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Where to go in France with kids for 3 weeks

We will be travelling to England this summer to visit family for a week in mid/late July. We want to add on another 3 weeks to France, possibly Basque region Spain as well/instead. We usually travel around a lot, and this year we really want to find just one or two places to stay for longer periods of time. We have two boys, ages 6 & 9, who are well seasoned travellers, and as you can imagine have lots of energy. I'm having a really hard time choosing what region of France to go to. I love the idea of being near the ocean, because we all love the water, but I also love the idea of being in the countryside (as long as my kids have a pool to swim in). We originally thought southern France, but now are wondering if it's just too touristy there. We are open to having a car, if we need one, but are also extremely comfortable with taking trains, planes, etc. My girlfriend is trying to sell me on San Sebastian area of Spain, which I admit looks lovely. Would love thoughts on best places to go with kids in tow. We will be adding on 4 days or so at the end to spend in Paris as well (mainly just for the kids as my husband and I have already done Paris).
Also, considering the many "camping' options they have in France instead of doing our usual house rental. Any feedback is much appreciated.

Thanks so much!

Marisa

Posted by
1825 posts

The Dordogne. Lot's of things for young boys...cave paintings, Troglodytes, Nature, Medieval castles (Castelnaud and Beynac), natural history museum, Vikings........ Stay near Sarlat somewhere with a pool and rent a car. Easy canoeing on the river, which is more like a day at the beach plus wild swans and otters. Everything's amazing and beautiful.

Posted by
169 posts

When you say you are afraid that southern France might be too touristy, I think you are really thinking about Provence. We have been to southwestern France in the summer, and did not find it particularly touristy. In addition to the Dordogne, you might consider somewhere near the Atlantic coast, since you like the ocean. And we stayed near both Oloron-Sainte-Marie, and Salies de Bearn, and found both areas very nice (but did not have young children with us). Peter

Posted by
38 posts

Another vote for the Dordogne. There are lots of little villages around Sarlat that could make a nice base. We stayed in Saint-Vincent-de-Cosse, a 20 minute drive from Sarlat. It is a village of about 300 people, and a number of gites. Ours didn't have a pool (though I saw some that did), but we had a large compound with a couple of trampolines. Our kids (aged 2 and 7) enjoyed jumping on them and playing games with the French children who were vacationing there. We liked that the village was quiet and the kids could run around with relative independence in our compound, but we were only a few minutes' drive to St. Cyprien which has amenities like restaurants and a boulangerie. We were also just a few minutes' drive to the river where you can swim or rent canoes and kayaks.

In terms of volume of tourists, being in Sarlat on their big market day (Saturday) made us realize how many tourists there were. The rest of our time in the Dordogne, we were aware of other tourists, but we did not find it touristy. We went last summer, in mid-July.

Posted by
49 posts

Thank you for your suggestions. Yes, I'd heard great things about Dordogne region, and sounds like its a great place to have a home base. I'm thinking 1.5 weeks there and 1.5 weeks down on Mediterranean coast, maybe Languedoc area. So many lovely places to go and just not enough time.

Posted by
2304 posts

hey woodgiesubs
gonna put my 3 cents in.
my best friend is from the french side of basque area, i haven't been but we plan to travel there. she has told me alot being in the country side. here's a few kid friendly places within the small villages there. people live off the land with farms, ranches, orchards.
francethisway.com (aquitaine-scroll to pyrenees, guide to villages)
itxassou and cambo les baines, ainahoa. places known for the black cherries, they make jams, jellies, ciders, brandies, walk around the villages, the bisquit shop in louhossa, saint jean pied de port, saint jean de luz to walk the small villages.
esplette is known for their red peppers and residents hang them from their houses.
larhune.com is a train that climbs up the mountain for great views.
parc-jeux.paysbasque a fun park for kids to play in
biarritz is ocean time and known for surfing, maybe a surfing lesson or walk along the beach area. bayonne known for chocolate and jabon ham, the covered marketplace halles.
if you have a car, drive into this countryside area and see what all the small villages have to offer. stop by a tourist kiosk in town, they do have bike rides, rafting, or ask owner/host for things to do.
chezkatina.fr check the english version. accomodations with a restaurant and a pool. you have to email them or send booking form for info.
under booking.com check domaine chalets larlapean. camping area. read the fine print. there is parking, a pool, family chalets.
search camping-eskualduna.fr some offer linens, some don't, parking available.
biarritzbylocals.com
hope this gives you info for the french side if interested. enjoy
aloha