On behalf of the Auto Europe team, I'm delighted to introduce our first guest blogger! Jo Kessel, freelance journalist and TV reporter, recently took an Auto Europe hire car into France and she has kindly taken the time to tell us all about it. Thanks Jo!Since having kids we'd not done any self-driving abroad (too much hassle with back-seat screaming) but we finally braved it. And guess what, it was the best trip yet. The Auto-Europe car (which we got at Montpellier airport) came with car seats hired locally, and gave us so much more freedom than ever before. Our twins, 5, and 3 yr old loved it, and I'd cleverly brought along some audio books to keep them well-entertained. Anyway, we headed towards this most amazing place in the heart of the wine-producing Languedoc Roussillon area (great if you fancy a tipple because there are small wineries dotted around quite literally everywhere) called Le Mas Pandit. It's a huge estate (www.country-kids.fr
) with a farm, swimming pool, tennis court, tree-house playground, two giant trampolines and guests can stay in one of the six luxury apartments they've converted from what were originally stables (it was formerly a seventeenth century Roquefort dairy). The English couple (Stuart and Tracey) that own and run the place are wonderful hosts and I defy any kid, young or old, not to have the time of their lives. For the young ones there's a crÃ¨che (I couldn't keep my kids away from it they loved it so much) and for the older ones there are organized activities. Plus Stuart takes the kids on a tractor ride to the farm every morning where they can help feed and water the animals - pigs, chickens (pick your own fresh eggs), rabbits, llamas, horses. Everyone's happy - parents get some much-needed R & R and the whole self-catering thing is made a doddle, with a welcome hamper that lasts a good few days, two catered meals provided over a week, tea every day for the kids at 4.30pm, an on-site deli with home-cooked meals - oh, and two nights free babysitting too. It really is such a unique package - I've not seen anything like it before. Especially because the piece de resistance is that they include three family activities in the price. So we went on a horse and carriage ride (really beautiful in serene, remote landscape, it was like stepping back in time) and we went fishing (the kids all caught a rainbow trout each) and we went TREE TOP CLIMBING. Not for the feint-hearted the latter, I found it scarier than the kids. It was a 45 minute drive away (see, the hire car was essential) and involved getting from tree to tree via a series of trapezes, tight ropes and zip-wires etc. The twins were brilliant at it - clipping and unclipping their own safety clips, but apparently my decibel levels (told you I was scared) were an embarrassment to my husband! Had the children been older we could have done horse-riding, rock-climbing, caving, cycling, French lessonsâ¦â¦there were loads of options depending on your needs/desires. Really, we didn't want to come home and the kids are desperate to go back. We'll need to book up early for next year because once everyone cottons onto this gem we'll never get in, because there are only six apartments, so shushhhhhhh, don't tell anyone you've read thisâ¦..