Printer Friendly

Sky's not the limit on this adventure; A family holiday with teenagers can be a challenging business. HANNAH STEPHENSON embarks on an action-packed trail in France that is sure to keep all generations amused.

Byline: HANNAH STEPHENSON

MY HEART is in my mouth as I watch my two children run off the slope into the void of sky beyond, just a parachute stopping them from plunging hundreds of feet below.

Of course, there's an instructor strapped in with each of them, which allays my fears somewhat, and within a minute they are little specks on the horizon, circling high above the town of Millau, a hotspot for paragliding in the Aveyron region of the Midi-Pyrenees in southern France.

My son, Will, 15, is already checking out his action pictures which he later uploads on to Facebook. He hasn't totally appreciated the magnificent Millau Viaduct spanning the Tarn River in the distance, a showstopper on the landscape and the world's tallest bridge, designed by English architect Norman Foster and opened in 2004.

Flying on top of the world may not be for everyone, but as I am entering that realm of 'Could this be our last holiday with the kids?' Seeking adventure may be the only thing that bridges the generation gap.

So, holding that thought, we make the long journey to the Aveyron, a region known for its amazing river activities, including canyoning and canoeing, as well as adventure circuits, bungee jumping and cycling. And, of course, Roquefort cheese.

|the We arrive at Val de Cantobre, a campsite in the Cevennes National Park in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of a gorge, surrounded by stunning hillside forests and dramatic limestone rock formations.

Hikers love it here, as they trek through open meadows, woodland and terraced hillsides, or follow the path of the river admiring the flora and fauna and the wide variety of birds, as well as scorpions and the odd snake.

Everywhere you look, rocks stick vertically out of the French forest hills.

Even the beautiful medieval village of Cantobre, a couple of kilometres from our campsite, protrudes out of the craggy hillside, the stone buildings jutting over the edge precariously, looking like they could topple at any time.

This neck of the woods is ideal for road bikes, as the roads which cut into the gorges are fairly flat and even. You'll need to venture further to make the most of mountain bikes, with trails that scale the top of the gorge.

on River If you want to escape tourism, this is the place to be. But the mobile home we hire, the new Aspect range from Eurocamp, has all mod cons, decking and stylish wicker furniture, even a gas barbecue and a permanent awning, so you can sit outside come rain or shine. Wi-Fi, however, is better in a cafe in town.

It's a 30-minute drive to Millau, the nearest big town, where the Rivers Tarn and Dourbie converge and the watery action starts.

As abseiling and canyoning with ropes may be a step too far for me and my other half, we opt for the less demanding - but hopefully no less thrilling - river trekking.

Donning wetsuits - even at the height of summer, the Dourbie doesn't get above 18degC, I'm informed - helmets and sturdy river shoes (I wear my trainers, as apparently, Crocs or flip-flops just won't do) we trek for 10 minutes down the hill with six other French tourists to reach the river, where we are advised to get into the icy water of a still pool to familiarise ourselves with the water temperature.

Then we make our way, using hands and feet, along the rocks, sliding down miniature river rapids feet first and through craggy ravines, as we follow the path of the river.

It's challenging, exciting and when you're in the water, you don't notice the cold.

Before long, there's a great sense of camaraderie among fellow trekkers as we help each other in and out of the water, cheering when anyone conquers a particular fear.

One woman with vertigo takes a good five minutes of coaxing and gentle encouragement to pluck up the courage to jump about 4m off a rock into the water. River trekking certainly brings out the team spirit in you.

At the end of the journey, there's a moment of trepidation when I jump 7m from a rock into the river, to the cheers of my family and the others. I feel like I've conquered Everest.

In the wake of this water-bound excursion, my teenagers are up for anything river-based, so we take a 13km canoe trip down the Dourbie.

The river provides the perfect mix of excitement and tranquillity - one minute we're taking on a mini rapid, the next we're paddling through a calmer stretch, admiring the stunning gorges beyond, stopping off at a little beach for a picnic or to take a quick dip in the crystal clear water.

For those who think this sounds too sedate, think again. My daughter Grace, 14, and I capsize on one of the rapids after slamming into a rock, which is pretty scary and jaw-droppingly cold without a wetsuit, and although we can stand up everywhere, it takes us a while to catch our breath and haul ourselves back into the canoe.

The beauty about staying in the Aveyron is that if you want warmer water, you can head for it.

The Mediterranean is just 90 minutes away by car on an excellent road, so we bypass Montpelier to reach Meze, which sounds more like a Greek village but is actually a traditional old French seaside town, with a big fishing community.

Oysters, seafood platters, moules frites and other fishy specialities are widely available from a plethora of restaurants scattered around the pretty harbour. Beaches are plentiful along this coastline, where the Thau lagoon separates a spit of land on which the port of Sete lies.

At Meze, toddlers enjoy splashing in the shallow waters, while adrenalin junkies kite-surf in the nearby open water.

There's also sailing and windsurfing in this gusty seaside haven.

On the way back to Cantobre, we come across a sign to La Couvertoirade, listed as 'one of the most beautiful villages in France', so we make a detour to discover the most glorious walled Templars village, dating back to the 12th century.

A leisurely walk through the cobbled streets reveals artisan shops and bijou restaurants where crusaders once stood, but sheep breeding is the mainstay of the economy and at the foot of a village at about 8pm, the collar bells and bleatings of the sheep break the quiet of the evening.

As a family on perhaps one of our last holidays together, we'll laugh about the river pursuits, the freezing water and the fact that William managed to miss the tallest bridge in the world on the flight of his life.

That's teenagers for you.

NEED TO KNOW HannaH StepHenSon | was a guest of Eurocamp (eurocamp.co.uk; 0844 406 0552) which offers seven nights at Val de Contobre, staying in a three-bedroom Esprit with decking and air conditioning, from just PS386 per party, including a saving of PS190, accommodation only.

Fly-drive and ferry packages can |be arranged through Eurocamp at a supplement.

Roc Et Canyon, based in Millau, |offer canoe hire, river trekking, canyoning, via ferrata (zip-line adventure trails) and other activities with instructors. Visit www.roc-et-canyon.com Azimut Evasion run daily |paragliding sessions (weather permitting), tandem flights with professional pilots and individual courses for small groups. Visit www.millau-evasion.com

CAPTION(S):

Canoeing on |the Dourbie River

The Millau Viaduct

Meze harbour

Grace, 14, with her |instructor Roland, paragliding in the Aveyron region of the Midi-Pyrenees in southern France

Will, 15, |paragliding above Millau, in southern France

Hannah and her family river |trekking in the Dourbie River
COPYRIGHT 2015 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Words:1274
Previous Article:Back to school.
Next Article:late breaks.
Topics:

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters