For an idyllic escape on the French Atlantic coast, La Rochelle takes some beating. Get there without breaking the bank with a cheap flight ticket from Easyjet.
Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) has summer flights to La Rochelle from London Gatwick. Outward flights are as low as £25.99, with return legs at a similar price if you book well in advance. Even with baggage charges and credit-card surcharges, it is often possible to obtain a round-trip ticket to France for under £100.
Cheaper flights still can be found on departures from Bristol, where Easyjet's direct flights to La Rochelle start at £18.99 outwards and £17.33 for the return leg, meaning that canny West Country travellers can snap up round trips for under £50.
La Rochelle (www.ville-larochelle.fr) remains a popular escape for Parisians in summer, and has to maintain a certain air of chic living to impress the metropolitan tourists. This is best seen in the town market, which offers gourmet cheeses and fine chocolates alongside the baguettes and supplies for beach picnics.
The warren of old town streets recall La Rochelle's status as an important 18th-century port, protected by the imposing tower of St Nicolas at the mouth of the harbour.
La Rochelle comes alive in the evenings when everybody comes out for a stroll by the Vieux Port. Bands and street entertainers jostle for spaces and the atmosphere is very lively at the height of summer.
Take a walk up towards the fourteenth century tower, the Tour De la Chaine. Nearby, Rue St Jean-De-Perot offers an enticing row of restaurants, both upmarket and unpretentious. It's a good place to spend some of the cash you saved on that cheap flight ticket.