Laura et Seb, les Globe blogueurs
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Slow travel with the family
GETTING AWay From it all with My family On the pré charmant FARM
The countryside around Durbuy, in the Belgian Province of Luxemburg, never fails to work its magic on us. It encourages us to slow down, to put down our phones and go back to the bare essentials. To explore the area and enjoy some quality time as a family, we found the perfect accommodation. A quiet and peaceful cocoon, filled with meaning.
4 min RECHARGING YOUR BATTERIEs
Discovering the Pré Charmant Farm
After enjoying a fun-packed family outing in the twists and turns of the Barvaux corn maze, we arrive at the Pré Charmant Farm, which is only a few kilometres away. A huge red-brick building lit up by Nathalie’s (the owner) radiant smile welcomes us. We immediately feel at home here. The place exudes an atmosphere of easy living, an impression which is reinforced by our very first conversation with Nathalie. She takes the time to tell us all we need to know about the holiday cottage we will stay in, as well giving us the farm’s background. The Pré Charmant is a petting farm where pigs, rabbits and even ducks live a contented life. Nathalie explains to us that the farm is a great teaching aid to exchange ideas with visitors on the subject of agriculture and the many prejudices that people have about farming.
The farm animals are also a source of appeasement.
The farm animals are also a source of appeasement.Nathalie tells me about the town children who - used to being glued to their tablets - spend hours watching the rabbits rollicking. The whole place exudes an atmosphere of artless authenticity. Old-fashioned tractors and other agricultural treasures are used as a playing ground by the children, demonstrating the importance of enjoying simple pleasures.
Hélio is quick to run off to explore the farmyard and enjoy the outdoor games such as the old-fashioned swing or the more unusual giant chess game with the other children staying here. Pretty soon, they are all as thick as thieves. Hélio wants to stay and play for the rest of his life, but has a change of heart at the prospect of going for a walk with Bloem.
An afternoon walk with Bloem, the female donkey
The farm’s jenny (female donkey) is called Bloem (Dutch for flower). Nathalie and Emmanuel offer their guests the opportunity to take a walk around the house with Bloem, so they can discover the surroundings and the beaver pond. Hélio hops onto the donkey and off we go for a several kilometres long ramble.
Along the way we meet many cyclists, which is not at all surprising since we are heading for the RAVeL, Belgium’s very own network of walking and cycling paths. We share the RAVeL with cyclists, ramblers and a few rather inquisitive horses. The horses are in their meadow, but nonetheless manage to catch our eye. One of them ambles towards us, and then stands still, preening. He’s a very handsome looking horse. Bloem watches on with manifest indifference, almost as if saying: “not impressed by you mate, no way”. We continue our walk until we arrive at the beaver pond. The beavers are far too discreet to be spotted, but the evidence of their presence is undeniable, we can see several dams and many gnawed tree trunks. On the way back, as we walk through the village streets, Bloem is greeted by the village children’s delighted cries of recognition.
A proper star our donkey!
After our walk, we go back to our accommodation. Hélio knows exactly what he wants to do next and rushes off towards the game room.
Falling back into childhood and playing until nightfall
As I mentioned earlier, the Pré Charmant farm is ideally suited for a family holiday. Everything is tailored to make children happy, which makes their parents happy too…The children enjoy going back-and-forth between the different games. Emmanuel and Nathalie even had the foresight to plan for rainy days and set up an 80m² indoor game room. Well, of course the children don’t wait for the rain to fall to go and play with the giant Legos, play twister and other entertaining games. We too fall back into childhood and decide to join Hélio, to help him build a railroad track, have a cuddly toy fight and tell each other stories. We have a great time playing together, without even taking a sneak peek at our watches.
By the way, if you don’t find the game for you, Nathalie has an impressive games library available for her guests. I can still picture the look on my son’s face when he discovered it. Hélio makes the most of having us all to himself and improvises a puppet show using the small puppet theatre he dug up in the games room. Hélio is totally unaware of the fact that he is keeping a piece of Belgian heritage alive. And so the day ends, resounding with the sounds of children laughing and having a whale of a time in the huge farm courtyard.
The night will be as sweet and as pleasant as our day on the farm.
Sharing around our Sunday morning bread
The next day is a Sunday. In each holiday cottage the guests are sorting out their breakfast. Some of the guests have ordered their viennoiseries from the village bakery, by way of Nathalie and Emmanuel. Emmanuel has something to show us: his bakehouse. One day, by a happy coincidence, he found out that the farm possessed an old bakehouse that had been bricked up. He spent quite a lot of time researching the subject, and then set out to restore the bakery to its former glory. Ever since, every Sunday, he lovingly and patiently makes bread that he then bakes in the wood-fired oven. When the bread is ready, he leaves the bakery open, with a piggy bank on display, so the villagers can come and buy their bread. A heart-warming sign of trust in a world where people seem to have lost their faith in others. After chatting with Emmanuel, we fully understand the meaning behind this Sunday ritual.
Nathalie and Emmanuel had their heart set on not only renting out accommodation but also offering a space where their guests could take a break, get rid of all the negative energy of everyday life and escape the perpetual rat-race that is modern life. Going back to the essentials, by taking the time to do whatever you want, and stop chasing time. Emmanuel has a happy twinkle in his eyes when he explains why making bread is a pure sensorial experience, one that has given him a very different perception of time. Hurrying is a waste of time, chasing time is pointless, and so is trying to control time. You have to learn to accept that some things take time, to be wholly in the moment, and not overextend yourself. For Emmanuel, these are sources of fulfilment. Bread baking used to be a chore, but for Emmanuel it’s a way to reconnect with reality, with the palpable, a way to go back to the essentials and enjoy every moment to the full.
We could have spent hours talking with Nathalie and Emmanuel about their approach and their life philosophy struck a chord with us. We leave, serene and touched by their generosity, their spirit of sharing and incredible common sense.
Enjoy this experience
La Ferme du Pré Charmant
Rue du Colonel Vanderpeere, 14 - 6940 Grandhan-Durbuy (Belgium)
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pré charmant farm has 3 holiday cottages. Two large ones (for 24 and 26 guests) as well as a cottage for 2 which is couple-oriented.