Delve deeper into France’s west coast and go big on experience; islands, beaches, castles, rivers and surfing!
Idyllic Île de Ré
Favoured by fashionable French holiday makers, Île de Ré is an authentically French island to while away a few days. Expect a classy holiday ambience – open-air restaurants serving high-quality seafood, markets bursting with local produce and lots of chic French families. The main town is Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a bustling hub of seafood bistros, ice cream parlours and cafes. Inland, there are many other smaller villages whose pretty squares are the perfect place for a midday drink.
But it’s Île de Ré’s natural beauty that you’ll find most refreshing. Miles of sandy beach swathes the island, backed by fragrant pine forests; do as the locals do and get around by bike on the sandy tracks to discover vineyards, salt marshes and charming harbours like picturesque La Flotte. You will stay for three nights at Le Toiras, based in Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a hotel which personifies classic French character; its terrace restaurant George’s is quite the place to be.
Continue your exploration of France’s west coast to the city of Cognac. You’d be right in thinking this is the home of the distilled spirit cognac, and you can taste it at the famous houses like Hennessy, Remy Martin and Martell. It’s also a fascinating city to explore – make time to visit the Royal Castle of Cognac where King François I was born in 1494. For family fun, look in at the Comic Strip Museum and go for a traditional French crepe.
You will spend five nights at the Chais Monnet Hotel, giving you plenty of time to explore the surroundings. Pick interconnecting rooms or plump for a two-bedroom apartment giving you space to spread out, and leave time to enjoy the hotel’s heated pool with outdoor swim-through. Just ten minutes from the hotel is the Charente river – we can arrange a boat trip on a traditional barge that was once used to transport cognac barrels. It’s also the perfect spot for a picnic made up of locally sourced saucisson, pate, baguette and of course, vin.
Hang 10 in Hossegor
A three-to-four-hour drive brings to the last part of your journey. You will stay in luxe surf lodge La Hortensias du Lac, enjoying scenic lake views with a high-design feel, shown in the use of blond woods, minimal aesthetic and a contemporary white décor. For those who are ready to go, you can rent a surfboard directly from the hotel and head to the hotel’s cabin on the beach, La Cabane des Estagnots less than 2km away to have fun in the waves. Or else prime your skills with a surf lesson. The hotel also has an outdoor pool and spa, plus yoga lessons facing the tranquil lake.
Just south of the hotel, you can spend time in Hossegor, widely considered to have Europe’s best surfing and correspondingly the town has a laid-back feel, lined with surf shops, cool coffee bars and low-key restaurants. If the sea is flat or you fancy a day off surfing, take a bike to cycle the pine-fringed boardwalk that runs parallel to the beaches. The lake is also perfect for paddleboarding or windsurfing. As your holiday comes to close make your way to Bordeaux airport for the journey home.