By W. D. C. Cormack
TAKE a car to France and beat the £50 allowance. The freedom of the wheel will give you an unlimited choice of holidays at resorts where few foreign tourists are ever seen and where prices are modest even by Spanish standards. With the additional £25 in foreign currency allowed to every motorist taking his car abroad to cover the cost of petrol and roadside expenses, the whole of this lovely country with its amazing variety of climate, scenery and people, a continent in itself, is wide open even to the outermost corner of the Riviera and the Basque coast.
You can spend a delightful seaside holiday in Brittany with the children, and don't forget each qualifies for a £50 allowance as well, at reasonably priced resorts like St. Cast, St. Briac, Trebeurden, Benodet, Treboul and Beg Meil. You can go further south down to the Loire Valley with its lovely chateaux, to the coast of La Vendee where there are beautiful sands and comparatively un
known resorts, large and small, from Sables d'Olonne to St. Gilles sur Vie.
Further south, still on the Atlantic coast, there is the estuary of the Gironde with lovely sands, sheltered from rollers, and resorts like Royan. St. George de Didonne and St. Palais sur Mer. Les Landes may not appeal since the long sandy coast is unprotected from the onslaught of the ocean and the resorts are very small and few and far between, although there is Arcachon on its lagoon. Biarritz on the Basque coast is somewhat more expensive and so is St. Jean du Luz although in between there are odd little resorts where prices are still very reasonable. Of course, the further inland you go so the costs drop. At Ixsassou there are two hotels where they charge 33/to 37/a day all in.
The Catalan coast between the Spanish border and Angeles Plage is most attractive, but again prices here tend to be rather more than you can afford on the £50 allowance, unless of course you are prepared to go in May or October when the temperature is as high as it would be in Brittany in August. From there on to Marseilles there is many an idyllic little pluge where for £2. 5. Od. a day. good hotel accommodation is still available.
Once past Marseilles towards Toulon and beyond to St. Tropez and St. Raphael your choice is limited to holiday villages such as Les Restanques and St. Aygulf, where prices are very reasonable indeed. The Cote d'Azur from Cannes to Menton cannot really be considered in terms of the present currency allowance, unless you are willing to stay for a week only. Inland it is different. There are scores of delightful spots in the Dordogne, the Auvergne and Savoy where remarkable bargains can be found with the help of a good hotel guide.
France is still cheap if you know where to go and if you arc prepared to nose around. By taking your holiday in May, June or September you can be sure of finding empty rooms wherever you go. But if you decide to take your holiday in July and August, the best advice is to book beforehand and if you are in any difficulty make your reservations through a travel agent, especially one who specialises in holidays for the motorist.
The Automobile Association this year are introducing a foreign travel plan whereby they are offering a number of holidays, including one in Brittany_ The benefit of making inclusive arrangements of this kind is that you can budget beforehand all your basic expenditure on hotels and know exactly what you have left over for personal spending. This for the motorist is vitally important since he never knows when minor repairs may be required.
Even a faulty gear-lever may cost a fiver. For serious breakdowns, of course, there is no need to worry about an extra supply of French francs. Insurance arrangements can cover that adequately, even down to the cost of additional hotel accommodation and the fares home, as well as the transport of the car to Britain.
The reputation that France is more expensive than other countries might have been true a few years ago, but is not justified today. Rooms in hotels arc particularly cheap. It is still possible to find rooms with three beds in quite a good second-class hotel which cost no more than five bob a head for the night. Admittedly, a plain breakfast is likely to cost you five or six shillings but lunch or dinner can be obtained for 12/9d., provided of course you are not tempted by the gastronomic menu for which you may have to pay twice as much. The average price for. dinner, bed and breakfast is 35/to £2, including gratuities and taxes at most modest second-class hotels.
There are traps for the innocent, of course, especially on the rogues' routes, as experienced motorists call them, where hotels lie in waiting, ready to charge the earth for very little. Avoid, therefore, the N.7. Use this road by all means for travelling but when you want to stop for the night, drive off to the right or left for fifteen miles, and then look around for a good night's rest. Besides, you will find such hotels much quieter as well as being a good deal cheaper.
Prices in bistros for cof fees and drinks vary considerably. A smart cafe on the front with tables on the pavement may frighten you with its charges. 7/for a beer and two orangades may seem extortionate, but if you go round the back-streets the same may only cost you 3/-, If you are doing all your own catering, follow the example of the French housewife and market early. Then you will find that shopping in France can be a lot cheaper than in Britain. Tomatoes at 9d. a pound, apples at the same price, with melons and grapes even cheaper, can make a considerable contribution to the limitations of a £50 budget.
Even meat which, at first sight, seems to be much more expensive, can be cheaper since many of the cuts are trimmed before weighing so that you do not have to pay for surplus bone or fat. Drinks, of course, are not as cheap as they used to be, especially wine, but you will always find a supermarket where a litre of vin rouge can be bought for about 2/-, although you may have to take your own bottles. Certain arficles like butter are dear, but all in all prices of food in France are not likely to vary much in balance from those in Britain.
The particular joy of taking your car to France in 1967 lies in the considerable saving which can be made in the cost of extras. You can take with you a large polythene container filled with water which will save you the price of many bottles. A small butane stove with a supply of tea, sugar and dried milk can give you all the afternoon cups you will require. Drink can be bought on the cross-Channel ferry, provided it is British, with travellers cheques payable in the sterling area which can be taken in excess of your £15 in notes and your foreign currency allowance. A demi-pension arrangement, that is dinner, bed and breakfast, only, will save you on a fortnight's holiday at least £8 to £10 per head. By lunching out on the beach or by wayside from a store of tins brought in the car from Britain, supplemented by local purchases of bread and cheese, you could produce a considerable reduction in day to day expenses. There is, however, no need to be saddled with such frugalities unless you wish to spend rather more than the average on evening entertainment. But if you wish to visit the casino, go to a nightclub or two and enjoy more than one cognac after dinner, such economies must be contemplated. All in all it would be best for you to fix your itinerary and the hotels where you intend to stay before you leave Britain. A packaged arrangement offered by a travel agent may be the best way of controlling your expenditure, whether you decide to tour or whether you decide to travel through to one resort where you intend to stay for a while.
France, so near at hand, always seems to provide an eminently satisfactory holiday. The food is always exciting, the coastline resorts so various, and the scenery so familiar and yet so different. The limitation imposed by the basic foreign currency allowance may not be quite so easily overcome, but if the challenge is met in the way which has been suggested your holiday should prove most successful and should cost rather less than you imagined.