Normandy delights are on our doorstep

The sand stretches for miles at Cabourg's seafront
The sand stretches for miles at Cabourg's seafront
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It’s got a long, wide sandy beach, plenty of sunshine, more cafes and restaurants than you could visit in a whole year – and it’s a half-hour drive from Portsmouth.

Where? The charming seaside town of Cabourg in Normandy on France’s northern coast.

Okay, perhaps I should qualify the ‘half-hour drive from Portsmouth’ claim. It is after you’ve allowed Brittany Ferries to take you and your vehicle over to Caen.

From there, Cabourg is a leisurely drive east along the coast through a handful of French villages, and before you know it, you have found a little piece of continental heaven.

Let’s deal with the journey first, then.

For our kids – now aged 11 and eight – a cross-Channel ferry crossing is as exciting as a holiday itself.

You can do it by day or night – whichever, the five or six hours the crossing takes fly by because there’s so much to do on these ferries now. You can visit one of their cinemas, browse around the various shops, go out on deck and get some proper fresh air in your lungs or, if you have a cabin, something I’d recommend, you can have a little nap, and before you know it, France will be looming into view.

We didn’t discover Cabourg ourselves – we have my wife’s parents to thank.

A decade ago, they bought a little house there on a new estate which is right on the beach. We’ve been a few times and wish we could go more often.

Cabourg is not what you’d call old-fashioned but does have something of a feel of bygone days, but in a nice way.

Its seafront is, without doubt, one of its major attractions. The sand stretches out literally for miles: ideal for picnics, ball games, simply lying in the sun (of which Cabourg seems to get plenty) or going for energetic long walks, with an ice-cream every couple of hundred yards to keep you going.

The town centre is a delight too.

Dominated by restaurants, pavement cafes and bars, this is where you really know you are in France. And children are welcome wherever you go.

Always bustling, from early in the morning to quite late into the evening, the high street has a lovely atmosphere, often boosted by the presence of market stalls or, on some days, mini music festivals.

In the unlikely event you do get bored of simply enjoying Cabourg’s beach and shops, the town offers a variety of things to do: horse racing, watersports, swimming pools, go-carting, tennis, golf and, for the gamblers among you, a casino.

If you’re staying for just a few days you won’t need to stray far to keep yourselves occupied, but if you’re there for a week or more, there are plenty of other towns and resorts nearby to visit.

Larger centres like Bayeux and Rouen are within easy driving distance, Normandy’s D-Day memorial sites are always worth a visit – even Paris is only a couple of hours away by train or road if you want to sample life in the capital.

Cabourg, which can also be reached easily from Le Havre, has a wide range of accommodation types to suit all budgets.

At the top end is the 1860s-built Grand Hotel, which lives fully up to its name, but at lower cost come a good selection of cheaper hotels, guest houses and B&B houses. There are camp sites too, so it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

My guess is that once you’ve been to Cabourg once, you’ll want to go back.

Maybe you’ll even join the property-owning set too...