Ever wondered where Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg got their dancing shoes from? The supplier of ballet companies throughout the world, Repetto is an artisan chausseur worth the detour. One piece of advice: wait for the sales!
Open from 7am to midnight, the 30 metre long swimming pool rue Pontoise is built like an art-déco ship with individual cabin for every swimmer. From 8pm onwards, the pool is lit from within while music blares out ...
A little bijou of a museum. Sheltered in a magnificent 18th century hôtel particulier in the Marais, right near the Pompidou Centre, Le Musée de la Chasse boasts wonderful stuffed animals such as a white polar bear standing on its feet ...
There aren't that many nice campsites in the Champagne region (seems most visitors have a bigger budget than us!), but Campsite Sous le Clocher is a lovely peaceful spot by the river overlooking the town of Dormans. Just 5 minutes walk from the Boulangerie, lovely restaurants and a Saturday market in town.
D1 / rte de Vincelles, 51700 Dormans France
Google map: bit.ly/iqxVeG
In summer the Eiffel Tour opens until midnight. To avoid the long queues, and keep the romance, head up there late at night. You'll just have time for a high altitude clinch above the twinkling panorama of nighttime Paris, before heading down for a late supper at the nearby crepe stall. Grab a couple of hot dogs served in fresh baked crusty bread and sit yourself down at a bench by the carousel. If you’re lucky you’ll find yourself in a scene from a Jacques Tati film, as you watch the cleaner, resplendent in floral overall and turban, mopping and polishing the merry-go-round to the soundtrack of the carousel organ. A perfect Parisian moment.
Had a fantastic long weekend in Bordeaux recently and spent a day touring vineyards with Caroline of Bordeaux Uncorked.
It felt like the obligatory thing to do (when in Rome, etc) but the wealth of local knowledge and personal service provided by Caroline really made the whole trip for us. I don't think we would have had access to many of the vineyards on our own and having Caroline greeted everywhere by first name made us feel like we were visiting old friends, with very impressive chateaux and wine cellars!
Highlights of the trip: Chateau Figeac and it's ancient cellars. Also recommend lunch in the courtyard at L'Envers du Décor in Saint Emilion.
In Bordeaux itself, pay a visit to Max Bordeaux - a must if you love wine but restricted by budget. Here you can taste some of the most expensive wines by the (small) glass. Taste the liquid gold of Chateau Yquem for under €15? Not a problem. Thanks Bordeaux Uncorked!
Bar on the first floor of the Belle Vue with a great view from the terrace if you can get a table there and tapas served with drinks.
Le Bistrot a Vin
Simple, good Provencal food paired with fantastic wine selections at a very reasonable price.
La Côte de Boeuf
Steakhouse with an amazing wine cellar.
For the best bouillabaisse in Marseille head to
34 quai du Port 13002 Marseille
+33 4 91 90 36 64
Bistrot a Vin
7 Rue Sainte, 13001 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 54 02 20
La Cote de Boeuf
35 Cours Honoré d'Estienne d'Orves
13001 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 33 00 25
6 Rue Catalans
13007 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 52 64 22
Forget the rush to Futuroscope; these two contrasting centres offer a wonderful focus en route to South West France, the Dordogne or the Loire Valley. The Puy du Fou is an exciting, informative, historical kind of a theme park, where you can wander into a show in the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre, complete with its lions, then on to the Medieval or 18th century village, the Viking Village or the display of dozens of birds of prey, flying spectacularly over you heads in a castle setting. There are lots more settings, with additions being made each year. The highlight in the evening is the 'cinescenie'. An outdoor theatre gives seating across the lake of the chateau. From here, you are treated to a history of the region, through its villages, told by present-day villagers, including children, exquisite horses and hundreds of farm animals. The show is unforgettable. Two days here are really needed to cover the whole park well. These will be busy, fun and hectic days.
So, what better to follow those days, than a day on the Maris Poitevin, just a little further south. This is a wild area of marshland, which has developed over the past thousand years and is now known as 'Green Venice' , reflecting the green of the willow on the banks of the canals and dykes. You can hire a flat-bottomed rowing boat or take an escorted boat trip. Maps and life jackets are provided, routes are discretely signposted, the banks are lined with wonderful trees, bushes, flowers and occasional sightings of otters and other wild life. Nothing to do but relax and enjoy the gentle lapping of the oars through the still water of the narrow marshland canals. A wonderful start or end to your holiday!
BP25, 85 590 Les Epesses, France
Google map: bit.ly/f1DPm8
The Maris Poitevin is a watery expanse to the west of Niort. The small town of Coulon offers a good base and accommodation.
Google map: bit.ly/herlui
Beynac is a beautiful little village on the banks of the River Dordogne. It has several cafes, restaurants and shops. There are also some great places to hire a canoe from and the best part is they will take you upstream in a minibus and you go with the flow back to the starting point. Last year we hired two canoes and we took two children aged five and seven, and Grandma came too. It really is a great way to spend the day. Once you get back to Beynac, you can enjoy a well earned Kir in the riverside cafe.
Beynac, Dordogne, Aquitaine in France. It is about seven miles from Sarlat and 30 miles to Bergerac, both of which have an airport and cheap regional flights from the UK.
Google map: bit.ly/gQDa2W
As far as I know, British weather doesn't really allow us to have outdoor waterparks like Aqualand but it's worth heading to the continent just for them. In particular, Aqualand St Cyr is a great way to spend a hot summer's day if you want to be away from the chaos of Med beaches. There are rapids, pools of all sorts for over excited kids but also a great creperie and 'espace détente' where parents can rest.
Mas des capellans, 66750 St Cyprien
Google map: bit.ly/dLPDm9
ZAC des Pradeaux
83270 ST CYR SUR MER
tél : 0044 4.94.32.08.32
fax: 0044 184.108.40.206.02
On the way from the UK to Paris, in the department of the Oise, this lovely family theme park is a welcome stop-over if you want to break up your journey. It provides entertainment for the whole family (lots of different rides) and unlike its bigger 'rivals' Eurodisney or Asterix Park, no queues and you can have your own BBQ!
The prizes are very reasonable (under £10 per person) and the food on site is excellent. A grand day out!
60650 Saint Paul,
+33(0)3 44 82 20 16
Google map: bit.ly/eDVb3z
For a really different day out with the family in France I recommend the Puy du Fou historical theme park. It is in the Vendee and easy to get to from the coast or from Paris. We were on holiday on the Ile d'Olleron, another gem of a place, and we travelled early in the morning to spend the whole day there. You need to do that because there is just so much to see and do: a Viking long boat, a huge gladiator battle, dancing falcons and a battle of the keep re-enactment, among other things. The highlight is the cinescene in the evening which features, allegedly the largest stage in the world, with over 1000 locals acting and at least 400 fireworks nightly. The best thing is that our family party ranged from ages eight to 80 and there was something for everyone. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and that is despite the fact that it rained from the moment we got there, until the moment we left, and everything was in French.
I recommend Parc Asterix on the outskirts of Paris, just off Junction 7 of the A1 from Paris to Northern France and Calais. It was the best park we had visited in France, and that includes Disneyland Paris and Futuroscope. My family (two adults, three teenagers) thought it was brilliant - a great selection of rides that covered four different time zones in Asterix’s adventures. The rides vary from gentle to the terrifying (with lots of choice in between) and there lots of shows and animations too. The cafes are good, and there are shady places for picnics as well. It was quite easy to walk around – not too huge. We used Tesco vouchers for advance entry which helped our holiday budget, and have been twice now (2007 and 2009). Our accommodation was at a nearby Novotel (there are other chain hotels in the area) but there is public transport from Paris. For us it was a good couple of days on the end of our holiday, but could make a good mini break if you live in the south of England.
This is a truly beautiful park, which can be accessed from the Metro station Porte Maillot by a little eco land train. The park has a huge range of attractions, but these were our favourites: loads of animals (check out the huge bears and talking mynah -repeated our Brummie 'hello!'), relaxing boat ride, water park with huge flower showers, hall of mirrors and my favourite: carousel horses that move along a track like in Mary Poppins! Something for all ages and very reasonable. Take your own picnic though, as the cafe gets busy and is overpriced.
Aven Armand is the cave that you've always hoped to visit, cathedral sized with huge multicoloured stalactites and stalagmites and a romantic story of discovery.There's a steep train ride to get in and a tour that managed to appeal to children of different ages. Cafe and space to run around outside.
Aven Armand, 48150 Hures-la-Parade, France
+33 4 66 45 61 31
Between Meyrueis and Sainte Enimie
Google map: bit.ly/h4eqgA
From Marseille the seacliffs around the coast - Les Calanques - are easily reached by metro and bus and some minutes of walking. Here you can go for long walks and you will find some of the best sports climbing in all of Europe. The routes are generally very well protected. During midsummer walking and climbing is forbidden, but during spring and in the autumn the Calanques are open. The scenery is beautiful with white cliffs and a clear blue sea. The young Joseph Conrad left the old port of Marseille on his first ship.
Google map: bit.ly/edF0al
If you want to be in on the local secrets of Marseille then you need to check out 'My Little Marseille', it is up to the minute, latest tips on food, fashion, chilling out, partying, shopping, pampering and lots more.
I get an update every week with tips on everything from Tom the resident Rasta tailor who will turn your chosen fabric into a stylish dress (and drives a rastafarian inspired London cab) to where to go for a fish pedicure (thats little fish nibbling your feet, a massage and exfoliation treatment all in one).
Its in french sorry, but better than any printed guide book by a mile! Even if you don't read french, its only a google translate away to discover these excellent recommended secrets of Marseille.
Just 45 minutes from Paris, La Mer de Sable is a great escape from the capital city.
Built on an incredible geological site - a perfectly natural expanse of sand - it was France's first theme park when it opened in 1963 but has truly survived the test of time. The best bit? No queues, cheap prices (14.90 EUR/day) and free parking.
Three years on, our granddaughter (now 11) has not forgotten her visit to this spectacular cave, home to the world's largest known stalagmite which throughout its 30 metres shines and sparkles like a diamond. Descent into the cave, more than 100m underground, is by a funicular railway. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides take you through what appears to be a forest of over 400 stalagmites which can be admired in ever changing light effects. It is a vast and unique fairy tale cave capable of containing the entire Cathedral of Notre dame in Paris.
Aven Armand 48150 Hures-la-Parade, France
+33 4 66 45 61 31
Is in Cevennes National Park in the Lozere dept between Meyrueis and St.Enimie
Google map: bit.ly/ep7sHR
Last summer in early July my 11-year-old son and I spent a week in Paris. Apart from the exhilaration at the top of the Eiffel Tower and the flypast on the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day, an unexpected highlight was the Parc Floral on a hot sunny day with water lillies to astound and impress even a pre-teen and the Mini-Golf des Monuments de Paris -some already visited and some yet to be seen- with not another tourist in sight.
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