“Pour les curieux, les amoureux, les randonneurs, les baigneurs…”- an irresistible three miles by one mile island of sweeping sandy beaches, a port, a restaurant and two cafés. Perfect for a five day break. Drive over – Portsmouth to Caen?- with tent and bikes, leave the car in Quiberon and take the boat. Cycle to the tip of Houat and camp wild like the French. Not a lot to do, just the beauty of nature, but that’s why you’re here isn’t it? A holiday you won’t forget.
Camping de la Filature is a small, tranquil campsite set in an orchard beside the gentle River Sioule.This is outdoor life at it's most peaceful but with plenty of opportunities for activities such as walking, cycling, fishing and wild swimming. The Auvergne is a beautiful, yet relatively undiscovered region of France and campsite fees are much lower than more touristy destinations. Once you've pitched your tent or parked your caravan you can soak up the magical beauty of the place and relax.
Cycle from Cherbourg to Cap de la Hague. Take your bikes on the ferry and not your car. Leave the car in a safe residential area of Portsmouth cycle to the terminal. It will cost about £50 return. In Cherbourg turn right and there is a cycle path all the way from the town centre to Querqueville then quiet country lanes. Really beautiful countryside and great beaches. Stay at a cheap B&B in Auderville, if the weather is rubbish go to the very heavily subsidised leisure centre/pool in Beaumont. Great sea food at Goury the only downside is the nuclear re-processing plant but they do pay for the leisure centre!
Google map: bit.ly/17Llpjs
Follow a section of 'La Loire à Vélo' cycle route for a cheap, rewarding trip through the Unesco listed valley of the Loire. Take in the awe inspiring chateaux dotted along (and sometimes in) the river, and revel in the peace and pace of life on two wheels. The Loire valley is rich in heritage, nature and produce, but it is not an expensive region: refuelling on the finest Touraine goats cheeses accompanied by Angers plums and a bottle of Loire wine won't break the picnic budget; small family inns, campsites and restaurants cluster along the route for good value stopovers; cycle hire is reasonably priced and if you feel like skipping a section you can take your bike on the local trains for free. Rolling along between villages of dazzling white stone, among vineyards, orchards and endless riverscapes is ample entertainment at very little cost, and there's plenty to see and do in the area for saddle sore days too.
www.cycling-loire.com/ has all the info you need to plan your trip, including interactive route maps, downloadable brochures and accommodation listed by price.
Starting at Berwick-upon-Tweed a hike up the coast up to the English/Scottish border is a must as the beauty of the coastline is just breathtaking with coves, headlands and rocks which look like heads staring out to sea. The walk is generally easy but can be quite steep and dangerous at times because of the path being very close to the cliff edges and sheer climbs. But as long as you take your time and stay vigilant you'll be fine. A pose by the fence marking the border between England and Scotland as well as a photo by the border sign on the East Coast Mainline are both a must. To get to the border sign by the railway follow these directions - once you have got through the turnstile in the fence which has the Welcome to Scotland sign in front of it just turn left and walk across the field and follow the fence up to the stone wall by the railway line and the border sign is opposite to you.
Once you are in Scotland there are clear views down the coastline to St Abbs head. The entire walk from Berwick upon Tweed up to the England/Scotland border takes between one and two hours and clear signposting marks the way along the path so just follow the signs and stick to the path
On the edge of the French Pyrenees stand four well equipped tipis sleeping four to six people in peaceful surroundings with breathtaking views of the Cirque de Garvarnie. There are many reasons why this might be your best holiday ever; spectacular walks at your fingertips, singsongs round the campfire while pet goats freely roam around you and you really don't have to dig too deep in your pockets for it all.
The best way to enjoy a budget holiday in France is to camp in municipal campsites, which exist in most towns or substantial villages. Good value, clean, with hot showers, these can be very cheap in out of the way places, such as the picturesque town of Estaing at the eastern end of the Lot valley. For an enjoyably easy-going holiday, just decide on the region you are going to and a rough route. Then choose somewhere to stop - look for small towns on rivers and you can't go wrong. Then check out municipal campsites on Archiescampings App on your smartphone or i-pad.You only need book in busy tourist areas.
Archiescampings App costs £2
Away from the coast, off the beaten track, yet only two and a half hours from Malaga airport, Capileira is spectacular, full of life and dead cheap. Traditional houses built into the side of the Alpujarras come with tineos (terraces) with awesome views across the mountains. If you want a pool, pay a bit more (around £50 a night for two) and stay at the Finca Los Llanos or the Rural Real de Poqueira. Winding paths lead to rivers, the surrounding villages and vertiginous peaks. A clutch of inexpensive restaurants around the square and in the steep cobbled streets that radiate from it are generous and wonderful.
This is a great campsite for families, couples and friends on a budget. On the confluence of the Dordogne and the Vézère, it's wonderful for swimming, relaxing and you might even catch a fish if you're really lucky! As far as I remember, you're allowed to BBQ, but there is also a great restrant on site. If you're willing to walk a VERY short ou can always distance across the bridges then you'll find a wide variety of excellent traditional French restaurants and a few bars. My parents made sure it was always one stop on our road trips through France and I hope I can do the same with my children.
F-24480 Alles/Dordogne, France
+33 (0)553 632 976
Google map: bit.ly/15k1BWL
France offers the very best and cheapest camping facilities in all of Europe. We know, we have been camping in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, to name a few. Use two guides: the Michelin Camping Guide and Le guide officiel camping caravaning. The Michelin gives good advice for facilities, shade, quiet, etc., and the Guide Officiel gives all 8,565 campsites in France. Between the two you can find what you want whereever you find yourself in rural or urban France. Now even the initial outlay for tent, cooker, sleeping bags, etc. is a lot cheaper than it used to be. If you want very good gear get it second hand on eBay. Happy Camping in France!
Le guide officiel camping caravaning: www.campingfrance.com/UK/Guidebooks/Guidebooks/The-guide-of-all-the-camp-sites-in-France
Mercato centrale, as it's name suggests, is placed bang in the centre of Florence. And it's a food market. It's kinda like Borough Market is to London.
Inside you'll find the odd tourist that's found their way there but you'll mostly see chefs buying wholesale and locals buying their ingredients for that night's dinner.
The smell of truffles as you walk in will wash over you and, if you're anything like me, pull you in like the tractor beam in Star Wars. It's got some amazing wines (nearly all varieties of Super Tuscans), cheeses, olive oils, bread, huge bags of fresh porcini mushrooms (depending on the time of year) but, for me anyway, the main reason to go is for the cafes at the rear of the market. There's always a queue and it's packed with locals. A good sign. It's very cheap (about €3.50 for a main and €2 for a medium caraffe of wine. The porchetta sandwiches at Nerbone at €3.5 are an absolute must. They're incredible.
Piazza del Mercato, Florence, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/12SI4Jr
It’s a very nice budget hotel with good sized, modern rooms. Location is convenient, one stop from the Passeig Gracia shopping area, near Plaza Catalunya, the Ramblas and some of Gaudi’s buildings. The staff was really friendly, we had a great time at the hotel.
Certaldo Alta is a short train ride from Florence. The new part is less interesting, apart from a twice weekly market so head for the old part, Certaldo Alta either on foot or using the cable car from the square. Here you will find a lovely Tuscan hill town with few tourists, some interesting history and quiet bars and restaurants. In the summer there is a music and arts festival so you can listen to jazz in part of an old church surrounded by ancient frescoes. Even better, stay for the night in the nearby Fattoria Basseto, a former Benedictine convent, that is now a budget hotel and hostel. In one of the rooms there is a black and white photograph of the family who still own it, taken in the 1950's by Cecil Beaton.The owners are lovely, you will want to stay, arrange a cooking class at a nearby farm, and not return to Florence!
Via delle Città, 50052 Certaldo FI, Italy
+39 348 4370285
Google map: bit.ly/11ucXCG
This is the take-away arm of one of my favourite places, Cafe Retro. Serves food and drink in compostable packaging! I also bought reusable sandwich wraps which are brilliant for the kids' packed lunches. Full marks for sustainability (and their stuff tastes good too!)
A skiing holiday in the Czech Republic needn’t break the bank. Rokytnice nad Jizerou is an excellent base if you’d like to hit the slopes and it’s easily accessible from Prague on public transport too (there are direct buses three times a day). Just because Easter’s almost here, don’t rule a winter sports jaunt out: there’s some snow on the peaks as late as May. There are two main resorts: the baby slopes of Studenov which can be reached on foot and for the more competent, Horni Domky which is served by a regular free Ski bus. A day’s pass for Studenov is 380CZK for adults (about £12) and 200CZK for children (about £7). The area is popular with Poles and Germans as well as Czechs so don’t expect the place to be overrun with Brits although there are plenty of English speaking instructors. As for food, if you can’t the Czech fried fare on offer in the stands and restaurants by the slopes then try the soups instead. There’s česnekova – a very garlicky broth bound to keep the vampires away – or porkova, a creamy leek concoction. Remember to ask for bread as it isn’t served automatically. A glass of švarak (mulled wine) or medovina (mead) is a great après ski pick me up too. We stayed at Pension Samohel, which is run by a former Czech ski champion: very friendly, good location, great food but take your own towels – the ones provided were tiny and had seen better days.
Rokytnice nad Jizerou 153, 512 44 Rokytnice nad Jizerou, Czech Republic
+420 604 200 934
Google map: bit.ly/YP8LZH
* Lisette is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-lisette.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LisettePrague
The exciting prospect of lunch hits you as you begin your saunter down Rue Monge on a Sunday market day. Head to a rotisserie where the chickens are plump and the sweet aroma of freshly roasted meat is most enticing. Bird secured, walk the six or so blocks to Jardins de Luxembourg, find a bench with a view and have an al fresco lunch among Parisians with napkins at the ready. A simple and hugely satisfying lunch in one of the finest cities in the world.
Place Monge Marche, 5th arrondissement
Google map: bit.ly/YLbxPf
Don't visit the Glenmore's rooftop bar if there's a cruise liner parked in Circular Quay. But on other days this is the only rooftop bar with a view of the Sydney Opera House. There's also the glass and steel offices of the central business district, the hump of the harbour bridge, and the busy green and cream harbour ferries (one for each of the eleven ships of the first fleet). The location is as Australian as a Vegemite sandwich.
The evening clientele is young - office workers enjoying the late sun and having fun over a schooner or two.
If you find yourself stuck in the culinary desert that is the glass and steel void of Potsdamer Platz, then a short stroll down Potsdamer Strasse leads to one of the cheeriest restaurants in town. Set in an unpromising commercial block almost opposite the Wintergarten Theatre, it's known as a book cafe but is also a terrific place to stop for an evening meal. Named after the 19th century Jewish author Joseph Roth Diele, who apparently wrote Radetzkymarsch in the locale, its calming, quirky decor is the work of the owner, film director Dieter Funk. The ludicrously good value menu is German with spatzle with cheese and bacon as well as a nicely cooked schnitzel all washed down by some terrific beer. On the downside, it's closed at weekends.
On a recent travel forum, somebody asked ‘ Is Marseillan in the Languedoc really as lovely as people say it is? ‘ The answer is a resounding yes. Just walk down to the pretty little port and take in the view - sail boats bobbing on the silvery waters of the saltwater lagoon, and holiday cruisers drawn up to the moorings where a choice of restaurants awaits the lucky traveller. The impressive Chateau de Port, now a restaurant, looks out to sea, flanked by the cellars of local winemaker Henri de Richemer.
Your choice for lunch – Rive Gauche or Rive Droite ? Go left and a dozen waterside restaurants await, offering you everything from fresh shellfish to crepes and fresh salads. Go right, and choose from the fine dining at the Chateau to pizzas or oysters and a glass of Picpoul at the tiny fish stall.
But the really great thing about Marseillan is that it isn’t just a chic tourist façade, but a proper working town. The church square buzzes on Tuesday with the street market, the little indoor Halles opens daily for fruit, veg, fish and cheese. The Boulevard Hotel in the town centre offers steaks cooked on an open fire, or go to the Table d’Emilie for Michelin-style dining. The Bar Marine is where the locals stop to people watch over a coffee, a Ricard, or to watch the evening footie on big screens. The Delicatessen restaurant is decorated with retro furnishings, and spills out into the shadow of the church on summer days.
Plunge into the narrow lanes of the pedestrianised old town for shady relief from the sun, where visitors and locals live happily side by side. And when you need a dip, clean, sandy uncrowded Mediterranean beaches are just five minutes away.
Throughout the town, tiny shellfish stalls packed with freshly harvested oysters and mussels raise their shutters at lunchtime and evenings. Locals queue for a kilo or two of oysters – this isn’t overpriced food for the few, but the local diet, cheap as chips. The Picpoul de Pinet wine which is only grown in this area is the perfect accompaniment – sit in any local restaurant and watch the two being enjoyed together. Visit the Picpoul domains which dot the area, and marvel at how many labels can thrive in such a small locality.
Further afield, visit Bouziques, an even bigger oyster producer, where restaurants line the shores of the Etang de Thau, Pezenas for amazing architecture and great shopping, Meze for a great Sunday market and Montpellier if you long for small city chic.
Marseillan exerts a real magnetism, with people buying there, holidaying there, and returning year after year. The locals are friendly ( though you will need to use whatever French you have) , and the calendar is peppered with amazing little festivals, where enthusiastic amateurs throw themselves into everything from water jousting to hauling a giant polar bear through the streets to herald the arrival of the Christmas market.
Marseillan really is a French town like no other, worth a visit at any time of the year. Buses connect with Beziers Cap d’Agde airport for the princely sum of 1 euro 50, making it an easy place to visit for a short break without a car.
Families love it for it's safe, easygoing culture, and couples love it for the great food and wine. Perfect for everyone, and it won't break the bank.
I so often hear people say "Oh, I've been to Prague", but Brno (the second city)is a terrific alternative. Cheaper, for one thing, easier to get in to, out of and around in general, and without a McDonalds or Starbucks sign on every post. Countless bars serve excellent and much cheaper food and beer, the views from Spilberk (the old fortress) and the Cathedral are excellent, and the city can be easily negotiated on foot, unless you fancy the tram system, which extends over most of it. And if you still fancy the capital, it's only a couple of hours by train.
Google map: bit.ly/UxcoqL
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