Experience Menton’s spectacular Fête du Citron

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When winter fades and the springtime sunshine rolls in, a town in the French Riviera plays host to an extraordinary annual festival that uniquely celebrates the changing of the seasons. Fête du Citron Where in France: Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, Côte d’Azur Distance from Calais: 1,255km / 11h 45m Celebrate the coming of spring in the gorgeous Côte d'Azur. What is the Fête du Citron? Visitors are left staggered by the sheer number of oranges and lemons used in the displays The Fête du Citron (also known as the Carnival of Menton) is an annual celebration of the leaving of winter and the coming of spring, where the entire town of Menton becomes coloured with locally grown oranges and lemons. The fruits are collected in abundance and used to make impressive structures and displays that are paraded through the town for a period of two weeks. The use of the fruit not only represents the bounty provided by the changing of the seasons, but the pride the town has in the quality of its produce. In fact, the lemons grown in Menton are rather unique and sought after. They are recognised by their particularly bright shade of yellow and for being more elongated than round, as well for being prized by chefs because of their rich, essential oils. Menton’s lemons are unique in their colour, shape and flavour How it all began Legend has it that Eve herself planted the first lemon tree in the Bay of Garavan - chosen because of its natural beauty and ideal weather. It’s even said that the town of Menton itself stemmed from a single lemon seed. The first display of flowers and locally-grown citrus fruit is believed to have been made by a hotel in Menton in 1928. After being admired greatly by guests and locals alike, the theme began to be adopted by other local businesses, growing year on year. Not before too long it was an event that the town became known for, with floats, carts and impressive structures being decorated with the brightly coloured local produce. It was in 1935 that the festivities were given the official name of ‘Fête du Citron’ (Lemon Festival) and since then the event has steadily grown in popularity. Today the festival truly is an unmissable occasion that every Francophile should experience. Fête du Citron 2019 2018’s Bollywood theme produced some dazzling displays There’s a different theme to the festival each year, with past examples such as ‘Bollywood’ and ‘Broadway’. 2019’s festivities will run from February 16th to March 2nd, with around 160,000 visitors expected to appear for the two-week festival that will feature a ‘Fantastic Worlds’ theme. Each day of the festival has a unique itinerary, with exhibitions, tours, fairs and a variety of shows. See the festival’s official site to discover the full program of planned events. Menton’s gardens The town’s gardens are where visitors can find the most impressive displays The town prides itself on its beautiful gardens throughout the year, but they receive special attention during the Fête du Citron. Visitors can find the most extravagant and impressive displays such as towers, huge statues and life-sized buildings in public parks, just like Jardins Biovès (Biovès Gardens). Visitors should make sure to experience the gardens during both the day and night, as the structures are even more magnificent when combined with lightshows and soundscapes that help to bring them to life. Orchid and craft fairs During the festival, Menton’s grandiose ‘Palais de l’Europe’ hosts an orchid and crafts fair, from within its own grounds. At the orchid fair, visitors can expect to see one of the world’s most impressive orchid gardens as the flowers begin to bloom for the first time in the year. The craft fair is where local artisans present their sculptures, ceramics and glass-blown pieces. Visitors also have the chance to sample delicious, local dishes such as ‘un bouquet de fleurs de courgettes’, a delicate courgette flower in a light and fragrant batter. Nearby festivities Nice Carnival is another sensational festival worth experiencing Menton’s Fête du Citron isn’t the only celebration in the French Riviera during the early spring period; the Nice Carnival and the Mimosa Festival are also unmissable celebrations to enjoy whilst in the Côte d'Azur. Nice Carnival easily matches the size and spectacle of Fête du Citron and dates as far back as 1873. 2019’s carnival will run from the 16th to the 28th of February and will feature a theme of ‘King of Cinema’ as the year marks Victorine Studios’ 100th anniversary. The studios are based in the Côte d'Azur and have famously been graced by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Jacques Demy. The Mimosa Festival is also in the nearby French commune of Mandelieu-La Napoule and is another annual event that heralds the coming of spring. The story goes that ‘Mimosa pudica’ (the plant that mimosa is extracted from) was introduced to the region after Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia in the mid-1800s. It was then destroyed by the unusually harsh winter of 1929, before being reintroduced two years later with a celebration, which was the birth of the festival. In 2019, the occasion is set to run from the 20th to the 27th of February and boasts the theme of “The Adventures of Marco Polo”. So, for those looking to welcome the springtime sun in style, why not do so by heading to Menton and witnessing the stunning Fête du Citron? Book your tickets with us in advance to get the best price.

Why your next ski holiday should be a road trip

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There’s nothing quite like a road trip to the French Alps. It’s the epitome of freedom - being able to hop into a car with a pair of skis and drive off into the sunset (or sunrise) in search of the good times. We teamed up with Saunders Says to show our customers just how hassle-free and convenient a skiing holiday in France is when travelling by car. We hosted his fun-filled road trip to the French ski resort of Val Thorens, and in his first video he shows just how quick and easy the process of using Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is. Travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle helps skiers to make the most of the French Alps As well as all the fun that Saunders Says’ had, here are some more reasons why everyone’s next ski holiday should be a road trip: Driving down the cost Driving across France with friends and family is a lot of fun, but as with any holiday, an important consideration is the cost. Each Eurotunnel Le Shuttle ticket is per car, meaning that when every seat is taken, the cost per-head can work out to be cheaper when compared to individual airline tickets. More room for luggage Everyone’s favourite perk when choosing to drive is the advantage of being able to take more luggage. Taking a car allows skiers to pack in more than the amount aircraft baggage allowance permits, which is perfect for those who don’t fancy travelling lightly. Another luggage perk is that drivers also avoid the airline fees that come with taking additional luggage like skis and poles. Ultimately, how much luggage is brought depends on the size of the vehicle and the party, but with a roof box or a roof rack, passengers can afford to keep their leg room. Carrying skis by car is a lot easier than taking them on a bus Perfect for children Driving to a ski resort is beneficial for families. The ability to stop frequently at service stations and laybys to let children stretch their legs comes in handy, and the constant change of scenery can help to keep them occupied, too. The family car is also more of a familiar environment than an aeroplane, meaning they might find it easier to nod off. Travelling by car is ideal for families Four legged friends can come too Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is perfect for families with snow-loving dogs because of how easy and stress-free it is to bring them along. Unlike when travelling by plane, dogs can stay with their family in the car and even have the chance to blow off some steam before heading into the tunnel in our pet exercise areas. Also, it’s not just dogs that are permitted on board our service, we even allow cats, ferrets and more pets. Take a look at this useful page to find travel tips and more information on what to expect when using Eurotunnel Le Shuttle with pets. Four legged friends are more than welcome on board our service Extra perks Drivers have the chance to get creative with their chosen route and can stop to enjoy France’s many beautiful towns, cities and natural parks along the way. Also, having a car readily available at the resort allows visitors to seek out nearby places of interest and take their ski gear back and forth from the slopes (some chalets and hotels are a short bus ride away). Lastly, a pro tip: filling a car boot with foreign foods from a French supermarket is a great way to save on the cost of feeding a family! With so many advantages enjoyed by those who drive to their chosen ski resorts, it’s a wonder why anyone hasn’t taken to the road yet. So, book a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle ticket today and start planning a ski road trip. Be sure to book sooner rather than later, in order get the best possible fares.

5 Must Dos When Visiting a Traditional French Christmas Market

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A visit to a French Christmas market is a pleasure for all the family, with all the sights, sounds and sights to discover it can be a magical experience. From tasty treats to fairground rides, take a look at these essential experiences: Something to eat As enthralling as the festivities are, the most exciting aspect of a traditional French Christmas market - as with any Christmas market – is the delectable food on offer. Whether a small nibble or a hearty meal, the Christmas markets in France have plenty of heavenly foods to choose from, all boasting flavours loved in France. Sugar crêpes at a Christmas market stall in France. The smell that lingers in the air when visiting most French Christmas markets is made up of a combination of elements, but perhaps the most prominent aroma is that of chestnuts being roasted. Follow the scent on arrival and pick up a paper cone full of them to enjoy whilst strolling around the stalls. Tucking into a plate of incredibly cheesy, tartiflette is a soul-warming experience that cannot be missed when visiting a French Christmas market. The dish originates from Savoie, a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of the French Alps and has been enjoyed by the French since the early 1700s. Traditionally, the recipe consists of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions, but modern interpretations often include bacon with a sprinkling of thyme. Also, be sure to purchase a block of deliciously strong, Maroilles cheese to enjoy at home. Something sweet After sampling some savoury delights, a sweet treat is always welcome. A stall selling sweet treats and souvenirs in Strasbourg. Sampling some bitesize, crunchy bredele really is a must as they appear only during the festive season in France. The typical flavours include almond, honey, anise and a combination of orange and cinnamon, known as Schwowebredele. The variety found in the Christmas food market in Strasbourg is considered the best because of the biscuits’ Germanic origin and the city’s proximity to Germany. Those more interested in chocolate should visit the Christmas market in Arras, which is famous for its Gaufres - waffles of Flemish origin that are best served smothered in melted chocolate. A bretzel is also well worth sampling. Essentially a French-take on a pretzel, this salty and sweet snack is popular in festive markets on the other side of the Channel. Other favourites for those with a sweet tooth include, Beignets (a type of mini doughnut), macarons d’Amiens (cakes made from almonds and honey) and gâteau battu (a brioche-like cake shaped like a chef’s hat). Something a little stronger After enjoying the plethora of savoury and sweet treats offered in French Christmas markets, why not wash it all down with a delicious beverage. A steamy mulled wine stall. The obvious choice is a nice, toasty glass of mulled wine, which in France is called ‘Vin chaud’. Often ladled from a heated copper vat, the warming drink can undoubtedly be found at almost every Christmas in France. Those interested in broadening their pallet can do so on a wine cellar tour at the Colmar Christmas market, where wine-lovers can chat to regional winemakers while sampling a large variety of wines, eaux-de-vie and liqueurs. For a more-hearty festive tipple, head to Amiens’ Christmas market to enjoy a locally made, mulled beer. Something for the children Christmas markets in France tend to go above and beyond to cater for children. The colourful canal in Colmar that features a floating children’s choir. The market in Arras boasts a large Ferris wheel that offers breath-taking views of the surrounding festivities and Flemish architecture. Some other attractions available in Arras include a carousel with wooden horses, a Christmas tree roundabout, a natural ice-skating rink and a sledge run. Place Rapp park in Colmar’s market has a huge, 800 square-meter ice rink and Christmas roller coaster. An itinerary of shows and performances can also be enjoyed in Colmar, including a floating choir of children that sing as they drift along the canals in the picturesque ‘Petite Venise’ district. Something for everyone With the spirit of good will and togetherness in the air, French Christmas markets are ideal to enjoy as a family. Strasbourg illuminated by Christmas lights. For the chance to step back in time, head to Strasbourg and visit the traditional market that serves as a throwback to Christmas celebrations from yesteryear. The city’s historic quarter, ‘Petite France’ is a dream to stroll through on a winter’s night, too. Those who chose to visit Amiens have the chance to witness a very special, annual Christmas circus show at the Cirque Jules Verne, the largest circus venue in France that sees more than 1400 people. Also ideal for families is the light show projected onto Amiens’ cathedral, Notre Dame d’Amiens. The impressive display begins at 7pm daily whilst the Christmas market remains open. Lastly, the Christmas market that is arguably the most quintessentially ‘French’ is Colmar’s. The festival is a rather large and expansive example and the architecture within the commune really does suit the atmosphere. Visitors from across the globe flock to partake in the festivities that were voted the second best in Europe in 2017. Where to find these markets and when to visit Arras Where in France: Grand Place, Arras, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France Distance from Calais: 109km / 1h 10m Read more about Arras here. Amiens Where in France: Place Gambetta, Amiens, Somme, Hauts-de-France Distance from Calais: 157km / 1h 39m More information here. Colmar Where in France: Place Jeanne d'Arc, Colmar, Haut-Rhin, Grand Est Distance from Calais: 610km / 6h 20m More information here. Strasbourg Where in France: Place de la Cathédrale, Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin, Grand Est Distance from Calais: 621km / 5h 30m More information here. With all these exciting experiences and locations to choose from, why not book a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle ticket today and start planning a French, festive adventure?

Beautiful towns in Southern France

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The mere mention of well-known towns and cities like Perpignan, Montpellier, Marseille, Cannes and Nice is enough to make Francophiles want to hop behind the wheel and head south. But, it’s not just these popular destinations that should have holidaymakers excited. There are plenty of beautiful, lesser-known towns in the South of France that are also certainly worth exploring.

A Roman Ruins Road Trip Through France

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The Roman Empire played an important part in France’s history and left an indelible mark on the country’s culture and language. There are lots of Roman structures that are still standing in France, so why not head out on a Roman ruins road trip? On arrival in Calais, drivers are usually keen to hit the highways and start seeing some of the beautiful French countryside. But for those looking to marvel at some ancient Roman buildings, there stands a question of where to start. To point you in the right direction, we’ve put together a list of some of France’s most popular sites to visit when on the hunt for awe-inspiring Roman ruins. The Gallo-Roman ruins of Champlieu Where in France: Orrouy, Hauts-de-France Distance from Calais: 240km / 2h 55m The remains of the theatre at Champlieu on a summer’s day. The first stop on our historical road trip! Orrouy is home to the Roman ruins of Champlieu and is a delightful town to visit in Northern France, whether drivers are keen on ancient artefacts or not. Officially recognised as a ‘Gallo-Roman’ site, these ruins are surrounded by beautiful French countryside, making them a joy to drive to. The ancient structures are well preserved, making it easy to imagine the baths, theatre and temple as they would have been in the 2nd century. The site is free to visit and usually not very busy due to it being quite the hidden gem! An insider’s tip is to take a detour to the nearby chapel of Champlieu, where a marvellous mixture of Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic architecture awaits. Lyon Where in France: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Distance from Calais: 760km / 6h 30m The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière is France’s oldest Roman theatre. Travelling south in France means edging closer to Italy, so naturally there are more surviving Roman structures to discover. Lyon is a prime example of this southern Roman influence as there are plenty of spectacular ancient ruins to see there. France’s third largest city in fact owes its existence to the Romans, being established as a settlement for Roman refugees of war in 43 BC. There are a number of Roman buildings to explore including the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, one of two remarkably well-preserved Roman theatres in Lyon, and France’s oldest Roman example, completed in 17 BC with a capacity of 10,000 people. Today it’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lyon. Equally well preserved are Lyon’s Roman baths. Found on Fourvière Hill, the ancient Roman buildings were discovered during the 1970s and date as far back as the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Lyon is also home to an impressive Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilisation, where visitors can learn more about this fascinating period in history. Orange Where in France: Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Distance from Calais: 950km / 8h 40m The Roman Theatre of Orange is one of France’s greatest Roman structures. As drivers approach the Mediterranean coast, the number of Roman ruins starts to increase, again with proximity to Italy and the heart of the empire. The commune of Orange began life as a Celtic settlement but was taken under Roman rule after the Battle of Arausio. As for the Roman buildings and ruins in Orange, the commune’s pièce de résistance is the Roman Theatre of Orange. Perhaps the highlight of a road trip through France, the stunning 1st century theatre is one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world. The façade wall of the theatre is an impressive 338 feet long and 121 feet high and the structure even has its original stage, which is still in use today! As well as the Triumphal Arch of Orange, the Roman Theatre of Orange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are audio guides and 50-minute guided tours that set off throughout the day. For opening times and prices, check the website ahead of visiting. Pont du Gard Where in France: Vers-Pont-du-Gard Distance from Calais: 990km / 8h 55m The Pont du Gard is a testament to Roman engineering. Near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France, is the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built over the Gardon River in 60 AD. The three-tiered structure is the tallest of any Roman aqueduct ever built. It was constructed to carry water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes) and was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 due to its historical importance. It’s been a tourist attraction for centuries with restoration efforts and stairs for tourists approved by Napoleon III in 1850. Nîmes Where in France: Occitanie Distance from Calais: 1000km / 9h 0m Maison Carrée in Nîmes is a glory to behold. Modern-day Nîmes was once the capital settlement of a Gaulish tribe that surrendered to the Roman Republic in 121 BC. Then known as Nemausus, its name derives from the Celtic god of the spring that once provided the town with water. The city’s historic hot spot is the Roman architectural remains of the Maison Carrée (Square House), a Corinthian temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the 1st century BC. Visitors today can enjoy a short film on the founding of Nîmes that repeats on the hour and half hour, every day. See the official site for admission prices and opening times. The Amphitheatre of Nîmes or ‘les Arènes’ is also worth a visit. It’s one of the best-preserved amphitheatres in Europe and was built around 70 BC. The marvellous structure once sat upwards of 24,000 spectators and was remodelled in 1863 to serve as a bullring. These days the amphitheatre serves as a venue for large concerts and events. Glanum Where in France: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Distance from Calais: 1,000km / 9h 0m There’s no experience quite like walking among the Roman ruins at Glanum. Glanum is nearby to Nîmes and is practically unmissable when on a road trip through France. The Roman ruins are open to the public and sit just outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, amidst the beautiful Alpilles mountains. The site has seen over a century of archaeological excavation, and during this time has revealed many secrets. Once visitors are finished taking in the history, there’s the opportunity to gaze upon the sacred spring, which is believed to be the raison d'être for this ancient settlement. Check the site for opening times and admission prices before arriving. Arles Where in France: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Distance from Calais: 1,035km / 9h 20m The amphitheatre in the French town of Arles has stood the test of time. Arles also boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a large collection of monuments in its city centre. A true treasure trove for those in search of Roman ruins in France, Arles is regarded as a prime example of an ancient city that evolved into a medieval European civilization. The city is home to Arles Amphitheatre, The Roman theatre, a Cryptoporticus and Roman forum, the Thermes of Constantine, the Alyscamps, the Church of St. Trophime, to name but a few. It goes without saying that it’s best to stay in Arles for at least a few days if the plan is to see as much of the Roman ruins as possible. These historical sites have varying entry costs, although some can be enjoyed for free. France truly is a dream for those with an interest in Roman history. Visiting the many sites by car grants holiday makers the freedom to take their time at any particular stop. So, pack your bags today and book your Eurotunnel tickets now to guarantee the best price!

Fall in love with the Alps in winter with Peak Retreats

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Surrounded by stunning mountains, with superb skiing and plenty for non-skiers to do, the pretty village of Samoëns is one of their expert team’s favourite winter destinations – here Peak Retreats reveals why. Samoëns Where in France: Haute-Savoie Drive from Calais: 871.7km / 8hrs 13m Samoëns is easy to fall in love with. The village is officially classified as a ‘monument historique’ and, sitting in a cosy café in the village square with its pretty church looking up at the surrounding snow-covered peaks, you can see why it’s so special. For Christmas, the central square is transformed into a magical Christmas village with a Christmas market, a living nativity, and activities for everyone from Gospel choirs to crafts and a firework display to truly get you feeling festive. Skiing in Samoëns For skiers the 265km of slopes of the Grand Massif await. The ski area is great for beginners and families, as there is a large beginners’ area at Samoëns 1600 – accessed via the Grand Massif Express gondola from the village. There is plenty of intermediate cruising for more seasoned skiers though and it’s easy to ski over to the other resorts in the ski area (Les Carroz, Morillon and Flaine). One of the Peak Retreats team’s favourite runs is the 14km Les Cascades blue run, which links Flaine and the village of Sixt Fer-à-Cheval. It's a great descent through snowy fields and forest. It sits on the edge of the Sixt Fer-à-Cheval Nature Reserve so it’s not unusual to see mountain goats! To get there, from Samoëns, you need to take the lifts to the summit of Les Grandes Platières in Flaine. Once you've skied to Sixt just hop on the shuttle bus back to Samoëns. The view from Flaine. Other activities in Samoëns A winter break doesn’t have to mean skiing and Samoëns has plenty to offer those who don’t want to ski. Wrap up warm and experience the joys of a ride in a dog sled through the snowy scenery of the Upper Giffre valley. Or try snowshoeing; experience the hushed winter landscape and learn about the mountain environment, how to recognise different animal tracks and more, on a guided snowshoe walk. Alternatively, book a walk by torchlight and be awestruck by the vast starry skies. For the adventurous, being a valley village, Samoëns is a great place to try paragliding and see the majesty of the mountains in winter from a different angle. Skiing isn’t the only winter sport you can enjoy in Samoëns. Credit: Peak Retreats Convenient Access Samoëns has one of the shortest driving distances from Calais of all the French resorts and it’s easy to access from the motorway. Taking the fastest route follows most of the A26, before it it reaches the mountains where the last stretch of the journey takes the A40 and then a few D roads follow. (This route includes tolls.) Where to stay in Samoëns The luxury apartments at Les Chalets de Layssia are ideally located right in the heart of Samoëns so you really feel part of the village. For skiers, getting to the slopes is easy; the free shuttle bus to the Grand Massif Express gondola stops 50m away. The apartments have superb facilities including a gorgeous indoor pool (with views of the surrounding mountains), hot tub, sauna and steam room and gym. There is also an O des Cîmes spa on site, where you can pre-book treatments and massages. We love the fact that you can order your croissants at reception for the next morning; pick them up then head back to your comfortable apartment for a relaxed breakfast – kitchens are equipped with Nespresso coffee machines so that’s breakfast sorted! Further information about these apartments can be seen here. An internal look at the luxury apartments at Les Chalets de Layssia. Credit: Peak Retreats More about Peak Retreats Peak Retreats features a range of other accommodation in Samoëns from more luxury self-catered apartments to self-catered chalets and hotels. Read more about Samoëns and see all accommodation here. Peak Retreats is an award-winning French Alps specialist featuring traditional villages and resorts that enable its clients to experience the real French Alps, as well as having access to superb skiing and a host of other activities. Winners of The Times Travel Editor’s Award 2018, its expert team know its resorts inside out and love finding clients their perfect Alpine holiday destination in both winter and summer too. The indoor pool overlooks beautiful mountain scenery. Credit: Peak Retreats The company can arrange a host of extras from lift passes, ski equipment and ski school to the delivery of quality frozen meals, from brands like the UK’s COOK, to make self-catering a breeze. All holidays are ABTA bonded. How to book Call 023 9283 9310 Visit www.peakretreats.co.uk Feeling inspired by Peak Retreats's recommendation in Samoëns? There’s nothing quite like driving from your front door straight to the slopes. Book your next ski road trip with us now to ensure you take advantage the best possible fares. top image credit: Peak Retreats

What to do in Annecy, the enchanting ‘Alpine Venice’

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Annecy is nestled above the Regional Natural Park of the Bauges Massif, north west of the lake where it takes its name. A beautiful and historic city in the region of Haute-Savoie, it serves as the perfect destination for a road trip. The city is bursting with tangible history and is regarded as one of France’s most enchanting towns. Annecy Where in France: Haute-Savoie Drive from Calais: 840km / 7h 15m The exterior of the historic homes, restaurants, bakeries and boutiques in Annecy all boast the unmistakeably French shades of peach and rose. In fact, it is Annecy’s colour and vibrancy that first hits you as you arrive. The ancient city is set around a network of peaceful canals, making a coffee stop at one of the many quaint cafés a very tranquil experience. And it’s thanks to these canals that Annecy has earned its reputation as an 'Alpine Venice'. The Palais de l'Ile and canal on a summer’s morning. Vieille Ville One truly unmissable feature Annecy has to offer is its Vieille Ville, which translates to ‘old town’. Infused with buckets of antique charm, this section of the city is the best place to wander if you find picturesque cobbled streets, serene canals and pastel-coloured architecture pleasing to the eye. The old town is also where you’ll find Annecy’s most famous structure, the Palais de l'Ile. An ancient prison that now acts as a museum and a unique spot to take a holiday snap! Be sure to visit Vieille Ville on a market day to get the full rustic and continental experience. Tuesdays are the day best suited for lovers of fresh farm produce such as cheese and wine, while Fridays and Sunday mornings boast a broad variety of local goods. However, if you’re more interested in trinkets, antiques and crafty bits and pieces, the markets (usually) held on the last Saturday of the month are unmissable. Market days in Annecy’s old town (especially the monthly antique market), are popular with residents of Geneva and vacationers on holiday in other, nearby Alpine resorts, which helps to provide a great atmosphere when flitting through the stalls. The antique market in Annecy’s Vieille Ville (Old Town). Chateau d’Annecy As well as the beautiful buildings and soothing canals, visitors flock to visit this delightful slice of French heaven and step inside the walls of the ornate, Château d’Annecy. The castle is, at first glance, an elegant marriage of medieval defensive and decorative architectural styles and was the residence of the counts of Geneva during the 13th and 14th centuries. During WWII it was used as a military barracks and even a hiding place for French Resistance fighters. Later, in the 1950s it was officially classified as an historical monument and today it serves as a thrilling museum, filled with regional art such as medieval sculptures, Savoyard furniture, Alpine landscape paintings, and other works of contemporary art. A visit to the castle also grants breath-taking panoramic views from the rooftops of the Vieille Ville to The Bauges massif Regional Nature Park. The regal and historic, Château d'Annecy. Europe’s Cleanest Lake Lake Annecy is regarded as Europe’s cleanest lake and is a huge draw for tourists. Locals will tell you that it earned its reputation of cleanliness because of strict environmental regulations introduced during the 1960s. The stunning lake is 27.6km squared in size, making it the third biggest body of water in France. Experts believe the lake to have formed around 18,000 years ago when the large alpine glaciers melted. The small mountain rivers of Ire, Eau morte, Laudon, Bornette and Biolon, all feed the lake whilst it slowly flows into the Thiou River that cuts through the city centre. Visitors mainly venture to the lake because of its superb swimming conditions. The water is clear and can be enjoyed via the many beaches that surround it, each as clean as the lake itself. The water temperature is perfect during the summer months, creating plenty of opportunity to try your hand at the numerous water sports on hand, such as powerboats and pedalboats that can be rented by the half-hour. Boat excursions are also very popular for those who like to remain dry, ranging from lunch cruises to short round-trip cruises. More information can be found on the lake’s official website. Pedal boats atop the waters of Lake Annecy. When to Visit It’s the summer months that are indeed the most popular with visitors, with July typically being the busiest month. If you don’t mind sharing the sunshine with a crowd though, a day of wandering through the old town before taking a plunge in the lake really is a summertime dream. The region is also home to plenty of hotels, many with their own pools, meaning a swimming costume should definitely be on your packing list! However, Annecy is much more than just a sun-seekers city, with tourists also flocking during the later summer months and even throughout Autumn. The lake itself is warmed by the sun over the hottest months and maintains enough heat to provide a pleasant swimming temperature right up until the end of September. Some visitors prefer visiting during this period, as well as in October as the air is noted as being freer of clouds, providing better views of the surrounding mountains. The clear sky over Lake Annecy during the Autumn. Our advice when travelling is to stop at the towns and villages of Arras, Troyes to the historical city of Dijon along the way. Be sure to book your next road trip with us in advance to take advantage of the best possible fares!

Discover the winding vineyards of The Loire Valley

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The Loire Valley is pure French splendour. With style and renowned wine in ample measure, it’s the perfect region to escape to. When you next fancy a glass of wine, spare a thought to explore where it’s made in the stunning Loire Valley – then start planning your trip! Loire Valley Where in France: Loire River, Central France Distance from Calais: 500km / 5h No matter how high you set your expectations, the Loire Valley will exceed them. Poised between northern and southern France, the now UNESCO World Heritage Site was an important strategic geographical point for French royalty and aristocracy throughout history. Therefore, the region is abundant with hundreds of opulent estates, crenelated towers, soaring cupolas and glittering banquet halls. The Loire Valley also boasts plenty of sophisticated cities and towns, ideal for checking off the list on a long and exciting road trip. Orléans, Blois, Tours and Angers are all included within the area’s limits, as well as 42 beautiful châteaux and dozens of villages and vineyards that serve as even more reasons to visit. Every sight to see in the Loire Valley attests to thousands of years of rich architectural and cultural history. Chateau de Chambord, the largest castle in the Loire Valley. Vineyards What the Loire Valley is most widely known for is its outstanding wines. Whether you’re a fan of red, white, rosé or sparkling, you’ll have tried the produce from this area. After all, plenty of famous wines such as Saumur, Chinon, Muscadet, Layon, Touraine and Vouvray are produced here. A visit to the region will see you discover unique grape varieties, vineyards, appellations and plenty of opportunity to meet the wine makers themselves. While visiting the various vineyards you can immerse yourself in their tourist cellars and wine shops, while some even boast museums. Many of the vineyards in the region are recognised by the "Vignobles & Découvertes" (Vineyards and Discoveries) label, a sign of approval from the French wine tourism board that helps to guarantee your excursion as well-suited for the oenophiles among you! The Vignobles & Découvertes sign of approval makes it easier to find great accommodation and food whilst in the Loire Valley, as many hotels and restaurants are also accredited. It’s common in local restaurants to find helpful menus that suggest wine pairings as well as local produce to sample. The label also recommends to you a variety of remarkable heritage sites, activities and events on offer, enabling you to discover regional gems and get the most from the Loire Valley. Vineyard at the medieval castle, Château de Saumur. France’s longest wine route The river Loire is the second longest in France, falling just behind the Rhine, but France’s longest wine route stretches out over 1000km and of course is found in the Loire Valley. There are more than one thousand vineyards open to the public, including 400 specially accredited wine cellars, where the winemakers will greet you and allow you to taste their produce. The heritage behind the wines is also important, which is why the vineyards are always near to the cities, villages and towns that gave birth to them. View from Chinon Castle on the valley of the Venant The Loire by bike The great benefit of travelling through France by car is that you can bring along kit and equipment to help you really make the most of each individual destination you visit. This is certainly the case when visiting the Loire Valley because of the fantastic cycling routes. Bringing your bicycle along for the ride is a great idea, because of the region’s plentiful cycling tracks and routes. The La Loire á Vélo cycling route, is an 800km stretch in the region that is in fact a portion of the EuroVelo 6 route, that links the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. If 800km sounds a little much, there are also plenty of shorter suggested routes along the river, while simply hopping on your two wheels to see where the wind takes you is also common practice. Cycling alongside Château de Chenonceau. A sophisticated stop off Before checking your bike’s gears, packing your suitcase or brushing up on your wine tasting skills, you’ll need to work out your route from Calais. You might want to head straight there and arrive as quickly as possible, or you might want to map out some stops along the way. Take the A16 from Calais before joining the A28 at Abbeville, then head to Normandy’s capital region, Rouen. A stop at the age-old city is the perfect opportunity to soak up one of France’s unsung gems. Rouen is a city steeped in tangible history with architecture comprising of Gothic churches and medieval half-timbered houses, a great chance to visit a beautiful city before enjoying the wide open space of the Loire Valley. Whether you’re a connoisseur of the world of wine, a keen cross-country cyclist, or just fancy taking in some of the glorious French countryside, head to the Loire Valley. Book your next breathtaking French road trip with us now to ensure you take advantage the best possible fares.

Soak up the seaside village of Étretat

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Étretat is a breath-taking village that beckons both trendy Parisians and English tourists. Attracting the likes of painters and writers for years, the cliffs of Étretat continue to pull in tourists who want to admire the stunning views. Being a short distance from Calais, the coastal drive down to Étretat makes a perfect destination to visit by car, too. Étretat Where in France: The Alabaster coast, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandy. Distance from Calais: 270km / 3h The small and delightful village of Étretat is found on France’s northern coast within the Seine-Maritime department of Haute-Normandy. Despite its small size though, there is plenty to keep you entertained if you feel like leaving your world behind for a few weeks. Thanks to its position on the Côte d'Albâtre, or Alabaster Coast, this stretch of white cliffs and pebble beaches are easily explored, from the fishing village of Le Tréport to historical port Le Havre. Natural Beauty The village is a sight to behold, framed by its dramatic coastal scenery and two cliffs that seem to set the boundary for where it begins and ends. The natural allure and relationship the village has with the sea has inspired painters for centuries, including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and even Claude Monet. The incredible needle and elephant at Falaise d'Etretat. Étretat has been a fashionable haunt for metropolitan Parisians since the 19th century. During the early years of their fascination with the town, they built extravagant villas that today add buckets of charm and sophistication. The destination seems to have never gone out of style and still swells with visitors from around the world every weekend throughout the year. To the French, the beauty of the cliffs along their Northern coastline is held in the same regard as The White Cliffs of Dover to the English, this is no coincidence as they’re both made from the same brilliant white chalk. The most distinct and recognised section of the cliff face has been artistically dubbed, ‘Cap Blanc-Nez’, which translates to “Cape White Nose”. Depending on your route from Calais to Étretat, there’s plenty of opportunity to hop out and observe these awe-inspiring cliffs while stretching your legs. Best enjoyed on foot Once settled you’ll undoubtedly want to grab your walking shoes! Whether you’re a wanderer who likes to find their own way, or a serious hiker who leaves no stone unturned, Étretat has you covered. There are a number of natural wonders in and around the area that simply must be enjoyed first hand, including the three arches found in the nearby cliffside. Porte d'Aval and the Porte d'Amont are visible from the town, but the Manneporte is the third and biggest arch that requires seeking out. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to flex your French tongue and ask a local for directions! From a German WWII bunker nestled in the cliff face at Falaise Aval, a popular walking route begins where visitors can head in the direction of the famous ‘L’Aguille’ or “The Needle”, a 77m high pointed rock formation. The climb - when safely approached - allows you to enjoy magnificent views over the channel. Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde atop the cliff face at Plage à Etretat. Another rewarding stroll is to visit the ornate Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The chapel was built in 1856 following a mission preached by a ‘Father Michael’, who had allegedly found a written note from the Virgin Mary herself at the site. The building was sadly destroyed during the German occupation in 1942, but then resurrected in identical fashion in 1950. Nestled at the top of Falaise d'Amont in Étretat, the church is a short yet steep walk from the town. There is also a golf course aptly named ‘Golf d’Étretat’ that overlooks the bay, providing breath-taking views and wild coastal conditions to challenge even the most seasoned player. The town also has a delightful promenade that spans across most of the beach. Promenade sur le Perrey provides the perfect setting for a stroll and is the viewpoint from which the two nearest cliff arches can be spotted. It’s ideal for those without hiking boots. The golf course and clubhouse on the cliffside. Getting wet The coast here runs along the English Channel, which flows from the Atlantic Ocean. This means that it can get a little chilly, yet not too chilly for the local residents who enjoy a good swim in the summer! Of course, the temperature really isn’t much of an issue when you pair it with a beautiful sunny day. For some of you, taking a dip isn’t very appealing regardless of the weather, but for others it’s an integral reason to visit Étretat. If you need convincing, the water is the most alluring shade of blue, as well as being incredibly clear and clean. To make the most of the summer months, the pebbled beach along the promenade is home to a water-craft rental company offering catamarans, windsurf boards, funboards, paddleboards and kayaks. Paddling out into these shores at high tide offers the unique experience of getting up close and personal with the three arches and the standalone, L’Aguille (the needle). This is the perfect location for both experienced water sports hobbyists as well as complete novices. The short drive from Calais allows seasoned enthusiasts to bring as much equipment as they need, otherwise the local surf school will lend you a board and teach you how best to use it. Visit the Normandy Tourism site to find out more. Colourful kayaks on the pebble beach at Étretat. So how about it? Do you fancy a short, beautiful drive along the French Northern coast, kayak in tow? Whether you’re planning a short or long stay, getting active or just taking in the sights, Étretat is the ideal destination for a getaway. Book your next adventure with us now to take advantage of the best fares.

Camping with a view in France

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Camping gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure, with the unique opportunity to choose precisely what sort of view you want to wake up to. Something you just can’t get from a hotel! France is a big, beautiful country with vastly different landscapes wherever you travel. Travelling by car means you can see the best of every region, from the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, to the wild beauty of the Provence countryside. Huttopia Bourg-St-Maurice Where in France: Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 967km / 9h The campsite Number of pitches: 108 camping pitches and 45 glamping units The Huttopia Bourg-St-Maurice campsite has something for everyone, including your pets. There are plenty of lovely pitches to choose from if you’re bringing your own tent, caravan or motorhome. Alternatively, you can choose from the permanent glamping options available on site, including safari tents, gypsy caravans and chalets. The campsite is open from late May until late October, and there is a swimming pool on site that is heated, which means you can enjoy a dip even in the chillier spring and autumn months. There is also a playground for children, as well as many other activities including volleyball, boules, table tennis and table football to keep the whole family entertained. A view from the hills down to Bourg-St-Maurice. You’ll also find a shop selling all the essentials, a library with a great range of holiday reads, and a central lodge with free WiFi and internet access. If you fancy exploring the wider area, there is plenty of tourist information available at reception, and friendly staff to offer advice. The area Savoie department, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes With the dramatic scenery of the Alps all around you, for the outdoorsy types, this is the ultimate destination. There are hundreds of kilometres of hikes and walking trails to explore in the region, with several lovely walks to set off on directly from the campsite. For thrill seekers, put your mountain bike on your roof rack, or else hire one locally, as there are a number of exciting downhill rides to conquer. The local scenery of the Savoie is simply breath taking. The local town of Bourg-St-Maurice is completely charming, with its pretty wooden buildings and baroque chapels. While you’re visiting the town, be sure to try some of the local dishes on the menu at the little restaurants. Raclette and tartiflette are particularly popular in this region, both of which involve rich gooey cheese melted over potatoes, sometimes served with onions and lardons. Hearty and delicious, and just what you need if you plan to hike up and down those big beautiful hills! Camping La Serre Where in France: Aigues-Vives, Occitanie Drive from Calais: 1,061km / 10h The campsite Number of pitches: 48 very large camping pitches The pitches at Camping La Serre are lovely and big and feel nice and secluded with trees offering shade. Whether you’re bringing your tent, caravan or campervan, you’ll instantly be made to feel welcome, and you can even bring your dog along with you. There are also 14 wooden chalets on site, or for something a little different, there’s even a wooden treehouse that will comfortably sleep a family of five. The campsite is open from April until the end of October, and no matter what time of year you visit, the on-site nature reserve is sure to delight. 15 acres of natural woodland have been dedicated to the project, and campers are welcome to walk the trails and learn about the natural flora and fauna. Also on site, you can take advantage of the good sized pool, badminton courts, and football pitch, and there’s even a little eco-museum looking at the local farming history. In reception, you’ll find a range of helpful leaflets, guides and maps of the local area, and the owners are also on hand to answer your questions. There are lots of hiking and cycling trails in the local area, so why not bring your bike with you too. Spend a day exploring the charming town of Foix with its medieval castle. The area Ariège department, Occitanie Nestled at the bottom of the foothills of the Pyrenees, a short drive from the borders with Spain and Andorra, Ariège is one of the most unspoiled areas in France. With wild, untamed landscapes dotted with pretty little towns, the roads throughout the area offer unparalleled views. There are loads of villages and attractions to explore from your campsite as a base, but the nearby city of Foix is particularly worth visiting. The skyline is dominated by the medieval silhouette of the 10th century Château de Foix with its crenelated towers, and the town below is everything you’d expect and hope for from rural France. Stroll the winding lanes browsing shops beneath ancient wooden arches, or simply pull up a chair at one of the many cafés that spill out onto the streets and take the time to watch the world go by. Huttopia Gorges du Verdon Where in France: Castellane, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Drive from Calais: 1,089km / 11h The campsite Number of pitches: 136 camping pitches The team at Huttopia Gorges du Verdon welcome everyone, including the family pets, whether you’re bringing your own tent, caravan, or arriving in a motorhome. There are 136 pitches to make your own, separated and shaded by shrubbery and trees, as well as many wooden chalets and tents that you can hire from April to October, before the campsite closes down for winter. Castellane is famous for the striking rock face towering above the town. The whole family will be kept busy with a range of activities on site, such as bowling, boules, volleyball, table tennis and table football. There is also a playground for children to let off some steam, a lounge with free WiFi so you can stay connected with friends and family, and a communal room for relaxing in front of the TV and making some new friends. Huttopia Gorges du Verdon also benefits from being situated on the banks of a river and is therefore able to offer an exciting array of water sports, as well. You can go on a canoeing or rafting adventure, swim in the open waters, and even try your hand (and patience!) at fishing. The area Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur A short drive down the road from the campsite is the beautiful ancient town of Castellane, with written records showing that people have lived here since the 10th century, but artefacts have been found locally that date back as far as 6,000 BC. The local history is fascinating, with cave paintings and Bronze age tombs discovered in grottos in the area. Marvel at the natural beauty of the Gorges du Verdon. No matter what you do, you just can’t leave without having visited the campsite’s namesake, the Gorge du Verdon. It’s about an hour or so in the car through picturesque scenery, and more than worth the trip. Often considered the most beautiful river canyon in France, it’s about 25km long and 700m deep in places, with the river culminating in spectacular fashion where it flows into the lake of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon. If you’re feeling inspired to jump in the car and head off in search of a campsite with a view, remember to book your tickets with us as early as possible to take advantage of the best fares available.

The French Riviera

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The French Riviera is an opulent slice of south-eastern French coastline cooled by the Mediterranean. It stretches from Marseille to Menton and even includes the regal microstate of Monaco. The region - ‘Côte d'Azur’ to the French - is ideal for cruising cliff-top roads, sunbathing on glorious beaches, flitting through quaint local markets and of course, yachting. Around 320 days of its year are blessed with glorious Mediterranean sunshine, providing ample time to enjoy the 115km of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and no less than 3,000 restaurants! In short, this part of the world is sun-drenched, seductive and oh-so French. A Divine Location The geography of this coastal belt is truly exceptional. The mountainous national parks of Verdon, Luberon and Préalpes d'Azur stand tall to the north, protective and breath-taking, while the endless blue of the Mediterranean Sea glistens to the south. If you were to flex your French tongue and ask a local, they would certainly direct you to any of the vantage points that provide astounding views of both. With ancient olive groves and fields of native lavender, there’s plenty to fuel the produce sold at the weekly local markets. Almost every town in the region boasts a bustling square teeming with stalls offering the goods, as well as spices, soaps and various handmade crafts. And if you’re looking to get up close and personal with the spectacular landscape and rolling hills, you can take part in plenty of afternoon excursions including vineyard visits, hiking trails or cycling routes. Like the stunning Gorge du Verdon, the deepest canyon in Europe. A colourful soap stall in Marseille. Yachting Through the Years But perhaps you’re looking to take advantage of the sea? The French Riviera does after all host 50% of the world’s superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region’s coastline at least once in their lifetime. In 1872, the Prince of Wales at the time paid his first regal visit with his royal yacht, appropriately named, ‘Britannia’. He would frequent the French Riviera during its long summers until he became King Edward VII in 1901; presumably he was too busy from then on. Other royalty and high-ranking aristocracy throughout history have also favoured the Côte d'Azur as a holiday destination. Queen Victoria visited many times as well as Napoleon III of France, Leopold II of Belgium and even Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Although it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th century that the first influx of upper class British tourists descended upon the Côte d'Azur, all eager to visit Europe’s latest fashionable health resort. Unmissable Marinas To really soak up the grandiose yachting culture, we recommend visiting the many marinas and ports across this beautiful stretch of coastline. Cannes is another popular yacht charter destination with many ports, the most desirable of which is Vieux Port (650 yacht berths), which occupies a prime spot at the foot of the historical Le Suquet. Although very busy during the various festivals the city hosts throughout the year, the rather apt Cannes Yachting Festival is definitely worth experiencing. Panoramic cityscape of Vieux Port, Marseille. Nice is the fifth largest city in France and home to Port Lympia. The blue waters of the 500-berth port create an idyllic setting when paired with the red of the surrounding terracotta roofs. Nearby is the lively Old Town area (Vieux Nice) and splendid seafront promenade. Enjoy a plethora of restaurants and superb artistic and cultural attractions including the breath-taking opera house, Opéra de Nice and the grandiose Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Blue waters of Port Lympia, Nice. Mandelieu-La Napoule is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes. Port La Napoule (917 yacht berths) and Port de la Rague (560 yacht berths) are the two ports you’ll find here. The local beaches of Plage du Sable d’Or and Plage Robinson provide a healthy untouched paradise, each having been awarded the Pavilion Blue (Blue Flag) label for environmental cleanliness. L’Oasis and La Palmea are two Michelin-starred restaurants nearby, both with stirring views of the harbour especially at sunset. The province of Mandelieu-La Napoule. Boat Tours Although chartering a luxury yacht in the Côte d'Azur would indeed be the perfect way to spend a summer, popping from port to port in a privately-owned vessel is not quite a hobby that everyone can pursue. Luckily, there is plenty of opportunity for you to experience the thrill by taking part in an exciting locally-run tour. That’s right, you too can enjoy the same pleasures as Victorian aristocracy! Prices really do vary when it comes to sailing along the French Riviera. You could pay under €20 to share a cruise for an hour, €100 to sail around in a private yacht with your own personal skipper, or over €40,000 to rent a superyacht for the day. Luckily, there are options to suit any budget, no matter how small or large. A view of Cannes Bay. We’ve scoured the region to provide you with some of the boat tour businesses that operate in the area. Viator is a very handy TripAdvisor-owned company that lists plenty of the available excursions, while there are more options on the French Riviera tourism site. For those looking to really splash out, you can rent a luxury yacht or join a more lavish tour with Talamare. Where you wish to visit in the French Riviera will affect the length of your drive from Calais. You can get to Marseille in less than 9hrs 30mins, or a trip to Monaco would take you around 11hr. The fastest route either way would see you pass through Lyon and soak up plenty of the delightful French countryside. So, how about it? Throw caution to the wind and make the Côte d'Azur the destination of your next Eurotunnel road trip! Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best prices available.

Explore the south of France in the Cévennes

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The Cévennes is home to a sprawling landscape of mountains, forest and cave complexes – it’s the perfect getaway for intrepid hikers and weekend explorers alike. If the tourist routes are not for you and you don’t fancy stopping off in Paris for a stroll along the Seine, you can visit the Montagne de Reims Wildlife Park as you drive south from Calais. There’s plenty to explore in a day here, with 250km of hiking paths through the park’s four unique terrains. Roughly halfway along your journey, you can discover the Great Lakes of the Forêt d’Orient, and spend an afternoon fishing in the Lac du Temple, sailing on the Lac d’Orient or swimming at Port Dienville. Admire the beautiful scenery of Cévennes. From here, it’s plain sailing through Dijon and down to Lyon, before beginning your drive through Lozère state and into the lush landscape of the Cévennes. There are more than 60 campsites across the park to choose from, so pitch your tent and plan your first route. If it’s scenic trails through dramatic gorges you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. And if the Alps or Pyrenees are a little ambitious for you, the hilltops of the Cévennes feature a range of hiking trails and cycle paths to suit every ability. An explorer’s dream Hiking route: GR70 Stevenson trail How long is it: 225 km from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille The famous GR70 Stevenson trail provides the setting for the 1879 book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and is named for the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. If you’re bold enough to follow in some of Stevenson’s footsteps, take the Cévennes trail uphill through the woods to 1308 metres, and you’ll emerge into the peaceful meadows and scrubland of Le Moure de la Gardille. Keep rising further up with the mountain and you’ll find yourself at the 1702 metre peak of Mont Lozère, the jewel of the Cévennes, while an unmissable view across bas-Languedoc opens up before you. Explore the countryside along the Mont Lozère hiking trail. If you’re looking for a slightly less strenuous way to see the area, you can rent a canoe in the lovely Medieval castle town of Florac. Your picturesque paddle through the River Tarn’s gorges in the north-west of the park will be mapped out by buildings rising straight up from the water, as the river snakes through the breath-taking clifftop town and alongside hidden hamlets and dramatic cliffs. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all easy going in this canyon: there’s still plenty of opportunity to get your adrenaline pumping, with kayaking, caving and climbing just some of the activities on offer. On the history trail Rich in history, the Cévennes is home to several Medieval villages, all easily reached by its hiking trails. Officially one of France’s most beautiful villages, La Garde-Guérin is on an isolated, rocky plateau above the Gorges de Chassezac in the north of the park, which has been home to the fortified village since the 12th century. Its little cobbled streets are perfect for walking tours, just like the granite-scattered riverbeds of Le Pont-de-Montvert, around a 25km journey south-west of La Garde-Guérin. This town – one of the stops Stevenson made with his donkey guide – is a little livelier, with souvenir shops and cafés to help get you going again, before your four-and-a-half-hour trek west along D998 to Florac. The architecture of Le Pont-de-Montvert is classically French. To the north of the park is the town of Mende. It’s the perfect place for a daytrip, where you can while away the hours touring its 16th century cathedral, impressive monuments and Medieval houses. North of the old town, even the Notre-Dame bridge dates to the 13th century, while parts can be traced back to 200BC. Take a two-hour drive south and you’ll find Belmont-sur-Rance, a scenic Medieval village perched on a hilltop with beautiful views of the Monts de Lacaune. It’s surrounded by natural beauty and perfect for exploring on bike. Continue south and find yourself at the mouth of the Haut-Languedoc Regional Natural Park, home to lakes, mountains and breath-taking views of the Mediterranean Sea – well worth the 25-minute drive to Lacaune. Gorgeous gorges and heady heights There’s plenty to keep all the geography and geology buffs among you happy, too. The gorges of Cévennes are cut westwards by the Loire and Allier valleys and east and south-eastwards by the Ardèche, Chassezac and Cèze rivers, leaving beautifully characteristic channels in the limestone that lies beneath the hills. If you venture further out, you can visit the Grotte des Demoiselles at the southern edge of the park. This cave complex in the Hérault valley was once known as the ‘Grotte des Fées’, named for the fairies that were said to live there. It’s easy to feel the magic flowing between the stalactites and stalagmites, especially inside the 120-metre-long and 52-metre-high Cathedral Cavern. There are open underground railway tours of the caves that are available throughout the year and are operated locally. Discover the beautiful rock formations in Les Grottes des Demoiselles. If all this talk of walking is a little too low-energy for you, maybe some winter fun is more your speed. Mont Aigoual in the south-west is the Cévennes’ highest peak, and while spring and summer explorers get to work on the 4,000 steps to the top, winter visitors are more interested in navigating their way down 9km of slopes when the Prat Peyrot ski resort wakes the mountain up from late-December to mid-March. With 12 runs ranging from beginner to advanced, there really is something for everyone. Plan your next holiday in the stunning Cévennes and enjoy a family adventure with thrills, culture and endless of scenic beauty. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Find paradise in Pays Basque

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Pays Basque or ‘French Basque Country’ is a region rich with history and culture. A passionate pairing of pastoral scenery and roaring coastlines. If you’re looking for somewhere new and exciting within France, the region is the perfect destination. It differentiates itself while maintaining typical French beauty. Pays Basque Where in France: South, between the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees. Drive from Calais: 1,091km / 10h 15m Much like the scenery that comes to mind when imagining Marseille, Nice or Southern France in general, Pays Basque is equally as idyllic with miles of stunning, untouched coastline, delightful hotels and great surf spots. But, the 500-mile distance and the Pyrenees mountain range are but a few factors that separate Pays Basque from the quintessential South of France. Pays Basque countryside, with the Pyrenees in distance. Although French in Nationality, the people of Pays Basque and their ways are far more akin with those of the Southern Basque Country, found in Northern Spain. The entirety of the Basque region shares a language and a heritage that is said to be one of the oldest in Europe, predating even the Romans. History states that after conquering the Celts in Gaul (the Roman term for what is now regarded as mainland Europe), Julius Caesar found the Basque people south of the River Garonne. The Roman’s originally dubbed them the ‘Aquanti’ people. The sport of ‘pelota’ is a passion of the people and an invention that seems to be exclusive to the region. It resembles both Lacrosse and Squash and its nature was outlined in a documentary made by Orson Welles entitled, ‘Land of the Basques’. The French Basques are even credited with the design of the modern-day beret. French Basque men wearing ceremonial dress. Biarritz Where in France: Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 1,065.8km / 9h 30m The French Basque country is considered to be more rural and unaffected than its Spanish counterpart, with less industry and more agriculture. The jewel in the crown of France’s Basque coast is undoubtedly Biarritz. The seaside city is the glistening cocktail of half ritzy coastal resort and half summer surfers’ hang-out. It was also once the preferred getaway for Napoléon III and his Spanish-born wife, Eugénie de Montijo during the mid-19th century. The feeling in the air is of La Belle Époque (The Beautiful Era) with a lot of the architecture hailing from this period of 1871-1914. The region seems to have kept up the optimism and economic prosperity brought about the flourishing art scene. This coupled with a healthy dose of art deco can leave you feeling as though you’ve travelled back in time. Biarritz also has its fair share of Brutalist and Modernist buildings. The movement seemed to sweep across France in the mid-20th century with concrete being a cheap and reliable material, ideal for rebuilding a war-torn Europe. Whatever your architectural taste, there is plenty of beauty to behold with the white sand beaches, azure waters, delightful cafés and enticing restaurants. The marina at sunset, Biarritz. One experience unique to Biarritz is tasting the delicious, ‘Le Beret Basque’ from Miremont Patisserie. The small and deliciously indulgent mousse-filled treat is a must for first-time visitors. The name comes from the cake’s likeness to a beret, and it was inspired by local men being recruited as soldiers during WW1. The men would leave their berets behind for their wives and girlfriends before adorning helmets and heading for the front line. The owner of the patisserie, Joseph Miremont had the idea to create the cakes to console the heart-broken women. Surfing in Biarritz With favourable and steady sunny weather, Biarritz throngs with tourists during the summer months. Many flock to the city to take advantage of the perfect surfing conditions the Bay of Biscay has to offer. The city is blessed with sizeable swell all year round and is regarded as one of Europe’s most famous, exciting and reliable surfing destinations. An experience that lives forever with those who indulge, is to brave the waters during the early evening. With the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees silhouetted in the far distance, you’ll think you’ve paddled out to heaven itself. A surfer heads out into the water. Biarritz Surf Training, Côte Des Basques Whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone looking to try their hand, Biarritz has you covered. Plage de la Côte des Basques is a beautiful beach just south of the city centre and home to the Biarritz Surf Training surf school. They’ve been teaching on the beach for 30 years and cater for all levels, as well children as young as 5. The months of July and August are usually best for newbies, with good waves but nothing too monstrous. Although, be advised that this is also the busiest period. For the daredevils among you looking for the most thrilling experiences, we suggest visiting during September. The water is still warm from the beating summer sun, the tourists are in small numbers and the waves start to pick up the power. They usually reach around the 6-foot mark as the Autumn creeps in and a 3/2 full wetsuit is the norm. The neighbouring beaches of La Milady, Plage des 100 Marches and Plage de la Petit also provide the same conditions, meaning a short walk in either direction could grant you with a secluded surf spot. So, if you’re looking to experience exceptional natural beauty, age-old and unique culture as well as guaranteed good surf, Pays Basque is the destination for you! Book your next adventure with us now to take advantage of the best fares.

Discover Brive-la-Gaillarde camping

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There’s something so liberating about camping. It must be the possibility that you can just turn up somewhere new, pitch your tent, and call it home for the night. With almost countless different places you could visit, how do you know where to start? Well, for starters, you want to choose somewhere scenic and close to places of natural beauty and interest. The weather may also be a factor, so heading somewhere where there’s less chance of rain may be high up on your list. With these things in mind, you can’t go wrong with a camping trip to the charming little town of Brive-la-Gaillarde. Brive-la-Gaillarde Where in France: Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 765 km / 7h 20m Nestled in a quiet corner of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in Central France, once you get past the bustling outskirts, you’ll find yourself in the pretty village-like centre of Brive-la-Gaillarde. The shops and houses are a warm yellow tone, thanks to their sandstone building blocks, which gives the town a romantic air like something out of a fairy tale. As you wander the streets, you’ll find that they all, pretty much, lead to the Collegiate Church Saint-Martin de Brive in the centre. Construction of the current church started around the 11th or 12th century, although, there was a church on the site as early as the 5th century. Excavations between 1986 and 1988 revealed old walls and even a tomb, believed to belong to Saint Martin the Spanish, to whom the current church is dedicated. The Collegiate Church Saint-Martin de Brive In more recent history, Brive-la-Gaillard was a regional capital of the Resistance during World War II, and seat to several major movements including the Armée Secrete, or Secret Army, and the Mouvements Unis de la Résistance, or the United Movements of the Resistance. Brive-la-Gaillarde was also the first town in Occupied France to liberate itself, which took place on 15th August 1944. These days, Brive-la-Gaillarde is most famous for its local market, attracting sellers and shoppers from all over the local region. There’s a market three times a week, held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and it’s a real centre of gastronomy, boasting some of the finest local produce around, so foodies rejoice! Attractions around Brive-la-Gaillarde On market days in particular, Brive-la-Gaillarde can get a little busy, so if you fancy a little road trip to escape the crowds, there are plenty of great local attractions to visit in the area. Les Pans de Travassac It’s always interesting to learn something new, especially if it’s about something completely separate from your day-to-day life. And for the majority of people, a visit to Les Pans de Travassac, about 20 minutes’ drive north from Brive-la-Gaillarde, will provide them with just that sort of new experience. Learn about the history of slate mining at Les Pans de Travassac Les Pans de Travassac offers a unique opportunity to discover the world of slate mining that has been present in this exceptional location since the 17th century, making it the oldest slate mine in the region. Visitors will learn all about this sadly dying trade and the skill that goes into it from the knowledgeable guides. The mines are open every day throughout July and August, but only on Sundays and public holidays during the shoulder seasons from May to October. The guided tours last about an hour and a half and start at 1:30 pm but check ahead of visiting to ensure they’re going ahead. There is a small fee, as well, for joining one of the tours. Les Jardins de Colette About 17 minutes’ drive north-west of Brive-la-Gaillarde, you’ll find Les Jardins de Colette, the beautiful landscaped gardens of the French author Colette in the grounds of the home she shared with her husband, Henry de Jouvenel. Whether you’re a fan of the author and her work, most notably Claudine at School, or are more interested in seeing the maze and all the flowers, you’re sure to have a wonderful day out. Part of Les Jardins de Colette dedicated to the author’s most famous work As previously mentioned, there is a maze in the grounds, but this isn’t just any old maze. It’s shaped like a giant butterfly and measures about 5,000 m2. To add to the adventure, there’s a game for children to play as they work their way round, helped out by a bulldog and a cat mascot, and learn more about the author. There are also a number of distinct landscaped gardens, such as the Childhood Garden, the Wild Garden, and the Sensory Garden to name just a few. There is a small entry fee for adults, which is reduced for retired visitors, students and children, with very young children up to 3-years-old admitted free of charge. The gardens are open every day in July and August, with reduced timetables in the shoulder season from April to November. For more information on opening times and prices, check the website ahead of visiting. Campsites around Brive-la-Gaillarde There are plenty of scenic campsites to choose from in the countryside around Brive-la-Gaillarde, all of which would make a fantastic base for exploring the local area. Camping Le Coiroux Drive from Brive-la-Gaillarde: 19.8km / 32m There are 182 plots set in this shady 160-hectare Le Coiroux campsite, 97 of which are available for you to pitch your tent at, with the remaining 85 dedicated to permanent accommodation options. Pets are also welcome to stay in the rented accommodation options here, as well as in your private tent, which isn’t always the case in France. Set amid a picturesque forest on the shores of a lake that you can swim in, you couldn’t hope for a better location. If you don’t fancy a dip in the lake, there is also a pool and paddling area for kids to enjoy. The whole family can also take advantage of the many additional activities, including table tennis, water sports, archery, and discos for kids and teenagers. The countryside around Brive-la-Gaillarde is simply stunning Camping du Lac du Causse Drive from Brive-la-Gaillarde: 12.3km / 24m There are 117 plots in the grounds of Camping du Lac du Causse, with 61 rental homes and 56 dedicated to tent pitches, with pets welcome in both options. There are all the usual amenities provided on site, such as laundry facilities. Another scenic campsite, Camping du Lac du Causse is nestled on the edge of Lake Causse in which you can swim, or the campsite also has an outdoor pool for your enjoyment. A nearby activity centre provides access to water sports include kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, and pedalo hire. Alternatively, there are around 250km of hiking trails criss-crossing the area for you to explore. If you’re feeling inspired to set up camp near Brive-la-Gaillarde for your next holiday, don’t forget to book your tickets with us early in order to take advantage of the best rates.

Experience the wine harvest in Bordeaux

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If you consider yourself a lover of wine, you’ll no doubt hold the Bordeaux region in Southwest France in high regard. With regimented rows of grapevines lining the rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see, it’s an oenophile’s paradise. One of the most interesting times of year for wine lovers is undoubtedly the harvest season, but the city of Bordeaux itself has plenty to offer all year round. Bordeaux Where in France: Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 867km / 7h 50m When somewhere gets the seal of approval from Her Majesty, you know it’s special. After her last visit to Bordeaux, the Queen remarked that the city is “the very essence of elegance”, and of course, she wasn’t wrong. The Miroir d'Eau in front of the Place de la Bourse is most spectacular at night. Around half of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest urban area of anywhere in the world. It exudes charm with its majestic 18th century architecture, nowhere epitomises the grandeur of Bordeaux as perfectly as the Place de la Bourse. With regal airs reminiscent of Versailles, the elegant symmetry of the Palais de la Bourse is really brought to life by the Miroir d'Eau in front of the building, particularly at night when the reflection in the shallow water is illuminated. Bordeaux is home to many beautiful churches, but none quite match the splendour of the Cathédrale St-André. The oldest section of the cathedral dates back to 1096, but most of what you see dominating the skyline is from later additions made in the 13th and 14th centuries. The main attraction for visitors is climbing the 231 steps up the 50m-high Gothic tower to be rewarded with panoramic views of the city below. There are also often concerts held in the church where you can go and see live music. Admire the views from the Gothic tower of the Cathédrale St-André. Before you head out of the city to explore the vineyards, pay a visit to the Cité du Vin museum dedicated to wine. The building itself, beautifully situated on the banks of the River Garonne, has been thoughtfully designed to resemble a decanter, clad in silver and gold metal that catches the light just right. Inside you’ll find sensory exhibitions covering everything from grape varieties and cultivation methods, to new trends and famous personalities. The tour ends with a glass of wine or grape juice to whet your appetite before exploring the region further. How to make the most of the Bordeaux harvest season The Bordeaux wine harvest begins in early September and is one of the best times to visit the châteaux of the region. The sun is still beaming its warmth down upon the countryside, and the vineyards are alive with activity. As you can imagine, there are numerous beautiful vineyards in the Bordeaux region to choose from, each with its own unique qualities and reasons to visit. At some, you can join in with the harvest – be warned, though, it’s hard work – whilst others simply offer expert-led tastings. The wine harvest season begins in early September. Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion This is the wine school of the Saint-Émilion region and the perfect place to start your visit, whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast, or new to the game. The oenologists at the Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion will talk you through all the basics, as well as some of the finer points for more advanced tasters. There are a number of short courses for you to choose from on which you’ll learn what to expect and look out for when tasting specific wines, which will steer you in the right direction for the rest of your trip. Head to their website for more information. Château Pape Clément One of the oldest wine estates in the region, you can feel the history of Château Pape Clément emanating from every grape at this stunning vineyard. The first harvest dates all the way back to 1252, which means that fine wines have been produced on the estate for over 750 years, however back then it was known as the Domaine de la Mothe. Your visit to Château Pape Clément will really be brought to life with one of the tours or workshops they offer their guests. From simple wine tastings, ranging from three to eight wines, to more elaborate pairings with cheese, to winemaker workshops where you’ll learn to make your own souvenir bottle, you won’t soon forget your visit to this estate. The iconic Château Lafite Rothschild as seen on the labels of some of the world’s finest wines. Château Lafite Rothschild For one of the most exclusive tours in the region, visit the spectacular Château Lafite Rothschild vineyard. The wines from this estate were the first of only four to be classified in Bordeaux’s coveted Premier Cru, or First Growth, grouping in 1855, the highest ranking bestowed on wine. Places on vineyard tours are limited to just 15 people, so make sure to book early. You will explore the estate in all its grandeur before being invited to taste some of the finest wines in the world in an unparalleled experience. If you fancy buying a souvenir bottle to take home, however, be prepared to pay for quality. If all this talk of wine has whet your appetite and inspired you to drive down to Bordeaux, remember to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares available.

Summer in the Alps with your four-legged friend

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Grab life over 50 blogger Emma Hetherington shares her French Alps itinerary, bringing along her Jack Russell Jacob too for a pawsome holiday. With our grown-up kids all working this summer, we decided instead to take our dog Jacob along on our latest holiday to the French Alps. We chose Le Shuttle to get to France as it meant we could stay in the car with the dog during the journey. And what a joy! With a bit of preparation before we set off, and given the French are very dog-friendly, we discovered a great four-legged holiday companion. We were concerned it might be a long drive for our miniature Jack Russell Jacob (680 miles to be exact) from Twickenham to the French Alps. But with a bit of planning for dog-friendly stop-overs along the way it was actually really enjoyable and stress-free for me, my husband John and Jacob too. And the rewards of the stunning scenery when we got to mountains - and the sunny, Alpine outdoors for Jacob to run around in - more than made up for the long journey. Outbound Stopover – Arras Where in France: Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France Drive from Calais: 108.9km / 1h 15m Arras makes a brilliant first stop, which is not far from Calais. No more than a couple of hours from Calais, we stopped overnight in a dog-friendly Ibis hotel right in the centre of this beautiful market town. With its two huge squares, surrounded by narrow, tall, medieval-style houses, there were plenty of streets to explore and outdoor cafes and restaurants to take in the lively summer evening nightlife. Although the original wooden houses in Arras were destroyed during the course of two World Wars, the town has kept to the spirit of the originals in the rebuilding. At the Ibis it did feel strange the first time we walked Jacob through reception, into the lift and up to our hotel room. But this is France. And they love dogs. French Alps destination - Thollen-les-Memises Where in France: Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 881.4km / 8h 35m There’s no bigger ‘walkies’ destination than the French Alps! This pretty, rustic village ribbons its way up a quiet road above Evian Les Bains in the Haute Savoie. Offering stunning views across Lake Geneva and lots of invigorating walks in the mountains, it was a perfect spot to meet up with the whole family for a week. Staying in a Swiss-style chalet, nestled underneath the towering cliffs of the mountain above, Jacob loved it. He happily travelled in the cable car from the village into the peaks above, exploring Alpine meadows filled with the sound of tinkling cow bells and lots of interesting and very different smells from back home in Twickenham. Doggy days out Evian Les Bains Just down the winding mountain road from Thollon-les-Memises is the famed spa town of Evian. This is a lovely place for a day out with a dog. There are plenty of opportunities to amble around the pretty streets, explore its Art Nouveau spa building, lake-side hotels, cafes and casino. We took the rickety funicular railway up the hill for more views over Lake Geneva to Lausanne. As you’d expect in France, most of the local cafes were very happy to accommodate a dog whenever we stopped for a coffee or a glass of wine. Ancient Yvoire A tiny, walled town on the French shores of Lake Geneva, it is worth a visit if you’re in the area – just be prepared to share the place with a lot of other visitors during the summer! John, myself and Jacob in Ancient Yvoire. Geneva Big cities generally aren’t great when you have a dog in tow. But there is plenty of lovely outdoor scenery to admire in Geneva and of course the lake shore itself to walk around. It took us about an hour to drive across the border to Geneva from Thollen. Jacob enjoyed the views of the Jet D’Eau (the giant fountain in the lake itself) and was very happy to ride-along on the tourist train that took us up into the ancient heart of the city, accompanied by an interesting commentary about the history of the place. Return Stopover – Troyes Where in France: Aube, Grand Est Drive from Calais: 396.4km / 3h 49m On the return journey at the end of our holiday we chose another historic town about three hours drive north from Evian Les Bains to stop over. The Ibis here was bigger and more modern than the one we stayed in Arras – but gave the same warm welcome to the dog. Unlike Arras, Troyes has kept its original medieval buildings. It’s very charming with its wonky, wooden-framed houses, old churches and of course plenty of cafes to watch the world go by. Historic Troyes is also a very dog-friendly destination. It turned out that Jacob is a born traveller. What impressed us most was how he handled lots of different types of transport. It didn’t occur to me to think about this before we set off – but as a nervous dog he doesn’t usually take well to unfamiliar and noisy surroundings. Yet on every mode of transport he tried, from a clunky funicular and hooting steamboat to swaying telecabine and crowded tourist train, he didn’t make a murmur. Could it be that he so appreciated being included on this trip to France that he decided to behave? We’re looking forward to taking him with us again. He’s a great travel companion. If Jacob’s pawsome travels has left you (and your furry friend!) feeling inspired, Remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best prices.

Hike in the hills of Le Hohwald

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Hiking doesn’t have to be a strenuous expedition about conquering great peaks, and surviving on nothing but Kendal mint cake for three days. It can be just as enjoyable going for a more leisurely stroll that only takes a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time for a well-deserved, long lunch. Not too far from the border with Germany is the bucolic village of Le Hohwald, nestled in the French hills like something out of a fairy tale. It’s a relatively easy scenic drive from Calais, and will make the perfect basecamp for the whole family to hit the trails and explore the great outdoors without the need for an oxygen tank! Le Hohwald Where in France: Bas-Rhin, Alsace Drive from Calais: 578km / 6h 15m The main attraction of Le Hohwald is its location amid the trees at the base of the Vosges mountains. There are numerous walking and cycling trails leading into the forests and up and down hills starting from Le Hohwald. But before you leave the town, it’s definitely worth having a quick look around first. The village of Le Hohwald may be small, but it’s perfectly formed The architecture of the houses is gorgeous. They look like something that you’d see on a box of chocolates or fudge, with their pretty painted shutters, timber details, and pleasing symmetry. The Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité church is particularly charming and worth a visit for its peaceful atmosphere and lovely frescoes. It won’t take very long to explore, as Le Hohwald really is very small, but it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs after a long drive. Once you’re feeling refreshed, head back to your accommodation, put your boots on, grab your map and bag of supplies, as it’s time to set off on an adventure. The Col du Kreuzweg hike Just because a hike is easy, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s short or boring. The Col du Kreuzweg hike is proof of that. This route starts and ends in the same place, making it great as a morning or afternoon loop. It’s about 5.5 miles long, or just less than 9 kilometres, so you’ll definitely feel like you’ve achieved something, without completely wearing yourself out, making it ideal for younger children as well. In total, it should take you around 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete, or a little longer if you like to stop for snacks or rests. Hiking is the best way to make the most of Le Hohwald’s stunning location Depending on which direction you go, you will either face a long, slow ascent with a shorter, steeper incline on the way back, or a shorter but more challenging hike up hill to begin with, and a more leisurely walk back downhill. For the sake of your thighs the next day, we’d recommend starting off gently, and taking advantage of gravity’s helping hand with the steeper homeward stretch! The Champ du Feu hike If you’re after an easy route that will take you and the family the whole day to complete, then hiking from Le Hohwald to the Champ du Feu is the trail for you. Again, this route is a loop, which saves having to drive or organise public transport for getting home again. Coming in at around 10.3 miles, or 16.6 kilometres, you will definitely need to make sure that you are well stocked with supplies before setting out. As well as lunch, make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to keep you going, as you’ll be hiking for at least 6 hours to complete this route. At the summit of the Champ du Feu route, look out for the interesting sculptures Whichever direction you decide to walk this trail, your journey will be pretty similar. As far as trails go, this one is quite symmetrical with its ascents and descents. If you set off anti-clockwise, you’ll reach the highest point slightly quicker, at 4.6 miles or 7.4 kilometres in. Attractions to look out for en route In the local area, there are a couple of great attractions to look out for. Plus, it’s always nice to have a goal or a marker to aim for at different points along your hike to break the walk up a little. About 2 miles outside of Le Hohwald, hidden amongst the trees, you’ll find the beautiful Cascade du Hohwald. There is a viewing area with a picnic bench where you can sit and admire the waterfall whilst having a spot of lunch or just a rest. It’s definitely worth pausing here for a short while, though, to appreciate the natural beauty of the place. The beautiful waterfall just outside of Le Hohwald In the middle of the Champ du Feu region, and actually in the middle of a roundabout, is the iconic observation tower, which has become the local emblem. The tower stands at 1,099 metres above sea level, and is the highest point of the area, making the views from the top really spectacular. You will also notice signs in the local area for the Parc Alsace Aventure, which is the local adventure park. If you fancy visiting on another day, it’s a short 8-minute drive from the centre of Le Hohwald. There are loads of fun activities here for the whole family, including an assault course through the trees, zip lines, paintball and archery. All of the activities have different admission rates and opening times, so check the website before you go. If you’re feeling inspired to get back to nature and make the most of the great outdoors, an adventure holiday in Le Hohwald will tick all the boxes. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

Family friendly fun when camping in Saint-Clément-des-Baleines

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Everyone’s favourite childhood memories involve a family camping trip, right? To make your family’s holiday memories extra special, pick a campsite surrounded by natural beauty in a picturesque location such as Saint-Clément-des-Baleines on the Île de Ré in France. Saint-Clément-des-Baleines Where in France: Île de Ré, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 736km / 7h 10m The commune of Saint-Clément-des-Baleines is made up of five little villages: Le Chabot, Le Gillieux, Le Godinand, Le Griveau, and La Tricherie. It is one of 10 small communes on the Île de Ré, which means ‘isle of ferns’ because of the marshy fenlands that divide the island just off the coast of La Rochelle on the mainland. The lovely little village of Saint-Clément-des-Baleines. Saint-Clément-des-Baleines in particular gets its name, rather tragically, because of the whales that used to get stranded en masse on the beaches of this part of the Île de Ré during their seasonal migrations. The word ‘baleines’ is French for ‘whales’. Thankfully, this no longer happens, but the place name has stuck, as have the names of several local businesses and attractions named in honour of the whales. Saint-Clément-des-Baleines is the perfect basecamp for a family holiday on the Île de Ré, with plenty of lovely campsite options to choose from. Campsites around Saint-Clément-des-Baleines There are four main campsites local to Saint-Clément-des-Baleines, including La Plage, La Côte Sauvage, Les Pérouses, and of course Les Baleines. Each campsite has its own unique charms and benefits, so you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your next family holiday. Camping La Plage La Plage has been rated four-stars, and has 138 pitches surrounded by shrubbery for privacy and partial shade. Its location is hard to beat, with the sea just 100m away from the campsite and a nature park just a little further. There’s an outdoor pool, surrounded by sun loungers if you fancy a day away from the beach, and there are plenty of sports and activities available to keep everyone busy, from pétanque, basketball and table tennis, to horse riding and even a sailing school nearby. Campsite La Côte Sauvage Two-star campsite La Côte Sauvage has been recognised as ‘eco-friendly’ since 2009, and offers a large choice of 351 pitches. The campsite doesn’t have its own pool, but it couldn’t be closer to the beach if you fancy a dip in the sea. There are a number of other activities available on-site, though, such as volleyball, boules, a games room, and arts and crafts centre. There are also plenty of cycling trails just waiting to lead you off on an adventure. The stunning sands of the Plage de la Conche des Baleines. Les Pérouses du Pare The smaller Les Pérouses offers just 52 sites at its four-star campsite, making it feel much cosier than some other options, with a combination of mobile homes, chalets and tent pitches. Les Pérouses also doesn’t have a swimming pool, but the sea is only about 400m away. On-site, you can enjoy a traditional game of pétanque, or challenge your family to a table tennis tournament. Les Baleines The three-star campsite of Les Baleines is mid-range in size with 185 plots, 24 of which are mobile-home accommodation and the rest are available for your tent or motorhome. You’ll find mini-golf and table tennis available on site, as well as loads of fun activities nearby including scuba diving and horse riding excursions. See the sights of Île de Ré From your campsite in Saint-Clément-des-Baleines, you’ll find yourself in the perfect spot for visiting the attractions of the whole of the Île de Ré. And because of its small size, you can even explore the island on your bikes, if you fancy a break from driving – and don’t worry if you didn’t bring your own, there are plenty of places you can hire bicycles from. Pretty much on your doorstep, and certainly the most prominent feature on the horizon, is the lovely Phare des Baleines lighthouse. Alongside the lighthouse itself, there is also a museum and the old tower that you can visit. There is a small fee to enter the attractions, but the surrounding park is free to visit if you just fancy admiring the structures from the ground with an ice cream in hand. The view from the top of the 60m lighthouse is definitely worth the climb, though! The striking black and white bell tower in the heart of Ars-en-Ré. While you’re up there, you’ll have a great view of the nearby commune Ars-en-Ré. The most famous landmark here is the black and white 15th century bell tower, which is part of the 12th century Church of Saint-Étienne. Aside from it simply being aesthetically striking, the reason that the bell tower is painted this way is that it was used as a marker for sailors, helping them to navigate around the treacherous coastline. You may not be able to see it from atop the lighthouse, put further along the island towards the mainland bridge is the fascinating Fort La Prée. Built in 1626, it’s the oldest fort on the Île de Ré and served as its primary defence before the construction of the citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré later in the century, but remained a tactical stronghold afterwards as well. There is a small fee to enter, and for a little extra you can join one of the guided tours. A classic house on the Île de Ré. And whilst you’re on the island, you simply have to spend a day in the aforementioned town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Surrounded by 17th century fortifications, almost every house in Saint-Martin-de-Ré has shutters painted one of 16 shades of officially approved blues and greens. It may seem a little limiting, but the overall effect is very beautiful, particularly when these shutters are contrasted against the vibrant hues of the hollyhocks that grow rampantly all over the town. To make the most of it, you don’t have to go with a specific activity in mind. Simply stroll around aimlessly, and enjoy your surrounds at your leisure. If you’re feeling inspired to eschew the mainland in favour of a more laidback island pace, the Île de Ré is the perfect place to do just that. Remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares available.

Driving Dad’s Guide to the Champagne Region

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Matt Hyotte, otherwise known as Driving Dad, moved to the UK over a decade ago and has been enjoying European road trips since. Together with his wife and 3 boys, their on the road adventures have attracted over 11,000 followers on Instagram. Are you looking to conquer Europe by car? Here’s Driving Dad’s tips for enjoying one of the most popular areas in France; the Champagne region… Less than a three hour drive from Calais lies the Champagne region of France, an area whose world-famous beverage of the same name is produced. But for many travellers driving further into the Continent, the most they will see of Champagne are the signs along the A26 motorway for the junctions to Reims and Epernay, cities synonymous with champagne production, and quick glimpses of Champagne’s sprawling vineyards. Much has been written about champagne…and Champagne, and the region offers endless activities for champagne lovers and connoisseurs. If your interests lie in top end champagne then there are 17 villages with the “grand cru” designation (the highest designation in Champagne) and 43 “premier cru” villages (the second highest designation). This translates to hundreds of top tier champagne producers without even taking into account the thousands of smaller producers populating the region. In short, if you can’t make Champagne a destination, it is certainly worth a quick detour. The Perching Bar Champagne tastings have acquired the reputation of very formal events, and fairly so. Champagne producers and drinkers alike take their champagne seriously. But for those looking to combine a nice glass of bubbly with an element of adventure, there exists the perfect champagne bar. A treehouse toast | Credit: Driving Dad The Perching Bar is located in the Foret de Brise Charrettes, fittingly just outside the grand cru-designated town of Verzy and conveniently located only 15 minutes off the A26/A4 motorway. What makes this champagne bar particularly distinctive is not the type or quality of champagne it serves, but that it is in a tree house, 20 feet above the forest floor. True, it is a treehouse fit for some of the region’s top (as well as most interesting) champagnes, but it is a treehouse nonetheless and one of the most engaging, if not most enjoyable, places to drink a glass of champagne (or two). Getting to the Perching Bar is an adventure in itself. After exiting the motorway and driving through the winding streets of Verzy, you veer off onto a gravel road that runs along the top of a local vineyard. This gravel road soon turns into a one-lane dirt road that winds through the forest and dead ends in a clearing, where, if not for the wooden barrel with an arrow pointing up a pine needle covered hiking trail, you might think you were lost. An inside view of the Perching Bar | Credit: Driving Dad A five minute hike later (while not strenuous, leave your high heels and loafers at home) and welcome signs of civilization, in the form of a small wooden ticket booth and the distance sound of clinking glasses, emerge. Champagne Road Trip Access to the Perching Bar costs €16 per person, which includes a glass of champagne and an introduction by one of the resident champagne experts to the champagne on offer that day. After purchasing tickets, a series of suspension bridges and wooden platforms built into the forest lead to the treehouse bar itself. It takes some navigating as only one person is allowed on the suspension bridges at a time, but upon arrival, you are immediately rewarded with sweeping views of the local vineyards and the village of Verzy. In nice weather, the wrap-around deck provides an excellent vantage point to take in these views. Or opt for the indoor seating consisting of chairs swings complemented by a hanging ice bucket for quick access to your bottle of champagne. Either way, it is guaranteed to be one of the most unique champagne drinking experiences you’ve had, in Champagne or elsewhere. Enjoy the vineyards from above | Credit: Driving Dad The Perching Bar is open from April to late November and select dates outside these months. Opening times vary depending on the season and reservations in the peak summer months are highly recommended. Group tastings and food can be pre-arranged. Children under 12 are not allowed in the bar. For designated drivers, remember France allows 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, instead of 0.8 as in the UK. For the kids An added benefit to the Perching Bar is that it is adjacent to the Parc Arboxygène, an outdoor adventure park also located in the Foret de Brise Charette, with ropes courses, zip lines and suspension bridges. Trained instructors will take your kids through the park while you happily sip your champagne at the Perching Bar. (Or reward yourself with a bottle of champagne after you complete one of the rope courses). Are you ready to enjoy a glass of champagne in the trees? Start your next Driving Dad inspired road trip and book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best prices.

Le Soleil Camping in Argelès-sur-Mer

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There’s something so freeing about camping. It must be the simplicity of it all, and the proximity to nature – things we often take for granted in this day and age! So, if you’re looking to embrace the great outdoors, but still want a balance of cultural activities and time spent on the beach, you can’t really go wrong with this campsite. Le Soleil Camping Where in France: Argelès-sur-Mer, Pyrénées-Orientales Drive from Calais: 1,161km / 10h 45m When it comes to locations, it’s hard to beat Le Soleil campsite. Situated right next to the beach in attractive ‘garden’ surrounds, this 10-hectare plot has 830 pitches and 136 mobile homes, all of a good size, so there’s plenty of room for the whole family, including the dog! There are all the usual amenities on site, such as laundry facilities, wifi, power supplies, and some little shops and places to get food and snacks. For fun, there is a large 1500m² pool complex with slides, water games, and a paddling area for the little ones. There are also loads of outdoor activities to keep everyone entertained, from boules to badminton and volleyball, and there’s even a climbing wall! For kids, there’s a playground, bouncy castles and trampolines, and teenagers will love the beach bar parties and discos. Argelès-sur-Mer The closest town to Le Soleil campsite is Argelès-sur-Mer at about 4km away, which is even close enough to walk to if you fancy stretching your legs after a long drive. However, if you think you might want to do a bit of shopping, definitely take your car as that will feel like a very long walk home with heavy bags! The bell tower of the 14th century Notre Dame del Prat church. The main point of interest in the town is the lovely little 14th century church, the Notre Dame del Prat. Inside, there are some pretty stained-glass windows, religious icons, and a beautiful high altar, and if you have the chance, the views from the bell tower are stunning. Also, on Saturdays, there’s a local market that pops up and surrounds the church. Just to the south of the town, you’ll find Parc de Valmy. Set in six hectares of landscaped gardens, at the heart of the park there is a lovely château, somewhat reminiscent of the castles you read about in fairy tales. You can take tours around Parc de Valmy, and your guide will tell you a little more about the history of the place, as well as pointing out some of the more unusual flowers and plants found in the grounds. On a sunny day, the gardens surrounding the château make the perfect setting for a picnic and there’s also a playground at Parc de Valmy to keep the kids occupied. If you plan your day right, you could visit the local market in town on a Saturday morning, and take your delicious treats with you for an al fresco feast for lunch. The château at the heart of Parc de Valmy is reminiscent of fairy tale castles. Afterwards, perhaps you could pop next door to visit Les Aigles de Valmy, or the Valmy Eagles Park. You can learn more about the beautiful birds of prey they have in residence, as well as see them in flight at one of the falconry displays that they put on throughout the day. And if you’re feeling brave enough, you can even undergo some falconry training yourself at one of their workshops! National Park Day Trips If you fancy a day trip away from the campsite, there are a couple of great national parks in the area that are great for hikes, picnics and cycling. A little over an hour’s drive north of Le Soleil is the Natural Regional Park of Narbonnaise in the Mediterranean. Home to all manner of species of mammals, insects, and birds – including flamingos! There are organised trips and tours that you can take, or there are plenty of well signposted hiking trails to follow. Enjoy the peaceful beauty of the Natural Regional Park of Narbonnaise. There is also a rather unique attraction in the form of the ‘shipyard of marine carpentry’, where you can meet a team of experts who restore maritime vessels such as old schooners, and reconstruct ancient Roman boats. All their projects are carried out using traditional marine carpentry techniques, keeping the heritage and culture of the area alive. Even if you aren’t actively into boats, the work that they do will easily leave you impressed. Alternatively, you can take the slightly longer 1h25m drive to the Regional Natural Park of the Catalan Pyrenees. Similarly, there are numerous stunning hiking trails to conquer, and incredible wild animals to look out for, but there are also several other attractions that are completely unique to the area. The region has been known for its natural thermal springs since Roman times. There are five local establishments where you can enjoy the waters and their individually unique properties, some of which are famous for curing skin complaints, others for rheumatism or respiratory ailments. A stroll around the walled town of Villefranche-de-Conflent is like taking a step back in time. There are also two Fortifications of Vauban in the area, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Mont-Louis and Villefranche-de-Conflent, the latter of which used to be considered Spanish territory. Around the borders of France, there are actually 12 of these sites, but nowhere else are there two so close together. For anyone interested in history, these picturesque fortified towns are a must-visit. If you’re feeling inspired to pack up the car and hit the road in search of adventure, you won’t find much better than a camping holiday in Argelès-sur-Mer. Just remember to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares!

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