Top 10 holiday tips for keeping calm and carrying on…

From the stunning, rustic countryside to the fashion-forward, cosmopolitan cities, it’s not surprising that Brits are preparing in their thousands to cross the channel and take in the sunshine and scenery.  So with travel and your authentic French cottage booked, how can you best prepare to have the perfect family holiday?

In our last France Fan Club post we introduced you to Selena Hay, who hit the road with her family to enjoy a week in Normandy.  She, along with Louise Bull, Pam Stace and Jayne Lewis, took part in our Holiday Happiness Challenge with their families, revealing the highs and occasional lows that are part and parcel of a family break together.

Now the families have had chance to unpack and sort out their holiday photos, we’ve caught up with them for their top tips and advice on how to have the ultimate relaxing break.

So forget all your worries, forget all your cares and get more out of your travels.  Here’s how:

  1. 75 per cent of holidaymakers who are planning to drive abroad find packing the car stressful.  Make sure you do your research well in advance so you’re not caught short and note the recent introduction of breathalysers that anyone driving in France from July onwards will be required to carry.  For details on what you will need to legally drive in France check here:http://bit.ly/KphoHw.
  2. One in four people find trying check in at the airport on time the most stressful part of their holiday. Make a schedule for your departure day and don’t forget to factor in extra time to account for traffic delays or the unexpected.  There’s no such thing as being too organised!
  3. Navigating abroad is one of the most likely causes for rifts in relationships whilst on holiday.  Sometimes investing in a reliable Sat Nav really is worth it!
  4. Catering for different age groups and tastes can be a challenge.  A self-catering break offers the freedom and flexibility to visit restaurants or cook at home to suit your mood, which helped 50 per cent of families keep the peace when choosing a menu.
  5. A turn in the weather is the biggest turn off for holidaymakers.  So don’t rely on it!  Take a guidebook and have a couple of indoor activities in mind for rainy days. France is home to some of Europe’s best museums, galleries and cultural attractions, so there is something to keep everyone busy.
  6. Whether your choose to drive door to door or pick up a car hire on arrival, having a car really is the easiest way to discover rural France.   However, securing the return of a car hire deposit causes stress among 1 in 4 holidaymakers using this service.  It’s not a guarantee, but it’s surprising how a quick clean up can instantly improve first impressions – always try to hand over the car as you would expect to receive it and you stand the best chance of receiving your full deposit back.
  7.  Packing and travelling on the way home is considered much less stressful than when setting off.  Avoid last minute panic packing and get in the holiday mind set from the start, remember your trip is supposed to be a thing of leisure, so leave enough time to do the essentials at a relaxing pace.
  8. Every region in France has something different to offer.   Read reviews so you know which areas will suit your interests best and don’t forget it’s worth exploring the surrounding areas to get know the country a little better.
  9. The Eurotunnel has been voted the least stressful way to cross the channel – give it a go next time you head to France.  Passengers and those travelling by car can catch a crossing from Dover to Calais, while those using the UK rail network might find the high-speed Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris more convenient.
  10. Kids can be stressful! Sorry, there’s not much we can do to help you avoid the moans and groans coming from the kids, so plan a few activities to suit different age groups, and pack a couple of family games such as garden Jenga to keep spirits playful.

France Fan Club question

What do you first think of when considering France as a destination?

We posed this question to 1,000 UK holidaymakers, and their answers ranged from culture to beautiful countryside and a more relaxed pace of life.  The number one response, however, shouldn’t come as a surprise – du vin!

Whether you fancy Bordeaux, Côte d’Or or something in between, wine is the first thing that springs to the minds of most UK residents when they think of our neighbours across the channel.  How can you blame them?  The vineyards of France are renowned for producing some of the finest wines in the world, from citrusy chardonnay to full-bodied cabernet sauvignon.

If you haven’t already, send us your fondest memories of France as well as tips, recommendations, pictures and links to blogmaster@cottages4you.co.uk with ‘France Fan Club’ in the subject line.  Do so by 31st July and you could win your very own bottle of French wine (terms and conditions apply).

la langue de l’amour

The opportunity to immerse yourself in the language of love is a main reason why holidaymakers enjoy visiting France.  From bonjour to bonne nuit, it seems every word and salutation sounds pleasant to the ear.

Whether you’ve travelled to the country several times or have never been, knowing some key French phrases will go a long way in enhancing your experience.  That’s why we’ve started a list of top sayings you should know before heading to France.

If you’re new to the language, there are many phrasebooks available that can help further develop your conversational ability.  If you think you know your stuff, why not test yourself?

have a nice day

bonne journee (bong zhoor-NAY).

water 

eau (oh), but if you ask for “water” at a restaurant, you will get mineral water. To specify “tap water”, say “eau du robinet” (OH doo roh-bee-NEH) or ask for a carafe of water “une carafe d’eau” (OON cahr-AHF doh).

where is _____? 

où se trouve _____? (oo suh tr-OO-v _____)

Do you know any more need-to-know or tricky phrases?  Share them on our blog by emailing blogmaster@cottages4you.co.uk with ‘France Fan Club’ in the subject line.  While you’re at it, send us your fondest memories of France as well as tips, recommendations, pictures and links as well!

You can check out our France Fan Club here.

La Bonne Vie

Whether it’s the je ne sais quoi, the café culture or the nonchalant shrug that best personifies the French way of life, it’s their relaxed approach that has led many to fall in love with the country time and again.

While only a short hop over the channel, our European neighbours are a gulf away in their attitude to life.  They are simply the masters at celebrating la bonne vie, or ‘the good life’,  to the envy of UK holidaymakers who do their best to soak up the spirit of the country over long summer evenings spent with friends over good food and wine.

We’re challenging lovers of France to embrace the laid back lifestyle and holiday like only the French can, and receive £100 in return!

If you’re planning on a family holiday to France this April and are interested in taking part in a light-hearted ‘holiday happiness’ challenge – simply send us your details, including your mode of transport and dates of travel, by emailing press@lucre.co.uk to apply.

Sur la radio!

When we joined award winning travel journalist, Mary Novakovich, in the radio studio, we were excited to chat to someone who is as passionate about France as we are.

Mary spoke to radio stations across the UK about her surprise following our recent research, which found that one in 10 under 35s do not know that Paris is in France, and a further 12 per cent think that renowned Italian fashion centre Milan is actually a French city!

In a series of interviews Mary shared her love of France, from the beautiful coastlines, fantastic food and historic cities, to inspire a new generation of younger tourists to visit the country.

Now you can listen again, click here to tune in to Mary’s podcast on SoundCloud

France Fan Club – A Game Of Boules In France Changed My Life

We received this lovely little French story from Janine Marsh. If you’d like to share your pics, videos, tales or experiences of France then send an email to blogmaster@cottages4you.co.uk with ‘France Fan Club’ in the subject line. 5 lucky entrants will be randomly selected to win a bottle of wine!

Several years ago I went on holiday with my then boyfriend to the Vendée region of France.  Getting him to go was a bit of a struggle, he’d told me he didn’t like France or the French and had resisted my efforts to get him to at least go on holiday there to see if I could get him to open his mind.  I found his attitude bizarre as I have been a big fan of France since I was 14 and went to Paris on a school exchange trip and my dozens of subsequent visits all over the country had only left me wanting to experience more and with a growing fondness for the way of life and a distant dream of maybe owning a home there one day.

His antipathy was based on a 3 day trip he’d taken in his teens when he’d run away from home to join the Foreign Legion.  He managed to get from Paris to Lille to join up, got cold feet and went home but his experience of unfriendly people in Paris had left him with a poor view of our European neighbours.

In the end I simply rented a self-catering cottage for a week, booked the ferry and presented him with the tickets and the directions – fait accompli!

The cottage was gorgeous, the couple who owned it were friendly and unobtrusive, the weather was glorious, the beaches at Les Sables-D’Ollones stunning and having drinks at a little bar in La Rochelle were wonderful.

The boyfriend admitted – it’s a beautiful country, there’s a lot to see and do, the food and wine are to die for and yes he quite liked France.  By the end of the week he was a confirmed Francophile but it wasn’t these things that had done it.

The owners of the cottage invited us to a game of boules or la pétanque as it’s also called, they had a small boules area laid out in their garden and they’d invited some French neighbours along as well.  We started playing after lunch, we had absolutely no idea of the rules or the etiquette – but we had lots of willing teachers.  Everyone took a bottle of wine, the French neighbours bought along some slices of cold meat, bauguettes and fresh vegetables from their garden and we spent one of the most fun and relaxing afternoons I can remember.  As night fell the game ended and we sat chatting under a clear starry sky to our new friends, the English cottage owners talked of their life in France and the French neighbours worked their Gallic charm on my by then willing-to-be-persuaded boyfriend.

Ten years later – the boyfriend is the husband and we have bought a house in France and set up a website www.thegoodlifefrance.com. We aim to provide information to English speaking visitors and residents of France and help them to make the most of the good life in France whether it’s for a day, a week or forever and I happily chat about my life in France and all that entails – good and sometimes not so good!

That chance game of boules, that could so easily never have happened, led to entente cordiale, the opening of minds and for me ultimately – a dream come true.