OUR FAMILY HOLIDAYS AT MAS DE THAU
Menno, Founder of the blog Top With Kids, aged 46, married, father of Tess (10) and Wende (7), from Arnhem, Holland
A mediterranean adress
Sometimes you just know when you hit a family friendly hot spot. This happens to us on the afternoon we arrive at the Mas de Thau near the small town of Montagnac in the captivating Languedoc-Roussillon region in Southern France. Maryse and Yvan, the owners, have spent several years building this slice of family holiday paradise. It is completely immersed in a beautiful countryside setting, with grape vines, pine trees and endless views of the Thau Lagoon and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mas de Thau provides a staggering 20 hectares (about 50 acres) of sprawling grounds. If there were a top 10 rating for the space children have to play, the Mas would surely be on it. And it is wrapped in a nice package that absolutely presents an intimate estate totally dedicated to families. Rather, it’s a place where you can feel completely at home. Maryse and Yvan embody this feeling in their down to earth nature and very keen focus on delivering the right service. They are always around in case you need something or are up for a chat. But should you feel like it, you can also be completely on your own
“Rather, it’s a place where you can feel completely at home. Maryse and Yvan embody this feeling in their down to earth nature and very keen focus on delivering the right service.”
French country chic gites
The resort offers six different gites (apartments) all named after wine grape varieties. The design is what we would call French country ‘chic’ in a simple, child friendly setting. The biggest gites are ideal for multi-generational families and if you really have some cash to blow, you could rent the entire domain which offers you space for around 30 people with 15 bedrooms. Yvan later shows us the pictures of ‘the making of’ and we are stunned by the work it took to accomplish the transformation from a barn / cow shed to these beautiful accommodations.
We stay in Gite Le Grenache with a large 40 sqm terrace complete with outdoor table and chairs for dining or just relaxing, overlooking the vineyard. Our ‘home away from home’ provides a convenient, modern and spotlessly clean bathroom as well as a fully equipped kitchen with all required dishes and cutlery, including a washing machine and an expresso coffee machine. We are also delighted to find a basket full of essentials such as milk, juice and kid’s cereals on arrival. There is a rather big supermarket just a 10-minute drive away if you need resupplying. But given the high quality of meals provided by the chef, there is hardly any need to do any shopping. Fresh baguettes and croissant are delivered in a lovely basket to your gite as ordered the evening before. And there’s a complimentary lunch at the beach club.
Not only are we surprised by the wine tasting session on our arrival, but we are also treated to homemade pizza, shared with the other guests in the covered, outdoor lounging area next to the bar. It has the feel of a small French village, complete with century old ‘hackberries’ or nettle trees so typical of the Mediterranean climate. This opportunity to meet and socialise with other guests is again something that really speaks for the small and personal setup of Mas de Thau.
The pizza tastes like heaven and reflects the talent of the Chef. He will suggest two menus for you and more simple options for the children every day. Your meals can either be delivered to your room or you can enjoy eating them on the communal terrace or inside the restaurant. All meals are prepared using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. All food allergies and restrictions are catered for, so also no need for worrying on that front.
“It has the feel of a small French village (…) This opportunity to meet and socialise with other guests is again something that really speaks for the small and personal setup of Mas de Thau.”
The second day there, we are well rested and ready to explore all the things the resort has to offer. There are bikes for children and adults which you can just grab and use or little scooters if you prefer. There is also a big football field, a trampoline, the bouncing castle and zip line, not to forget all the animals to interact with. The children love the donkeys and chickens and often visit them with some left over food.
The more structured activities revolve around the kids club. Again, this is complimentary and part of the overall Mas de Thau experience. Furthermore, you are entitled to a baby sitting night on Thursday evening in your accommodation by the nannies. What an incredible range of childcare services. Truly impressive!
If you are still not completely rested and recharged, the nannies will pick up the kids from your gite on Friday morning at around 7.00 a.m. for breakfast at the kid’s club, so you can spend the whole morning in bed. Or perhaps go off and explore some of the excellent vineyards in the area. Alternatively, have a relaxing day at the Mas’s onsite Wellness Centre. It boasts a sauna, hammam and beauty treatment rooms. All facilities can be used on request and even massages and beauty treatments can be arranged with enough advanced notice.
The staff are very good with children and gear the activities toward age, so everyone has a good time. Our girls spend some delightful hours playing all kinds of (board) games and making art works. The kids club is fully air-conditioned and even provides a sleeping area for the little ones to have some rest during the activity filled day. On the enclosed terrace, there are some fun outdoor water games to cool off a little during those hazy summer days. One morning our girls, together with the staff, organise a treasure hunt across the resort with all kinds of assignments and questions. Animal loving kids can also go pony riding locally (if it is not to hot). They can do a climbing course or have a go at water-skiing; even small children around the age of four can stand on customised skies while holding on to a horizontal beam that extends above the water while being dragged by a modest speedboat. Fun for everyone!
Older children and teenagers might be interested in joining the free weekly sailing or windsurf training at the Yachting Club in Meze; or perhaps wake-board training in Kithau in Marseillan; transportation included.
With all these activities on offer, one could almost forget to mention the two, heated swimming pools surrounded by lavender and Mediterranean plants.
“The staff are very good with children and gear the activities toward age, so everyone has a good time.”
DISCOVERING THE COUNTRYSIDE
Mas de Thau is at easy distance from beautiful beaches (25 mins) and there are numerous sights and activities to undertake. To start with, we recommend the nearby fishing ports where you can try the huitres gratinee at Meze. Situated on the étang de Thau, Mèze has a historic role as the oyster capital of the area. Its harbour is sometimes called ‘ le petit Saint Tropez’.
For a classical French market, head for the town of Pezenas on Saturday. This is a large market that runs through the center of town with wonderful fruit, veg and fresh herbs, bread and cakes, cheeses, fresh meat, hot food, organic produce and clothes. It is very colorful and vibrant .
A little bit further afield is the highly recommended city of Montpellier, the capital of the Hérault department. The city is situated on hilly ground inland from the Mediterranean coast, on the River Lez.
Finally, we must mention the remarkable village of Saint Guilhem le désert. It is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”), and the Abbey of Gellone, along with the nearby Pont du Diable were designated UNESCO World Heritages sites in 1999.
Although our girls do not mind visiting the odd cathedral or museum, they of course also like to do activities that are a little more geared to them. So something else we really recommend is the Pedalorail in the little village of Saint Thibéry, 25 minutes from the domain: converted pedal carts (5 seats each) that you pedal down unused rail tracks discovering the beautiful countryside, following the river of Hérault. As an alternative you will find the delightful Parc des Dinosaures close to the town of Meze for a leisurely walk amongst the trees with a great combination of replicas, fossils and historical details. There are also several informative videos as well, with multilingual signs in most areas and a quiz for children for which they get a “diploma” at the end of the day.
- The resort has a very sociable feel and the other guests can congregate in the evenings. Dinner time was a pleasure with an aperitif with fellow guests at 6pm each evening.
- Mas the Thau puts the family first and the space for children is enormous. The kids club is relaxed and on a drop-in basis with no requirement to make a reservation.
- And then lastly there is the domain itself which has beautiful views over the area; you really feel in the middle of nowhere, but you are close to charming villages.