If you’re planning a holiday or break in France, you’ll find an almost bewildering choice of accommodation. At the top end are luxury hotels, usually found in big cities and smart coastal resorts or in converted chateaux in the countryside. Also in rural areas are auberges, country inns that offer basic comforts and often have a restaurant attached.
France has several big hotel chains – many of them excellent value – but they tend to be close to motorways and ring roads. This is convenient for an overnight whilst travelling but not so inviting for a holiday, when you want to relax in pleasant surroundings. igtarget co At the economy end, camping is popular and camp sites are usually clean, well-equipped and efficiently run.
But by far the favourite choice of Francophiles in the know is self-catering accommodation. If you think this sounds basic or hard work, think again. Modern gites and holiday houses are just as likely to have designer-look interiors, to provide a maid service and to boast facilities like DVD player, central heating, English satellite TV and dishwasher. The properties themselves range from bijou town apartments for a romantic weekend through charming country cottages to huge family farmhouses with swimming pool and grounds – not forgetting the occasional chateau or converted water mill. When planning your holiday, there’s a big advantage in being able to browse every detail of properties on a specialist website like French Connections, whose listings cover most of France, and then have direct contact with the owners, many of whom are British. Once you’ve arrived, enjoy a great sense of freedom to do whatever you want whenever you like. Sleep until noon or get up early and take a trip to the local market to buy delicious locally grown produce or warm croissants from the baker. Relax around the pool all day and spend the evening sampling the local food and wine. Self-catering accommodation is not only for summer holidays. There are great choices for skiing and other activities such as fishing, painting, cycling and riding. And why not take an out of season break or a long weekend? Many property owners are happy to be flexible on holiday start days outside the peak months and to negotiate lets of a month or more. Whenever you decide to hop across the channel, renting your own home from home will allow you not only to stay in a beautiful location but also to sample a slice of real French life.
If you love exploring countries by delving into regions that many travellers simply pass by, taking cycling holidays in Spain could provide you with the ideal opportunity to get under the skin of this popular destination.
The region of Catalunya, just south of the French border, is the perfect place to visit if you want to see beautiful Spanish countryside, interesting historical and cultural sites and quaint villages.
Booking an independent hotel-to-hotel break with an operator that knows the area will enable you to enjoy your cycling in Spain without having to worry about the finer details – such as where you will stay along the way or who will transport your bags.
To take in the best of the region, begin your travels in Palau Saverdera, a picturesque seaside village located near the River Muga.
After spending an evening exploring its pretty streets, you can retire to your hotel to get a good night’s rest before your first day of cycling.
In the morning, you will mount your bikes and head to Peralada. The first part of your route will take you through the Aiguamolls Nature Reserve, home to countless species of birds.
Your lunch stop will be at Castello d’Empuries, a Gothic settlement that boasts the 13th century cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria – a popular stop among pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela.
When you arrive in Peralada, you will discover that your hotel is located in the old castle walls – the perfect way to end your first day exploring the area.