Brittany for families
The houses in Place Henri IV still retain their medieval exteriors in Quimper, Brittany. (Bethune Carmichael/LPI)
Picture your kids running on a wide expanse of sandy beach, in a bay surrounded by hills of sweeping grass. They are building sandcastles, catching hermit crabs, flying kites and chasing sardines in the waves. These are the beaches that Monet painted and if you climb up the hill and stand amongst the poppies for a view across the Atlantic, you will see why. This is Brittany.
Imagine pitching your tent next to the beach. The setting is stunning - surrounded by farmland and wide open skies. There are as many or few amenities as you could wish for. This region is packed with campgrounds to suit everyone - some with kids' clubs, restaurants and waterslides and others with a simple pool and playground and lots of space to sit around a campfire and roast hotdogs or marshmallows. Camping is easy on the wallet and also opens a whole new world for parents. Gone are the evenings of twiddling your thumbs in your hotel room after your children's bedtimes. Instead you can sit under the stars with a glass of local wine or cider while the kids snooze in the tent.
You pile into a car - a Citroen CV if you want to be really authentic - and drive through small towns built next to rivers, with quaint streets lined with patisseries and sidewalk cafes. Your kids choose their lunch from the bakery and you picnic in beautiful dense forest. These woods are steeped in history; members of the Resistance hid here during WWII and some claim to have seen mythical beings amongst the trees and glacial boulders.
Suppose there were sights that your children enjoyed as much as you. The nautical museum at Douarnenez invites children of all ages (including forty-year-old kids) to clamour around on countless historical boats from various corners of the world. The town of Quimper has a pedestrianised medieval quarter where your children's imaginations will take flight, plenty of cafes dishing up ice-cream and the family-friendly Musée des Beaux-Arts where Boudin and Bernard inspire young artists. A ride on a small ferry takes you to Belle Isle where you can rent bikes to explore the island. Or perhaps you visit Locronan, where you step back in time as you wander among ancient buildings and shops selling handmade chocolates and toys.
Fancy a holiday abroad where it is not a struggle to find something for your fussy eaters to dine on? Crepes and galettes (waffles) filled with cheese or honey, baguettes with tuna, and omelettes - French food is kid-friendly food. And then there is the baking - macaroons, meringues, tarts and pastries. Meanwhile, you can indulge in divine seafood and scrumptious (if rather potent) Chouchen, a Breton honey-based alcohol that was once believed to be a favourite among elves.
Envision your family linking hands with locals as you dance outside in a wide circle. Flute and violin music fills the air and the atmosphere is steeped in merriment. There are stalls selling cider and crepes as the sun beats down and colourful flags flap in the breeze. Festoù Noz are traditional festivals held throughout the summer in Breton towns and villages. You also stumble upon a few Pardon festivals which offer an equal dose of culture, with long processions of traditionally dressed locals honouring the local patron saint.
Teach your children a few words of French and you will be amazed by the welcome they will receive from waiters and hoteliers. Read some local folklore with your kids - it is filled with druids and fairies and will make the Breton setting that much more exciting. And get ready to soak up some fresh air, some unique culture and some relaxation. This is family travel at its best.