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Spotlight on Noirmoutier, France

If you're looking for an ideal coastal getaway for a couple, or a perfect family holiday with all the kids, then look no further than the Île de Noirmoutier, an island off the Atlantic coast of France and a dream destination for year-round vacations. It's worth noting however that while Noirmoutier is regarded as an island, there have been times when it's been dubbed the "Presqu'île" of Noirmoutier, or the "Almost-an-island" of Noirmoutier, as the island is joined to the mainland via the periodically-flooded Passage de Gois. The flooding of this passage is tidal, and occurs twice a day. While it's possible to drive across the Gois, it's not recommended due to the extreme danger posed by the high tide flooding. This doesn't stop the annual Foulées du Gois, an international road running race that interestingly enough begins as the tide begins to rise. The race takes place over the 4.15 kilometers of the submerged causeway between Beauvoir-sur-Mer and Noirmoutier, with many of the participants finishing the race ankle-deep in water - with an unfortunate few even having to swim the last leg!

This curious natural feature isn't the only reason that visitors from throughout France and from around the world flock to Noirmoutier. The heritage of the place dates back to the year 830, with the first trace of fortifications in Noirmoutier, and since the end of the 12th century the château of Noirmoutier has been a prized target for invaders. History aside, there's lots to see and do in terms of natural wonders and outdoor entertainment. There are a range of boat vendors, hire companies, sailing schools and diving courses located around the island, and the location boasts two marinas. The coastline is ideal for enjoying nautical activities, and the bays of Barbâtre, La Guérinière and l'Epine are great for sailing, regatta and fishing enthusiasts. Hiking opportunities also abound, as do chances for long- or short-distance cycling trips. In terms of local produce, Noirmoutier is highly regarded not only for its seafood, salt and culinary creations, but the island is renowned for its potatoes, the delectable miniature 'Bonnotte' potatoes.

Finding villa accommodation is always easy, although it pays to book ahead if you're looking to stay somewhere during the peak August summertime holiday. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from England, nevertheless you'll feel a world away from London hotels (and even Paris boutiques and restaurants) in Noirmoutier. Yet this is a good thing, as there is always a time and place for a relaxing and refreshing holiday.

The choice of accommodation is clear too, and time after time visitors to the island recommend renting a vacation villa. Holiday villas are an unbeatable choice for holidaying like the locals. Just like they say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", and in this case it means escaping the city for the countryside at the first available opportunity! Holiday villas, whether regional or coastal, are a great option, because a trip to Italy for instance doesn't necessarily entail a hotel-hop throughout all the hotels in Rome. Sometimes it's nice to be able to truly get away from it all on a vacation, and that includes the bright lights and the hustle and bustle of the big cities throughout Europe.

Relax on Spain's fantastic south coast when you choose a Torremolinos holiday this year.

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