stay & this year we will be there for four whole blissful weeks!!

This year I booked & planned our trip very early, back in January....and the thought of it has kept me going on many a cold, wet, dreary London day!

My husband works very long hours & so it's a special and much needed time for us to be together as a family...the harder he works, the more I yearn for - and appreciate - August together.


I first discovered Villefranche Sur Mer when I was 19 - my 2nd year at Uni was spent studying in France & one week-end we escaped to Nice and Cannes for a few days.
We took the train along the coast to Monaco and passed through Villefranche.

I immediately fell in love with the beautiful bay, with its old town full of red-roofed houses creeping back up the hillside, cobbled streets, steep stone steps and clear blue sea.

I had no idea have known that years later I'd take my husband and then my children there....and then there'd be no going back, none of us would ever want to holiday anywhere else!!

What I love about it - which very often people don't expect from the French Riviera - is that for us it's a very simple holiday.

We go on walks, we visit glamorous Monaco a few times, we walk to chic Cap Ferrat for dinner or ice-cream, we go up to Eze for escargots....but most of the time we spend on or at the beach.
I live in shorts, sundresses and swimsuits.
No make-up or hairdryer....no alarms, no TV.

Total escape.

We shop at the market, my children go to the boulangerie every morning to buy baguettes & pain aux raisins....my husband cooks delicious pasta, local seafood and incredible salads.

We often stay on the beach until 8pm....
sometimes we come home, make a large bowl of salad, pack a baguette & 4 forks
- we then head back to the beach & stay there until the sun has gone down.

We swim, we read, the children make a friend for the day, they pick up some new French words....

We sit alongside French & Italian families who arrive en masse, sometimes with three - or four - generations from the city and they stay there like us absorbing the last & final rays of sunshine....
it's a wonderful way to spend a hot summer day.

And if it sounds idyllic....it is....

....and I know I'm enormously lucky to be able to spend 4 weeks there - my husband is there for almost 3 wks & this year my aunt is joining the children & I for the 1st week....

The beach means total freedom for my children, they've both learned to swim there and I love that they appreciate the simplicity & sheer beauty of it.

It's the perfect summer holiday....
and I hope these are the holiday memories they'll look back on when they grow up because I know there's something very special about those summer days....

Each year my children have grown in little ways, they're doing new & different things....
we've been there with one child, I've been there while pregnant....
one summer my daughter was stung three times by jellyfish & another summer my son ate sand on the beach every.single.day....
good memories, happy times.

I hope too that they've learned that actually....
a baguette, a book & a beach are the only holiday essentials you need....  
   

16 comments:

  1. OMG! Sounds absolutely idyllic. I can tell you are just bursting to get there. As you go, I will be leaving the sun and returning to the UK.
    I will miss however, being able to drive to the S.France from Spain for long weekends.

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  2. You are so very fortunate to be so near this blissful place, Simone. Every summer I re-live it a bit through you & your posts. So lovely that you guys can be there for 4 weeks, and in the end you may be ready to go home, but you always hate to leave. I know. This is the most wonderful story about your parents and grandparents, so sweet, and so normal. Love you, cookie belle...

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  3. Hi Simone,
    I love this post.
    Descriptions of your holidays past, present and those to come were filled with passion and love for both your family and the South of France.
    How lovely to have four weeks to look forward to this year- roll on August!
    Have a lovely evening.
    Lizx

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  4. I treasure so many happy memories of childhood holidays on Cornish beaches or paddling in icy rivers in the Lake District.

    I'm off to Corfu in a few weeks... Can't wait!

    This was a truly beautiful post - I so enjoyed reading it.

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  5. I loved reading about your memories growing up...you are such a captivating storyteller. Your descriptions make me feel like I'm right there! And every year when your vacation in France rolls around I have to live vicariously through you....4 weeks! Oh how blissful! If only I could meet you for a day! ox

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  6. Lovely to hear about your summers of past years and the idealic days in France with your own family now. We have found our place in Florida where we've headed back to the same beach house for the past 5 years to enjoy the same activities, beach, restaurants and relaxed atmosphere we so love. Counting the days until we are there again.

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  7. It sounds like a little bit of heaven right here on earth Simone. I would love to have 4 weeks ~ I do have that much time for vaca but not all at one time!
    I love it when you talk about the memories that you have from your childhood vacations and then the ones over time with your family. Loved the before sunscreen ~ I has a flashback of Mom putting Noxema on our sunburns at night ~ ahh memories! xo

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  8. Wonderful memories you have growing up and how fortunate you are to be able to travel there with your children. Beautiful paintings and I can tell you are beyond excited to be there. Wonderful post :)

    leslie

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  9. I don't know what sounds better, your amazing childhood holidays or the amazing childhood memories you are now making for your own children in the South of France, the need to be near the beach in both is great though.
    My childhood memories of holidays, the best ones are probably going to visit my grandparents in the West Indies for anything from 2-10 week stretches! My parents would normally come for two weeks and the rest we'd be left under the care of our grandparents and extended family whp'd let us explore the lush forests and beaches to our hearts content! Hopefully soon I'll be able to introduce my daughter to those same experiences!

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  10. I loved reading this post, Simone...so tender, so loving...I too have such fond memories of my holidays as a child; I love looking at photos of those years and they make me both happy and sad at the same time...if you know what I mean?? We spent a lot of years in the South of France when Victoria was younger...great family holidays in our house in Grasse...special, wonderful times...and now Victoria and I are off to Rome soon...there is nothing more important than family is there?
    How fabulous that you all get 4 amazing weeks to share together...perfect! ;-)
    Catherine
    xx

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  11. I am so excited for you Simone! You are so right..a bauette, a book and a beach..the only thing I will add is a comfy lounging chair and something cool by my side to sip on. :)

    Loved reading 'your story'. :)

    Jeanne xx

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  12. Simone, this is great and such fortuitous timing. I'm running a Link-Up this week (nostalgia themed) about first holiday memories. I hope you won't mind if I link you up?! You can find it here...http://saveeverystep.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/first-parent-less-holidays-lifes-a-journey-link-up-week-20/

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  13. What a wonderful post, Simone. Your memories that you are making and have made are so beautiful! It made me start thinking of all of my summer holidays as a child and how wonderful they were - simple, uncomplicated and just plain old fun, with the beach being a major part of all the great memories! I am so excited for you, your vacation sounds so wonderful. Hoping I can see that part of France someday! xxoo

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  14. I ADORE the lead up to yours, & over the last few years our, Summer holidays abroad from England...

    The anticipation- the realisation of *how* many weeks we'd be blessed with perfect weather...

    Our comparing travel notes, thoughts, excitement...

    Now sweet friend, as I am living on the beaches- I am adoring getting ever so madly excited for your August trip- and myself planning a country holiday...

    Huge hugs- enjoy the lead up....the planning...

    m xxx

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  15. Villefranche is on our list of "to go to" places the next time we're in Nice. Your photos are fantastic.

    I've become your newest follower. I was an email subscriber and will make the change. So if you see my name as an unsubcriber to emails, you'll know I'm over here on your blog now.
    Sam

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  16. So made me smile! We share this love and habit for French vacations. Just like you, we will be going to the South of France for four whole weeks (eeeek, woohooo!! so excited!), and the pure loveliness of it just doesn't seem to wear off. Enjoy! xx

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