Provence is a beautiful region, rich in history, good wine and good food.
It's also a playground, its limestone landscape perfect for little and big explorers to go walking, cycling, mountain-biking, climbing and canoeing - and even caving!
Here are a couple of activities, with some tips, that we've done with our eldest, now seven.
Cycling off-road can be a magical pastime for children. You will cover far more ground than just walking and it becomes a real adventure for little minds, especially if you can weave in some historical sites along the way: old buildings are far more exciting if you've cycled there through a forest and "discovered" them yourself.
Tips: Plan - ideally by scouting the route first - and make sure it's a route you'll be able to walk if necessary, perhaps even carrying a child and a bike! Take plenty of water, some snacks and make sure you have a map of some sort. Ideally plan a one way route with icecreams at the end and a car pick up for the return, particularly when they're very small.
When Ben was four he cycled, with me trotting behind, through the woods from Cabrieres d'Avignon to Gordes. Along the way we found and explored an old "Borie". These are typical to the area, squat stone structures with incredibly thick walls and one internal room.
Further along the path we came across a "Troglodyte Mill", an amazing old olive mill carved out of a cliff, with a shaft carved out of rock down which the olive collecters could pour the crop down to the mill. With a bit of care we entered the old mill and explored the carved channels and large vats. I had been shown the mill on a previous trip so had checked the place for danger and access.
A descent into a gorge to cross a stream then brought us up close to the road and into the village of Gordes and finally into the main square where the magical prize of ice-cream awaited us! His grandfather came to pick us up and we drove back to the villa in Cabrieres.
Here's the route from Cabrieres to Gordes on PlotaRoute - it's around 6 kms overall, so I could have walked it if necessary..
The French are great at this - they'll be clear what kind of age the descent will suit, without being overly protective but also without getting anybody in danger. The youngest descent we found is near Isles sur la Sorgues, close to Avignon, where they'll take 3 year olds.
My tip for canoeing is to make sure you're going down a river where you'd feel happy getting out and able to rescue somebody - don't take your kids down something that worries you to start with! Apart from that, ask questions of the providers and make sure you use the life-jackets and helmets!
We opted for a descent on the Argens river, further east in the Var, where the minimum age was 5. The experience is wonderful, we were carried upstream from where you could paddle up a very quiet section of the river.
Dragon-flies hovered around the canoe, and a heron kept us company as we paddled up river, flying from perch to perch and eyeing us curiously each time, head to one side. Ben thought this was magical - we could see fish swimming beneath us, birds were keeping us company and dragonflies would land to rest on his paddle.
We reached a small gravel island and stopped for lunch - this was also the point where we had been told to turn and go back down the river - past our starting point and all the way back to the village of Correns. The first obstacle was a large weir; Noe, our guide, had told us before leaving to paddle towards the weir edge at full speed - our impetus and the current would make sure we'd got over the lip and then the river's current would carry us down the rest of the way!
We slid sideways down the weir and dropped into the river below and continued towards the village, passing a number of mini-rapids, small narrowings of the current where our keel scraped the rocks and the canoe rocked and we both shouted "We're never going to make it captain!" or "We're doomed, I tell you, doomed!" and then fell around laughing.
Half a day doing one of these activities will provide your kids with memories they'll treasure forever - and really boost their self-confidence.
We were staying in Maison de Timole for the first cycle ride, and in Maison Romaine (now sadly sold) for the canoe trip. We hired Ben's bike at Culture Velo in Cavaillon, and the Canoes from K-Noe in Correns.