Competition across the Channel has forced fares down, but as with air tickets you can often save money by buying through a specialist agent rather than direct with the operator.

Researchers for the Independent set out to find the lowest fare from Dover or Folkestone to Boulogne or Calais for two adults and two children (aged over four years old) travelling with a Ford Escort, crossing mid- morning on Saturday 4 May and returning on the evening of Bank Holiday Monday 6 May. Driveline UK (01707 660011) offers a price of pounds 75, including the annual subscription to its Travel Club, travelling on a 60-hour return on P&O from Dover to Calais - less than half the price charged by P&O direct.

Eurostar plans to start accepting bicycles for travel on trains to Paris and Brussels by the end of March. A charge of pounds 25 return is likely to be made. Call 0800 186186 for more details.

Whichever way you get yourself and your bicycle to France, there are plenty of opportunities when you arrive. Rough Tracks (07000 560749) specialises in off-road cycling, including a two-week traverse of the Massif Central in France starting 26 June. For pounds 775 you get flights between London and Lyon, accommodation in gites and all meals with free wine.

Breton Bikes (a British-run company, based in France - tel 00 33 96 24 86 72) offers a selection of holidays from a week of cycle camping (pounds 210) to a fortnight of hotel stays (pounds 680). Prices include ferry crossings and bike hire.

Riding, fishing and golf are the activities on offer at La Gabelle, a 17th-century farm on the banks of the River Vienne near Chinon, in the Loire Valley of France. Riders can get lessons from instructors at the National Equitation Centre nearby in Saumur, and visit the Museum of the Horse. Golfers may choose from five nearby courses, including one at Sept Tours where the clubhouse is a chateau. Anglers can try for roach, chub, carp, perch and lake bream. Call Vincent Hearne (01524 37676) for more details.

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