La Belle Holiday Hit List

Hike, bike or go by train, camp out in luxury or take a wine tour. Mary Novakovich finds out what's new in France
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The Independent Travel

1 . Let the train take the strain

France's enviable high-speed train network expands to the east in June with the opening of the TGV Est line. Most journey times will be halved, such as Paris to Strasbourg (two hours, 20 minutes). Bookings can be made from April through Rail Europe (0870-8304862; raileurope.co.uk). French Travel Service (08702 414243; f-t-s.co.uk) has a new train journey through Avignon, Arles and Nîmes. Six nights' b&b, with all rail travel, costs from £399 per person, based on two sharing. Great Rail Journeys (01904 521936; greatrail .com) has a luxurious way to explore the French Alps, taking in Annecy, Chamonix and the Mont Blanc Express. Fully escorted travel for nine days, with most meals, costs £1,195 per person, based on two sharing.

2 . Bag a chic bed for the night

Bordeaux will get a new luxury hotel market when the Radisson SAS Grand Hotel (radisson.com/ bordeauxfr) opens in April in the heart of the 18th-century old town.

Le Touquet, the northern French resort that is very popular with Brits, has a new boutique hotel just 300 yards from the beach. Pol Hotel (00 33 321 06 60 10; pol-hotel.com) offers modern design and comfort in an elegant 1930s Flemish building. Doubles from €150 (£100), room only. Golf specialists Fields Fairways (00 33 321 33 65 64; fieldsfairways.co.uk) offers a two-night b&b package from £144 per person, based on two sharing, including Eurotunnel crossings.

3 . Find a place to relax

You could hardly wish for a more impressive location for a new spa than on the beach at St Jean de Luz. The Grand Hotel (00 33 559 26 35 36; luzgrandhotel.fr), in the pretty Atlantic coastal resort, opens in March in an exquisite 1909 creation. The Loreamar Thalasso spa takes up a whole floor with only the ocean for a view. Doubles from €160 (£107) per night, room only.

Get a different flavour of Provence when the spa at the Hostellerie Bérard (00 33 494 90 11 43; hotel-berard.com) opens in March. The herbs used in the treatments come from the hotel's own gardenin the lovely hilltop village of La Cadière d'Azur. Doubles from €88 (£59).

4 . Get under canvas

Carisma Holidays (01923 284235; carisma.co.uk), which specialises in luxury campsites right on the beach, has launched an even bigger mobile home that measures 29ft by 12ft and sleeps up to nine. Seven nights in August at all sites cost £999, including ferry, plus £100 for the deluxe home.

Keyplaces (0845-688 0833; keyplaces.co.uk) is branching out into Corsica. Its new property sits near to Aléria on the eastern side of the island. Seven nights at the Résidence les Jardins de la Mer in Bravone in an apartment sleeping four starts at £299, room only. Travel is extra.

The pleasures of the western Med are on offer at Keycamp's (0870-428 9450; keycamp.co.uk) new site at Carnac-Plage near Perpignan.

Club Mar Estang has watersports galore, as well as three swimming pools. Seven nights in May with Keycamp cost from £267 for two adults and up to five children, including ferry.

5 . Go in pursuit of the grape

Spend a sybaritic weekend on the new southern Rhône tour offered by Grape Escapes (0870- 7667 617; grape escapes. net). The weekend features visits to Gigondas, Châteauneuf du Pape and Rasteau, as well as the tour's base in Avignon. Two nights, including meals and guided tours, costs from £198 per person, based on two sharing. Travel is extra.

It has been 20 years since wine specialist Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; arblasterandclarke.com) ran its first tour of the Champagne cellars, and the company is celebrating with its own Champagne festival from 6 to 8 July at the Château de Condé west of Reims. The weekend costs from £398 per person, based on two sharing, including return travel by coach, accommodation, tastings, and some meals.

6 . Two feet or two wheels

Headwater (01606 720199; headwater.com) is launching its first stay-put cycling holiday at the Hotel Ségalière near Carjac in the Lot valley. Prices from £519 per person, based on two sharing, including kit, seven nights' half-board and ferry crossings. It's also offering "hike and bike" holidays in Provence, the Jura and the Loire Valley.

Explore la France profonde with Inntravel (01653 617906; inntravel .co.uk) and its new walking tour in the Lot or a cycling break through the Dordogne. Six nights in the Lot cost from £615 per person, including accommodation and some meals, excluding travel. Seven nights in the Dordogne cost from £498.

Enjoy the elegant surroundings of the four-star Atelier de l'Image in St Rémy de Provence, the new base for a cycling tour with Cycling for Softies (0161-248 8282; cycling-for-softies.co .uk). Three nights' half-board costs from £468 per person, based on two sharing, excluding travel.

7 . Do it yourself in a villa

Villas don't have to come with a car journey to the nearest town. Susan Paradise (01395 597759; susan paradise.co.uk) is offering a new luxury villa in the centre of the village of Valbonne near Grasse. It has a pool, sleeps eight and weekly rental starts at €5,500 (£3,681). In response to a demand for plusher properties, Interhome (020-8891 1294; interhome.co. uk) is putting more upmarket properties on to its books, such as Maison le Brun at Entrechaux in Haute Provence. It has indoor and outdoor pools, sleeps eight, and costs from £1,680 to £3,155 per week.

8 . Keep the kids active

Guaranteed to stave off teenage boredom, Belle France (0870-405 4056; bellefrance.co.uk) has family activity breaks at Amélie les Bains in the Pyrenees. Tree walking, river trekking, canyoning and a stay at a mountain refuge are all crammed into a six-day half-board holiday costing from £659 per person, based on four sharing, for the self-drive option.

Smaller children will be taken care of in style in the Résidence les Albères at Argelès sur Mer near Perpignan, offered by Wake Up in France (01484 680855; wakeupinfrance.co.uk). Most of the sporting facilities are free. One week's self-catering in a two-bed villa ranges from £165 in May to £610 in August.

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