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Head to Ile de Ré for family holidays in France
The best family holidays in France get away from the bustling cities and out into the French countryside, preferably with a beach or 2 within reach. The Ile de Ré ticks all the boxes.
Fly to nearby La Rochelle with Easyjet (www.easyjet.com). There are summer flights from Bristol or London Gatwick, with outward flights starting from £18.99 from Bristol and £20.40 for the return leg from La Rochelle. Even with extra charges for baggage and credit card fees, you can find round trip fares for £75 or less, a big saving when you are travelling as a family.
You can hire a car at La Rochelle and make your own way, or take a boat trip, or less excitingly, a bus over the long suspension bridge to the Ile de Ré.
It's a surprise to learn that the island has half a million visitors over the summer, because the area never seems crowded or thronged with cars.
The French respect the island's unspoiled rustic charms. It is criss-crossed by hundreds of cycle tracks, and it is a common sight to spot French families cycling out to the beach in a line, their bicycle baskets crammed with baguettes and delicious picnics.
You are in seafood territory. This stretch of the Atlantic coast is intensively devoted to the cultivation of oysters and mussels. Try them at their freshest and juiciest in the furthest western villages of Les Portes or Ars-En-Ré.
Even at the busiest heights of summer, you can usually claim your own slice of pristine beach. Walk a little out of the village of La Noue near the village of Sainte Marie and you’ll find a stretch of golden sand known somewhat misleadingly as the Côte Sauvage. The waves are tame, and the setting idyllic.
For details of hotels, campsites and plenty of ideas for family holidays in this part of France, check www.holidays-iledere.co.uk.