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Travel: The French know how to tire out your tots; The Great Escape RUSSELL YOULL AND FAMILY HAVE A SPLASHING TIME IN A FRENCH HOLIDAY PARC.

ASK anyone with children and they will tell you there is a simple equation when it comes to holidays - happy kids equals happy parents.

That's where a trip to one of Siblu's European holiday parcs comes into its own - as a parent you can't go wrong.

Having travelled to a couple of Siblu parcs in France last year, my wife and I were already true converts.

Siblu, the new name for Haven Europe, knows the happy kids formula is sure to keep mums and dads returning to their sites year after year.

Having visited parcs in Brittany and the Vendee previously, we decided to strike out and head further down France's Atlantic coast to the Landes region.

We took the overnight Brittany Ferries service from Portsmouth to St Malo - and I can heartily recommend taking a cabin on board.

Of course, it is an extra expense, but one which we felt was a wise one as the drive from the north coast of France to the extreme south-west is a very long one.

We were lucky, however, as a good night's rest, a smooth crossing and well-planned reststops and toilet break meant our children - Emily, aged two, and Jamie, six months - were much better behaved than we had expected.

We headed to La Reserve, a lakeside holiday parc near the small south-western town of Parentis-en-Born, midway between Bordeaux and the chic resort of Biarritz.

Set on its own sandy lakeside beach, La Reserve is already a favourite of families from both sides of the English Channel and is far enough south to enjoy a warm holiday season stretching from April through to the autumn.

Siblu's parcs all rely heavily on their pool complexes in the knowledge that these are the key to keeping everyone happy and more importantly, allowing the youngsters to exhaust themselves during daylight hours so they will sleep soundly when night-time draws in. La Reserve is no different. It has a fantastic complex with indoor and outdoor heated pools ideal for all the family, from toddlers to grandparents.

The holiday homes, too, are a home from home for the family. Comfortable and specious, the two and three-bedroom statics may not be for those who yearn for five-star luxury, but they are perfect for the family market. The parc is set a few miles inland from the Atlantic coast, separated from the ocean by mile upon mile of long sandy beaches and some of the most incredible sand dunes outside of the Sahara.

One such monster, the Dune du Pyla, has already grown so much it has swallowed a road and an entire hotel and is well worth a visit.

A little further afield, visits to Bordeaux and Biarritz are a must. Bordeaux is a fascinating city filled with the kind of fantastic boutiques for which the French are famed - but one word of warning - if there are no price tags on some of the items on show, don't bother asking how much they cost - the chances are all but the richest won't be able to afford them anyway.

We found miniature orange trees for sale near the lifts to our underground car park and scores of winding, cobbled streets and perfectly preserved buildings. Even so, after hours we had barely scratched the surface.

In the opposite direction from La Reserve, the fabulous resort of Biarritz is also well worth a day out in the car - and don't worry, we found French drivers far more careful and curteous than those at home.

Biarritz, a favourite of wellheeled French and Britons since the time of Queen Victoria, has managed to succeed where so many British seaside towns have failed by retaining its wonderful air of grandeur into the 21st century.

Okay, being just north of the Spanish border makes for a much better climate than Blackpool or Brighton, but the whole feel of this area makes you realise you are a world away from Britain's faded contemporaries.

We spent a few hours on the glorious beach before heading into the town for a meal (costing much less than you would imagine in such an upmarket area) and a spell of people-watching.

However, with two small children in tow, there's only so long you can stay away from La Reserve's wonderful pools and peaceful beach.

As I said, a trip to Siblu's La Reserve is a simple equation - try it and I'm sure you will find everything adds up to a perfect family holiday.

GETTING THERE

RUSSELL Youll and his family travelled to La Reserve with Siblu (0870 242 7777, www.siblu.com) and Brittany Ferries (08703 665 333, www.brittanyferries.co.uk)

Brittany Ferries has a wide choice of routes from the UK to France, with sailings from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo, from Poole to Cherbourg and Plymouth to Roscoff.

All UK ports are readily accessible with Portsmouth and Poole being considerably closer to Coventry than Dover and the French ports are closer to the holiday regions of France, thus saving miles of unnecessary driving - particularly important for young families.

There is also the choice of travelling on a relaxing cruise-ferry and enjoying a meal on board or by fast-craft with a crossing time of only three hours between Portsmouth and Cherbourg.

There are normally a range of low promotional fares on offer so check for the latest at www.brittanyferries.co.uk or call 08705 360 360.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 4, 2006
Words:902
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