Simon Woods

Greetings from sunny Val de Bonnal - Al Fresco Holidays

‘It just tastes different…’ I know what Jill means about that first beer on holiday. It says the same on the front of the bottle as on the front of those you get at Tesco, but, well, it DOES taste different…

We didn’t get around to sampling it until the second day of our holiday. We’d flown out on Easyjet from Manchester to Geneva, with the flight not landing until 9:15pm. Once upon a time, I’d have relished the prospect of a 200+km drive at such a time of night, but with family in tow, an evening at a hotel near the airport was a more sensible option. The Geneva Formule 1 was a bit basic, but the bed was comfy, the neighbours (reasonably) quiet and the price of less than €100 for two rooms + breakfast for four a fair deal.

If you’re driving up from Geneva, tread carefully with Google maps – it wants to take you along some Swiss toll roads, for which you’ll need a special permit that costs something like 40 Swiss francs (~€30 I think). We had a decent map so were able to plot a different non-motorway route along the north side of Lake Geneva to Lausanne and then north into France via some pretty if sometimes rather windy routes. We set off from Geneva not long after 8am, and with a couple of minor, unplanned detours didn’t get to Val de Bonnal much before midday.

But first impressions of the site are very good, especially with Alex, aged 11. It’s nothing to do with not having to share a room with his sister (although that helps). The adventure playground caught his eye on the way in, while the swimming pool and its numerous slides kept him occupied while everyone else was unpacking. This afternoon, he’s been distracted by the nearby lake. I left him swimming in it and Jill sunbathing by it while Isabella and I went to stock up on provisions (beer included) at the Intermarché in Villersexel, which is about ten minutes drive away.

Can’t remember quite how many French supermarkets I’ve been to in my time – must be dozens, but it’s still too easy after having been away from them for a while to forget the basic ground rules…
1) Even quite big ones shut for lunch. We had to take a scenic tour of the environs of Villersexel while we waited for the store to reopen at 2:30pm
2) You’ll often need a €1 piece for your trolley. Which meant asking for change for a €50 note, which always goes down well with the locals…
3) You may have to weigh and price your veg yourself before you get to the till. Not this time, but I’m now braced in anticipation in case we visit a different store
4) Don’t forget to take your own carrier bags. Which we all probably do back in Blighty, but which usually slips our minds on that first holiday mega-shop made up of things like massive bags of charcoal, a bulk order of toilet roll (Isabella opted for one called Fantasy…) and – yes – beer.

But it’s early evening now, the suitcases are unpacked, the sun is out, the barbecue is nearly ready for action, and all is well with the world. Well, apart from Alex standing on a dead wasp, Isabella forgetting her brace, Jill complaining about the tea towel we bought at Intermarché and me getting annoyed with the standard of kitchen knives in the otherwise impeccable Al Fresco mobile home. Maybe it’s time for a second round of beers…

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