Forget the big resorts, Lee Sobot finds a perfect French hideaway in Le Barcares.
THERE ought to be a danger of getting blown off course in the south-west French resort Le Barcares. The pretty, charming area sits beside the Mediterranean sea, but at the feet of the Pyrenees Orientales meaning winds are common-place. Yet pick your property carefully at this peaceful destination and life really is a breeze at a Languedoc Roussillon sun trap.
That is certainly the case at Irish couple Paddy and Maria Horan’s property which is part of the Chez Nous brand. Just across the road from a lovely sandy beach, this well-equipped first floor apartment in Residence les Marines boasts a shaded terrace with dining furniture. The beauty of it is that while the wind may have picked up to 40mph an hour outside, on this particular secluded balcony you will barely feel a cooling sea breeze. And the rest is plain sailing, with Paddy himself admitting: “The great thing about this region is you are pretty much guaranteed some 360 days a year of sun.”
That seems a pretty accurate assessment based on a week in May flying from Manchester airport to Toulouse through Jet2.com whic also flies from Leeds Bradford to Nice, gateway to the south east of France, the Cote d’Azur, St Tropez et al.
And the coastal Languedoc Roussillon/Le Barcares region is a scaled down, more relaxed version of its eastern counterpart which means good news for your wallet. You can expect to pay an average of eight or nine euros for a pint in Cote d’Azur resorts such as Port Grimaud – let alone St Tropez where you’re nearing double figures.
The first part of the Le Bacares adventure is getting there with Toulouse-Blagnac 120 miles from Le Barcares. It sounds a lot, but in reality it’s a shorter journey than Leeds to Birmingham and the fantastic SNCF French train service which puts ours to shame makes everything straightforward. Vibrant Toulouse – which is worth an overnight stay in its own right – is a two-hour train ride to Perpignan, the third-largest ‘Catalan’ city after Barcelona and Lleida in Spain. Expect to see plenty of the yellow and red horizontal stripes of the Catalan flag here – and even a pass by the Catalans Dragons’ secondary rugby league home ground en route to Le Barcares which is 15 miles away.
Perpignan’s route 13 bus takes you to your destination for just 2 euros return and even the impressive SNCF train ride can be booked for around 60 euros return from Toulouse to Perpignan, taking in a stop at Narbonne on the way back.
Some of the views from the SNCF journey are spectacular, particularly on the route down from Narbonne where a railway peninsula leaves you looking at freshwater on each side.
And that wow factor is a sign of what’s to come in Le Barcares which really does provide the ultimate coastal relax and retreat. With a population of just 4,080, this gem of a place is quiet with a capital Q – especially with Le Barcares split into three areas – le port, le village and the grande plage, close to where the Horan property is nestled.
There are a small handful of bars and restaurants within walking distance where the local favourite moules frites – mussels and chips to you and me – is a must. But the real beauty here is the Horan property itself which encapsulates a full day’s sunshine – 25C heat in May - whilst also remaining sheltered from the wind. Brilliantly, both the tranquil beach and well-stocked Casino supermarket are within five minutes’ walk and with local wines available at around two euros a bottle, there’s not a worry in the world.
The resort presents the ultimate hideaway in the south of France sunshine but there’s plenty on offer for those feeling rather more energetic. Naturally, the region is famed for its walking activities while a flurry of watersports are also on offer.
And be it by bus or by foot – a walk of an hour and a half – forays to the Le Barcares’ port and village areas are also a must. The number of haunts to eat and drink in goes into double figures in the village which is centred around a bustling square where the locals play French boules as children are entertained on the merry-go-round. The port area, meanwhile, is simply breathtaking, aligned with impressive boats as the sun sparkles on the bright blue water, which you can almost dip your toe in from one of the area’s cosy little bars.
Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? It’s that kind of place.
Chez Nous: www.cheznous.com is a well-established book-direct website for French holiday properties. There are now over 3,000 offered of all sizes and types. Lee Sobot stayed at Residence Les Marines, Le Bacares – Chez Nous reference number 211899. Sleeps four. Prices start from £295 for 7 nights on selected weeks in May/June 2016.
Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares, great flight times, and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Toulouse Airport from Manchester Airport.
Flights start from £54 one way including taxes.
For more information please visit www.jet2.com or call 0800 408 5599