YOU don’t need to catch a plane to bask on the golden sands of Tahiti. You can get there by boat – and in less than a day – from the UK.
I kid you not.
Of course, this isn’t the Tahiti of exotic French Polynesia in the South Pacific that has captured the imagination of travellers since the 18th century.
In fact, it’s on the west coast of Brittany, France.
Plage de Raguenez, to use its original name, became so renowned for its caster sugar sands and azure waters that the locals re-christened it Tahiti Beach.
Now, even the road signs point the way to ‘Tahiti’.
We spent a couple of enjoyable afternoons taking our inflatables on to the almost waveless waters during a week-long family holiday in August.
It’s not without fault – there’s no café and the toilets weren’t pleasant during our visit – but if the facilities were any good it might become unbearably crowded.
We discovered two other equally nice beaches close by, both with clean toilets and places to purchase those all-important ice creams for the children.
Picturesque Port-Manec’h, at the mouth of the River Aven, is fringed by woodland and beach huts, and has an island you can wade to when the tide is out.
And Rospico is another sheltered beach with fine sand and a stream heading into the sea which the children took pleasure in damming.
All three beaches are within five miles of Domaine de Kerlann, a Siblu resort that is popular with British families and was our home for the week.
And it’s the place to be if it’s not hot enough for the beach.
There’s no chance of the kids getting bored – there’s a playground, a soft play area, bouncy castle, mini golf, tennis and a multi-sports pitch.
And there are three distinct children’s clubs, all free of charge.
The Bubbles Club is where under-fives play games and create artistic masterpieces (under parental supervision); the Pirate Club for five to nine year-olds offers adventure, water fun and sports activities, while the Barracudas Club for 10-14 year-olds is the cool place for giant games, sports and theatre.
But the wooded resort’s major selling point is its pool complex.
Outside, there are two heated pools – one large and deep, the other shallow – plus a water slide and the best splash zone we’ve ever seen.
Inside, there’s another large pool with a water slide and a spa bath plus a ‘beach’ area for little ones. All the pools have lifeguards.
To my horror, I received an email a few weeks before the holiday warning that ‘‘for hygiene reasons’’ swimming shorts were not permitted in the pools.
It’s commendable that they put hygiene above bookings because I’m sure the sight of middle-aged English dads in their Speedos puts guests off returning!
Our comfortable ‘Excellence’ caravan had a double room with en suite shower, two twin rooms and a kitchen/dining/living area that opened onto a terrace with outdoor furniture.
Just down the road is the town of Pont-Aven, which was put on the map in the mid-1800s by artists drawn to its scenery and atmosphere.
The most famous of these was Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), who built his reputation there before moving to Tahiti (the one in the South Pacific) to create his masterpieces.
Today, the small port is packed with art studios and the Musée de Pont-Aven showcases hundreds of works inspired by the area, including those by Gauguin.
Besides the artworks, there are boats, watermills and pretty stone bridges to admire, plus loads of shops selling the crispy butter biscuits invented there.
The ferry we travelled to France on was named after Pont-Aven and it’s the town that inspired many of the 200 works by local artists on display in this floating gallery.
The River Aven inspired a giant light tower in the atrium (imitating the fast rushing river and its rapids) and there’s a model of the town encased in a bottle.
Travelling overnight with Brittany Ferries from Plymouth to Roscoff was where the holiday really started for Cerys, aged six, and Owen, three.
It was their bedtime when we boarded but, after finding our en-suite cabin, we allowed them to do a circuit of the decks and wave farewell to England.
Then, while mum and dad kicked back with a drink in one of the bars, the kids watched the 9pm show with Pierre Le Bear and a magician.
Remarkably, the magician chose Cerys to be his assistant and, as a reward for performing some amazing tricks, made her an enormous balloon octopus.
“In the morning,’’ he told our daughter, ‘‘I’ll be at the back of the ferry laughing loudly as your mummy and daddy try to fit him in the car.’’
Yes, very funny. My suggestion that Olly be released back into the sea to be with his friends (in reality popped and put in a bin) fell on deaf ears.
So the tentacled terror squeezed onto the back seats of my Fiesta for the 100-minute drive to Domaine de Kerlann, without blocking my vision too much.
And, albeit with somewhat smaller tentacles, Olly made it back to Blighty after our brilliant week in Brittany.
- Siblu owns 17 holiday villages across France in popular locations from Normandy to the Cote d’Azur. Adrian was a guest at Domaine de Kerlann holiday village in Brittany. A seven-night holiday starting August 25 2018 costs from £567, based on up to six people sharing an Esprit two-bedroom holiday home. To find out more visit www.siblu.com or call 0208 610 0186.
- Brittany Ferries operates the longer routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to Brittany and Normandy, saving miles of costly driving. You can travel overnight by luxury cruise-ferry in the comfort of your own cabin with en-suite facilities or be whisked across the Channel in as little as three hours. The ferries have free wifi, lounges, play areas, a la carte and self service restaurants, cinemas and entertainment to rival cruise ships during peak season. We travelled from Plymouth to Roscoff and back and August 2018 fares start from £199 one way for a car and family of four people. Book online at www.brittanyferries.com or call 0330 159 7000.
Three to see
- The Labyrinthe de Pont-Aven (one mile from camp): A monumental corn maze with a different theme each summer where actors (playing Aladdin, Genie and Jafa during our visit) set you challenges. There are also two smaller, permanent mazes, a petting zoo, adventure playground, traditional games, trampolines and more.
- Kerascoet (four miles from camp): A tiny, impossibly pretty village lost in time where the houses are built of stone and have thatched roofs and colourful shutters.
- Concarneau (nine miles from camp): France’s third most important fishing port has a fortified town on an island in its harbour and you can do a circuit of its walls.