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Forget Camping, Head Out and Try Treehousing.

A Birthday to Remember? - Mike Alexander
Taking time out from his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, our Grumpy Gardener, takes a family break in a tree house and yes he left all the tools of the trade behind him.

Tree Tops - French Style

Life In a High Tree

I have to admit I was not thrilled when I first heard I was to become a father. I made all the right noises and tried to appear enthusiastic, but the truth was I never managed to move emotionally beyond being ambivalent.

That all changed dramatically when a maternity nurse handed me a damp, red faced, screaming bundle which was my daughter. After that, and much to my amazement, I was smitten. Thirteen years later nothing has changed, which is why I found myself writing this article perched half way up an ancient oak tree in the depths of La France Profonde

Destination Not Disclosed
To mark her debut into the teens (they grow up so fast don't they) I had decided to surprise my daughter and one of her friends with two-nights away in a tree house in the Corrèze (19). Initially I was a little worried that fashion-fast-food-Facebook-fanatic girls might hate the mere thought of two whole nights without electricity, running water or broadband. But then I wasn't about to tell them ahead of the trip, describing it vaguely as a surprise location. As we walked through the forest from where we had left the car, to the still undisclosed spot, I could hear rumblings of dissent beginning behind me. However the moment the girls spotted the Robinson Crusoe-style cabin perched six metres up a tree, all signs of rebellion were quelled to be replaced instead by sighs of delight.

Memories - For Life
Personally I hate the amount of commercialisation we and our children are exposed to and in choosing the tree house I had sought a gift that would leave memories for life rather than just short-term gratification.

Tree house gites have become very fashionable in France in recent years and we had to make bookings several months in advance for this one. Even in Autumn, a mid- week booking was all I could get. This particular tree house is in demand year-round so the term 'season' doesn't really apply in the sense that it does in more earthly-based accommodation.

Fantasy Kitchen
- Swiss Family Robinson Style -

The tree house itself is a little piece of paradise. Built in rustic style from recuperated timber, it is a hybrid of something from Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson and every-ones childhood fantasies. Naturally it's devoid of those modern luxuries, spoiled us have come to expect in our lives. The loo is a dry toilet in a small outhouse and lighting comes via candles and occasionally a torch. On the other hand it is incredibly cosy to be enveloped in wood leaves and nature sitting around a log burning stove with an oak tree as the dominant architectural feature in the room.

The Sound of Silence
One's life becomes a sort of odd dichotomy. At night it can be so quiet you begin to wonder if you've gone deaf and at first light you wake to bird song and a vivid display of orange, yellow and gold as sunlight filters through the leaves that surround you on all sides. Suddenly my bling-bling child was happy to sit and play cards or monopoly by candle light and the absence of computers and mobile phones never came up in conversation once on the trip. During the day we went for bracing walks in the surrounding countryside or barbecued beside the tiny stream below the tree house. Best of all the most pressing thing we had to do all day was to pay a visit to the donkey and the horses in nearby fields.

Judging from the visitors book -- brimming with positive feed back (one guest mentions spotting 14 bird species in 24 hours) -- I was not the only one to be impressed by our holiday in the trees.

Most importantly, from my point of view, it provided an opportunity to give my daughter a memory she will carry with her always, rather than some transient gizmo or fashion item all too soon tossed into the depths of the closet and forgotten.

Where to Find the Tree House and How to Get There.

The tree house nestles 6 metres up the trunk, in the hollow of an ancient oak. Below it is a decked terrace, and nearby a small stream lined with lake plants.

Visitors take breakfast on the terrace among the foliage and birds, or on the terrace at the foot of the oak (homemade jam and eggs from the farm, selection of tea, coffee, chocolate are supplied).

Guests can also use the small kitchen in the tree house or enjoy an outdoor barbecue. The farm owners can supply picnic baskets to eat by the stove in winter or on the terrace when the weather is warmer.

The tree house located as it is in this unusually shaped oak - is however not too far from the main farm house with its reception area, and staff offering guestroom service and table d'hote.

You can shun all modern comforts and escape to the tree house or you can mix and match at will.

Want to Try it For Yourself?

Open All Year Round
- even in the depths of winter! -

The Tree House is situated in the Corrèze (département 19) - you can find the exact location by clicking this link to Google Maps.

Other accommodation is also offerred, including a lakeside fishermans cottage. To book and for further information, visit the La Ferme des Histoires Mélangées website (in French)

Bon Weekend - Bon Vacances

Tree House website - click here
Tree House location (Google Maps) - click here
Grumpy Gardener - Mike's French News Online column
  How to build your own Tree House

Article: Mike Alexander
November 2011

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