Les Grandes Vacances

Every August la famille Yapp decamps to the Dordogne in an estate car packed with tents, bikes, dogs and disaffected youth. The southward journey is horrendous but after twenty consecutive years we have at least agreed upon the best route and CDs of Simon Brett's marvellous Charles Paris mysteries, narrated with aplomb by Bill Nighy, provide great in-car entertainment.


Fill' Yer Boot

Fill' Yer Boot


The chief attraction of les grandes vacances is the prospect of long, languorous, al fresco lunches with friends and neighbours ideally followed by a nap in a deckchair then a reviving dip in the lake. In the height of summer we firmly believe that the workload should be minimal so endeavour to entertain with as little fuss as possible. Our default starter is Charentais melon served with jambon cru, fresh bread and a chilled glass of Pineau de Charentes.


Ham and Melon


The main course is, more often than not, roast chicken with roast potatoes and a green salad and if we are feeling especially lazy we buy the chickens from the rôtisserie in one of the local markets. We will partner that with a robust rosé like this month's Côtes du Rhône or a chilled red wine like the failsafe Saumur-Champigny from Domaine Filliatreau. A cheese course is obligatory and must include the little, creamy cabécou goat's cheese which I adore.


Rotisserie - poulet - chicken


Strawberries and cream is a no-nonsense dessert option but on a good day someone will have the forethought to call in at the patisserie for a tarte aux pommes which won't object to being accompanied by some crème fraiche and a drop of well-chilled Monbazillac.




In my fantasy version of this scenario the younger generation then busy themselves with clearing the table and washing up and I awake from my siesta to discover an empty sink and spotless kitchen. The reality is somewhat different...