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Lighten up your day with this pastel coloured embellished dress, £65 from ASOS.

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Times, Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Setting sail to find an authentic slice of France

Dress code Unlock the secret of spring style in of these little numbers, says Jenny Weller

This flowery number is perfect for spring, £25 from Republic.

This adorable floral cut-out dress can be found at New Look, £24.99.

From Primark’s spring collection, keep it casual and cute with this dress, only £13.

Belle-ile-en-Mer, above, and St Malo, below.

James Ashford goes in search of Old France, taking in the beautiful countryside in the process

Next has this animal print lace dress, £55, in its spring collection.

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This Grecian style Kora dress is £110 from Monsoon.

Add colour to you day with this Roskanda dress from Debenhams, £75.

Head to Primark for this navy nautical style dress, only £10.

Pictures:Jean-Patrick Gratien

The 20s style fringing on this dress make it a must buy, £100 from River Island.

Go from day to night in this super chic navy number, £20 from F&F at Tesco.

’ve been going to France for family holidays for as long as I’ve had my own family and we’ve grown to love the country and its people. And it has been lovely. Relaxing, entertaining, charming and cheap. Over the years France has changed. The motorway network is excellent and you can even buy petrol on Sunday now. But there are rather more McDonald’s and rather fewer family-run cafes and bistros. And France isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Fuel, food and accommodation have all crept up in price over the last six years and, in some cases, are now more expensive than the UK. But it is still a beautiful place to visit so last summer we were determined to try and find value-formoney combined with some of that wonderful French hospitality. And so we dug out our old Michelin maps and set compass for St Malo and for Brittany. And who better to travel with than Brittany Ferries? The company started life shipping freight across the Channel and is still largely owned by Breton farmers. It also topped the Which? magazine customer satisfaction survey for 2011. For those of us living in and around Reading it is a good choice. The crossing itself is more expensive than Dover/Calais but you can sail from Portsmouth or Southampton. If you are heading to western or southern France it also saves you that dreadful drive across the Pas de Calais. With fuel and autoroute tolls ever on the increase you also save money as well as time.

Brittany itself is enchanting. I suppose because it was one of the first holiday destination for ordinary Brits it has become a little passé over the years. But the countryside and coast are truly spectacular and the region is dotted with pretty seaside towns and small cities bustling with history. A little bit like Cornwall but without the crowds. We took the overnight crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo and followed our noses West along the coast road past Cap Fréhel, Pléhérél and St Brieuc before pausing in Plouha for a picnic lunch by the sea. The place was so pretty we decided to stay and, having spotted a campsite on our way to the beach, settled in. Despite the rather British grey skies that greeted us the next morning we packed our cossies and headed down to the sea for a dip. When you’re down to the Speedos the last thing you want to see clumping towards you is a pair of middle-aged Frenchmen with knifes in one hand, a lemon in the other and a large, hungry grin on their faces. But our new best friends were after oysters not Englishmen and were busily scoffing them where they grew. The empty half-shells dotted about the rocks in their wake a testament to their appetites.

A testament too to the sparkling clean seas that wash the Brittany shores that the pair were happy eating raw shellfish straight off the rocks. The region is a cyclist’s paradise and the next morning we pedalled our way to the bustling market at Étables-sur-Mer to pick up a few tasty morsels for our campsite supper. These stations baleniere or seaside resorts are dotted all along the coast and have a charming 1960s feel about them with promenades to promenade along beaches to bathe on and seawater swimming pools to take a dip in. The grandeur may be slightly faded but they retain their charm and feel authentically continental. They are also excellent value for money. We had a leisurely lunch of moules marinières at a pretty cliff-top bistro for about €7 a head with a complimentary demi of local cider thrown in for the grown-ups. So did we find a bit of the old France? Well no self-respecting Breton would ever consider themselves truly French but you can’t deny the charm of Brittany. n For details of crossings to Western France from Poole, Portsmouth and Southampton visit www.brittanyferries.co.uk or call 0871 244 0744

Perfect for the office, this dress is too good to miss at just £16 from George at Asda. This hypnotic colour block dress by Julien Macdonald is £65 from Debenhams. Brighten up your wardrobe with this vibrant red strapless dress, £95 from Next.

Make people green with envy with this belted dress, £22 from F&F at Tesco.

This stunning high neck blue lace dress is yours for £50 from ASOS.

The region is a cyclists’ paradise; above, Golfe du Morbihan Picture: Emmanuel Berthier

Left, traditional folk dancing Breton style Picture: Donatienne Guillandeau


Jenny 6