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Adore all things French? Join the club - in Morocco

The French do things differently. Even the humble sambo is a much more exotic-sounding Croque Monsieur. They don't do drop-off points at airports, they call them the much sexier "kiss-and-go" area.

And while their rugby has lost that sense of panache, their vacation time is still a cut above the normal.

The French were way ahead of us in the all-inclusive market, something which we in Ireland are only getting to grips with as a holiday option.

And at the top of the all-inclusive tree in France and beyond is Club Med. It's hard to call it a holiday; it's an experience.

With teenage son in tow, we were looking for different things: he for an active holiday (Club Med is renowned for its sports activities); me, a relaxing few days by a pool under some sweltering sun.

Club Med has resorts dotted around the globe, but La Palmeraie, on the outskirts of Marrakech in Morocco, fitted the bill. Out of season it was warm enough to make swimming a pleasure, and the flight time wasn't a gruelling long-haul effort to the ends of the earth.

Our arrival at night was a culture of shock as were transported to the Club Med way of doing things.

The night was an all-white affair (shirts, trousers, shoes) as holidaymakers dined al fresco. Feeling a bit under-dressed, we headed for the food stations under the palm trees. And the food (all-inclusive) is what you'd expect from a French institution.

Local food (this is, after all, a former French colony), heaving with cous cous, massive cuts of meats, enough bottles of booze to drain Europe's wine lake, and endless supplies of soft drinks to keep the kids refreshed. Elegance straight out of a scene from the colonial-era movie Indochine. Classy but fun.

Walking to our room, it was hard not to feel impressed. The look is Moorish, with water features everywhere, from ponds to pools, shaded by palm trees.

Our room - apartment-style, with adjoining sitting room - looked out over the orange trees, the night air pungent with the scents of exotic flowers and the silence only punctuated by the sound of the odd native bird.

Club Med is a leader in sports activities - and my teenager, while sneakily (as usual) avoiding the kids' club, tried out a range of sports. In the morning it was a game of bowls; by afternoon it was splashing around the pool; and evenings were spent playing tennis or football on the dedicated courts and pitches. There's even a golf clinic and the piece de resistance (really getting into the French now) - circus school. After a few quick lessons he was soaring through the air on the trapeze, looking every inch the pro with the other youngsters, ably managed by the sports team, all of the English speaking. And that's worth noting: while a bit of French (great place for kids to learn) is an advantage, English is widely spoken. And you can even learn Arabic while on-site, and immerse yourself in the local culture, as locals show their skills in producing foods and teas during meal times - and you'll do plenty of eating (best of all outdoors) with substantial breakfast, lunch or dinner feasts.

We found dining companions in the form of a couple from England who'd been with Club Med for the past 25 years, and loved its mix of classiness in a chilled-out environment.

And upmarket doesn't mean po-faced: from wacky pool games, "talent" contests and a mad rush to the bar each evening, this is where the French (and a fair few Irish on our trip) let their hair down.

And they like to party into the wee hours, with DJ sets, dancing and pool parties all laid on for young and old alike.

And if chilling out isn't your thing, Marrakech is right on your doorstep. It's a short taxi ride away, or there's a complimentary shuttle bus.

It's frenzied, it's fun and very exotic.

Best of all, you can spend the morning haggling in the souks, and then recharge those batteries in an oasis of calm by the pool.

Vive la difference.

SUNWAY is the Irish agent for everything Club Med, and has seven nights in Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie on September 13 (lovely and warm) for €1,357 for an adult and €729 for a child.

The price includes all inclusive meals and drinks, with direct flights from Dublin to Marrakech, return airport transfers and a stay in an upmarket Club room. www.sunway.ie

Herald