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Posts Tagged ‘France destination guides’

Holiday diary: a family break to Normandy Garden

June 29, 2012 1:41 pm
posted by Sarah

If you’re a diehard fan of our blog you might be keenly anticipating Nick’s annual write up about his family holiday to one of our Pierre & Vacances Holiday Villages in France. Well, it’s here!

Not a diehard fan of this blog? You will be! And then why not try a visit to Pierre & Vacances’ Normandy Garden holiday village in France yourself – and see why Nick and his family loved it!

We decided on Normandy Garden as we wanted a June half-term break to France, not far from Calais, but with lots to do inside as the weather forecast was rubbish. Normandy Garden sells itself as an all-weather holiday park. So Normandy Garden it was.

A ferry to France

Our littles ones, aged 5 and 3, still love the ferry, so we booked a return ferry crossing with DFDS Seaways who have just started running crossings with LD Lines ships on the Dover-Calais route. Though we were late (again!) DFDS very kindly found us a place on the next boat and the journey was excellent. The kids loved the soft play area and we had a bite to eat from the cafe which offers hearty French and English cuisine at a reasonable price.

From Calais the journey to Normandy Garden is relatively straightforward, and between 2.5 and 3 hours with only a few small toll charges to pay. We all got very excited about the breathtaking journey over the Pont de Normandie bridge.

Normandy Garden Holiday Village Review

When we arrived at Normandy Garden the staff were very welcome and checking in was very quick. Fortunately the mini-market is right next to reception so we were able to grab a few essentials before heading to our house. We had reserved one of their new two bedroom VIP houses. It was lovely.

Both modern and stylish with a bit of Normandy charm thrown in. We particularly loved the spacious modern shower room and the special touches like the DVD player and the Senseo coffee machine (no mess!). Plus there were lovely views of the villages from our terrace.

If the kids had their way we wouldn’t have left the village. Number one on the daily list was the heated swimming pool ‘aqua’ complex with large central pool, lazy river, a choice of hot tubs, a great paddling area for little ones, and two outdoor pools with sunbathing area.

Number two was the hugh indoor playarea – perfect for the Normandy weather. Also in the village is a football pitch, tennis courts, table tennis, outdoor play area, crazy golf and a petanque terrain. You can hire bikes and horse riding is nearby.

Our youngest wanted to try the children’s club so we booked them both in for a session with three other English girls and they had a lovely time. We didn’t eat in the restaurant this time but there is a fab takeaway service where you can order pizza, roast chicken or kids meals and take them back to the apartment.

A local tipple to try when the kids are tucked up in bed

Things to do with the kids in Normandy

When we did manage to get them out and about in Normandy we enjoyed Trouville and Deauville. We found the Trouville beach to have more for the children to do, including an aquarium which unfortunately was closed for lunch when we tried to get in. The nearest resort to Normandy Garden is Villiers Sur Mer which is a lovely little resort with a choice of restaurants and ice cream stalls.

We did peer in to the gorgeous Outre Mer Bar, Glacier and Salon de The but maybe one to visit when the kids are in the children’s club next time!

We also spoke to other families in the village with older children who had made the most of visits to Normandy Landing beaches, D-Day events and nearby Bayeaux. Which all seemed to go down very well with the kids and the adults!

Book Normandy Garden online or by calling 0870 0267 145.


A video guide to skiing at Arc 1950

January 24, 2012 3:47 pm
posted by Sarah

At the heart of the French Alps, Arc 1950 is a car-free resort with a Savoyard flavour which blends itself into the shape of the surrounding mountains…

Ski-out accommodation, views of the magnificent Mont Blanc, relaxing spa, buzzing bars, cosy pubs and restaurants serving the best French cuisine for hungry skiers, and of course – fantastique snow! But don’t just take our word for it, check out what guests at Arc 1950 this season have to say – and recommend!

If this whets your appetite, check out our Pierre & Vacances Premium Residence Le Village complete with a Deep Nature Spa to get those weary post-piste limbs ready for the après-ski!


French ski resorts to fall in love with

January 6, 2012 12:36 pm
posted by Rebecca

The snow arrived in the nick of time for 2012, but with the dozens of options available, how do you choose which French ski resort to spend your hard earned pennies on this season?

In an attempt to match you up to a resort that you will love, channelling Cilla Black from her Blind Date heydays, we’ve put together three compelling reasons to pick our selection of cool contenders…

Alpe d’Huez – There’s no chance of getting bored in this traditional, historic and lively resort…

  1. Airboarding – A new(ish) snow sport has arrived en piste. This time on an inflatable grooved sled-like cushion. Airboarding allows you to hurtle down the mountainside head first while lying stomach-down on the board. This, of course, poses a slight hazard to fellow skiers so Alpe d’Huez hosts Airboarding and ‘snow toys’ sessions at the Poutran lift every Friday between 10am and 4.45pm.
  2. Alpe d’Huez Ice cave – Whimsical ice sculptures are carved annually in this cave gallery at 2,700 m. The Alpe d’Huez ice cave was dug into the snow by two high mountain guides, Bruno Gardent and Bernard Lambolez. It is accessible via the Grandes Rousses DMC lift. This year’s themes are ‘The Garden’ and ‘Biodiversity’.
  3. The world’s longest ski run – At 16 kms and with a vertical drop of 1,820, Sarenne is the world’s longest ski run. Once a month during the ski season you can even ski Sarenne by moonlight after a meal atop the Sarenne Glacier.

Where to stay in Alpe d’Huez:

Pierre & Vacances Residence L’Ours Blanc –  The recently refurbished Pierre & Vacances L’Ours Blanc residence is located in the centre of the resort. The pretty wood-decorated building has superb views over the valley of the Massif de l’Oisans providing direct access to ski lifts and the Olympic skating rink.

Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Bergers – Less than 100 m from the ski lifts each apartment features a balcony with views over the resort on one side and the Ecrins mountain range on the other. Facilities include a swimming pool and heated relaxation room, sauna and a restaurant.

Val d’Isère – One of the original ski resorts and still one of the best. Challenging skiing with superb nightlife.

  1. It’s high up! It’s a no-brainer really, if you’re after lovely fresh white powder, choose a resort that’s at high altitude – it’s colder up there and there’s more chance of snow. Val d’Isère’s position offers skiing from 1550m-3470m, that’s the height of more than ten Eiffel towers stacked on top of one another.
  2. Olympics standard slopes – The location of the 1993 Olympics men’s downhill race, Val d’Isère provides immediate access to 300 kms of groomed slopes in the Espace Killy ski area, with further opportunities to ski in first class off piste powder AND in neighbouring Paradiski and Three Valleys systems. There’s enough here to challenge even the most experienced skier.
  3. Dick’s Tea Bar – It’s legendary for après ski partying attracting big name DJs, and its Val d’Isère premises have just re-opened for the season with a makeover.

Residence Les Chalets de Solaise, Val d’Isere

Where to stay in Val d’Isère:

Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Chalets de Solaise – Self catered apartments with access to the outdoor heated swimming pool and wellness area and located at the heart of Val d’Isère.

Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Balcons de Bellevarde –  Typical of the Val d’Isere region with its pretty wooden and stone-clad front, ski apartments facing the slopes and balconies for all-day sunshine.

Belle Plagne – another action packed resort, in fact, if skiing is not your thing you can pack in a week’s worth of snowy fun without ever strapping on a pair of skis!

  1. Adrenaline activities – The bob experience: an exhilarating 19 bends worth of Olympic bobsleigh run, a giant zip slide high wire, an outdoor ice climbing tower, access to four free-style snow parks and snow quad biking. Yo name but a few…
  2. Child friendly – With snow kindergartens, a sledging track and crèche facilities – there’s plenty to occupy the little ones in Belle Plagne while you get on with some serious adrenaline sports.
  3. Keep on trekking – Glacial snow shoe treks, husky teams along with some superb cross country skiing opportunities will help you to explore the region and take in its beauty at a slower pace.

Where to stay in Belle Plagne:

Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Nereides – Located in the heart of the ‘Paradiski’ domain, with easy access to the slopes from the residence. These self catered ski apartments have recently been fully refurbished.

Pierre & Vacances Residence Residence Les ConstellationsSituated directly on the slope, the wooden and stone chalets blend into the snowy backdrop in this peaceful setting.

Flaine – A stylised modernist French mountain resort and the perfect choice for those with young families and ski beginners.

  1. Paradise for beginners and kids – Flaine’s wide snowy boulevards are perfect for beginners and those with less skiing experience and there’s plenty of free activities and family focused fun on offer too. Excellent ski schools are also available for anyone who is slightly less confident on two skis, and there’s even a week dedicated to children from 4-13 April 2012.
  2. Free lifts – No need for lift passes so you can ski for free!
  3. Modernist architecture and art – It’s not to everyone’s taste but if you have a penchant for Bauhaus, architect Marcel Breuer’s buildings won’t disappoint. And there’s plenty of art to see too including a sculpture park containing works by Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso and Victor Vasarely. The cultural centre, Art de Flaine, also hosts exhibitions of contemporary art.

Where to stay in Flaine:

Pierre & Vacances Residence La Foret – A residence with easy access to slopes and in the heart of the resort.

Pierre & Vacances Premium Residence Les Terrasses d’EosStone and timber chalets, lit by large bay windows with a warm and elegant interior finish and nestled in a spruce forest.





A weekend in Le Crotoy at the Résidence de la Plage

December 13, 2011 2:00 pm
posted by Sarah

Last month Pierre & Vacances customer Andy Parker visited Picardy for a weekend get-away. Check out his review of our Premium Résidence de la Plage, and the things to do in Le Crotoy and the surrounding area: 

We recently took to the shores of North France for a stay at the Pierre & Vacances Premium Résidence de la Plage  in Le Crotoy, in the Bay of Somme (just an hour’s easy drive from Calais).

Le Crotoy is a pretty special place. A small town on the bay of the Somme, where Jules Verne wrote the majority of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea whilst staying in the town, just a short drive from Abbeville. Being a fishing town there are several restaurants all serving fresh catches and we managed to visit the morning market to see what was available straight off the boat that morning.

Le Crotoy, Picardy

Only visiting for a weekend trip we decided to eat out both evenings, but had we stayed longer we would have been more than accommodated to cook my own local foods with the fish markets setting up when the trawlers come back in, an amazing butchers, grocers and patisserie all within walking distance of the apartment.

We stayed in a two bedroom apartment which could quite comfortably have slept up to six people because the sofas were also beds. The living space was ideal, the kitchen was fully kitted and exceptionally clean with the espresso machine and complimentary capsules a nice touch.

There were two bathrooms, one with a bath/shower and the downstairs a spacious shower, both were perfect after a long day walking along the coast line watching the wind and kite surfers.

The view from both the master bedroom and the living room/sun terrace were stunning, spanning all the way across the bay and up the coast line.

The view from Residence de la Plage

Being a cold November, we didn’t get an opportunity to dip into the outdoor pool but its location, facing over the waterfront, seemed ideal.

We took a trip to Abbeville which was no more than 20 minutes by car. The town has a wonderful high street with a strong mixture of high street brands and independent retailers (particularly the chocolatiers). The church in the centre of town has been restored several times throughout its history and information was available in English which helped with our lack of reading French!

There are several landmarks dotted around the town which we uncovered from exploring side streets which reflect how much devastation the town saw throughout 1914-1945.

Great War cemetary in Lebucquiere

Our final trip was to a discrete cemetery for those who served in the Great War in the village of Lebucquiere. Although we’ve never been to some of the larger memorials and cemeteries which are considerably closer to Crotoy, this one held personal interest to me.

It was a drive of several hours and we decided to utilise the toll roads. They really do put UK road services to shame! Yes you do have to pay (maximum journey was from Lebucquiere to Calais at 9 Euros) but they’re fast, direct and pretty empty at peak times.

My top tip – I had no problems with driving on the other side of the road, but remember to check your headlights before leaving to see if you should purchase headlight reverse stickers which make sure you’re not blinding on-coming traffic!

Visit Le Crotoy for yourself! Andy stayed at the self catering Pierre & Vacances Premium Résidence de la Plage in Le Crotoy, Picardy. Pierre & Vacances also has a wide range of self catering apartments around North Picardy, perfect for mountain-biking, hiking and horse-riding, as well as visiting the the Somme Bay and Compiègne forest for sports and bird watching.



A family holiday to Cap Esterel

July 29, 2011 2:54 pm
posted by Sarah

Cap Esterel, the flagship Pierre & Vacances Holiday Resort, has recently celebrated its 20th birthday. So Marketing Manager Nick thought it was about time for a visit, here’s the diary of his family holiday in the French Riveria: 

The Pierre & Vacances Cap Esterel Holiday Resort is located in the beautiful Massif de L’Esterel National Park between Saint Raphael and Cannes.

Though the resort is under an hour from Nice airport, as our two kids are now both at paying age for flights, we elected to save money and drive and the low diesel costs in France also make this cheaper. But we didn’t need the car much as there’s loads to do on the resort, and the supermarket is more than adequate, the beaches are walkable and there is a train station nearby – what more do you need?!

So driving it was, and we had a great journey across the Channel with Seafrance – friendly staff, great kids play area and loads of room on the ferry! We took an overnight stop in Formule 1 in Chalons en Champagne, then 10 hours later we were at Cap Esterel!

Happy family in our holiday apartment

We were delighted with our apartment: newly refurbished with a bedroom for Granny, bunk beds for the kids (sharing for the first time!) and a sofa bed in the lounge for Mum and Dad. It was nicely decorated with pictures of the L’Esterel National Park and all the usual mod cons including dishwasher, kettle and even a teapot…….Granny was happy!

Cap Esterel teapot

We had amazing views of the med, and the supermarket, shops and bars were only a minute away. Plus we were so close to the swimming pool that when we heard the hourly announcement for the wave machine we could get our trunks on and get down there in time!

View from Cap Esterel apartment

The kids loved the main swimming pool’s wave machine and water slide, and when we wanted a longer swim we went to the upper infinity pool which was slightly warmer and with amazing sea views. We also took the train to the quieter Hameau area which has its own swimming pools and supermarket. There is a main pool (good for lengths) and a children’s pool on a large roof terrace area, also with, you guessed it, amazing views.

The Cap Esterel Train

Apart from the swimming pools the main attractions for the family were the train and local beaches. The train handily stops near the main children’s playground and is so popular that every time it arrives there is a mass-exodus from the playground! If you’re like our family you take the train just for the fun of it [up to 3 times a day!], but it’s also quite handy for getting around the Resort and travelling to the local beach at Dramonts. On Wednesdays the train also takes you to the lovely market at Agay.

Beautiful Agay Beach

We alternated between the beaches at Dramonts and Agay, both with their own advantages. Dramonts is a small and quiet pebble beach with beautiful clear water, while Agay is a larger sandier beach with a choice of restaurants, bars and shops nearby. There is a short cut from the train bridge at the bottom of Cap Esterel over the hills to join the Agay road. It’s probably a 30 minute walk and a bit difficult with buggies but worth the time saving if you like a bit of exercise. There is also a little beach on the main road opposite the entrance to Cap Esterel.

Fred playing on Agay beach

In the Resort itself there is more than enough to keep the kids occupied all holiday. The 9 hole golf course is well looked after, the lake is stunning and there are loads of water sports available. There is also tennis, football, and crazy golf – basically you name it they have it! My wife made good use of the fitness classes and the children’s clubs looked like lots of fun!

Live music at Cap Esterel

On Friday night there was live music in the main resort village area. This is an area above the main pool with the feel of a little tourist town and of course amazing views! There are about 10 restaurants, a lovely cafe with shop, bar and ice creams, plus take way pizza and rotisserie. All were good value with family offers and menu du jours. The ice creams became a favourite with the kids who worked their way through all the different flavours! And at the far side of this area is the L’Esterel hotel with its own swish restaurant.

As for ‘eating-in’, the on-site supermarket was fantastic with its own bakery, a selection of toys, a wide range of food at reasonable prices and even a special section for English customers missing their favourite ale or sauce! We didn’t bother going anywhere else.

All in all we had fantastic family holiday in Cap Esterel and can’t wait to return!