Family trip where French content matters

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Anytime between June 21 & July 19/2014

Evelyne Dufau hosts your family  on the Basque coast, anytime between Saturday June 21 until Saturday July 19/2014 . This program is geared to families whose children study IN French back home and who wish to have their children or teenagers fully immersed in French, and in the local culture while vacationing and enjoying life in France.

Vision for the trip:

  • Enjoy the privacy of your own vacation home that Expérience Authentique has selected with and for you on the Basque coast.  Families travelling with friends might consider sharing a villa rental. Join a small group of families  for unique experiences with rich content during your stay.  Each family has its own vehicle for total independence.
  • Surround your child(ren) with diverse opportunities to engage with locals, in French, through child and youth focused activities. Doing so helps avoid the common trap of English being spoken by children most of the time when interacting primarily with family members, and  missing out on the linguistic opportunity that vacationing in France can give.
  • Enjoy experiences with rich content made possible because your family is part of a small group, with fixed costs being shared. Activities are child/youth, adult or family focused.
  • Experience where French living is at its best in Southwest France.  Vacation like many generations of returning French families, who  favour this part of France to relax and enjoy life. Lots to do on your own and with the group.
  • Benefit from the background and work experience of Evelyne Dufau, your host and organizer ( check her profile video ). Evelyne is keen to showcase the strengths of her region of birth and its culture, and has done so since 2003 for many families and all ages. As an organizer of French camps in Canada, she can identify meaningful linguistic experiences for children and youth. She is also well versed in the service expectations of her North American clientèle when vacationing in France.  Check out this video of testimonials from Ladies Golf Club of Toronto about a recent custom trip, hosted by Evelyne.


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Let’s talk budget… and first your “MUST HAVE” layer of services

Flights aside,  the “MUST HAVE” layer of hosting services includes everything that will make your family comfortable in your vacation home and town. Then, you opt to add your “FRENCH CONTENT” layer of services to personalize the French immersion aspects of your stay.  To get a sense of budget, check this Selection page of villa and apartment rental options  to get a  full range of accommodation options priced for mid-season. The timing for your trip might require to blend mid season prices, ie for the June week, with higher season early July rental prices.  Once a budget range and criteria are defined by your family, Expérience  Authentique will finalize the specific  cost for each of the homes you wish to evaluate.  Families who share a friendship and have compatible vacation styles can share a home to lower their cost and add to their fun. Some villas can accommodate up to 16 guests so multiple families or multi-generation families vacationing comfortably under the same roof is easily doable.

Budgets include key hosting services to make you feel at home right from the start, and go far beyond what a normal rental program offers: 2 week rental PLUS welcome by bilingual local host and 24h emergency contact, a stocked fridge /pantry for the 1st 24 hours, 2 private guided walking tours of historic towns near your home, your Expérience Authentique personalized travel log on the region including with maps, a cleaning of your home at check out, linen supplied, beds made, some cleaning during the stay for some properties. At the time of booking, a detailed rental contract  is issued and signed listing all included services and the features of the selected rental property. Terms and conditions (T&Cs) are also included to specify the responsibilities of all parties:  the client, the owner of the vacation property, and Expérience Authentique. Standard rental contract terms and T&Cs are available for review upon request.


Optional: the “FRENCH CONTENT” layer for your children & for the entire family

The suggestion of activities below can be confirmed and priced once we know how many interested families we have.   No deposit is required upon pre-registration for the “FRENCH CONTENT” layer until the final content is established but we want to know in advance the type of programs your family is keen on to plan early and develop cost effective group activities.  Ideally we aim to run those activities to accommodate  4 to 8 families.  Activities will take place  if the price point works for all participants and  the  experience is economically viable to Expérience Authentique and its local partners.  An update  will be sent out by MAY 1/2014 to all pre-registered families.

Activity suggestions

Unless specified, each family is independently responsible for its own transportation to get to the various activities. Driving directions will be supplied for drivers and navigators to know where to meet.

  • Sunday welcome dinner on June 22 in a local restaurant surrounded by locals, in party mode, all dressed in black and red, while the St Jean de Luz town festivities are still on. After dinner, children can run after the toros de fuegos; no panic, they are wooden structures in the shape of bulls carried by people through the main street of the town with fireworks thrown from their back. Simple local family fun… Opportunities for some dancing at the main square as the day and festivities wrap up. Very family friendly fiestas!
  • Kids treasure hunt (+ possibly an appropriate version for teenagers if we have the numbers) led by Evelyne: kids hunt for local delicacies through the streets of St Jean de Luz as they get comfortable with their surroundings, learn a bit of history and of course the good food stops for their vacation. This town is a place where you will feel good letting your younger kid run for pain au chocolat or ice-cream on his/her own very quickly.
  • As of July 1, 3 to 12-yr-olds can join a local beach club that I have affectioned for years with my own kids (also as an alumni!) and later for clients: it is a great way for kids to mingle with French kids through organized games on the beach coached by well trained staff. Kids have fun in French while adults get a chance for adult/ME time.
  • Strong swimmers (8yr-olds  and up) including fun loving adults who love water, can join a surfing workshop. Beginners should commit 3 half days to progress while experienced ones can enhance further skills. Southwest France is THE surfing mecca of Europe after all!
  • Join other family-friendly water activities led by French bilingual instructors. Options for rafting, sailing, Hawaiian outrigger. If the outrigger is in the cards, consider a guided sunset outing with a chance to catch calamari at this time of the year with all fishing material supplied.
  • Half day fishing outing on a professional fishing boat manned by a knowledgeable French speaking captain
  • Baking workshop for one of the local specialties, ie gâteau basque or with dark chocolate ( chocolate beans were first introduced into France in medieval times through this region).
  • For adults: market outing followed by Lunch or dinner cooking class led by an established bilingual local chef.
  • Guided visit of prehistoric grottoes ( in French for the kids, in English for the adults), followed by a one-hour accompanied hike in the Pyrénées foothills towards an isolated inn where a delicious local fare is waiting for you.
  • Guided visits in the interior of the Basque country  to various farms and a winery to taste their specialties; this would take place after an AM hike led by a mountain guide to initiate the children to the lush local nature and lives of locals who have earned their living in the foothills of the Pyrénées for many generations.
  • Head to St Jean Pied de Port, the last stop in France on the medieval pilgrimage path of St James prior to a tough crossing into Spain. Experience the town’s rich architecture, land and history that kids explore through a local story teller. Ideally, this outing takes place on a Monday when the market in on and a traditional Basque pelota game can be enjoyed at the end of the day. Also, I recommend to start the day  with a fun stop, on our way to the town, at the Basque pelota museum for everyone to appreciate how this unique game gets played.
  • Take part in a kid or family-oriented pelota workshop to try different forms of the game instructed by a qualified French-speaking instructor.
  • Horse-riding outings offered for various levels of riding experience through the Pyrénées foothills.
  • Full day biking outing along  flat and dedicated biking paths; head through the sandy dunes, forests, pristine beaches and towns of the Landes coast, a short 20 minute drive north of the Basque coast. Opportunities to taste locally grown oysters for shell fish lovers
  • San Sebastian in Spain, a European capital for gastronomy, is just around the corner a 25 minute drive south. Explore its fun streets as you hop from bars to bars on a tapas tour. A local expert takes you to the best stops in the old town so you try great pinxos ( tapas in Basque) and local wines. Can be a family activity or adult only as Evelyne can take the group of children to experience other fun aspects of this beach town.
  • Reach San Sebastian after a spectacular 3 hour guided coastal hike ( some steep parts but definitely family friendly) full of rich contrasts, current and old history. Get to your departure point via a local commuter train at the French/Spanish border , hop off in the middle of an industrial harbour  to follow the path to a medieval  coastal village. Stop to learn about the Basque whalers in the St Lawrence Gulf in the 14th century who came to the North American shores well before Christopher Columbus. Then immerse yourself deep in beautiful nature, along a safe cliff overlooking the ocean which is where most of your hiking takes place. When in San Sebastian, decide to recharge over tapas and wine and return safely by train on your own time to your car left at the border.
  • Evening hike  and picnic with mountain guide to watch  the sun set on the ocean ( weather permitting!) from the top of a small mountain and return in the dark with headlamp for the sake of fun. You need to be 8yr old or older and pack a good spirit .
  • Farewell dinner to indulge in authentic Basque fashion; could be a cider house, or a fine traditional restaurant and some live Basque music to soften the farewell.

Add-on options:

  • Car rental to be added as it is a requirement to get to the activities unless you prefer to hire a chauffeur.  Budget between $CDN 450 ( insurance out) to $CDN 750 ( insurance in) for a mid-size vehicle for the 2 wk stay, on a pre-paid basis. Expérience Authentique can set up the rental for you.
  • Access to chauffeured & guided outings in 3rd party vehicle ( advanced notice is needed).
  • Access to mini-bus transfers for your children when you wish to relax in a different place than where your child might be ( advanced notice is needed).
  • Access to baby-sitting service during the day and on evenings ( advanced notice is needed).
  • Optional sport and cultural activities can be arranged during free times:  + surfing, golfing, high rope/zip-lining, mountain biking or road biking, tickets to Basque pelota games, tickets to concerts etc…
  • Meal preparation and grocery shopping coordination.

NEXT STEP if your family wishes to proceed:

  • Pre-identify your budget and criteria with respect to the  “MUST HAVE” layer of services.
  • Consider sharing vacation property with another family who has a compatible vacation style to yours.
  • Share all of your criteria with Evelyne Dufau of Expérience Authentique who will narrow down for you the best property options. Evelyne’s frequent on-site inspections of the properties and intimate knowledge of the region help you develop a top 3 list based on pre-defined criteria.
  • Receive a  budget for your top 3 choices under review at per your dates ( rentals require a Saturday arrival with a few owners requesting a minimum of a 2 week stay).
  • Validate your intent to work with Expérience Authentique  by signing an authorization to pay for a $300 research fee should you change your mind and no longer hire Expérience Authentique ‘s services after suitable properties are sourced.
  • View the detailed slide shows of  the top 3 properties to reach the optimal decision.
  • Availability is then checked with vacation home owners.
  • Make a final selection and proceed with the admin/payment steps for the “MUST HAVE” layer.
  • Make a call on optional cancellation insurance.
  • Pre-register your family for the “FRENCH CONTENT” layer.
  • Receive an update by MAY 1/2014 on the French content itinerary
  • Spread the word about the trip to other like-minded families; everyone benefit from enjoying great content at shared fixed costs!