Easter egg hunts come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the classic free-for-all experienced by the kids at their pre-school playgroups. There’s the treasure hunt (which we favour at home) – follow the clues to find the eggs. There’s the much-loved National Trust combo of finding clues to receive a prize. And then there’s this supersized egg hunt that we experienced in France last year.
For the Easter holidays of 2017 we headed to the family house in France. It’s in the Lot region, but very close to the Dordogne and its many attractions. We’d chosen to go off-season this year as France wasn’t included in our summer plans. It was a roaring success, not least because we had amazing weather! In the heat of the summer it’s often simply too hot to get active, so we were looking forward to a fairly active week of bike rides, walks and tourist attractions. The star of the show was our trip to Les jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac for their annual Grande chasse aux oeufs de Pâques (Easter egg hunt). As we’d visited the gardens in the past I was aware of the egg hunt and its popularity, so I went online to book in advance. This meant that the kids were officially logged in, but it didn’t help the queues to get in! We arrived relatively close to opening time, but the queue was already snaking down the hill. The kids ran around while English grown-ups grumbled (both tourists and ex-pats). The locals seemed to just walk straight past us!!!!
We weren’t exactly sure of what to expect. When we finally reached the end of the queue we gave the kids names and in return they were given paper bags and a map. The map showed us various zones in the garden where different coloured eggs were hidden – six zones and six colours. The idea was for each child to collect one egg of each colour and then swap them for a prize at the end. We set off around the gardens, hunting high and low in each zone for our eggs. The boys absolutely loved it. The eggs could sometimes be found quite close to the path, but one of the things the kids loved most was that they were encouraged to scramble all over the place – up hills, alongside water features, through holes in the hedges and round the trees.
The biggest surprise for us was that each brightly coloured egg was a real, hard-boiled egg – unusual for us Brits, though so not much in continental Europe.
The gardens have lots of points of interest, including incredible views across the Dordogne, which are worth a visit in their own right, but on this trip we focused on finding the eggs and having a play in the playgrounds along the way. Their favourite bit was an enclosed rope bridge that started out low to the ground before taking them high up into the trees – all the better for viewing potential egg-hiding spots!
Once we’d gathered all the eggs of the right colours we joined another queue to receive our prize. I was delighted – delicious, amazing French chocolate. The husband and I were fighting the kids for a taste – happily I managed to sneak a couple of the dark chocs while they snaffled the milk and white ones. It was definitely an Easter treat!
- The gardens are vast, and it’s quite a distance to some of the attractions, so if you have really little ones with you I’d suggest using a pushchair (most paths are accessible, if pretty bumpy!) or a baby-carrier
- They do mark out an area for toddlers to experience their own mini-hunt
- It can get very busy, but there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out
- Dogs on leads are welcome
- There is a cafe at the gardens, but we chose to leave the gardens and go to a local town for lunch
Make it a day trip! Within around 15-30mins of the gardens you’ll find:
- Château de Castelnaud – a great, atmospheric place to visit with lots to see and do. You can buy a joint ticket for the gardens and the castle
- La Roque-Gageac, a gorgeous little village squeezed between the banks of the Dordogne river and a rock face
- Domme, a classic Dordogne ‘bastide’ town with restaurants, shops and incredible views
- Sarlat-la-Canéda, famous for its twice-weekly market in the summer