Let’s find out how a pandemic set the stage for a months-long memorable multigenerational family reunion in the charming resort of Arcachon in southwestern France and other family homesteads. Discover how four generations are “Making Lemonade out of Lemons” under the same roof.
Bébé Voyage Disclaimer: The following article and all others related to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic are based on the experiences and views of the persons interviewed at the time of publication. As with any travel article published in Bébé Voyage, these views are published for informative purposes only. Bébé Voyage declines all responsibility related to actions taken by the Bébé Voyage community after reading the said articles. It is the reader’s responsibility to undertake travel plans that are in accordance with governmental mandates at the time of travel.
Please tell us about your family!
We are currently an extended family of eight adults and two children, including my husband Serge and me; Rodolphe and Stéphanie: Amélie, Luc, and Théophile (age seven months); Stéphanie, Janko, and Clémence (age 12 months); and our son Sébastien who works in Denver and is planning on joining us later this summer.
Did you have travel plans that had to be canceled because of Covid-19?
Oh yes, we pretty much all had plans! We were supposed to go on a family trip to Macedonia for our granddaughter Clémence’s christening in May. Our daughter Stéphanie and husband Janko were planning to attend weddings in Macedonia and in Corsica. Serge and I were supposed to go to Ukraine in June and Luc and Amélie were supposed to be in Greece in July. I had organized a group trip to Sweden from Bordeaux–all canceled. Our plan B was Arcachon!
Please tell us about your Plan B for summer 2020!
With the onset of Covid-19, our first thought was to welcome our adult children, their spouses/partners, and children in our family home in Arcachon, about 60km west of Bordeaux in southwestern France. For Serge and me, the first step was leaving our Mamaroneck, NY, apartment, and flying over to France during the height of the pandemic which required multiple signed authorizations from the French authorities. Once we landed in Paris, we drove straight to Arcachon with no stops allowed.
We are so lucky to have this big house right near the beach with relatives nearby. Our adult kids love getting together here whenever they can. The pandemic was the perfect opportunity for that multigenerational family reunion to happen! We pretty quickly worked out a remote work schedule for the adults that was in sync with the babies’ daily routine.
Until May 11, the lockdown in France was very strict. We weren’t allowed to leave home without a signed authorization and then only for groceries, medications, and medical appointments. From May 11 on, we were able to move within a 100-kilometer radius. As of June 2, all French citizens can travel anywhere within France. The situation is still very fluid and changing all the time.
Can you tell us a bit about your daily family routine this summer?
We will spend most of our time here in Arcachon, a 19th-century beach resort on the southwestern Atlantic coast. Our days start at 10 AM with a wonderful walk with the babies on the beautiful sandy wide-open beaches characteristic of the region. We really enjoy our morning stroll out in the sun and dipping our toes into the ocean. We’re home for the babies’ lunchtime at 11:30 AM. The adults get together for lunch out in the garden during the babies’ nap. At 4 PM, it’s time for their goûter (snack) and our three-minute walk down to our beach. On our way back home, we loop through our little village shopping district and enjoy the “ballet” of kite surfers dancing over the ocean. The babies’ bath time at 6 PM, dinner at 7 PM, and in bedtime by 8 PM. We always sing them a little lullaby and read a bedtime story to get them into sleep mode. The adults have dinner on the terrace. Then, it’s time for puzzles, games, or a movie.
As lockdown restrictions loosened, we were able to have the babies’ 85-year-old great-grandmother join us. Her presence here has truly made this a multigenerational family reunion!
What spots do you recommend exploring in and around Arcachon?
Arcachon was designed in the 19th century as a summer resort and curative spa (for tuberculosis patients) and is known for its beautiful beaches and extravagantly designed Belle Epoque villas. I always love visiting la Ville d’Hiver (Winter Town) neighborhood which is home to many of these villas. There is so much to do around here! These are just a few highlights: Cap Ferret, the pine-covered sandy peninsula across the Bay of Arcachon; the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune; les plages de l’Océan, the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean; the Musée de l’Hydravion, the Seaplane Museum; and canoeing down the river Leyre.
Do you think that Summer 2020 is trending toward multigenerational vacations?
Yes, I absolutely believe that this is the summer for multigenerational family reunions. Let’s face it–this is a unique opportunity for families to get together across several generations. Given the current pandemic, families vacationing together is a form of self-protection. We are really enjoying our new extended family lifestyle which will continue more or less until September. Some of our adult children will be going back to work in Paris for a while. Things have been going so well that we decided to spend more time together as a family with relatives in eastern France and in the Alps. It will be a nice change of scenery going out on country walks and mountain hikes.
Can you tell us a bit about where you will be in eastern France and in the Alps?
We will be spending the month of July in Valentigney in the Burgundy Franche Comté region (where the famous comté cheese originates) in eastern France, known as l’Est in French. The area’s highlights include the Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot showcasing more than 100 antique Peugeot cars; the beautiful town Besançon, Victor Hugo’s hometown; the Doubs gorges; and the nearby fortified town of Belfort. All this is about an hour away from the picturesque Alsatian towns of Colmar, Strasbourg, and Mulhouse.
Then we’ll spend 10 days in Argentière, an old alpine village facing the Mont Blanc about 5km from Chamonix. A prime ski resort, Argentière is a hiker’s and mountain biker’s paradise with great walking options for kids in summer. After that, we’ll head back to Arcachon.
What makes a multigenerational family reunion so special now, at this time in history? How do you make this work?
This has been a very challenging time all over the globe, but also a wonderful opportunity for us grandparents to enjoy our adult children and grandchildren and cement family ties. We’re just so happy to be all together. It’s working out because, from the get-go, everyone was “assigned” their daily responsibilities. We wanted to make especially sure that we were providing a stable environment and routine for the babies. As grandparents, we set the rules of the house–for instance, keeping your personal clutter out of the living room, being mindful about not making too much noise, and letting us know if your plans for the day should change. We have a housekeeper who comes once a week which is a big help.
For us grand-parents, it’s a rare privilege to share our grandchildren’s lives over this relatively long period of time. We’re so lucky to observe them close-hand every day as they develop and grow. It’s such a joy to watch these babies, ages seven and 12 months, smile and “talk” to us. We teach them little things, make them listen to the birds chirping and try to understand their baby lingo while we teach them our adult language. What better way for grandparents to bond with their grandchildren! This has definitely been a special moment in time for us. We would never have experienced this had we just all gone on a family trip, far from our family roots.
How do you see families vacationing this summer 2020?
I think that this summer will be the summer of going back to nature, wherever you are, away from crowded urban centers with potential Covid exposure.
BBV Partner Véronique Banzet is an à la carte voyage designer and owner of Veronic Travel based in the U.S. and France. Thanks to Veronique’s exclusive network of local contacts, her itineraries, and hotels across the globe are thoroughly vetted thereby avoiding unpleasant surprises and only providing good times. Equally important, she makes every effort to work within your budget.
Note: This is the sixth in a series of Bébé Voyage articles on Summer 2020 Plan B, also known “Making Lemonade out of Lemons.” The BBV team wants to hear from you about your summer plans–whether it’s a staycation, a summer house rental, a road trip, or even chartering your own boat. Have you been thinking of a multigenerational vacation? What about farming your kids out to your parents? Has Covid19 caused your family to have an impromptu multigenerational family reunion?
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