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This year, we spent two weeks of our summer vacation in France, in a club village of Pierre et Vacances.
Pierre et Vacances is the largest company offering holiday apartments and holiday homes in France (if not in the whole of Europe) with more than 60 locations (residences, hotels and club villages).
Most of the locations can be found at the French south coast (Provence, Côte d'Azur, Languedoc-Roussillon), but there is a large choice available at the Atlantic coast, in Normandy and Brittany, as well as a few locations in Paris and in the French Alps.
There are studios for two, apartments for four, six or eight, and houses for 10 persons, all built in the regional style, furnished appropriately and quite cosy. There are two-, three- and four-star locations (the stars are called suns at Pierre et Vacances).
Depending on the location, there is an extensive offer for kids and juniors, games, sport, fun and outdoor activities for all the different age groups.
As an option - together with your booking - you can order linen, towels, bath towels, TV set, baby set, car parking, safe or interim cleaning. Pets are allowed (extra fee).
Booking is possible via your travel agent (however, I have found that most of them do not actively offer Pierre et Vacances, you have to ask), or directly with Pierre et Vacances.
On the internet, you can find a lot of information, all locations, prices and availabiliy, and you may book online:
www.pierreetvacances.com www.pierre-et-vacances.fr (if you speak French) www.pierre-et-vacances.de (if you speak German)
And, of course, there is a booking form in the 200+ pages catalogue.
CLUB VILLAGE CAP ESTEREL
All what you can read below is related to the club village Cap Esterel in Agay (Saint Raphael, Côte d'Azur, close to the Esterel mountains), where we have spent two
weeks of our summer vactation this year. Most of it will be applicable for other Pierre et Vacances locations as well (as we can see from the catalogue).
Cap Esterel is one of the largest club villages of Pierre et Vacances, it covers an area of more than two square kilometers (almost as large as Monaco / Monte Carlo).
It is a car free village. On the day of arrival and departure, however, you are allowed to drive close to your house to load and unload luggage.
You can enjoy a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean Sea and the Esterel Mountains.
There are two parts of the village (Le Village and Le Hameau) with apartments and houses from 24 to 75 m² for 2 to 7 persons. In addition, there is a hotel as well.
Within the village and to the beach there is a small (electric) train which goes every 10 minutes. However, it is all within walking distance.
In all apartments you will have bedroom(s), kitchenette and dining room, stove, fridge, oven, dish washer and coffee-maker. The houses also have got a microwave and a washing machine. All houses and apartments have got a terrace or balcony, most of them overlooking the sea.
One disadvantage (if you go there in July/August) is that none of the apartments is equiped with air condition).
In total, there are certainly more than 2000 guests in the village. However, due to the large area of the site and the many facilities we did not feel that it was too crowded.
When we were there, most of the guests were French, but there were some guests from England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Germany (we almost could not notice any Germans which means that there were not many of them).
There is a large number of swimming pool areas on site, both in Le Village and Le Hameau. Both of them offer several swimming pools, terrific water slides, separate children pools as well as special waves (every hour), fountains, bubbles and diving boards.
All guests enjoy free entrance to the pool areas, but there are extra charges for deckchairs and sunshades - these are quite expensive - for four deckchairs and two sunshades we had to pay 20 GBP per day (!), and this was for the standard deckchairs (luxury version available at even higher costs!).
It is not far from the village to the beaches (flint and sand), it is a public beach in Le Dramont. The sea water is clear and very nice. Deckchairs are available, but the prices are even higher there.
A lot of activities are available, to book on request. Every Sunday at 10 a.m. the various teams present themselves. Some examples:
Golf (9 hole, driving range, putting green) Stretching, Jogging, Step Aerobic, Water gym Ball games (Boule, volleyball, football, basketball) Concert, dancing, theater Tennis Archery Pony Club Multimedia (Internet courses) Paint ball Adventure parcours Mountain Bikes Excursions into the Esterel Mountains (walking, cycling, or by jeep) Trapeze and trampoline Cicrcus school Magician school
Most of the above activities are available for children as well.
If you do not speak any French, it is still possible to participate in those activities, because most of the staff speak (at least some) English. It is not as you might expect in France that they do not want to even try speaking English. They try their best and are quite good.
Our kids decided to try golf and the magician school.
Some parents do not see their children between breakfast and dinner, because there are clubs caring for kids at all age groups:
Baby club (3 - 23 months) House Poolpy (24 - 35 months) Club Poolpy (3 - 5 years) Kid's Club (6 - 8 years) Junior Club (9 - 12 years) Youth Club (13 - 15 and 16 - 18 years)
RESTAURANTS AND SHOPPING
There are some supermarkets on site, where you can buy food if you want to eat in your apartment.
As an alternative, there are some restaurants on site (French, Italian, Mexican) and a number of cafes.
Shops (boutiques) are available as well, and once a week there is a local market in Le Village.
But of course you do not have to stay within the club village, and there are a lot of places in the area which are worth to visit and which offer a lot of shopping opportunities and restaurants.
PLACES TO SEE
Cap Esterel is located in a beautiful area, where you can visit many interesting places within a distance of about 100 km.
During our two-weeks stay, we visited Monaco / Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice, St Tropez, St Maxime, St Raphael, Frejus, Grasse, Vence and St Paul de Vence.
You might find some more reviews about those places later.
You might wonder how much you'll have to pay for all this luxury. Well, it is certainly not cheap, in particular if you have to go there in the high season (July / August).
In the high season, you pay between GBP 700.- (for 2 - 4 persons, no view to the sea) and GBP 1000.- (for 4 - 7 persons, with view to the sea) per week and apartment.
Earlier and later during the year you pay between GPB 250.- and GBP 400.- for the same - less than half the price.
It is possible to buy houses and apartments here. As an owner you may stay there for some weeks and Pierre et Vacances arrange to rent out your apartment during the rest of the year.
I have been to just one club village (Cap Esterel), but I do recommend Pierre et Vacances based on this experience, in particular for families with children who want to spend their vacation in a holiday apartment, enjoy the swimming pools, the sea and have a lot of activities as well as breathtaking views and attractive excursions.
A few disadvantages have been mentioned: no air condition and the high prices for some extras.
We did very much enjoy our stay and we might come back next year.