My husband is fortunate enough to have a birthday during the summer months, however, he is one of those ‘difficult’ people who can never think of any gift that they want! Last year, was a milestone birthday for him and I was determined to make it memorable even if the inevitable ‘just buy me a card.’ had already been uttered.
As unashamed Francophiles, we had already arranged an exchange with a couple in a village not too far from Lyon called Domarin and in late July we set off with our youngest son. With grown up children, we are now able to enjoy the journey rather than trying to get to our destination as quickly as possible so, for the second year, we stopped off overnight in Troyes. We stayed in the Aparthotel there and were able to stretch our legs while exploring the Medieval old town.
When we arrived at Domarin, we received a warm welcome from a neighbour who even managed to keep my husband’s birthday surprise quiet! The following day, my son and I set off for Lyon airport, as it became obvious where we were going, my husband became more convinced that we were going to make him jump out of a plane! He needn’t have worried, our lovely exchange partners had agreed to let my eldest son and a family friend stay for a few days as well and we picked them up without any trouble at the airport.
What a birthday to remember! The house itself was lovely, with a pool and a converted barn so everyone had enough space and we could all enjoy the fantastic weather. Having a mix of people with us through the holiday meant that we all enjoyed different experiences. My son enjoyed shopping in Lyon while I was able to go off with my friend to look at clothes ( a rare treat for me as I have three sons!).
We spent my husband’s actual birthday exploring the caves of La Balme, a cool, magical experience, and respite from the heat. We loved the village of Perouges, and because of the lack of cars, it was easy to be transported back in time there. Further afield, we explored Annecy, a bustling, beautiful town on the lake and enjoyed people-watching with a wine in hand!
Back near the house, we went for evening drives in the countryside, had a rare sighting of a HUGE badger and finished our days with a swim in the pool, marvelling at our 19 year old and 24 year old sons racing on inflatable unicorns!
We have exchanged with other partners in France, Bruges, and England and know that, as well as the economic advantages of an exchange, we wouldn’t get the same experiences on a package holiday. I can’t wait for this year’s trip to Avignon…