Subject: 2 areas in France for 2 weeks
I agree with Richard on the choice of the Dordogne. There's plenty to explore there. Pity that the original Lascaux caves have been closed, but it was the only way to protect the paintings. The fascimiles (Lascaux II) however are very nicely done and give a good impression of the real thing.

My first thought for a family that loves hiking, nature and exploring would be the Vosges region in NEastern France. It is a hilly, almost mountaneous region with lush forests and intermittent farmland. There are mountain lakes, river streams (great trout eating there) and mountain meadows with lovely flora. It rains a lot in the Vosges, but not much in summer! The Club Vosges religiously maintains the markings on the hiking paths and their maps are 1st rate. It's great fun to plan out your route in the morning (first the yellow dot, then the red stripe, etc). The hiking can be very rough or quite smooth, but good shoes or boots are recommended. I'm not a fanatic hiker, but have covered many miles in the Vosges, just because the landscape is so wonderful and varied and the puzzle of mapping and trying to follow your route fascinating. The other advantage of the Vosges is that it is not a top tourist area. Even in August (main vacation period for the French) it is quite doable. The third plus for the Vosges is that it lies next to the Alsace, one of the top cuisine (choucroute, coq au Riesling, Kugelhopf) and wine regions of France.

Another region to consider might be Provence (and I don't say that because I keep promoting it), especially the Bouches du Rhone and Vaucluse. The reason is that you and the kids could see the Roman structures in Arles (amphitheater and more), Nimes, Glanum, where they're still excavating a Roman town, Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine, Pont du Gard (triple aquaduct) and more. Provence is chockful of Roman reminders. After the Roman experience, you could descend to the Camargue, a vast delta, national park, with flamingos, black bulls, and semi-wild white horses. There are many horse ranches where you can ride for an hour, half or whole day, for beginners and more advanced riders. If you don't like horses, you can rent a bike or explore on foot. Driving through the Camargue is not too interesting; there are few roads (to protect the wild life) and from the window of your car it will look just flat and boring. But when you go on the foot paths you'll see a different world. I've never been there in August, but have heard that it may get a bit buggy there, much less in July. The Camargue has a few more treasures: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (where gypsies from all over Europe gather in May and October to celebrate their patron saint) and Aiges-Mortes, a 13th C fortified city, with a fascinating history. More hiking and other activities in Provence: the Gorges du Verdon (French Grand Canyon) in the Haut Var, with Lac Ste Croix, from where you can kayak into the Gorges, Spectacular.

Frieda Lekkerkerker