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Archive for the ‘paris’ Category

New Family Activity Holidays in France

April 2, 2012 2:02 pm
posted by Rebecca

Want to keep the kids busy this summer holiday? From our new family discovery excursions to free activities to try in our Holiday Villages, we have plenty of great things for kids to do in France.

While there is lots to keep every age busy from dawn until dusk at our family friendly Holiday Villages in France, we also want families to take advantage of the real France through the beautiful and varied local areas around our self catering accommodation, which is why we’ve launched a new and exciting range of regional discovery excursions for the summer holidays.

Looking for activities to do in Provence? How about learning to make the region’s traditional lavendar soap. Or if you’re stuck for things to keep the kids busy in the Ardeche, why not try something educational and fun [and delicious!] like visiting a dairy to learn how to make goats cheese. Or if you’re after something a little different to try in the south of France, join beekeepers to make some delicious honey you can take home.

And these French discovery days are only the start of a huge revamp for our popular Holiday Villages in France and Spain – we also have refurbished apartments, more free activities for all the family and new a la carte services for this year’s summer sun.

Kids club holidays

No child is the same, so we’ve also revamped our kid’s clubs to give children of all ages the chance to fill their holidays with activities that match their own interests – whether it’s adventurous activities, scientific discovery, inspiring those with artistic flairs, something sporty, or just good fun to make new friends.

Extra à la carte services

There will be more à la carte services on offer, including a breakfast and bakery delivery service, party orders [such as fondue or BBQ] and excellent value half or full board meal cards.

Holiday activities for all the family

Families will also be able to enjoy more free activities with sports tournaments, fitness courses from Les Mills, concerts and shows, and family games in the evenings to keep the kids busy all holiday. As well as the option to try activities such as horse riding, sailing, canoeing, circus tricks and surfing.


We have 13 Holiday Villages across France and Spain, from NormandyBrittany, and the Atlantic Coast, to the South of FranceProvence, Ardèche and the Costa del Sol. The family friendly villages are located in prime locations near beautiful sandy beaches, golf courses or nature reserves and [as well as the delicious dining facilities on site] near restaurants, shops and picturesque French towns and ports just a short distance away.

For example, our newly re-vamped Belle Dune Holiday Village in north Picardy has houses and apartments built in the authentic 20th century style of the Picardy region, all arranged around a large lake.  Belle Dune has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, pedalos, sailing, a petting farm, children’s clubs and a nearby beach is accessible by foot or on a miniature train – we know which one this kids will prefer!

New for this year at Belle Dune is a VIP accommodation range, regional activities and themed kid’s clubs, with prices starting at £65 per child per week. You can search and book your family holiday to France online, or call 0870 0267 145.



Hugo Cabret inspired: Paris in the 1930s

November 30, 2011 12:57 pm
posted by Rebecca

1930s Paris gets the 3D touch in Hugo Cabret

Martin Scorsese’s new film Hugo Cabret is the story of a young orphan who lives in the walls of a bustling 1930s Paris train station, maintaining the clocks and working on his late father’s greatest ambition – a broken mechanical man. You can watch the Hugo Cabret trailer here:

To mark the imminent release of this magical film we thought we’d pay homage to its lavish back drop – Paris in the 1930s… an almost mythical decade when Hollywood vied with couture in Parisian fashion and electricity ignited the city for a new, modern era.  All to the backdrop of a groovy jazz soundtrack

And for starters here is a video of Paris in the ‘beautiful 1930s’ – and it’s not hard to see why this decade was chosen for Hugo Cabret’s fantastical world.

Artists in 1930s Paris 

1930’s Paris served as a flame to artistic souls, who were drawn to the City of Light, the world capital for the avant garde of free thinking intellectuals. Picasso and Hemmingway, Balthus and Louis Armstrong are just some of the names associated with the city during the ‘30s, when it became a hotbed of writers, artists and sculptors, film-makers and musicians.

Picasso's painting of the minotaur, the monster of Greek mythology—half bull and half human

The city also became the centre for the Surrealist movement, attracting the likes of Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

Salvador Dalí and Man Ray in Paris, June 16, 1934, making "wild eyes" by Carl Van Vechte

Entertainment in 1930s Paris

French filmmakers such as Jean Renoir and René Clair – Paris born and bred – were amongst the vanguard, as Cinema became a recognised art form.

Film poster for ‘Under the Roofs of Paris’ by René Clair, 1930

From Edith Piaf, discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée in 1935, to Charles Trenet and Jean Sablon, Paris was also a hotbed of musical talent.

Jazz clubs were all the rage, with the likes of legendary jazz singer and dancer, Josephine Baker, taking the scene by storm.

Fashion in 1930s Paris

On set of Hugo Cabret... Costumes were designed by Sandy Powell

Paris fashion houses kicked off the decade with a return to the higher waist, longer skirt and the tighter silhouette line. But as the ‘30s progressed, theatrical costumes from the movies began to make an impact…

The 1930 spring issue of Good Housekeeping looks to the latest fashionable styles from Paris.

Hollywood had a lot to answer for in terms of the major fashions of the 1930s and Paris couture was no exception. Influential Parisian designer, Lucien LeLong said: “We, the couturiers, can no longer live without the cinema any more than the cinema can live without us.  We corroborate each others’ instinct.”

Italian born Elsa Schiaparelli – or “Schiap” as she was known to friends in Paris – was another designer to embrace Hollywood, dressing several stars along the way including Mae West in the 1937 film, Every Day’s a Holiday.

Puffed-sleeved gowns, lavish Scarlett O’Hara ‘barbeque’ dresses and tipped velvet hats were all the rage by 1939.

Schiap was also heavily influenced by contemporary artists from the growing Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, including Man Ray and Salvador Dali. In a telegraph to the editorial offices of Photoplay Magazine listing highlights of the 1938 Paris fashion scene, costume designer, Edith Head, wrote: “Paris says: Long waistlines, short flared skirts, fitted bodices, tweeds combines with velvet, warm colors…”

Jazz in 1930s Paris

And to unwind?  The intellectual elite and jazz hounds made a beeline for now legendary bistros including L’Ami Louis, Boeuf sur le Toit, La Coupole and The Vaudeville.

L’Ami Louis was legendary even back then, serving, it is claimed, “more game, especially ortolons and bécasses, than anywhere else in Paris, as well as a hundred lobsters every day”.

Picasso was allegedly a regular at Boeuf sur le Toit.  The ‘boeuf’ in this instance being French slang for a jam session.

The Vaudeville and La Coupole are two of the few remaining brasseries decorated by the Art Deco renowned Solvet brothers, La Coupole especially was frequented in the ‘30s by the likes of Man Ray and Josephine Baker.

Iconic sights around 1930s Paris

Developments such as the Le Stade de Roland Garros, home of the French Open – built at the end of the 1920s – became synonymous with progress and the modern world typified by Paris in the 30s.

TVs made an appearance in the homes of Parisians whilst Peugeot and Citroens became common sights on the city’s streets (even the odd Bugatti!).

In architecture, the geometric shapes created by Le Corbusier changed the face of the modern building.The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne took place in Paris in 1937. The Musée de l’Homme was founded by ethnologist, Paul Rivet, specifically for the occasion.

So there you have it – simmering with artistic geniuses, 1930s Paris built on the city’s unique cafe culture and reputation for innovation to become a mecca for artists, singers, actors, authors and designers. So if you fancy a Parisian adventure of your very own, Pierre & Vacances has a range of self catering aparthotels in the heart of the city.

Hugo Cabret is in cinemas 2 December 2011. 



The Three Musketeers: All for one, and one for all!

September 23, 2011 3:46 pm
posted by Rebecca


From Oliver Reed and Charlie Sheen, to Mickey Mouse and Dogtanian, our love affair with the Three Musketeers shows no signs of waning.  With the imminent release of the new movie version (starring Orlando Bloom and Matthew Macfadyen) we thought the time was ripe to zone in on some of the locations associated with the original fab four (not forgetting D’Artagnan!) from Alexandre Dumas’ novel.

So here’s our guide to enjoying some swashbuckling adventures around France.

Head to Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées for: The real McCoy

Inspired by a 17th century work Memoires de d’Artagnan by Gatien de Cortilz de Sandras, The Three Musketeers is believed to be based on various historical characters who really existed

The real Porthos, Aramis and Athos as well as D’Artagnan all hailed from the Béarn region of Gascony.  Criss-crossing the borders of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées will transport you to the home-land of these French Guard elite.

Issac de Porteau, Dumas’ Porthos, was born in 1617 in Pau and his manor is still standing, in the village of Lanne.  The Chateau de Porothos – where he retired from service – was damaged in an earthquake but restored in 2005.

Henry d’Aramitz, the inspiration for Aramis, was an abbot in the valley of Barétous, whilst Athos was based on Armand de Sillègue, who was born in the village of Athos-Aspis.  His cousin, Arnaud-Jean du Peyrer, Comte de Treville, Captain of the King’s Musketeers, lived at le Chateau de Trois-Villes in Tardets.  A private residence, the castle is open year-round bar June.

Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan – who Dumas’ character is believed to be based on – was born in Lupiac in Gers.  Today the village is home to the D’Artagnan Museum, where visitors can learn the legend behind the hero. And you can also pay a visit to the Chateau of Castelmore, where Batz was born.

Also worth a visit is nearby Auch, the ancient capital of Gascony, to snap the statue of D’Artagnan.

Statue of D’Artagnan

And in Condom you can see the recently commissioned sculpture of the three musketeers by Russian artist, Zurab Tsereteli.

Sculpture of the three musketeers by Zurab Tsereteli

The Château d’Arricau-Bordes in Madiran, known locally as the ”ancienne résidence de d’Artagnan, le fameux mousquetaire’’, may not hold many musketeer relics but is worth a visit for the vineyards – as one of the oldest wine estates in France.   It was the 18th-century home of the Comte Jean-Paul Montesquiou d’Artagnan, uncle of the illustrious musketeer and D’Artagnan is said to have stayed in the property on numerous occasions.

The Château d’Arricau-Bordes in Madiran

And if you want to explore the region famous for the real musketeers, the Pierre & Vacances’ Residence Le Hameau du Lac, Marciac, offers self catering accommodation for all the family. 

Head to Rhône-Alpes for: Following in the Footsteps of Celebrity

If, like us, you’re a little bit in love with the 1973 film version starring Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Michael York, then you’ll want to make a beeline for Perouges at the foot of the Alps.  Whilst much of the film was shot on location in Spain (quelle horreur!), Perouges’s charming cobbled streets and old stone buildings appeared as a backdrop for certain scenes.

For comfortable self catering accommodation, the Aparthotel Annecy Centre is ideal for those wanting to wander in the footsteps of film stars. 

Head to Paris for: A Piece of the Action

A Three Musketeers pilgrimage wouldn’t be complete without retracing their steps in the capital, where the main protagonists lived.

Val-de-Grâce church on rue St Jacques in the 5th was commissioned by Anne of Austria, wife to Louis XIII and the French Queen in The Three Musketeers.  Legend tells that she originally built just the cloister, but when she had a son after 23 childless years of marriage, she had the church built in celebration.  Louis XIV himself is said to have laid the cornerstone for the Val-de-Grâce in a ceremony that took place April 1, 1645, when he was seven years old.

The real Cardinal Richelieu lived at number 21 Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, from 1615 to 1627.

Place de Vosges

The musketeers of the novel lived very close to each other:

  •  Athos in Rue Férou – between St. Sulpice and the Luxembourg garden, a narrow street lined with high-walled courtyards and 17th century buildings.  Athos lived here, “two steps away from the Luxembourg Garden”, and it is here that he was wounded in a duel at the beginning of the story
  • Aramis in Rue Servandoni
  • Porthos in Rue du Vieux Colombier

When D’Artagnan arrives in Paris he finds lodgings on the Rue des Fossoyeurs.  Monsieur de Treville’s residence, is on the Rue du Vieux Colombier, which we later learn is where Porthos lives and which runs along the north side of the present place Saint-Sulpice, joined on the south side by Rue Férou, where Athos lives.

Rue de Fossoyeurs, where D’Artagnan used to live, is present-day Rue Servandoni, running parallel to Rue Ferou, between the church and the park.

Rue de Fossoyeurs

The dueling site where they all showed up to fight D’Artagnan was at the Carmes-Deschaux, Rue des Carmes.

The Louvre was the setting for various scenes in the novel as was the Luxembourg Palace.

And as a last homage, visit the crypt of the Pantheon where a number of French heroes are buried and where Dumas himself keeps company with the likes of Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Louis Braille, the inventor of the script for the blind.

Alexandre Duma

And for those wanting to retrace the steps of the Musketeers’ Parisian adventures, Pierre & Vacances has a wide range of self-catering accommodation in the heart of Paris.


The Best French Flea and Produce Markets

August 17, 2011 4:00 pm
posted by Rebecca

Everyone loves a bargain.  No-one more so than the French, from whom shopping at markets is a way of life. What better way to while away a Saturday or Sunday morning than browsing around stalls laden with pans and pots and fishing rods or heaving with delicious cheeses, locally grown asparagus and fragrant flowers.

Wherever you’re heading in France, here’s a guide to some of the best brocante, braderie and marché au puces.

Brittany – Quiberon

This small city at the tip of the thin Breton peninsula comes alive each Saturday morning (and Wednesdays in Port Haliguen to the east of Quiberon, during the summer months) with a lively produce market.  Expect to find delicious regional foodstuffs as well as fresh fish.  The perfect spot to shop for a picnic or gorge on freshly shucked oysters!

Accomodation: stay at the Residence Ker Avel

Nord-Pas de Calais – Braderie, Lille

For one weekend a year Lille becomes the bargain hunting capital of Europe as the Braderie fair takes over town.  Held each September, Braderie is renowned as one of the largest flea markets on the continent with over two million visitors flocking to steal a deal.

Over 200 km of pavements throughout old Lille are taken up with stalls selling paintings, antiques, ornaments, furniture and junk of every description over a full 48 hour period.

One particular highlight is the competition to see which restaurant can create the tallest pile of mussel shells from the signature dish of moules et frites.

If you can’t make the Braderie at Lille, Calais is an easy pit stop for day-trippers and ferry-philes, with two good produce and flower markets.   The market at Place d’Armes takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the centre of the old town.  Shop for flowers, flower bulbs and local food specialities including ostrich pâté, the savoury tart, flamiche, locally grown chicory, home-made honey, farm-produced jams, northern France’s famed fish soup, foie gras and speciality saucissons.

Another takes place at Place Crèvecoeur to the south of town on Thursday and Saturday mornings, great for fruit and vegetables.

Accommodation: Stay at the Village Belle Dune

Franche-Comté – Vieux Quartier, Belfort

The first Sunday of each month (except during January and February) sees the most famous flea market in the East of France set up shop with over 200 stalls in the old town.

Here you can snap up Alsatian bowls and milk pitchers, grey stoneware jugs, clocks from nearby Besançon, enamel plaques from Alsace, linens, books, toys, glassware, copperware and furniture.

Rhone Alps – Vieux Quartier, Annecy

The market in the old town at Annecy is renowned as much for its stunning setting on the edge of Lac d’Annecy, surrounded by mountains, as for its rustic regional wares.  As you’d expect, there are Alpine goods a plenty including cow bells, skis and paintings of mountain scenes.

The market runs throughout the day on the last Saturday of each month.

Accommodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Annecy Centre

Villeurbanne, Lyon (also known as ‘Puces’)

This legendary flea market takes place in Villeurbanne, on the outskirts of Lyon, every Sunday morning, with dedicated bargain hunters arriving at the crack of dawn.  There are more than 400 stalls of antiques, bric-a-brac, used goods and 18th and 19th century furniture.  A smaller version also takes place at the same site on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Paris – Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Ask any Frenchman to name a Parisian flea market and St-Ouen or ‘Clignancourt’ will be top of the list, acknowledged as the largest antiques market in Europe and the oldest in Paris.  There are more than 2,000 shops spread out over a nine mile radius selling cheap clothing, military surplus, shoes, sunglasses and leather goods.

The other main contender would be Porte de Vanves on Saturdays and Sundays for its eclectic mix of goods.  The Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves is more compact than Clignancourt with 300-plus stalls.

Also worth checking out is Richard Lenoir for all manner of foods, from the freshest meats, cheeses and produce to international foods and flavours.

Accomodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Paris Opera 

The Loire – Boulevard Alexandre Martin, Orléans

Held every Saturday morning in a car park on the Boulevard Alexandre Martin in the charming town of Orléans, this bustling market attracts around 100 vendors.  Bargain hunters will love this treasure trove of rustic items, ranging from tools and buckets to fishing rods, kitchenware and quality linen.

If it’s food you’re after, then head to the weekly Saturday morning market in Saumur, showcasing the best of the ‘garden of France’.

Take a look at Le Chant blog for lots more wonderful pictures:

Provence and South of France

There are more markets than you can shake a stick at in the South of France.  Here are just a couple of favourites.

Cours Saleya, Nice

The flower and produce market at Cours Saleya operates every day bar Monday (when the square is taken over by the antiques and flea market).  There are hundreds of varieties of flowers grown locally in the fields of Provence including carnations, roses, camellias, lilies, irises, freesias, daffodils, cyclamen, chrysanthemums, azaleas, marigolds, daisies and gardenias.

Sunday is the best day for produce, fish, meats, cheeses, fruit and veg.

Accommodation: Stay at the Residence Heliotel Marine

Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Avignon

On Saturday mornings 100 or so stalls set up just across the Rhone from Avignon at the Place du Marche along the Ave de Verdun, selling Provençal pots, pottery and bedspreads.  This market gets fewer tourists than the main Avignon flea market on Sundays, and as a result good deals can be found.

Accommodation: Stay at the Village Point Royal en Provence

Midi-Pyrénées – Allées Jules Guesde, Toulouse

Discerning shoppers will enjoy scouring this quality flea market for ‘decorative’ rather than rustic wares.  Held on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month throughout the day along the allées Jules Guesde in central Toulouse.

Accommodation: Stay at the Aparthotel Toulouse Aèroport 

Aquitaine – Perigueux

Wednesdays and Sundays are market day in Perigueux, the capital of the Dordogne River Valley.  Stalls are set up near the cathedral in Place de la Clautre selling fresh produce and cheeses.  There is also a market specialising in fois gras and truffles on place St-Louis in Puy St-Front from November to March.


Five Great Cycle Routes for Families in France

June 30, 2011 1:10 pm
posted by Rebecca

With the Tour de France upon us – Saturday 2nd to Sunday 24th July – we thought we’d pay homage to the French love affair with pedal power.

Of course, you don’t need to be Lance Armstrong to enjoy France by bike… There are miles of meandering lanes, canal-side towpaths and beautiful stretches of coastal paths perfectly marked out for le vélo.

And there’s nowhere quite like France for a self-catering cycling holiday!  You’ll see more of the sights, meet the locals and have the opportunity to engage with the places you pass through.  Not to mention a rental apartment will give you the chance to sample local food, and the odd glass of wine…

It’s also a great way to enjoy a healthy and active holiday option – think of it as the summer equivalent to skiing!

The Voies Vertes, or Greenways, are an extensive network of dedicated cycle routes across France linking up nearly 2,600km of safe, marked paths.  So whether you want to embark on a week-long tour or an afternoon in the saddle, there are plenty of routes to choose from. Here are some of our top suggestions of the best places to get peddling.

The Loire à vélo, The Loire For châteaux fans

The Loire River

The Loire à vélo is an ambitious project linking two regions, six départements and six major urban areas over an 800km trail between Cuffy and Saint-Brévin on the Atlantic coast, two thirds of which run alongside the River Loire with its fabulous châteaux.

There are specific segments of the route between Muides sur Loire and Ancenis recommended for families, with a number of short distance options to choose from.

And to rest those tired legs between trips Pierre & Vacances have a range of self catering apartments in the Loire Valley.

Avenue Verte Dieppe-Forges, NormandyFor budding athletes

Normandy Countryside

Destined ultimately to link London with Paris in time for the 2012 Olympics, this 45km route runs from Dieppe on the Normandy coast to the spa town of Forges-les-Eaux along the former Dieppe to Paris railway line.

For now you’ll have to make do with some picture-perfect Normandy countryside with lots of apples and cider to help you on your way. And to kick-back and enjoy the views during your stay, Pierre & Vacances have a range of family apartment rentals in Normandy.

La Baie de Somme à Vélo, PicardyFor beach fans and bird watchers

Picardy Pastures

Le Baie de Somme is made up of seven trails, many kilometres of which run alongside the seashore, weaving through dunes, mudflats and reed beds full of migratory birds. The Baie de Somme railway carries cycles free of charge, so you can hop on and off and tackle as much or as little of the trails as you wish.  And to enjoy hopping around Picardy, Pierre & Vacances has a range of self-catering accommodation to rest those weary wheels.

Le-tour-de-Bourgogne-a-vélo, BurgundyFor vineyard fans

Burgundy countryside

The cycling tour of Burgundy, much like the Loire and Somme equivalents, is made up of five individual trails showcasing the region’s main attractions and eventually destined to cover 800km.

The route is made up of towpaths, paths through vineyards, disused railway lines and country lanes.  The Santenay-Nolay track, the ‘Voie des Vignes’, is particularly recommended for easy family cycling. And to make the most of your stay Pierre & Vacances has a range of holiday accommodation in Burgundy as a great base to explore the region.

Piste du canal de L’Ourcq, Paris For city slickers

Cycling along the canal de L’Ourcq

This cycle path alongside the canal offers a flat and picturesque option, great for a day out from Paris.  The route takes you from the Parc de la Villette in north-eastern Paris out into the countryside to Claye-Souilly, 27km from the city.  Ultimately this route is intended to link Paris with Moscow!

For a shorter route families can choose a pit-stop at La Poudrerie Forest Park at Servan, 14km along the canal. And to make the most of your stay in the area, Pierre & Vacances has a wide range of holiday apartments to rent in Paris with both scenic and central locations.

And for those after some serious cycling…

Here are two long-distance options for those seeking a serious cycling challenge!

Voie Verte Trans-Ardennes

Voie Verte Trans

This greenway is graded as an easy route, running 85 km in total between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet near the Belgian border.  The train which runs through the valley is a great back up option for tired legs. And as for accommodation along the route, Pierre & Vacances has a wide range of family self-catering rentals in Ardennes.

Canal du Midi, Languedoc-Roussillion/ Midi-Pyrenees

The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage site, bordered almost all of the way by striking plane trees.  The route takes you through the heart of the beautiful South West countryside with ample opportunity to sample local wines and visit ancient towns and monuments.

Canal du Midi

The full route (240km) will take you from Toulouse along the canal to the little port of Marseillan on the Mediterranean, but can be broken down into stages for easily manageable chunks!

The other option is to head North West from Toulouse towards Bordeaux and the Atlantic Ocean along the Canal de Garonne, the full canal route originally designed to link the two coasts. For those wanting to make the most of a cycling holiday in the sublime region, Pierre & Vacances has a selection of self catering accommodation in the South of France .