***image1***For spring break, my husband and I loaded the boys in the minivan and headed due south to the French Riviera. Eight hours and several DVDs, books and rest stops later, we arrived at Pierre et Vacance’s Les Restanques resort near San Tropez.
Pierre et Vacances is a child-friendly chain of hotels and resort villages throughout France and is a moderate-priced alternative to Club Med. Pierre et Vacances has villages at the seaside, in ski resorts and in cities. We booked it online at www.pierreetvacances.com. We chose the Les Restanques resort because of its location on the Côte d’Azur near San Tropez, its children’s playgrounds, pools and kids’ clubs.
We booked a kids’ clubs package. Our sons, Paul, 8, and Alexander, 6, selected their camp activities, choosing the circus school, treasure hunt (the friendly leaders wrote the clues in English for our boys), pétanque (lawn bowling), ping-pong, soccer and kite flying. Our toddler, Thomas, 2, learned French songs, went on nature walks, went to the playground and made crafts.
***image2***While the children were in the clubs, my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a café, shopped for pottery in the nearby medieval art town of Grimaud and strolled through San Tropez. One day we paid for the children to eat lunch at the kids’ clubs, so they stayed there from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
We drove to Nice, visited the Matisse Museum, ambled through gardens and then visited the medieval hill town of St. Paul du Vence where we window shopped and lunched. We enjoyed the beautiful springtime weather, knowing the children were enjoying themselves. It was nice to have an adult conversation rather than chase a toddler during mealtime.
Our apartment was lovely. It contained a kitchen, two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and a large balcony with a sweeping view of the Gulf of San Tropez.
The resort offered a breakfast or half-board package. We chose to prepare our own food and to eat out at local restaurants instead.
***image3***The central area of Les Restanques is car-free, so you can walk to the pools, playgrounds, kids’ clubs, lake and tennis courts without worrying about traffic.The resort is lovingly landscaped, filled with native plants. The village architecture is native to the area, too.
The pool area contained six pools, including a toddler area, a wave pool and several slides.
May, June, early July or September would be the best time of year to go to the Riviera. In those months, it’s warm, everything is open for the season and it is not crowded. April is too cold for swimming, but the sites are not crowded and the spring flowers are beautiful. August is a must-avoid time of year as the French are vacationing en masse and there are notorious traffic jams. The off and mid-season rates are cheaper, too.
The resort had sports equipment, including soccer balls, ping-pong equipment, pétanque and board games available for free. The boys taught us to play pétanque after having learned it at the club. Our sons brought their scooters and played with them at the skate park.
On our free days we built sandcastles on the beach and strolled through the old fishing port of San Tropez eating ice cream and discussing the merits of various yachts we would like to purchase. The boys liked watching the pétanque tournaments in every town square. We also enjoyed day trips to Nice and Cannes, walking where the stars walk at the film festival each May.