Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Win Tickets to the Scottish Caravan Motorhome & Holiday Home Show

The Scottish Caravan Motorhome & Holiday Home Show will once again be held at the SECC, Glasgow and will run from Thursday 7th - Sunday 10th February 2013.

We had two winners in our competition, Mrs Weadon and Mrs P. who each received a pair of tickets to this excellent show. (Closing Date was the 30th January 2013)






This year’s show is bigger and better than ever, with over 150 companies showcasing the very latest caravans, motorhomes and accessories – including the full range of caravans from the new manufacturer Eterniti and for the first time a full stand of Hymer Motorhomes. On show will be a phenomenal selection of holiday homes and luxury lodges from UK’s leading suppliers, available with outstanding offers and discounts exclusive to visitors of the show. The collection is the widest in the UK and is a sight not to be missed!

Once again the show will take over all five halls of the SECC and for the first time ever have one Hall dedicated to accessories and awnings, with a brand new Borders Leisure Accessory Superstore, showcasing the latest accessories from the leading suppliers. Visitors will once again be able to learn some useful techniques from the experts at our Caravan and Motor Caravan Manoeuvring Lessons courtesy of The Caravan Club. Visitors will be able to have a go at caravan towing or motor caravan manoeuvring at our outside track, whether for the first time or as a refresher, in 20 minute taster sessions. Please remember to bring your drivers licence to participate.

Keep up to date with the latest news and special offers on the show website at www.caravanshowscotland.com and also to find out information regarding our family friendly features and attractions.  Advance tickets* are on sale now and are available until 5th February 2013. To book visit www.caravanshowscotland.com or call the ticket hotline on 0844 395 4000.

To find out more about this year’s exhibition follow the show on Twitter @Caravanshowsecc or visit  facebook/CaravanShowScotland.

* Advance tickets subject to booking fee.


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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas Competition - Win a Year's Subscription to France Magazine


Our competition to Win a Year's subscription to the excellent "France" magazine is now Closed. Congratulations to our winner Mr M. Coupar.

However see below for a great offer if you would like to try France magazine. The popular "France" magazine is published monthly and has some great articles about different towns and regions of France as well as articles about French culture, travel, language and food and wine !
________________________________________

France magazine is a great read for anyone planning a holiday in France or for all those Francophiles who enjoy French culture !

A year's subscription at £30.99 (see below) would also make a fantastic Christmas present - you could package up the magazine subscription with some French chocolates and a bottle of wine !

In the meantime, if you would like to try the magazine, they are offering this great trial subscription deal :
Try 5 issues of FRANCE Magazine for just £5 – SAVING 75% by Direct Debit   What’s the catch? There isn’t one!
You can cancel your subscription at any time after the first payment has been taken. Alternatively, you can subscribe for a year’s subscription with a one off payment of just £30.99, saving 30% on the full cover price. To try FRANCE Magazine for just £5 [click here] link; http://www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/France-Magazines/France-Magazine/UFRBFCS1

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Christmas Markets


This is the time of year for continental Christmas markets !  If you can't make it to France or Germany this year then why not get a flavour of these markets by visiting one of the ones running in the UK.

These Christmas markets were first revived in Lincoln, where a Christmas market has been running for over 25 years.


Other good ones to visit are in Glasgow, Hyde Park, Bath, Cirencester, Winchester , Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh etc. They often have continental traders visiting from France, Germany and Italy.


We visited the Continental Christmas market in Glasgow today where we had an excellent lunch from a stall frying a delicious smelling Chicken Provencal of chicken, potatoes and carrots with a side dish of mushroom stroganoff ! Yum !! We just couldn't walk past !





We also and had a look at some of the unusual crafts and delicious baking for sale, including breads from France and chocolates from Italy ! Traders from France and Italy were there alongside some UK traders !



These markets are a great place to go for some craft gifts or unusual presents for Christmas. Or just to soak up that continental atmosphere.
There are some great Christmas markets in France, including in Lille and Paris which can be visiting via Eurostar.

Also in Amiens, which has the largest Christmas market in the North of France, as well as Mulhouse, Caen, Arras and Strasbourg.

Those in the Alsace region of France tend to have a German flavour to them, owing to their proximity to the German border.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Its French Film Festival Time Again !

Find out where you can watch some great French films at cinemas all over the UK -
http://frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/FFF2012/wp/

This has been a great year for French film, with Jean du Jardin winning Best Actor at the Oscars for his role in The Artist, which won the Best Picture award.  And the film Hugo, which was set in Paris, also picked up some awards. 

Another great film from this year is "Untouchables", which tells of the friendship between a quadriplegic and his caregiver, and registered more than ten million at the box office in France in its first four weeks of release. It has thus been placed 27th in France since 1945 for box office numbers during its first four weeks. Among French films to have exceeded ten million admissions in France over the past 50 years include "Welcome to the Sticks" ("Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis") Dany Boon (2008, 20.4 million viewers), "The Great Ramble" ("La Grande Vadrouille"), the classic comedy/war film by Gerard Oury (1966), "Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra" by Alain Chabat (2002) and "The Visitors" by Jean-Marie Poire (1993). For the latest news about "Untouchables" : http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/sep/19/france-untouchable-foreign-language-oscar

Let us know if you have any great recommendations or reviews of any of the films you go to see !

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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Self Catering in France

A Self Catering holiday is a fantastic way to enjoy a relaxing holiday in France. No deadlines, no set dinner times. You choose your own timetables - its a holiday after all !

Some great self catering holiday options include :
  • rent a villa, for example a Gite or,
  • stay in a mobile home or tent on a campsite
  • stay in something more unusual like a treehouse or a gypsy caravan
  • or tour around in a motorhome (you can buy one or rent one !) 
  • or why not try youth hostelling !
Self catering allows you to stay in beautiful locations and sample a slice of real French life, whether you chose to stay in a small rural hamlet or in a large beach or mountain resort.

So what are the options ?

Gîtes
The term gîte originally meant quite simply a form of shelter. Gîtes today vary from being luxury holiday homes to very basic apartments. The owners very often stay nearby.
There are a number of classes of gîte, including "Gîte Rural", self-catering accomodation in the countrysde, near the sea or in the mountains and "Gîtes d'Etape" which useful for an overnight stopover








Campsites

Campsites in France are rated according to facilities. So for example a 5 star campsite might have a swimming pool, shop and a good number of other facilities. It is not necessarily going to be better than, for example, a more simple 2 star campsite with friendly owners, but the 2 star site is likely to have fewer facilities. So it all depends what you are looking for.

On a first expedition to France for a family holiday then it is definitely an easy option to book with a tour operator such as Eurocamp or Canvas Holidays. They will book your ferry travel for you and on arrival at the campsite you are often met by an English speaking rep, so if your French language abilities are needing a bit of extra help then this can be reassuring to know there is an English speaker close by.


Motorhome

However you may then become more adventurous and want to explore different areas of France or even go touring with a motorhome. In that case you will probably want to try a variety of campsites. Many towns and villages in France also have stopping off points, called Aires, where you are perhaps allowed to park your mobile home overnight.

We have seen some great car parks where you can park up overnight in your mobile home and enjoy a sea view. For example at Tahiti Plage in Nevez in Brittany.

The sign to the right was taken from near Roscoff in Brittany and it is directing Motorhome owners, or "camping caristes" to the nearest Aire de Service where they will find water and facilities for emptying their tanks and parking overnight.


Youth Hostelling - Auberges de Jeunesse

In 1930, Marc Sangnier, co-founder of the Fédération Internationale des Auberges de Jeunesse (I.Y.H.F.) th hostel in France. He was inspired by a similar German movement 11 by Richard Schirmann.
In France they are open to young people, group and to families.
They offer reasonably priced accommodation, a convivial atmosphere and the chance to get to know others while cooking in the communal kitchens or enjoying some of the activities on offer. You may also have to join in some household cleaning duties, which are an important part of the whole ethos of the youth hostelling movement ! Everyone needs to participate to keep things going smoothly !

At one time there were over 400 Youth Hostels in France. Today only 200 remain. Youth Hostels are non profit associations. Therefore you need to get a membership from the Youth Hostel federation in your own country or by any Youth Hostel of the country you plan to visit. Memberships are usually valid for 1 year and give access to any Youth Hostel in France and worldwide.
Accommodation is often in dormotories but there are also options to stay in individual rooms and family rooms. You just need to check what is offered at each youth hostel when booking. Although they are generally self catering, some youth hostels offer breakfasts or meals. You usually have to take your own sheet or hire one and before you leave you should leave the room as you found it by folding your blanket, hoovering your sleeping space, empty the bin, and taking the sheets back to the reception.
So travel light, put on your rucsac and head off to wherever you want !

And self catering holidays definitely seem to be becoming more popular in France, both from French customers themselves and with visitors to France.

2011 saw a record number of holidaymakers staying in camping and mobile homes in France, with 106.8 million overnight stays, according to a survey by the services of the Secretary of State for tourism, Frédéric Lefebvre.

Campsites and mobile homes recorded an increase of 2.8% from 2010 attendance. It has become even more popular with the French who showed an increase of 4.1% while foreign customers had stayed roughly the same at an increase of only 0.4%.
Campsites on the Mediterranean coast recorded the greatest increase at 5.1% while those on the English Channel and North sea only had an increse of 1.3%.  4-5 star campsites showed a large increase of 14.3 %

Other interesting possible self catering holidays include youth hostels, the huttopia group of sites or centerparcs. There are also numerous companies offering villa holidays in villas that are privately owned. The Pierre et Vacances group also has interesting self catering apartments among other options.  They have quite a few of the places which are rented out in the Alps in Winter for ski-ing but are available in the summer for a fantastic Alpine holiday offering all sorts of activities such as walking, climbing etc. Pierre et Vacances is the european leader in holiday apartments and villages in France and Spain!


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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"What am I bid for the Eiffel Tower ?" "Do I hear £300 billion ?!"

Only joking ! Can you guess which is Europe's most visited entrance paying monument, attracting no fewer than 8 million tourists each year ? Yes you've got it, the Eiffel Tower ! And now it has also been declared "the most valuable monument in Europe" as it is worth an estimated £344billion to France’s economy, with regards to numbers of visitors and numbers of jobs created etc as well as tourism and image and brand value for a country. The basic costs of the monuments or buildings and the land they are built on was not taken into account. (findings of a study by Monza and Brianza Chamber of Commerce in Italy.)

The next most valuable European attractions are Rome's Colosseum and then the Tower of London !

Eiffel Tower statistics -
  • It is 320m (1,050ft) high. 
  • It was built in 1889 at a cost of 8 million francs which is around £30 million today.
  • It is named after engineer Gustave Eiffel whose company designed it.
  • It took around 2 years to build.
  • It was built as a symbol for the Universal Exhibition of 1889.
  • It was the tallest monument in the world until New York’s Chrysler Building in 1930.
  • It is the most visited attraction in Europe.
  • When the temperature is very high, the height of the Tower can increase by up to 18 cm.
  • Wind can cause the tower to move sideways - the maximum recorded was a sideways move of 9 cms during the December 1999 storm (don't worry its built to withstand this !).
  • Gustave Eiffel also designed and built the framework for Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty which now stands at the entrance of New York's harbour.
If you would like to plan a visit to the Eiffel Tower you can visit the official website at : http://www.eiffel-tower.com/

There is also a new Children's Discovery Course on Level 1 of the Tower which will help children answer the questions that are published in their excellent Booklet that is given out to Children - http://www.eiffel-tower.com/images/PDF/enfants/livret.pdf

If you would like to stay in a campsite in or near Paris, we have a selection at Best French Campsites at http://www.bestfrenchcampsites.com
 
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Monday, 23 July 2012

Camping in Northern Western Brittany

We had a recent camping holiday in the North Western area of Brittany - the area is called Finistère (Finis - Terre - or "end of the world"). Just like Lands End in Cornwall ! 

It is an area of coves and inlets and lovely white beaches. We had chosen to go to this area as it was our first expedition to France with our dog and we didnt want to take her to an area where temperatures would be too high. Mind you with Summer 2012 I think we would have been safe to go anywhere ! We had visited this area in the past and were looking forward to exploring it again. In fact we didn't travel very far and enjoyed numerous dog walks and coastal walks around Carantec, Roscoff and on the Ile de Batz and Ile Caillot.

Carantec
Carantec has at least two lovely sandy beaches including the Plage du Kelenn main beach, which has some pizza/creperie restaurants overlooqking it. if the tide is in, and you are brave enough then you can dive in from the diving board into the clear blue sea.

You can also hire a beach hut, something I have always wanted to do !  There is a sailing school, which runs classes in a weekly basis during the main French school holiday period, early July to late August. Children can learn to sail a dinghy or a catamaran. If you want to take advantage of this, it is probably better to book in advance as it can get booked up for certain weeks.  A market takes place in Carantec each Thursday morning and has some excellent local produce from the local organic farm as well as some great fish and shellfish that has been caught locally. To get around during the French school holidays (early July and August), a free bus service runs in the town.

A campsite we recommend in this area is Les Mouettes : www.bestfrenchcampsites.com/carantec.carantec.html

The GR34 coastal walk goes around the Carantec coast, along the cliffs, past the beaches and beautiful holiday houses and then on past the oyster farms and the Prat Ar-Coum oyster and seafood sellers.

Ile Caillot
A more adventurous day out from Carantec is to make the crossing to Ile Caillot, an island which is cut off by the tide except for two to three hours at low tide.  The causeway at Low tide is shown in this photograph :


Ile Caillot has a small chapel and some lovely beaches. However if you are going to make the crossing please ensure you have the tide times or preferably go on an organised walk ! The tide times are displayed at the start of the causeway.

Roscoff
The granite walls of Roscoff have stood here for centuries, welcoming seafarers. It was at this port that the young Marie Stuart arrived at the age of 6 to become Queen of Scotland and France. You may recognise her more commonly as " Mary Queen of Scots"! We ate in the lovely Marie Stuart restaurant, which you will find near the seafront.  The fishing harbour is backed by some streets with lovely shops and restaurants. You can take a ferry to the lovely Island of Ile de batz. The main ferry port for the Brittany ferries ships is set slightly round from the fishing port and pier at the more modern ferry terminal and the new marina that opened in 2012.

Ile de Batz
Take the ferry to this island from Roscoff. The island has some lovely beaches, houses and farms where you will see onions growing and the potatoes which are hand picked in the fields. The ferry service runs half hourly during the summer months and you can hire a bike once you are on the island. There are some creperies and cafes on the island. The ferry takes dogs.

Morlaix
About five miles from the open sea, at the head of the winding river Morlaix, you will find the ancient, medieval town of Morlaix, which is dominated by the high and dramatic viaduct which arches over the town.. It has a marina that is in a locked basin. There are cobbled streets, boats and yachts, numerous shops, half timbered houses, cafes etc. which all make an interesting day out. You can walk over the viaduct (not right along the top, about half way up there is a perfectly safe walkway). Our favourite shop here is the patisserie which we found listed in the petit fute.

St Pol de Leon
This is a very nice town based around the cathedral. Our favourite shop here is the bookshop "Livres in Room" which has a good selection of books, as well as a small section of English books. However,what sets it apart from a normal bookshop is the lovely Salon de the serving all sorts of teas, (coffees, chocolate and juice too!) as well as lovely cakes and flans. You can sit out in the tea garden as well.

Voies vertes
There is a voie verte green cycle route which runs between Morlaix and Roscoff. It is part of a wider network of routes. However, the section which can be joined fairly near the Les Mouettes campsite and runs to Roscoff (about 11 miles ?) is apparently off road on an old railway route. The weather was too wet the day we planned to try this. However we had seen the sign for it at the road very near to the entrance to a campsite and a shop selling local produce. However please take care as this is a very fast road to cross. From Morlaix, you can join the route if you park the car adjacent to the yacht marina/harbour and you wil see signs to join the route about 500metres downriver from the viaduct.

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Walks and Footpaths in France

On our recent camping holiday to Brittany we walked some of the Breton coastal footpath GR34. This was a well laid out, easy to follow stretch of footpath which offered great coastal views.


The Breton coastline of sea inlets, coves and cliffs is particularly stunning and makes for interesting walking.  The whole GR34 route would take you over 1000 miles right around the coast of Brittany and is predicted to take about 10 weeks, but thankfully you can chose to walk just part of the way !
Depending on where you are holidaying in France, you can see if there are any routes near you.

France has a national network of long-distance footpaths or hiking trails, which are known as "Sentiers de grande randonnée". The 35,000 km of marked and signposted footpaths that make up the main network are designated by the letters GR followed by a number. More locally, you will find local hiking routes which are designated as PR paths or "Chemins de petite randonnée".
GR routes are marked (on trees, posts, stones, etc) by a short red band above a white band. PR routes are marked with a yellow band. If you see the marks making a cross shape then you have veered off onto the wrong route !

Most of the major long-distance trails run through villages so if you are hiking the whole route, then you will be able to plan for overnight stops in accommodation such as bed and breakfasts, "gîtes d'étape" (rather like small hostels), campsites or small hotels.

Examples of some of the long distance hiking trails include :

GR2 - From Le Havre, via Paris, to Dijon.
GR3 - The Loire Valley trail - From La Baule, to the source of the Loire
GR4 - The Alps-Atlantic trail: from Grasse, in the Alps, to Royan, on the Gironde estuary.
GR6 - The Aquitaine-Alps trail, from Ste. Foy la Grande, near Bordeaux, to Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye.
GR10 - The High Pyrenean trail, following the line of the Spanish border.
GR 34 - The Breton coastal footpath, from Vitré to Quimperlé.
GR 36 - The 1000 kilometre trail, from the Channel coast to the Spanish border.
GR 37 - The central Brittany footpath, from Vitré to Douarnenez.
GR 39 - The Trans-Brittany trail, from Mont St. Michel to Guérande.
GR 51 - The Mediterranean Balcony - from Marseille to Menton
GR 59 - The Jura and Bugey trail, from the Vosges to Grenoble.
GR 65 - The Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route, from Le Puy en Velay, via Conques, to the Pyrenees.
GR 2013 ® - A Brand new walking path laid out from Aix en Provence as part of the events surrounding Marseille as a European Capital of Culture for 2013
GR 223 - The Cotentin and Normandy beaches trail.
GR 700 - Regordane Way - historic pilgrimage route from Le Puy en Velay to St. Gilles du Gard.


Some Useful links :

http://www.ffrandonnee.fr/ - The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre is an excellent source of information about hiking and walks in France. The Federation represents over 3,000 local hiking clubs and aims to promote hiking.

Understanding the markings on these walking routes : http://www.tonyturton.com/articles/balises/

Fab interactive map of walking routes and veloroutes etc. in Brittany : http://www.randobreizh.com/CarteInteractiveRandonneesBretagne.php

Link to the new Marseille/Aix en Provence/Provence route the GR 2013 ®
http://www.bouches-du-rhone.net/les-sentiers-les-topoguides/gr-2013/

To find a map of walks in the area of France you are going then you can search on Amazon, starting with "carte de randonnees" and you should begin to find some maps.

Plesae let us know if you have any other links which walkers would find useful and which we could list here !

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Paws in France - taking a dog to France

We are just back from a camping holiday in Brittany in France and this time we took our dog with us!  It all went pretty smoothly!  Although, I must admit there was more planning went into making sure we had the dog organised than there was for making sure the rest of us were organised !  However it all went well and we enjoyed our holiday.

We had booked a fast ferry sailing from Poole on the South coast of England. As it was an early morning sailing involving a 6am check-in, we decided to stay overnight in Poole. We couldn't stay at our usual (budget family travel !) hotel, the lovely Holes Bay Premier Inn as they don't take dogs. However we found another couple of options, the Thistle Hotel and the Salterns Hotel. We chose to stay at the Salterns Hotel and it was a great choice. Here is the view from the room :

We had to leave the hotel at 5.30 to get to the ferry on time but look at this fabulous Continental breakfast which was delivered to our room. What a great start to a day !


We had decided to travel by the Brittany Ferries/Condor Ferries crossing from Poole to Cherbourg as it is a Fast Ferry crossing of round about 2.5 hours. (It also has a very nice gift shop on board with lots of lovely perfumes !!) 

Our Pet Passport was checked along with our own and the microchip was read with a microchip reader at this stage. They then placed a "Pet on Board" sign on our windscreen. I had read beforehand that we would be placed together with other pet carrying cars in a ventilated area and in theory if it is a smooth crossing they might agree to accompany you down to check your pet. However on both journeys we made I cant say I noticed us being treated any differently to other cars. We left all our windows open a couple of inches to ventilate the car, and certainly we werent crossing on warm days and the car was sitting in a shaded spot. Both our crossings were slightly "wavy" and as all the staff seeemed pretty busy, we didn't actually ask to go to check her. (although as I will explain our return crossing ended up longer than expected)

Anyway, the outward crossing went well and she was perfectly happy when we returned to the car.

We then journeyed to our campsite Book a Holiday at Les Mouettes Campsite with Eurocampat Carantec in Brittany (this is an affiliate marketing link).
En route (that's French !) we were able to stop at some motorway "stopover aires" - open spaces with toilet areas and grassy picnic areas - ideal for a quick dog exercise and toilet stop.

Here she is settled in at the campsite !

The campsite was pretty good for dogs - we had chosen to have decking at our mobile home and we had requested a stair gate which we were able to put across the entrance to the decking. We had asked to be put in a fairly out of the way spot to avoid too many passing people. 

Dogs are not generally allowed on tourist beaches in France, but near this campsite there was a small beach and country road area and as it wasn't apparently classed officially as a proper "tourist" beach then dogs could be exercised on it. Obviously we took her to the far end well away from holidaymakers at the end nearer the campsite. However this walk made a nice end to the evening each day. And on the campsite itself, dogs were made welcome. She was able to sit with us in the bar or on the terrace. She was well behaved and sat quietly. There were a few other dogs on the campsite and we met those as well, including two lovely French Shetland Sheepdogs - 3 year old Nina and her 1 year old toyboy husband !
We were even able to take her into a restaurant in nearby Roscoff at one point - the excellent Marie Stuart Restaurant in Roscoff (named after Mary Queen of Scotland and France who left from Roscoff as a young girl).  I don't know how widespread this would be but certainly when the weather is sunny there should be no problem sitting in pavement cafes.

There were plenty of walks around Carantec. There is a coastal path which goes right around the town and in fact the whole peninsula and this offers some lovely views. On another day we took the short ferry crossing from Roscoff to Ile de Batz and again that is great for walking dogs.

If you enjoy cycling with your dog, there is a stretch of Voie Verte green cycle route not far from the campsite which takes you into Roscoff (about 11 miles) - I believe it is off-road but as the weather was too mixed when we were on holiday we never got round to trying this.

A Pet Passport requirement is that you must visit the vet between 1 and 5 days before you return to the UK. The vet must give them a tapeworm worming tablet. We had booked beforehand with the Feydy Veterinary Practise in St Pol du Leon, about 5 miles from Les Mouettes campsite. She was given a Milbemax worming tablet, the microchip was scanned and the Pet Passport was stamped. We found them to be a very nice vets practise. Thanks to them !

The only problem in our whole holiday planning came from the fact that we got a message half way through the holiday to say that our return ferry trip had been cancelled due to technical difficulties. Brittany Ferries thankfully moved us to the only other possible crossing from Normandy on the day we were due to travel, which was the other fast ferry crossing from Caen (Ouistreham) to Portsmouth.

Our final campsite stop was at the lovely Chateaux Lez Eaux campsite near St Pair Sur Mer in Normandy (this is an affiliate marketing link). Chateaux Lez Eaux is a lovely campsite in spacious, green grounds. There was an area where they said we could exercise the dog and also the long driveway was fine for a quick morning walk.  We were able to take her into the bar that evening, when there was an excellent Celtic band playing music from the lands of the Celts - Brittany, Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.  Great fun ! The Bar is very nice - cosy and snug. With the weather we had that evening (early summer? 2012), we could have been in the Highlands of Scotland ! 

From Chateaux Les Eaux it is approximately an hours drive to either Caen or Cherbourg Ferry terminals. We had been changed to the Caen (Ouistreham) crossing with the Normandie Express ferry. The crossing was due to be a 3.5 hour crossing but due to the weather, it ended up as a 4 and a quarter hour crossing. So that was definitely the upper limit of how long our dog could possibly spend in a car. However I must admit she had had a good spot of exercise beforehand as we walked her just near the end of the beach at Ouistreham - just round from the ferry terminus, and she had also got out while we were waiting for the ferry so she had had chances to stretch her legs before the trip.

Here is a sign from the Ouistreham beach, this sign says the beach (la plage) does not allow our doggy friends (est interdite a nos amis les chiens) even if they are on leads ! (meme tenus en laisse) - except on the small eastern area of the beach (la partie EST)

We made sure she would be comfortable in the car by leaving plenty of water on board and we didn't feed her beforehand just in case she was sick on the crossing. This worked fine for us as she is not normally fed until lunchtime anyway so her meal was just a little later than normal. In fact she was fine when we returned to the car and didnt seem to mind the crossing - unlike a few other members of our party ! We discovered why these fast ferry crossings have the rather unpleasant nickname "Vomit Comets!"

So overall, it was a successful and enjoyable holiday. For crossing the channel, the simplest option to consider must be the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle service which is only 35 minutes and you can keep your dog with you in your car.

Or take a Dover to Calais crossing which would be a shorter time. However those of us travelling from Scotland, West or SW of England or North of England will probably still find the Poole to Cherbourg crossing to be a good option.

So, overall would we do this again - the answer is YES ! and finally of the two teenagers and one other child and the dog who we had on the trip - who do you think was the easiest to entertain and best behaved ? - yes you got it in one ! - THE DOG !!

Here is an interesting book you might like to try :

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Friday, 22 June 2012

National Parks in France (Parcs Nationaux)

There are currently six national parks in mainland France. These are the Vanoise, Port-Cros, the Pyrénées, the Cévennes, the Ecrins, and the Mercantour. A National Park is a territory which is protected and managed due to its biological diversity, scenic beauty, cultural interest and character. Every year they attract millions of visitors and each park offers spectacular views and incredible biodiversity to visitors.
Why not stay at the Airotel Pyrenees to vsiit the Pyrenees National Park ?
The Cevennes National Natural Park is located over parts of three départements – Lozère, Gard and Ardèche – and two regions, Languedoc-Roussillon and Rhône-Alpes. It is an area of great biodiversity, with more than 2250 species of flora and 2410 species of fauna. It has lower mountains than some of the other national parks, with the main peaks including Mont Lozère (1699m), Mont Aigoual (1567m) and the Causse Méjean. There are valleys with winding rivers of clear waters and hill slopes covered in forests of sweet chestnut and mulberry bushes. The summits of the Cevennes are made up of a succession of plateaux. There are many walking routes, including the "Tour of Cevennes" and it can make an interesting alternative to the more commonly visited areas such as Provence. If you plan to visit, there is an information centre at Florac.

We have attempted to draw a map showing the approximate locations of the different national parks relative to some of our campsites :


The Ecrins National Park is located between Grenoble, Gap and Briançon. It has 740 kilometres of walks and includes peaks like La Meije (3,983 m) and La Grave (3,946 m). You may see chamois, ibexes, marmots and golden eagles while walking ! The Ecrins National Park.

The Mercantour National Park is where you can explore the “Vallée des Merveilles” with its 40,000 prehistoric engravings as well as visiting the largest altitude lake in Europe. You may even catch a glimpse of a Wolf !

The Port-Cros national park stretches between Port-Cros and Bagaud islands and is the first marine European park. The small town of Port-Cros has a castle and an ancient harbour.

La Vanoise National Park was created in 1856 to protect ibexes against the hunters. The ibexes are now numerous but you can expect to see other wildlife like chamois and golden eagles.

The Pyrenees national nature park has high mountain peaks and many high altitude lakes and a rich variety of flora and fauna, including raptors, lynx and the last wild bears in France.  (Is that true ? - have any of you seen a bear there ? Maybe not a good place to pitch a tent !!)

If you like the sound of these areas and enjoy wildlife, walking or scenery then why not book one of our campsites near these areas.

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Vet Vocab - French phrases/words when visiting Veterinaire in France for Pet Passport

If you are like us and are fairly proficient in French but not exactly fluent, and.....you plan to take your dog to France with you on holiday.....then you will require to visit the Vet in France to get your dog (or cat) or rodent - a tapeworm treatment, before you return to the UK.

Here are some useful phrases you might like to use - if you can send us any more good Vet Vocab then please do ! :

Je voudrais prendre un rendezvous pour mon chien/ma chienne avec un vétérinaire pour les exigences du passeport des animaux.

Le transpondeur/la micropuce de mon animal - the pet's microchip

Le numéro d'identification de la puce doit avoir été implantée avant la vaccination contre la rage = the microchip needs to have been implanted (and the identification number recorded) before the vaccination against rabies

Programme de Voyage des Animaux de Compagnie - Pet Travel Scheme.

un test sanguin = a blood test

ticks - rhipicephalus sanguineus  (tick treatment is no longer a requirement of the pet passport - check DEFRA website to be sure of details)
worms - echinococcus multilocularis

Tapeworm treatment must contain praziquantel
Le médicament doit contenir praziquantel.

Votre chien doit être vermifugé (contre l'échinococcose) avant son voyage vers la Grande-Bretagne

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Camping near Blue Flag Beaches in France

Our favourite beach near Nevez which has won again !
The blue flag eco-labelled beach awards have been announced for 2012.

The awards are voluntary but winning beaches are found to have :
  • quality bathing waters,
  • good waste management, and have,
  • made efforts with environmental protection as well as environmental education. 
 Winning Beaches can fly the recognisable blue pendant flag during the summer. 

In France, 377 beaches and 87 marinas have gained an award this year, with 15 new winning beaches this year. New awards have gone to 8 beaches on the Atlantic Coast and one on the English Channel.

Languedoc-Roussillon is still at the top of the labeled regions with 28 communities winning awards, followed by Cote d'Azur with 19, Pays de Loire with 15 and Basse-Normandie  with 15.

Some beaches which were commended for gaining awards for a continuous 25 years are : "Le Grand-Village-Plage" (Charente-Maritime), "Villeneuve-les-Maguelone" (Hérault), "Argelès" (Eastern Pyrenees) and "La Londe-les-Maures" (Var). We have campsites near Argelès on the Mediterranean listed at http://www.bestfrenchcampsites.com

To gain a blue flag award, bathing waters should be found to be classified as "Excellent" when tested at least five times over the season. The results should be displayed on the beaches.

You can check the beaches in France that have won awards at :
http://www.blueflag.org/Menu/Awarded+sites/2011/Northern+Hemisphere/France

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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Brittany - a great destination for a holiday

One of our favourite holiday destinations is Brittany in the North West of France. What does Brittany mean for us ?

Crepes...galettes.....rugged beaches with beautiful white sand...coves and inlets, blue/green seas.... rocks and lighthouses and the ancient Breton language which you see in road signs and place names...granite cottages with colourful hydrangea bushes outside and fishing ports.

The campsites we have visited offer all of these aspects of Brittany and by visiting them all over the years we have learned more about Breton culture and history. But if you are just looking for fun, relaxation and a great holiday by the sea they also offer all of those ! Let us take you on a quick tour ! The following campsites : Le Chatelet and Chateau le Galinee at St Cast or Chateaux des Ormes in the north of Brittany offer a great introduction to Brittany without being too far from some of the main ferry ports.

You can visit the famous tourist attraction of Mont St Michel which is on the border with Normandy on the north coast.

You can also visit the historic walled town of St Malo and learn of its history of pirates or corsaires and also of the history of how it was largely re-built after World War 2 - all very interesting.

And you can enjoy a range of meals or takeaways in the various restaurants inside the walls. Then finish your day with a walk around the ramparts - a total distance of about 2 kms, although you can chose to walk just certain sections of it as there are plenty of exit and entrance points !

There is an interesting aquarium to visit at St Malo as well.

Other locations which make a great holiday include Carnac and its close neighbour Trinite Sur Mer.

You will marvel at the thousands of standing stones that stretch for a couple of miles. What were they for ? Who put them there and how did they manage it ? You might find the answers while you are there !

There are a few interesting museums to visit in Carnac - one lovely one that was founded jointly by a French man and a Scotsman - the Museum of Prehistory (Musée de Préhistoire James Miln-Zacharie Le Rouzic) and also a more modern museum near the Standing Stones, Archaeoscope.

Les Deux Fontaines campsite and Raguenes Plage campsite allow you to visit a quieter and possibly more scenic area of Brittany but with one of the most beautiful beaches, Tahiti Plage ! In that area we enjoyed visiting a lovely old village Kerascoet and also a botanic gardens.

Benodet is a favourite for many and British people have been visiting this resort for about 100 years and there is a flavour of that when you are there. From here you can take a glass bottomed boat so you can view fish on a visit to the beautiful îles Glénan, an archipelago of islands twelve miles out to sea.

Quimper was nice to visit and has a very historic cathedral, as has St Anne d'Auray. I would also recommend a visit to Pont Aven - a beatiful village sitting near the mouth of a river. This village is proclaimed as the Capital of Crepe making ! And we certainly enjoyed a delicious crepe in a restaurant which was previously an old mill sitting on the river. It has also been home to numerous artists over the years and you can visit quite a few art galleries and see if there are any paintings you would like to take home with you. There was art to suit all tastes, from modern to more traditional. And a final favourite in Pont Aven was a lovely glass blowing workshop and shop where you could watch the glass blowers at work and then buy some of their beautiful glassware.

This year we are heading to the North West of Brittany, an area we first visited about 20 years ago. What are your favourite things to visit in Brittany ? Would you recommend a visit to this area or have you other areas of France you would suggest for a visit ?

If you would like to stay at some of the great campsites we stayed at in Brittany then we have listed them on our websites at www.bestfrenchcampsites.com

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Learning French - Using Online Resources

There are so many fantastic online resources to help you learn French. The French TV Channel TV5 provide this learning resource to help us learn French. It has examples of useful language to use for Greetings, Hobbies, Housing and Meals : Click Here

RFI have lots of interesting online articles/news for learning French, including a "News in Simple French" which you can listen to and there is also a translation so this is a great way to keep your French vocabulary completely up-to-date with current issues : http://www.rfi.fr/lfen/statiques/accueil.asp

The famous French dictionary LaRousse provides French words but also typical examples of usage and you can even listen in to what is should sound like with "soundbites" of French speakers using the words. http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english There is also a version to download for your iphone via itunes !

And of course there is the good old BBC ! They have some great language learning resources online at : http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Top 10 Board Games and Card Games to Take on a Camping Holiday

A camping holiday is the ideal time to create some special memories and spend some family time or time with friends playing some of these excellent board games and card games. I am not going to mention Cluedo, Chess, Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit as you are probably familiar with them but instead am going to mention some slightly different games which we have enjoyed. If you can suggest others which we should try please add your comments - who knows they might overtake some of the ones we have put in our top 10 ! :

So here are the Best French Campsites Top 10 games :

1    Timeline was a new game to us but it is the simplest idea and can lead to a great game - it consists of some beautifully drawn cards featuring inventions and discoveries and your task is to place them in the order that they were invented.
You are given 5 cards and all you have to do is place them correctly ! A simple idea but you will find it is not quite as easy as you might think !  Probably best for age 10 up but is suitable also as a game for grown ups. And it can last approximately 15 minutes so great as an "after dinner" game :

2 Carcassonne

This is a great game and is set in France around the mediaeval walled city of Carcassonne ! You buy the basic game and you can also then buy expansions if you enjoy it.
3 Settlers of Catan

An award winning game. The board game The Settlers of Catan came out in Germany in 1995 and that same year it was awarded the prestigious title “Spiel des Jahres” (“Game of the Year“). In 1996, the game was published in the US, where it also was awarded the title “Game of the Year.” The Board Game is the classic game for everyone, The Rivals for Catan is an ideal game for two game enthusiasts, the Dice Game is entertaining and fun to play. You can continue your exploration on Catan with Catan Adventures, Seafarers, Histories, Geographies as well as Catan in Space
The Catan Card Game, published in 1996, is an exciting challenge for all those who like playing in pairs. In 1997, the Card Game was among the finalists for the prestigious German “Spiel des Jahres” award. The Dice Game “The Settlers of Catan” was published in 2007. It is ideal for travel.

         

Who What Where

This is great fun. A variation on Pictionary. You have to pick out three cards and draw the person, place and thing that you have chosen. It makes for hilarious drawings and gets everyone involved. Again its a simple idea and can be played by all the family. There is a version for aged 12+ and a Junior Version for age 7+. If you have an even younger member of your group then why not just create some cards for them separately so that they can join in ? They could maybe just draw one or two things to keep it a bit simpler for them :

 

Othello
An interesting strategy game where the aim is to turn your opponents counters over to your colour and claim the board in your colour.
Here are two travel versions of this classic game :



6 Ticket to Ride



If you have always had a desire to run a railway or you have some train spotters in the family then Ticket to Ride could be the game for you ! It was an International Gamer Award winner in 2005 in the category of General Strategy - Multiplayer. It was also nominated in 2005 Vienna Game Academy selection and was the 2006 Family Game of The Year in Norway. Its for 2-5 Players and takes about 30 to 60 minutes to play.

7 Romans

This game is very good if you have an interest in Romans or are studying them at school as you need to answer some questions about them in order to your empire ! But dont worry, even if you are not a history buff, you can still enjoy this game and most of the questions are of a multiple choice variety so you are still in with a chance of winning ! I see there is an Egyptian version too so I imagine it is much the same but we haven't played that yet :

 

8 Labyrinth

This game is one of our favourites on holiday. We have always borrowed it from the ones available to borrow from the Eurocamp caravan.



Last Night on Earth 
A board game which might get the teenagers and online gaming addicts joining in. You can either join the Heroes team or the Zombies team and it even comes with a soundtrack ! People will wonder what on earth is going on in your tent with this one !!


10 Cleudo - World of Harry Potter

I do love the original Cleudo with Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum ! However I can see how the game lends itself really well to being redesigned as Hogwarts Castle for Harry Potter, complete with Floo Powder to let you travel across the board instead of underground tunnels ! So this would be ideal if you have Harry Potter fans in the family !



Well that is our list of top 10. I have thought of many others as I was writing this list and found one called Dominion that I would like to try:

 

Another thing we really enjoyed doing one year was to create our own games. You will get all sorts of creativity going on and it kept the kids busy for ages ! So take some pencils and paper with you - always a good idea ! And now I'm in the mood for board games - I've just bought Taboo Junior from Amazon.fr so we can keep up the task of learning French ! Even if it is at a junior level ! And now I've just remembered another game thats great for young children - Shopping List in French "Les Courses a Faire" - a memory game - see who can fill their shopping trolley first ! And it features French products such as baguettes, fromage and croissants - so its a great way to learn French !
 

And just in case you still want to stick with the old classics then here are some links to them :


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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dont worry about missing this Summer of Sport while Camping in France !

If you are worried about missing the major televised International Sports Event this summer (25th July - 12th August) while you are on your French Camping holiday, then dont worry any more. The following campsites are just some of the ones which Keycamp and Eurocamp go to which will be catering for a summer of sport !

This is a selection of some of the campsites which Eurocamp and Keycamp go to and which will show the Event on Big Screen television :

Le Ranc Davaine (in Auvergne or Ardeche) ,
La Bugue (St Avit Loisirs) in the Dordogne,
Le Vieux Port in Gascony, Domaine de Chalain in the Jura , Club Farret, Domaine de Massereau and Les Sablons in Languedoc
Esterel on the Riviera
La Pointe St Gilles, Les Deux Fontaines and La Grande Métairie in Brittany

In addition, some of the children's clubs will offer a Mini Sports activities and some of the sites are even getting adults involved with the entertainments - so if sport is your thing you should have a fantastic summer !

Keycamp and Eurocamp are offering a two hour Fun Sports session per week as part of their Children's Clubs and these sesssions which will aim offer a combination of traditional events such as Javelin, Hammer, Discus, Shot, Long jump, Relay race and Short individual race as well as fun events as well such as bean bag races and obstacle courses.

For more details of all of this please check the Eurocamp and Keycamp websites :

          

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Friday, 6 April 2012

Win a Family Set of Tickets for the Caravan & Motorhome Show, Chepstow, Wales

We have a family set of 6 tickets to give away to the Caravan & Motorhome Show at Chepstow Racecourse, Wales

The show runs from Friday 20th April to Sunday 22nd April 2012 and is a great chance to have a look round the latest models of caravans and motorhomes. If you are thinking of buying a motorhome or caravan then nothing beats actually sitting in one to get an idea of the space and equipment they contain. Much more sensible than looking at a diagram !

Its also a chance to buy accessories and see all that is new in gadgets and gizmos, so its useful for tent campers too !

In addition there may be a chance to buy second hand motorhomes and caravans.
If you would like to enter then please add a comment to this blogpost. Good luck !

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Monday, 2 April 2012

Fun Tents - VW Camper Vans and Kennels !

Here are some really fun tents to take camping.
First we have the VW campervan tent !

Ideal for you to indulge that inner hippy on the festival circuit or else to attract loads of attention on the campsite !

And much cheaper than buying the real thing !





And if you are taking the family dog on holiday then why not get them their own kennel tent !




This is fun and gives the dog their own retreat but just watch out as tents do heat up in the sun and you don't want to overheat poor Rover/Fido/Buster/Tyson or whatever they are called ! (Why do boy dogs get all the good names ?) 

Last year when we took our dog camping, during the day when she wanted a snooze in the heat of the midday sun, we used a windbreak to give her shade and put the dog cage lying behind it so that our dog had some shade but also a breeze to keep them cool. And that was just in Cornwall ! This year we are trying the North of France so hope she enjoys that !

And to keep kids cool and out of direct sunlight on the beach, a beach tent shelter is a great idea. Here's a fun shark one. How many times will "Jaws" be mentioned if you take this on holiday !


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Friday, 30 March 2012

Books for Teenagers on Holiday in France

How to keep teenagers amused on holiday ? Why not start stocking up now on some great summer reads. It can be difficult to find any books that teenage boys will love and its difficult to find something a bit different for girls to read. Well here are some books to hook them. Code Name Verity - a book for anyone really but if its being read by teenage girls then they can finally have a heroine to look up to. Here is a link to the traditional book and the e-book :

                                         

And here are some favourites which boys will enjoy and I suspect girls will too :
The Gone Series by Michael Grant :

                                       

Hunger Games - the book of the film that is out at the moment :

                                      

The Name of this Book is Secret - first book of a series by "Pseudonymous Bosch" - a humorous series for younger teenagers.

                                      

A book about a 14 year old lawyer Theodore Boone from the Classic storyteller John Grisham.

                                      

And a big favourite certainly with teenage boys is the Cherub series. What a hit this series has become and the author has an interesting story to tell. He decided to write a book for his nephew as there seemed to be no decent books around for boys to enjoy. Well he's certainly managed it with this series. Every teenage boy I know who has read this series has become addicted to it, although I must warn you that you might want to check the content of some of the later ones.
                                     

So now you dont need to worry. Never again on a camping holiday will you hear the refrain : "I'm bored, there's nothing to do !"

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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Puy du Fou voted Best Theme Park in the World !

Tbe French theme Park Puy du Fou has been voted "Best Theme Park in the World" at the Thea Award Ceremony of the "International Asssociation of Amusement Parks and Attractions" in Los Angeles.
The Vendée park, between La-Roche-sur-Yon and Angers, was chosen ahead of 700 parks and shows in 40 countries to receive the Thea Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles. This fantastic historical theme park tells the history of the Vendeen region through a series of arena shows where visitors can watch performances starring Roman gladiators, swashbuckling musketeers, marauding Vikings and fantastic swooping birds.
We all had a different favourite show but they are all fantastic and well rehearsed. There is a new show this year to celebrate the parc's 35th Anniversary and I believe this show will feature acrobatics on horseback !  There is also, of course, the famous night show at the park, which features numerous horses and a cast of hundreds.

We loved this park and visited from the La Garangeoire campsite in the Vendee - an easy hour's drive away. You can also visit from the Loire campsites that feature on our website at :

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