Not your average student holiday: Exploring rural France

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Photograph by Jessica Kadel.

Opposing the typical student reputation of annually vacating to Malia, Kavos or Ibiza, I, being the most boring 20 year old to walk the earth, have come on a tranquil holiday to Mayrac. “Where?” I hear you ask, well to put it in Layman’s terms it can only be described as the French version of the Cotswolds – a.k.a. the middle of nowhere. With an excessive amount of countryside views, it has rivers and greenery which stretch out endlessly and unquestionably depict postcard-esque rural France.

Mayrac is situated in the Lot which is labelled “France’s best kept secret”, and despite being the town to birth the ever-famous fois gras (goose fat), Mayrac is possibly the least renowned town in the entirety of France. However, this concealment is its charm. Undisturbed by the predictable plethora of tourists and commercialism you’d find in most popular holiday locations, in Mayrac, you are instead surrounded by an abundance of goats, chickens and archetypal French men holding baguettes.  Here you can genuinely escape the commotion of University and wind down in a town which emits French heritage and culture.

Most of the local villages in the Lot are former medieval strongholds, with limestone buildings which exhibit characteristic French shutters on every window. There are countless cobbled streets with rustic French shops full of trinkets and souvenirs, there are also weekly markets which sell local produce – wines, fois gras, soaps and cheeses. My holiday mainly consists of eating Brie, going on scenic walks and avoiding any locals due to my shoddy A-level French.

However there is a surprising amount to do for such a remote region. So far I have already conquered canoeing down the Dordogne river, during which I essentially just sat in the back of the canoe photographing the picturesque views while my mum paddled. We’ve also visited some castles, which seem to be infinite in rural France. We even attended a 1900s village, dedicated to simulating every aspect from the 1900s, down to the buildings, machinery and costumes of every reluctant staff member. Finally, to my satisfaction, there are plenty of animal parks, including a reptile park, an eagle sanctuary and a monkey reserve which you circulate while feeding the monkeys popcorn – apparently monkeys love popcorn.

If by chance you’re feeling energetic, in Mayrac there are many local cycle paths to explore, or forests to ramble in with the goat posse, the region is also ideal for paragliding. However, there is always the preferable option to just sit outside the quaint cafés, sunbathing and getting chubby from the variety of cheeses or drinking wine until you’re confident enough to slur some French at anyone who passes by.

Although it doesn’t sound like the most exciting venue for the student demographic, it’s worthwhile to sometimes get away from all the hustle and bustle and have a peaceful holiday in the countryside. Besides, Mayrac evades dealing with week-long hangovers, regrettable tattoos and the risk of being on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.