Q. We have two young children (six and four) and are looking for a family holiday, during the summer, in France.
Q. We have two young children (six and four) and are looking for a family holiday, during the summer, in France. The children enjoy other children's company, but we'd rather stay in an apartment than a hotel, preferably near the sea, in Brittany, the Vendée, or on the south-west Mediterranean coast. Proximity to a wine region or historic area would be a plus. Where would you recommend?
Pete Mason, by e-mail
A. For toddler-friendly journey times, choose the Emerald Coast of north-eastern Brittany where, if you've been to Cornwall, you'll feel at home. It has the same combination of Celtic history, rocky cliffs and sandy coves, a verdant interior and crowds of holidaying Brits - no bad thing when your children want playmates.
The area around St-Malo, a lovely old port with some sandy beaches, is a popular family spot. Canvas Holidays (01383 629000; www.canvasholidays.co.uk) has upmarket campsites in the area, including Camping Le Châtelet in St-Cast, a small, quiet site with a children's pool, wonderful sea views and good access to beaches, plus a free, supervised kids club that operates daily in high season. A week from 15 July in a two-bedroom six-bed "Maxi" tent with kitchen costs £783 for two adults and up to four children, including tyhe crossing to Calais by car ferry or Eurotunnel.
From here, you're close to the story-book island of Mont St-Michel, a myriad of Breton chateaux, and, back in kiddie world, the Parc L'Ange Michel (00 33 2 33 49 04 74; www.ange-michel-loisirs.com), a leisure park full of water slides, trampolines, animals, inflatables, quad bikes and train rides that's open daily from 11am all summer.
The Vendée coast is likelier to be sunnier than Brittany, particularly on the Ile de Ré (tourist office: 00 33 5 46 09 00 55; www.iledere.fr), a narrow, 19 mile-long island just off the coast of La Rochelle and linked to the mainland by a two-mile toll bridge. It's also more upmarket than Brittany, full of well-off Parisian families who come for the swimming, seafood, and pretty seaside towns. It's fringed with dune-backed beaches, and is almost completely flat, criss-crossed by 50 miles of cycle tracks, so ideal for even children to explore on two wheels. Attractions include the wine cellars at Le Bois Plage, the salt marsh museum (00 33 5 46 29 06 77; www.marais-salant.com), and boat trips to the nearby islands of Aix and Oléron (Croisière Inter-iles, 00 33 5 46 09 87 27, for details of ferries).
As for where to stay, Le Bois St-Martin (00 33 5 46 09 08 90; www.bois-st-martin.com) is a complex of 20 duplex two-bedroom self-catering apartments set in a garden with a communal swimming pool just outside the capital, St-Martin de Ré. A week's stay for four between 16 July and 20 August costs €986 (£677). Fly from Stansted to La Rochelle airport with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com), about half an hour's drive from St-Martin.
If you want virtually guaranteed sun, stay on the Mediterranean coast of Languedoc-Rousillon, in the lovely Catalan town of Collioure ( above left - tourist office: 00 33 4 68 82 15 47; www.collioure.com), 16 miles south of Perpignan on the rocky Côte Vermeille, close to the Spanish border. It's like St-Tropez must have been 70 years ago: an ex-fishing village that is becoming ever more fashionable, but without the crowds or high-rise hotels. It has four small, shingly coves, but the huge sandy beaches of Argèles-Plage are only a short drive north, and you're close to the Aqualand water park at St-Cyprien (00 33 4 68 21 49 49; www.aqualand.fr). Plus there are great seafood restaurants and there's plenty of culture for you to enjoy. The hilly interior is dotted with Cathar castles, cellars full of Banyuls, the sweet local wine, and plenty of art - Picasso and Matisse, among others, were enamoured of the light and colour at Collioure.
Accommodation in Collioure is limited to private rentals and small hotels - typical is Collioure Holiday Apartment (020-8445 4523; www.collioure.co.uk), which has a two-bedroom duplex apartment on the upper fringes of the town, with use of a shared, unheated outdoor pool, for €1,150 (£821) per week in July and August. Ryanair flies from Stansted to Perpignan airport, half an hour's drive away.
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