Independent Families: 'We'd like hard cycling for us and activities for the children'
Saturday 12 January 2008
Q. My wife and I are very keen and capable cyclists and would like to go on a cycling trip this summer in the Alps or Pyrenees, and cycle some of the famous climbs of the Tour de France. However, as we don't have much holiday, we would like to take our children for an active holiday at the same time.
We have been considering family centre holidays, where activities would be organised for our daughters (aged 11, 14 and 15) and we could go cycling for four or five days of the week. We would need to hire proper road bicycles.
A Corsie, Kinross
A. The mountains of France – from the Pyrenees to the Alps via the Massif Central – are an excellent place to look for an all-encompassing active holiday. Most cycling-focused holidays set you down in a different location each night, making it difficult for your daughters to get stuck into any activities. Basing yourselves in an area with a good choice of Tour-quality rides, as well activities for your offspring, is a good compromise.
If you want to aim high, then the pinnacle of the Tour de France's mountain climbs is at the Alpine resort of Alpe d'Huez. Although the Tour route changes each year, the peak of Alpe d'Huez has been a stage finish 23 times since 1952 and the resort remains the most revered Tour mountain climb.
If you manage to ascend the 21 hairpin bends of the route, the Tourist Office (00 33 476 11 44 44; www.alpedhuez.com) will sell you a souvenir certificate for €1 (75p).
Aside from the gruelling 13.8km climb, the area has 250km of marked routes, and another nine cross-country and 15 downhill routes. The routes are serviced by nine lifts in July and August. Six-day lift passes cost €44 (£34). Just make sure your trip doesn't coincide with the Tour (23-24 July), when thousands of enthusiasts turn up to watch the professionals battle it out.
The Alpe d'Huez Ecole de Cyclisme (00 33 476 80 31 69; www.alpedhuez-bike.com) can provide cycle guides for the local area, and Henri Sports (00 33 4 76 80 33 50; www.henri-sports.com) in the town centre will rent you a bike for between €23 (£18) and €55 (£42) per day.
You have a number of accommodation options. First is a family holiday resort. These offer a host of summer activities from gentle hikes to swimming. The Résidence Pierre et Vacances Les Bergers (0870 026 7144; www.pv-holidays.com) organises just such activities, as well as paragliding and summer skiing. Its multi-activity courses, included in the room rates, are open to children aged six to 18. A week in a six-person, self-catered apartment at the resort costs €610 (£469) in July.
If you or your daughters prefer to venture out in a small group, there are dozens of local guides on hand to offer tuition in a range of mountain activities. Mont'lao (00 33 660 93 67 45; www.montlao.com) has a five-day course for children aged eight or above, including an introduction to climbing, canyoning and Via Ferrata. The course costs €299 (£230), with groups limited to five.
There are also plenty of self-catering flats and chalets ( www.holidaylettings.co.uk; www.holiday-rentals.co.uk and www.alpe-agence.fr) in Alpe d'Huez, with rental starting at around £200 per week in summer. The main gateway to Alpe d'Huez is Lyon St Exupéry, 150km away, served from the UK by British Airways, easyJet, Flyglobespan, XL and BMI.
If Alpe d'Huez sounds too demanding, then another good base is the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, just north of the Spanish border in the Pyrenees. The nearest airport is Toulouse, which is served by British Airways and easyJet.
Sitting under the peak of Col du Portillon, the town has a huge range of attractive cycling routes, including the Tour climbs of Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Hautacam.
For your girls, the local tourist office (00 33 561 79 21 21; www.luchon.com) can direct you to paragliding and archery instructors.
The local company Passion Montagne (00 33 561 79 11 97; www.passion-montagne.com) offers guides and courses in climbing and canyoning, with introductory courses starting at €30 (£23). It can also provide mountain-biking guides for €50 (£39) per day. You can rent bikes from €20 (£15) per day from Appel d'Air (00 33 561 89 02 79) in the town centre.
Weary limbs might benefit from the town's thermal waters; the vast spa centre (00 33 5 61 94 52 52; www.thermes-luchon.fr) has a slew of pools and treatment rooms. Nearby is the cable-car terminal up to the 1,200m Superbagnères mountain station, with biking and hiking trails and superb views. Holiday villages include the Village Club de Superbagnères ( www.villagesclubsdusoleil.com), which has a club for 11-17-year-olds, with activities such as karaoke and tennis. Weekly stays cost €450 (£346) per adult and €364 (£280) for children aged six to 13, including all meals and children's club activities. The tourist office can supply hotels and self-catering options.
Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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