The annual tribe-on-tour event has taken place. This year's destination - South Western France.
A mercifully brief (but paradoxically expensive) flight to Toulouse was how it began. Land of sunflowers, mediaeval hilltop towns and above all else, apples. Apples everywhere. Hectare upon hectare of the bloody things. A veritable Scrumper's Paradise and I didn't even pack my cider press. This countryside provided us with a glorious vista from the comfort of our sunbeds, with the grape as our preferred fruit of choice on most evenings. Everyone admired the view.
I love my family holiday. I love my family, of course, and they are 50% of 'family holiday' after all, but the actual 'holiday' part where I get to read a book and not wash up is, without contest, a very close second.
The camera is never far from my side, and since this area of France has more mediaeval bastille towns than one can throw a stick at, it was easy enough to capture the atmosphere as the sun went down and the corks started popping.
I was struck by the sense of community here. A festival of light in Lauzerte required the co-operation of every single village resident to plunge themselves into darkness at dusk. If one stubborn ex-pat had refused to turn off Eastenders or close the fridge door, the whole event would have been a write-off.
But what of the animals, I hear you cry? Well, our ever-present lifeguard came in canine form. This adorable but highly strung beauty was our constant companion. She was the seeker-out-of-food-scraps-that-she-was-allergic-to and saw her most important role as pool intervention - woe betide the child that attempted to effect a dive or jump in without her consent as she formed a canine shield with her large body between the offender and the pool.
Tradition dictates that no vacation pass by without a visit to the local 'Accrobranche'. Our 6 adrenalin junkies can't get enough of the high ropes harness hell, and this year the added attraction of a nearby close-contact monkey sanctuary proved too much to resist. See? Animals! The hand-feeding of the monkeys, which roamed freely amongst the visitors, was very much encouraged. They will happily take popcorn from you without so much as a by-your-leave, but there was no sign of a Multiplex anywhere.
Lest we forget that homosapiens are animals too, too many late nights will bring us back to earth....