How to improve holidays with children

Hey Mum, let's hop across the channel
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The Independent Travel

This week, my kids have been going crazy over a quiz game Santa bought them: a mini version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They've played it so often that they appear to know all the answers off by heart, so I've been inventing more questions for them. Here's one that's keeping them guessing: in which country can you sleep in a floating chalet, do some Zen meditation in a Mongolian yurt and walk among monkeys?

To be fair, the answer's a bit tricky unless you happen to be writing a column on child-friendly holidays in France. Because I now know that les vacances en famille don't have to involve joining the hordes of other Brits at Disneyland Paris or shacking up on the Côte d'Azur. France is one of the best countries in the world to go right off the beaten track and do some things you've never considered doing.

One little secret waiting to be discovered is Le Domaine de Noé, near Clamecy (00 33 386 21 09 21; domainedenoe. com), in deepest central France. This new "holiday village" (don't be put off by the term) promises something delightful for exhausted parents and their offspring - tastefully decorated houses with all the facilities at hand. There's a library, tennis courts, restaurant and a gym, so it is perfectly geared up for families who want to get away from it all but still have everything on their doorstep.

For something really different, though, a unique child-friendly hotel has just opened up in the glorious Champagne region, just half an hour from Reims. The Mandukhai in Ardennes (00 33 3 24 72 60 04; mandukhai offers you and your kids the chance to find some inner peace in a French Mongolian yurt. Call on the powers of Zen to bring some calm to family life or, better still, gorge yourself on some interesting cuisine while the kids run wild.

If this isn't far-out enough for you, though, how does a buoyant gîte in southern Burgundy grab you? The Aqualogis (00 33 385 78 64 63; is a new concept in self-catering accommodation, which is sure to thrill the kids: it floats on its own little lake. There's lots of space and wildlife to explore as there are some great castles, museums and play parks nearby.

Talking of unexplored corners of France, don't forget Alsace. This June sees the opening of the TGV high-speed train link to Strasbourg, so rail journeys from London will take less than five hours. It's well worth a stay in one of the region's fabulous working farms. Book in at Ferme-Auberge du Christlesgut (00 33 389 77 51 11; for example, and you and your brood will be encouraged to take part in milking the animals and helping to make butter and cheese.

And, in case you were wondering where the monkeys come into all this, a visit to Alsace's Monkey Mountain (00 33 388 92 11 09; montagne is another must. You get to meet the 280 Barbary macaques who patrol the park's grounds - and that's guaranteed to keep your own little monkeys quiet for a while.

Who'd have thought you could do all this on holiday in France?

Katy's top tip

Check out france4families .com, a great portal for all things family, including advice on which regions are best, which accommodation to book and some of the best child-friendly restaurants, activities and day trips in every corner of the country.