At last spring is here and so too is the Easter break. With the pound so high against the Euro (March 2015), planning a family break in France is better value than ever.
There are so many different things to do and explore, but here are a few suggestions for last minute but truly inspiring short breaks in Champagne-Ardenne. It’s such an easy drive from Calais, just pack the car and pop off for a perfect spring time break in France…
Inspire Budding artists in Renoir country
Pack some sketchpads and enjoy a short break in the picturesque village of Essoyes where Renoir lived and created many of his famous paintings. Follow in the footsteps of the great Impressionist at The Renoir Cultural Centre, his studio, and walking trails that take you to some of the scenes he painted. The 3* ‘Les Canotiers’ hotel & restaurant overlooks the village and offers a 3 night break on half-board basis from €185 per adult (€150 per child sharing adjoining twin room). There are comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool for sunny days and great views. Tennis courts in the village can be booked for a nominal charge and the hotel has mountain bikes too for exploring the surrounding area and a vineyard or two for some tastings. The break includes 2 dinners; a champagne cellar visit and tasting; entrance to the Renoir Cultural Centre; and is available all year (excluding July & August). Book at www.hotelsdescanotiers.com
Lakes, Nature & Treehouses
The ‘Lac du Der’ is in the centre of Champagne and is one of the largest man-made lakes in Europe. It offers an enormous range of activities for all the family with excellent cycling and hiking trails (25 miles around the lake). Here you’ll find watersports, nature reserves, wildlife spotting, birdwatching and a trail of unique half-timbered churches. Charming villages offer a great range of excellent value accommodation from camping to gites. Au Milieu de Nulle Part offers a wonderful, natural environment for family adventures close to the lake. There’s a cleverly refurbished gypsy caravan to sleep 5 with all mod cons and proper bathroom, a secret tree house, donkey ride adventures around the lake, good value Chambres d’hôtes and even a refurbished dutch barge on the Champagne-Bourgone canal! See au-milieu-de-nulle-part.com
The Domaine de la Forêt d’Orient in Rouilly Sacy is ideal for an active family break exploring the nearby Orient regional park with plenty of walking, cycling and forest trails to explore, as well as an 18 hole golf course on site. After all that activity, relax in the pool and Aqualis Spa. There’s a great range of water-based therapies, inspired by nature and the nearby lakes area. It’s just a short drive to explore the magnificent mediaeval city of Troyes and indulge in retail therapy at great value designer outlets on the outskirts of town. www.domaine-foret-orient.com
History buffs will love picturesque Colombey-les-deux-églises where a fascinating visitors’ centre is dedicated to the life and work of President Charles de Gaulle. The centre covers an important chapter of European history from De Gaulle’s involvement in WW1 to his death in 1970, the struggles of WW11, the Resistance, Liberation, and post-war political turmoil to the creation of the Fifth Republic and the departure of De Gaulle from public life. The visit ends with a moving film of De Gaulle’s funeral. The family home, left unchanged since the 1970s, is open to visitors too. In the village, La Grange du Relais offers duplexes and family rooms in beautifully converted stone barns and stables. Breakfast is taken in the small café bar and store, with quirky items and regional produce to browse and buy, and there is an excellent restaurant & terrace frequented by locals. The private pool area is ideal for chilling out and bikes are available for guests. Follow the scenic Champagne route of the nearby Côte des Bar vineyards and it’s just a 10 minute drive to the popular Nigloland Theme park, which younger kids will love. See www.lagrangedurelais.fr
Explore the Ardennes and stay in the largest castle in Europe!
Let the kids’ imaginations run wild and stay in a 15th century fortified castle used up until the 1980’s as an army base. Following major refurbishment, The Château-fort de Sedan in the French Ardennes now houses a 54-room hotel & restaurant built into the battlements and ramparts with spectacular views over the Meuse valley. A stylish contemporary conversion retains original features and the hotel offers a very good value gourmet restaurant. Spacious duplex suites are perfect for families from €148 per suite with a huge living / dining room with sofa bed, and mezzanine). Kids will love exploring the castle on a fascinating audio tour with recreated scenes from history. Book at www.chateaufort-sedan.fr
Nearby is the historic city of Charleville-Mezieres, and the family adventure park Le Chene Perché. Tarzan & Jane wannabees can enjoy wild tree-top adventures with zip wires, tree-climbing, rope bridges, cycle paths and walks through ancient oak forests at Signy L’Abbaye. Themed guided walks & picnics are available to track boar, badger, foxes and even wild cats. On-site tree houses from €38 pp per night sleeping four (the largest sleeps 8 over 3 levels). See www.lecheneperche.com.
Find more short break & holiday suggestions at www.champagne-ardenne.tourism.co.uk as well as downloadable, brochures, maps and a mobile app for on the move info.