Travel tips: stay in a VW camper in France, and learn a new skill on holiday | Joanne O’Connor

Advice for tackling the French southwest in a combi van and doing upholstery or bee-keeping on holiday, plus deals in Rome and Somerset

Take me there: camping in southwest France

Retro charm meets digital technology in a new fleet of VW camper vans for hire in southwest France. We Dub You is a new venture from British couple Yvette and Tony Martin, who have equipped their five classic combi vehicles with iPhone/iPod music and phone systems as well as iPads loaded with films, games and guides. Keeping with the hi-tech theme, electric bikes are available to hire, too. Pick up your vehicle at the airport and the vineyards of Bordeaux, the sunflower fields of Dordogne or the surf beaches of Gascony are yours to explore. Seven nights cost from £375, based on pick-up and drop-off at Bergerac Airport (

It’s a good time to… learn a new skill

What do you mean you thought holidays were for relaxing? Hobbydays (I just made that up, sorry), where you spend your free time learning or perfecting a new skill, are among the fastest-growing sectors of the travel industry. Where once a deep tan was the sign of a holiday well spent, now nothing less than a hand-woven basket or pair of homemade felt slippers will do.

Crafty types are well catered for, from a two-day residential upholstery course in the 19th-century surrounds of Higham Hall in Cumbria (£190, to the Sew It, Love It, Wear It weekend dedicated to customising your clothing and making jewellery at Bedruthan Steps hotel in Cornwall (£365,

Discover the lost arts of felt-making and natural dyeing with Wildrose Escapes in the Highlands (£100 for two days, excluding accommodation; The lessons take place in a beautiful woodland setting near Glen Affric, with the option of wild camping or staying in local B&Bs.

And finally, brush up on your bee-keeping on a course at Tiger Hall in Shropshire with accommodation at the Long Mynd Hotel (£375,

Give me a break… this week’s best deals

Home: cool country break Babington House in Somerset, the hotel credited with reinventing the country-house experience for the metropolitan crowd, is kicking off the new year with a free-night offer. Book two nights between Sunday and Thursday and you’ll get a third on the house this winter. Rooms start from £390 per night (

Away: Italian affair Citalia is having a January sale with savings of up to 35% to be had on Italian short breaks and holidays. A three-night break in Rome, at the three-star San Remo Hotel, with return EasyJet flights from Gatwick, costs from £189pp – a discount of 30%, based on a 26 February departure, while a seven-night stay in Lake Garda has been reduced by 23% to £675pp ( © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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