Last week we went on our first flight with our 2 1/2 year old daughter, Ruby. I am pleased to say she handled the whole experience far better than mummy, who is terrified of flying!
We flew to Carcassonne in the South of France, the trip arranged to visit some friends who have recently bought a property there. Coming into land, we passed acres and acres of glorious yellow sunflower fields and vineyards. The 2 hour drive from there took us to the foothills of the Pyrenees and eventually after a treacherous drive up a virtually single-track road with a sheer drop on one side and a deep gully on the other, we arrived in the small town of Massat.
Our friends had arranged for us to stay in a gite nearby owned by a couple with a penchant for odd animals. Through our earlier email conversation we knew that part of the menagerie included 3 llamas. We should have realised from the photo the owner sent of her llamas that this was going to be an interesting stay - "look," I said to my daughter keen to show her the picture of the llamas on the screen, "um, maybe not" as I quickly pressed the close button. Not sure my daughter fully believed me when I said they were just having a cuddle!
I often wondered that the attraction is in keeping Llamas. You seem to see them quite regularly in this country in random fields. I mean, they're cute, but what's the point? I can understand keeping chickens or cows - at least they provide a product. I get keeping pets like cats and dog which you can have in the house as part of the family, but Llamas?
Marianne, the owner explained to me her lifelong passion for these creatures. Having watched a documentary years ago, she'd learnt that just like dolphins, these animals seem to have a special affinity with people, especially children, and more specifically children with special needs. This fascinated me, and on my return home I have done further reading on the subject. If you'd like to learn more, this site gives a particularly good overview of animal assisted therapy http://www.legacyllamas.com/llama_therapy.htm
So, Ruby was quite taken with the Llamas. But there was more. Much more. They also had 2 sheep, 7 cats, 3 cockerels, about a dozen hens, 2 Indian Walking ducks (my particular favourites) and a pond full of Koi Carp.
Marianne has 2 gites for rent and if you love animals then this is a wonderful place to stay. The little gite has recently been renovated and refurbished and is suitable for a couple (with a baby at a squeeze!), and the larger gite has plenty of room, 2 large double bedrooms but is a bit more basic and rough around the edges.
More than anything on this holiday, I enjoyed the company and hospitality of the gite owners. They had wonderful tales to tell, shared their considerable knowledge of the area and history of their home and welcomed us into their little bit of paradise. More importantly they were incredibly kind and helpful when Ruby was sick, not batting an eyelid at the mounds of washing we had to hand over, and finding a pharmacist for us.
If you are interested in finding out more about their gites, please do get in touch with me.
So, that's enough rambling for now. In true cliff-hanger style (bad pun intended), please drop by again soon to find out how the mountain rescue helicopter made its way into our holiday.