Plan a perfect two week holiday in France!
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Most people need to plan an annual holiday that packs as much as possible into two weeks - while also allowing plenty of time to relax and perhaps spend time as a family, since that's probably the main purpose of the trip!
Luckily there are numerous places in France where a two week visit gives you plenty of opportunities to explore lots of new sights and places, as well taking part in a few entertainments and activities - and also spending time at the beach or around the pool.
The goals of a perfect vacation in France
Most people will want to go somewhere where they won't spend all day in the car so having places of interest within, say, 40 kilometres is also important.
Of course, the reality is that a family with young children will have quite different goals for their visit compared with a group of teenagers or a middle-aged couple travelling out of season, but the basic idea: going somewhere with plenty to see and do within easy reach pretty much applies to everyone, wherever in France (or elsewhere) they are travelling!
Suggestion 1: Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne
Most people have heard of the Dordogne, and if you haven't yet visited it is an excellent introduction to all that is best about France. Medieval castles, quaint villages, lovely countryside, prehistoric caves and several family based adventures combine to make sure everyone will go home with great memories.
The children will love canoeing along the river and visiting the display of medieval weapons at Chateau Castelnaud, or perhaps one of the prehistoric re-enactment type centres in the Dordogne while adults will love the market at Sarlat and the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux.
This is the only choice among our three suggestions that does not include a beach - but don't worry, there are several river beaches and leisure lakes in the area to keep the children cool on a hot day.
You might have noticed I included Lot-et-Garonne in the suggestion - this is the department to the south of the Dordogne, and the north of this department provides easy access to the highlights of the Dordogne while avoiding some of the crowds of the central Dordogne in the summer months. There are also several fascinating medieval villages here such as Issigeac, Monpazier and Villereal.
Suggestion 2: French riviera
The French Riviera covers an extensive section of Mediterranean coast between Marseille and the Italian border, passing through Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropez and many other resorts en-route.
This does mean there is a very wide choice of places to stay and things to see, although you are very unlikely to see the whole Riviera in one visit - the roads get busy, especially in summer, and the beaches will often tempt you away from a long day trip in the car!
How to choose! Personally I would recommend the coast between Cannes and the border with Italy, with Nice roughly the mid-point.
If you stay west of Nice you should visit Antibes and Cannes, and be sure to venture inland to visit Vence and Saint-Paul-de-Vence and the 'perfume capital of Provence' at Grasse, while to the east of Nice particular highlights away from the beaches include Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer, as well as the lovely hill villages such as Eze and the Villa Ephrussi on Cap Ferrat.
The city of Nice itself is also highly recommended with a very long beach along the promenade des Anglais, and enough restaurants, museums and historical buildings to satisfy the most demanding visitor.
Children activities will focus on the beach I suspect!
More information: see Cote d'Azur
Suggestion 3: Normandy
Both Brittany and Normandy are ideal for family holidays, and both have a great deal to explore and enjoy, as well as beaches. I chose Normandy simply because I had to choose!
Normandy has enough variety to give any first time visitor to France a good idea of what the country is like and several important destinations as well such as Bayeux and its world famous tapestry, and the Normandy Landing Beaches - the beaches are also broad and sandy and usually not very crowded even in the hieght of summer.
The cliffs on the coast at Etretat should even impress the children if you can drag them away from the beach for a while!
Away from the coast and the history be sure to spend a day or two exploring the villages along the Normandy Cider route to appreciate the lovely half-timbered architecture and orchards of the region.
Most parts of Lower Normandy are also within easy reach of the stunning Mont-Saint-Michel and its abbey, one of the best known sites in France and most important medieval pilgrimage destinations.
If I was forced to choose just one place to stay I would probably pick Deauville, a nice town with lots of belle-epoque architecture.
* If I was visiting north-west France with young children I might perhaps lean more towards Brittany than Normandy, because of the greater variety of the coastline and beaches.
More information: see Normandy
Why not Paris?!
Of course Paris is a beautiful city and an unmissable destination for many first-time visitors to France, and there is even plenty to amuse children such as a trip up the Eiffel Tower, or a ride on a bateau-mouche boat - not to mention a day-trip to Disneyland Paris.
However I suspect conflicts between interests of Mum and Dad and interests of children will make it a challenge for everyone to enjoy themselves all the time - and might end up spoiling it for one or the other...
...but if you are visiting France without children, a few days in Paris should most certainly feature on your list!
More information: see Paris