We love our food and wine and love to eat out. We are very lucky to have some excellent restaurants in the area, some we regularly visit, some are for really special occasions and others have been recommended by families who have stayed with us at our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France.

Restaurants for a special occasion

Le Scorlion restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

Le Scorlion is a superb restaurant located in the centre of Saint Jean d’Angely and overlooking the Abbey cloisters. Perfect for an intimate dinner for two. Excellent service, delicious food and superb price. Listed in the Michelin guide. Well worth asking me to babysit so you can have a grown up meal out one evening whilst staying with us.

menus from 27€ to 40€

Read more about Le Scorlion restaurant here…..

La Goule Beneze restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely





Located just on the edge of Saint Jean d’Angely, La Goule Beneze is a small family run hotel and restaurant. Subsequently it offers a superb childrens menu and there may be families present who are staying in the hotel; however it still offers a grown up atmosphere with linen tablecloths and lovely table settings, so worth a special occasion.

The couple have travelled extensively and speak excellent English if you are struggling with the menu. The menu itself is well thought out, changes regularly with the season and has unusual flavours mixed with classic dishes.

menus from 26€ to 40€

childrens menu

Read more about La Goule Beneze restaurant here….

Les Pigeons Blancs restaurant, Cognac

Located on the edge of Cognac in beautiful grounds, Les Pigeons Blancs restaurant offers a lovely setting for a sunny outdoor meal or an intimate evening meal inside. The cheese platter is fantastic and you have to choose a minimum of 3 desserts – so make sure you are hungry !

menus from 27€ to 60€

childrens menu

Read more about Les Pigeons Blancs restauarant here…..

Christopher Coutanceau, La Rochelle

With 2 michelin stars, this is one for a very special occasion. I’d say it would be difficult to find a restaurant in the UK of such a high standard at such a reasonable price and pretty much impossible to find one with a high chair !

Located overlooking the beach in La Rochelle and at the entrance to the port area, you can watch the yachts sale in and out of the harbour whilst enjoying a superb meal.

Businessmen and woman frequent this establishment to impress their clients but we have eaten here with the children (because they love their food as much as we do !) and they are treated with the same respect as everyone (but they are very well behaved of course !)

menus from 68€ to 230€

Read more about Coutanceau restaurant here ….

Restaurants for all the family

The closest restaurants to our family holiday cottages can all be found just a short drive away (10mins) in Saint Jean d’Angely. All our local restaurants welcome families with well behaved children. All the following restaurants have a childrens menu.

Le Petit Bouchon restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

Le Petit Bouchon restauarant is located in the centre of our local town, Saint Jean d’Angely, just next to the indoor market ; so the perfect spot to eat after an hour or so browsing the market stalls on Wednesday and Saturday market days.



We have so far never eaten there but many of our guests have. One said he always eats there as it’s the best steak he’s ever eaten – quite an accolade. It has good reviews on Trip advisor

Le Cabanon restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely


We have eaten here at lunch and dinner and also for a coffee in the morning. The great thing about this restaurant is it’s open on Monday evenings when everything else is closed ! Plus it’s open all day for coffee. We experienced great service (as do most of their clients according to the excellent reviews on Trip advisor )

Le Moulin de la Baine restaurant, Chaniers








This has been a favourite of ours for many years. Set in a Colbert appointed water mill over the river Charente it provides a stunning setting for a long lunch on sunny Sunday afternoons. We often go for birthday celebrations with the whole family as the service is always excellent as the staff are used to waiting on large groups.

The restaurant is teemed with the Bernard Palissy boat which offers a mini cruise down the Charente river from Saintes ending at Le Moulin de la baine for a set menu and return trip from Tuesday to Sundays. Their speciality is a huge baked alaska, sometimes requiring several staff to carry it in for large groups.

They welcome families and children too and have a pleasant childrens menu. When they were very young we used to take it in turns between courses to take them exploring beneath the bridge through the tunnels where the river water rushes through – they loved it and it kept them happy during a long grown up lunch on sunny afternoons.

It is also lovely to walk over the bridge to the island where the canal meets the river and you can watch barges negotiating the lock.

Visit their web site here

Batia restaurant, Saintes

Located on a boat moored on the river in Saintes the Batia restaurant has a superb location. The menu is upmarket burgers and steak frites plus a few other more refined dishes. Nice ambience, especially on deck on a sunny day and it’s nicely decorated.




When we ate here the service was very slow but trip advisor reviews vary from excellent to awful so it obviously varies

Menus from 15€ to 27€

childrens menu

Visit their web site here

Saint Jean d’Angely restaurants

Saint Jean d’Angely only has a population of around 7000, the size of some villages in the UK; yet it boasts 3 large supermarkets and numerous smaller ones, an A&E unit/hospital a thrice weekly market and numerous bars and restaurants. Here’s a selection of the main ones.

Hotel Restaurant de la Place restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely








Located on the central place near the Maire. Good for an evening out ‘sans enfants’ . it is a hotel restaurant so will have families staying in the holidays but the restaurant is stylish and has large picture windows looking out onto the central square (although this is a car park)  With crisp linen tablecloths and a quiet atmosphere it is ideal for an intimate meal out. We ate here years ago before we had the children and really must go back as it has great trip advisor reviews

menus 25€ – 35€

childrens menu

Les Jacobins restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely






This is a pizzeria restaurant serving wood fired pizzas for takeaway as well as to eat in but it also offers some great down to earth Italien and  French basics like steak frites, spaghetti bolognaise, confit de canard and carbonara. Perfect for a relaxed meal out with the children. It has a good sized inside restaurant plus a smaller outdoor terrace.

A la carte menu, pizzas around 8-10€; pastas around 8€

childrens menu

Le Mareyeur restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely








Le Mareyeur restaurant is principally a fish / seafood restaurant but with a couple of meat dishes thrown in . Not eaten here yet but has good trip advisor reviews and several of our families have had very enjoyable meals here so looks like it’s on our list to try out. Located on the furthest square from the centre but still only a few minutes walk from wherever you park in town. Has a nice terrace to the front for summer evenings.

menus 15€ to 30€

La Creperie de l’Abbeye and L’ancre Marine restaurants, Saint Jean d’Angely

La creperie de l’Abbeye and L’ancre marine are both creperies. Not my idea of a ‘meal’ but obviously very popular in this town. Great for a simple lunch maybe after the market.

Carottes et Gingembre vegetarian restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely








Carottes et Gingembre (Carotts and ginger) is a vegetarian restaurant which is quite a novel thing in rural France so is subsequently quite popular. It also has vegan and gluten free options. It’s number two on trip advisor after Le Scorlion. Find out more on their web site here

menus 15 – 20€

These are just a selection of the main restaurants found around our family friendly holiday accommodation here in the Charente Maritime region of South West France.

Most families who stay with us tend to have lunches out when they are sightseeing then come back to the cottages and light up the barbecue or have a simple alfresco meal of fresh crusty bread, patés, cold meats and salads together with a crisp chilled glass of wine whilst sat watching the sun go down on their terrace. Occasionally they’ll have an intimate meal out one evening whilst I look after their children in their cottage or pop out with the kids to one of the bistros in Saint Jean d’Angely I’ve mentioned above. I’d love to receive comments from families who’ve stayed with us on how they enjoyed any of these restaurants . Thank you.

content by Wendy Blakeman





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What to see and do in the Charente Maritime

What to see and do in the Charente Maritime

charentemaritime2The Charente Maritime region is famous for its Cognac and Pineau production. There are many tiny villages and hamlets to explore. Quaint chateaux are common. Local delicacies include mussels in cream, goats cheese, honey and cake with angelica. Swimming, fishing, horse riding, golf, tennis and rowing are all available during the summer months in the local area. There are also many lovely country walks all year round. The landscape is gently rolling and ideal for cycling. Below we have listed some of the things there are to see and do for families, for children and for adults. the blue links are to blogs we have written on the subjects to give you more insight.


There’s little need to venture further afield than our local town of St Jean d’Angely, just 10mins away, but if you do there’s a huge range of places to visit and things to do to suit all ages. Details of days out can be found in each of our gites, cottages and villas and you can always ask us too if you run out of ideas.


At La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies we are just an easy 1 hour drive from the coast, beaches and the famous coastal resorts of La Rochelle, Royan and Rochefort. Its also about an hour to the inland towns of Angouleme, Niort and the area around Poitiers, so we are vey centrally located for the whole Charente Maritime Region. Closer to our gites, cottages and villas you will find Cognac, Saintes, St Savinien all within just 30mins drive.

If you would like further details on any of the places listed just ask. We also have many activities going on at some of our holiday cottages. We hold professional wine tastings on a regular basis throughout the summer, every week we have a walk through the vines that the whole family can enjoy. We hold large barbecues, where everyone joins in and for our younger guests we hold teddy bear picnics and pottery painting and even scuba diving at our child friendly properties.

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What to do with Children in the Charente Maritime:

  • Atlantys Swimming Centre in Saint Jean d’Angely – play pool, dive pool, swimming pool, big slide and hot tubs, great fun when its a rainy day or even when it’s too hot.
  • St Savinien – a must for the young ones, ride on the hand made electric boats around the lake
  • Aquarium – in La Rochelle, a great rainy day thing to do but top tip, go early or very late (it’s open until 11pm in summer)

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  • La Palmyre Zoo – the best in Europe, well known for it’s breeding and rescue programme and its interactivity with the animals
  • Futuroscope – perfect for older children, not so worth while for little ones though, a theme park with rides and a vision of the future
  • Fort Boyard – have you seen the programme ? Take a boat trip to view it (can’t go in but a lovely trip all the same)
  • Nautilys Water Park – a great day out for the whole family . Near Angouleme and with indoor and outdoor pools and slides, perfect for all weathers.
  • Donkey Sanctuary – See the famous shaggy haired Poitou Donkey
  • Valley des Singes – Surround yourselves with Monkeys and learn all about them.
  • ViviLnkPaleosite – watch Dad turn into a Neanderthal, learn to make fire and throw a spear
  • Playgrounds – are numerous in the area, St Jean d’Angely has a good one next to the lake so you can feed the ducks too
  • Karting – in St Jean d’Angely for the teenagers
  • Canoeing and Pedaloes – at the local loisier near the play park in Saint Jean d’Angely


  • Chateau Branch or Acrobranch – tree top adventures for all levels of ability
  • Chateau des Enigmas – maze and quiz
  • Noahs ark – run by the world parrot trust
  • Puy du Fou – amazing – what can I say ! A couple of hours drive from us but perhaps worth stopping over on the way down or back home. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.
  • European zoo – at Chize for a quieter and closer zoo visit than the one at La Palmyre. European animals. Well laid out.
  • Iles aux serpents – discover reptiles
  • Comic Museum and Chocolate factory in Angouleme

For all the Family in the Charente Maritime

  • Markets – Thrice weekly in St Jean d’Angely
  • Beaches – From La Rochelle down to Royan
  • La Rochelle – for its shopping and amazing aquarium
  • Cognac – with its world famous distillery tours


  • Saintes – a beautiful Roman town with a fantastic ampitheatre
  • Poitiers – with the superb ‘Futuroscope’ park
  • Bordeaux – and its world famous vineyards, beautiful city
  • Angouleme – has a great water park, museums and shopping
  • Niort – for its history and shopping
  • Rochefort – with the Hermione reconstruction and corderie royal


  • Royan – with its European awarded animal park.
  • St Jean D’Angely – our local town, shops, markets, park and tourist office
  • Venis Verte – hire a boat and explore the waterways on a canoe or hire a guide
  • Glassworks – in Cognac
  • Cafes, bars and restaurants – in St Jean d’Angely and all the local towns

What to do in the Charente Maritime for Adults:

  • All the above of course plus
  • Golfing – there a number of golf courses within an easy drive
  • Fishing – from river and lake to fishing in the sea. Passes/permits readily available


  • Concerts – are regularly held throughout the summer season, Cognac Blues and Francofolies in La Rochelle are two of the bigger ones but our local town of St Jean d’Angely regularly holds open air concerts and shows.
  • Scuba Diving – we regularly have discover scuba sessions for children but adults are welcome to join in or if you prefer we can organise private sessions and courses.


So as you can see the Charente Maritime has a host of fabulous things to do and see and to keep you entertained on your family holiday to France

Content by Wendy Blakeman


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Ten reasons to love (and visit) the Charente Maritime

charente maritime charentemaritime2 IGND17





We love the Charente Maritime ! After 20 years here, it is most definitely home to our family and we thought you should know why we love it and why you should love it too – or at least visit ! Stay in one of our family friendly holiday cottages located centrally within the region – ideal for visiting all the fabulous places the Charente Maritime has to offer.

Top ten reasons to love and visit the Charente Maritime





The Charente Maritime has the most sunshine hours per year after the cote d’azur but it’s a lot closer ! It is recognised as having a superb micro climate with mild winters and gorgeous summers with much less rain generally than the Loire to the north and the Dordogne to the south but just enough to keep it lush and green most of the year rather than the dry south coast.

It is usually warm and sunny from Easter until the end of October but rarely gets unbearable. June is our favourite month – all the crops are fully grown, the sunflowers are in full glory and the temperatures are just perfect; hot and sunny during the day but cool enough overnight to be able to sleep comfortably.`


P1110427-250x187I can’t really claim that the Charente Maritime is the only part of France that has great food; as all French people will tell you, France has the best food in the world ! I shan’t argue, we love our food and we love French food ! We particularly love the local Charente Maritime food of course. Gillardeau oysters are a particular favourite; goats cheese from Melanie Boursin in La Villedieu, Pineau from the Cartauds in Corpeteau and the local galette with angelica dipped in honey from l’abeille galante in Cherbonniers (all just a few km from us)

Every town, however small, has a market at least once a week where the locals buy all their fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, veg and of course cheese. The Charente Maritime is no exception. There is a market somewhere every single day. France has literally hundreds of cheeses. President Charles de Gaulle was famously quoted as saying (in French of course) ”How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” (others claim it’s actually more like 450 !) The Charente Maritime is famous for its goats cheeses and we have a number of local producers who sell from their farms or at the local Aulnay and Saint Jean d’Angely markets.

France is renowned for its patisseries, it’s pastries and of course its bread. Local bread deliveries are still made to the outlying villages that can no longer support a boulangerie. There’s no experience that makes you feel more like a local than the bread van stopping to give you your daily baguette, you can also catch up on the local gossip !

France is also home to the Michelin guide which awards ‘stars’ to top restaurants around the world. The Charente Maritime boasts 45 Michelin selected restaurants, two of which have star ratings but we know of dozens more restaurants that are absolutely superb. One of our favourites is Andrés in La Rochelle.

Our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely has a great selection of restaurants from family friendly creperies and pizzerias to superb bistros and top class dining worth a babysitter too. Whatever your taste and budget you’ll find something that suits you in the Charente Maritime.


2015-12-22 12.15.48Our county town, La Rochelle is known all over the world. It’s where the rich and famous pull into port in their yachts and gather to eat in Michelin starred restaurants and shop for jewellery. It’s also where you and I can watch the world go by whilst enjoying a coffee in one of the many cafés or eat moules frites in one of the hundreds of seafood restaurants.

Just an hours easy drive from our family holiday cottages, this beautiful city has something for everyone. Families will enjoy the great aquarium, a play on the beach and a walk through the park.

History buffs will enjoy the maritime museum, climbing the port towers and wandering the cobbled streets of the old town with its half-timbered medieval houses and Renaissance architecture and passageways covered by 17th-century arches.

Gourmets will enjoy the hundreds of restaurants, heavily dominated by seafood around the port but foods from around the world can be found down any street. The markets are overflowing with fresh fruit, vegetables and of course fish, oysters and mussels.

Find out more about La Rochelle here


2015-07-22 11.35.49This area is mainly known for it’s Cognac and most of the vines you see in every direction will be used for the production of Cognac. However we are just a boat ride away from the top end of the Medoc, the vineyards for Cognac soon merge into the vineyards of Bordeaux and the top names of Pauillac, Margaux and Saint Emilion . The world famous city of Bordeaux is just a 1hr30 drive from our door.

Small independent wine producers can be found all over the Charente Maritime. We have a number of local wine makers within 30 minutes of our holiday cottages that we highly recommend; Chris has worked in the wine industry all his life so he knows what he’s talking about too !

Whilst driving along the quiet country lanes you will often come across a sign to a local wine and Pineau producer (Pineau is the local tipple – an off shoot of the Cognac industry) Stop and taste their produce, meet the man (and/or woman ) who makes it and buy some as a souvenir of your holiday in the Charente Maritime.


IMG_0697A family holiday to the Charente Maritime would not be complete without a visit to the world famous town of Cognac – home to the celebrated brandy – All Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac – only the spirit produced in this area is allowed to given this prominent name.

Just cheating slightly Cognac is just a 30 minute drive from our family holiday cottages and centrally located within the Poitou Charente (it’s actually just on the Charente side rather than Charente Maritime but I’m claiming it as it’s so close !)

Cognac is home to renowned distillers such as Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin and Otard.

All the houses offer tours to the public giving vistors an insight into the history, production and taste of their product. There may be other towns in the world called Cognac but this is the only one that can make it and it’s (nearly) in the Charente Maritime !

Find out more about Cognac here


280908 045The Charente Maritime has literally hundreds of miles of coastline and sandy beaches. With the four islands, Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oleron, Ile d’Aix and Ile Madam that are also included in this department plus the famous beach resorts of Royan, Chatelaillon plage and Fouras to name just a few, you won’t be short of beaches to relax on.

The mainland offers calm, shallow waters, ideal for families with younger children. For the older and more adventurous, just head over to the Atlantic side of the larger islands for body and wind surfing with big breakers.

Many beaches are protected through the Conservatoire du Littoral (the coastal protection agency) so remain unspoilt. The most popular beaches will have lifeguards on duty and the safer places to swim are marked .

Whatever your requirements for a day at the beach – be it sunbeds for hire, top restaurants, shade and toilets or natural beauty, peace and quiet you will find it on the beaches of the Charente Maritime.

Find out more about the beaches here



charente maritimeThe Charente Maritime is located about half way down France on the left ! South of the Loire, north of the Dordogne.

We are just a 4hr30 drive from the port of St Malo; 6hrs from Caen or 8hrs from Calais – far easier to reach the sunshine and beaches than having to drive all the way to the south coast.

The region is well supplied with a number of airports – La Rochelle is our closest at just 1hrs drive, then Poitiers at 1hr20 and Bordeaux at 1hr30; all the low cost airlines fly to these cities during the summer months.

Our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely is on junction 34 of the A10 motorway so links to all the major towns and cities easily.

Find out more about the location here


20150211_141139The Charente Maritime has endless places to visit and things to do. You may of already heard of La Rochelle, the Islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron (certainly if you’ve been paying attention you will of !)

Maybe you’ve also heard of Royan and it’s beaches, Rochefort and the Corderie Royal (as well as the Hermione) Poitiers too but the Charente Maritime is also home to Saintes and it’s Roman ampitheatre, La Palmyre and its animal park, the citadelle de Brouage, la cite de l’huitre, grottes de regulus, and numerous chateaux, ports and museums to visit as well as parks, churches (above is our local Aulnay 12th century church) woods and forests and endless country lanes and cycle paths.

All the towns have an office of tourism where you can pick up local information on where you are staying and what there is to do close by.

Find out more about what to see and do in the Charente Maritime here


Child-Friendly-BeachesThe Charente Maritime is the perfect location for families. The weather is just perfect – lots of sunshine but not unbearably hot. The location is perfect as it’s not too far to drive and is well supported for airports too.

The French are so welcoming here in rural France. They love children and they are welcome in restaurants – even the 2 star Michelin restaurant in La Rochelle has a high chair !

There’s something for all the family; beaches, animal parks and aquariums for the kids, history, culture and shopping for the adults  but you can also escape to the peace and tranquility of the rural French countryside.

Relax by the pool or sit under the shade of the vine reading a book whilst the children play with new found friends here at our family holiday cottages.

Find out more about a holiday with children here

1, US !

chris50BWe couldn’t write a top ten list of reasons to visit the Charente Maritime without including ourselves ! Our family holiday cottages, gites and villas are ideally located within the Charente Maritime to take advantage of all the above reasons to visit.

Our properties are all owned and managed by ourselves so you know you will receive excellent, personal service – just read some of our reviews on our web sites and on trip advisor to see why families return again and again to stay with us in the Charente Maritime .

They love the Charente Maritime and we are positive that you will love it too.

Visit our web site now for more information

For families – and

For groups of adults or families with older children –

Content by Wendy Blakeman





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Rainy day top ten things to do

1,  Aquarium

IMG_1312The aquarium in La Rochelle is the number one destination for all our families on a rainy day. Unfortunately everyone else has the same idea so either go early and get there at opening time or leave late in the afternoon and take advantage of the late night opening when it’s always much quieter

Find out more about the aquarium…..

2, Amuzetvous play centre

amuz_logoin Saintes, just a 30 min drive from our family holiday cottages this is the perfect indoor activity for children aged 0 – 12 years. A huge soft play frame of towers, tunnels, slides etc, four large enclosed trampolines, a baby ball pit for the littlest ones and even an ‘ice rink’ in summer. There is wifi and café and board games too. I have spent many a rainy afternoon with a friends playing scrabble and drinking hot chocolates whilst the children wear themselves out !

3, Paleosite

paleosite1A mostly indoor interactive museum about the ‘Pierette’ neanderthal skeleton found on the site. Activities such as making fire, spear throwing and morphing your face into a neanderthal keep the younger kids interested and lots of interesting facts for the older ones too. A perfect rainy day activity as much of it is indoors and only a 30 min drive away from our family holiday cottages.

Find out more about Paleosite…..

4, La Palmyre Zoo or Zoodysee

2016-02-22 15.40.47obviously these are much more enjoyable on a hot sunny day but both animal parks are located in woodland with very tall trees so unless it’s actually lashing down you are quite protected for the most part by the canopy.

Zoodysee is relatively local, about a 30 min drive so although not as good as La Palmyre (it’s European animals so lots of brown and often nocturnal animals ! So more of a pleasant woodland walk) it’s a better option if you just have to get the kids outside for a couple of hours to burn off some steam

Find out more about La Palmyre Zoo……

5, Corderie Royal

P1110578in Royan, an easy hours drive from our family holiday cottages. The royal rope making factory has some really interesting and family friendly activities. Learn how pulleys work by pulling on the ropes, be amazed at the length of the building, visit their regular special displays (we saw one on Shackletons Antartica voyage) It’s also next to the Hermione which although now finished and has travelled to Boston already, is regularly docked at Rochefort and may be visited.

Find out more about the Hermione here…..

6, Cognac distillery tour

IMG_0693Just a 30 min drive from our family holiday cottages, Cognac is a great rainy day activity as many of the tours are mostly indoors. The Hennessy tour is fast moving and you are only ever in one place for 5 minutes, it even includes a short trip in a boat. The lighting and smells will keep even toddlers interested (take some snacks to keep their mouths occupied just in case !) This area is all about Cognac so it’s a must when staying with us come rain or shine.

Find out more about Cognac tours….

7, McDonalds in Saintes

There are Mcdonalds all over the place of course but the one in Saintes is where I used to take my boys when they were little on a rainy day. It has a great play room – like a soft play tower with tubes and many levels.

They’d spend literally hours chasing each other and making friends and just come out to me when they needed a drink. For the price of a few soft drinks and a coffee the kids burn off steam and you can sit back and facebook or twitter all afternoon !

8, Restaurants

andres2-218x223A long lunch in a restaurant in La Rochelle – although not most parents idea of relaxing with young children !

Andrés in La Rochelle is a great choice. There are fish tanks to sit next to which have kept our two (when toddlers) happy while we tucked into our oysters.  They also have crayons and puzzle/coloring sheets and a good kids menu too.

After lunch you can take a walk through the streets which are for the most part covered walkways (designed to keep the sun off but works for rain too ! ) and if the rain should stop for a while there is the town beach which will keep them happy

Find out more about Andrés…..   and La Rochelle……

9, Laser Lander

laser2Laser Lander in Saintes is a great way to while away a few hours blasting each other with lasers. Get together with a couple of other families and all go together.

To extend the afternoon or if you have younger children (under 6) then a simple trip to McDonalds opposite Laser Lander is a good option as it has a great indoor play area.

Find out more about Laser Lander

10, Stay home

pigeonsblancs3Stay in your cottage with some local cheeses and local wines and have a tasting while the kids have popcorn and a movie on the sofa

As you can see there are lots of ideas for rainy day things to do when staying at our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France but since we have the second most sunshine hours in France after the south coast then rainy days are the exception rather than the rule. Fingers crossed you’ll be able to enjoy all these ideas – but in the sunshine !

Find out more about our family holiday cottages here…..

Happy Holidays

Content by Wendy Blakeman


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Aquarium in La Rochelle

aquariumDuring the holidays my sister and family came to stay with us. The weather here in France has been absolutely beautiful for months, clear blue skies and mild temperatures so we had a day trip to the coast and the aquarium at La Rochelle our county town here in the Charente Maritime.

The aquarium in La Rochelle has been a regular place for us to visit over the years with the children, ever since they were really little, it has been a firm favourite ever since and often the choice for a birthday treat. It is also one of our top ten recommended places to visit for our families who stay in our holiday accommodation during the summer months, tying it in with a stroll around this famous French city and a delicious seafood meal.

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We booked our tickets online as there is a slight reduction in the price and on very busy days (and it can get really busy during the summer) this avoids the need to queue, so definitely worth doing. Here at La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies We are happy to print your tickets for you but you can access the confirmation bar code on your phone too.

Our visit was in the morning, at this time of year it opens at 10am and is not too busy; in summer you really need to get there before it opens as the queues can extend out of the building and down the street if you arrive later – to be honest, if this happens it really isn’t worth queuing as it will be so busy inside you’ll have difficulty viewing everything and its no fun for anyone – far better to go for lunch, visit the town then go back in the afternoon or evening when it will be much quieter. In July and August it’s open until 11pm !

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The visit starts with a descent to the depths of the ocean (in the lift); when our two were very young (1 and 3yrs) this bit scared them as the ‘submarine’ lift shakes a bit and the ‘windows’ show the water level rising. So hold onto the little ones. The doors open into an underwater tunnel filled with jelly fish – water surrounds you, below your feet and above your head it’s a lovely start to the ‘tour’ .

The direction of the visit is well signposted and the different areas well laid out, so although you can wander freely and view as much or as little as you want, following the route means you’ll see everything on offer. The visit around La Rochelle aquarium is split into five main areas: The Atlantic coast; Mediterranean; Caribbean; Indo Pacific and Tropical rain forest.

aquarium-220x162Many of the tanks reach down to the ground, so ideal for younger children . There is lots of information about all the fish and sea creatures and their habitats if you have time to read everything but we found the most popular thing with the children is just being able to run around freely.

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There is a lovely childrens tunnel that takes them behind a huge tank so you can take a photo of them from the other side pretending to be a fish; or the interactive projection on the carpet is another firm favourite where they can try and chase the ‘fish’. We also enjoy sitting on the benches in front of the shark tank just watching these magnificent fish gliding by.

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The final tropical area is also popular with our kids as although there arn’t many fish (a piranha tank with a big warning sign not to put your hands in !!) the wobbling rope bridge to access it is fun, as are the bamboo tubes with different tropical smells to guess. There is an audio guide designed for children aged 4 to 10 years and an app you can download before your visit to get them excited about it and prepare them for the experience.

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Practically wise there is good disabled access and lots of toilets along the route (always a necessity with young children) Lighting is quite low so at busy times you’ll need to keep a good hold of little children so you don’t lose them – we’d always recommend visiting the aquarium at quiet times if at all possible with young children and toddlers as it is far more fun if they can run around discovering things for themselves.

At the end of the tour there is the ubiquitous gift shop – we always know when our families have been when they return with cuddly Nemos and sharks ! On previous visits we have eaten lunch in La Rochelle at one of the many seafood restaurants on the port (usually Andrés) but this time because it was already quite late for lunch we decided upon the aquarium restaurant /café .

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This was a really pleasant surprise. It has stunning views across the port, is light with windows all around and the service was excellent. The choice of food was very good, several fish dishes and steak too. All simply but well presented, even the childrens steak haché frites (burger and chips) was served with wrapped green beans and the chips were homemade. Very reasonably priced, particularly considering the location – take the boat taxi across the port and you’ll be paying twice as much. Highly recommended.

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A superb day out when staying at our family friendly holiday cottages in the Charente Maritime in France.

content by Wendy Blakeman


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Gillardeau oysters

gillardeau1 We first discovered the Gillardeau oyster dining at Andrés seafood restaurant in La Rochelle. Chris adores oysters and has been known to eat literally a bucket full (picked off the beach by a good French friend of ours) but when he discovered the Gillardeau there was no going back ! We are obviously not the only ones as the Gillardeau company has a 24/7 boutique where you can pop in at 2am when the oyster urge hits and use their oyster vending machine which not only supplies boxes of 18 oysters but the lemons and oyster knives to go with them and with the credit card machine next to it you don’t even need cash !

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The Gillardeau oyster beds and boutique are about an hours drive from our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime department of France, so we don’t often jump in the car in the middle of the night to pick up a box even though they are incredibly delicious! It’s really more of a treat for a birthday or, as happened yesterday, we were passing on our way back from the kite festival in Chatelaillon and picked up a couple of boxes for our Easter lunch with friends tomorrow.

The Gillardeau family has been in the business of farming oysters for well over a 100 years. Originally it was Henri Gillardeau who had a passion for oysters and was so proud of the quality of his produce that he was one of the first to put his name to his oysters. In the 70’s Gerard Gillardeau took oyster farming to a new level and created in 1978 ‘The Gillardeau’ a method of farming oysters that creates a superb and consistent  product leading it to be one of the most highly sort after oysters in the world.


The method of course has its secrets  but the basis for excellence is, after an initial 9 months in oyster parks the oysters are then transferred to bags in deep sea water for a further 3 years. The key is low density, so the oysters have space to grow plus a highly intensive program of care where the Gillardeau team watch over the oysters, moving them, cleaning and turning them to produce this world renowned quality oyster.

During our holiday season we often have ‘seafood evenings’ where guests enjoy a stroll around our local Saint Jean d’Angely market and pick up oysters and mussels (and occasionally lobster too) to enjoy at the social evening.


Many of our families love oysters, others arn’t so sure, perhaps having had a ‘bad’ experience in the past or never having tried them or being unsure of how to open and eat them. Chris is passionate about teaching those who want to learn the art of this gastronomic delight ! He will show you how to open them (we provide the oyster knives you provide the oysters !) and then most importantly how to tell if they are fresh. A good rule is if they are hard to open then they are still alive as the muscle that keeps the shell closed is still active, but a further assurance is the scent – they should smell sweetly of the sea – if you arn’t sure then the best rule is throw it away. Of all the hundreds of oysters we have eaten we have never once been ill.


Oysters are very high in mineral content and this is one cause of some peoples possible intolerance to oysters, we know one guest who simply adores them but everytime he tries one he comes out in an awful rash.

Another one of Chris’ tips is to refresh the oysters in fresh water. My first taste of oysters was not pleasant as they had been left sitting in sea water and it was so salty it nearly made me gag, it was inedible. By refreshing them – a quick dip once opened in fresh water, you remove the sea water and retain the sweet salty creaminess of the oyster itself.


Families are often surprised that we eat oysters in summer, having heard the old wives tale of only eating oysters when there is an ‘r’ in the month ie not summer; this comes from the days before refrigeration and high speed transport, when oysters were taken inland on horse and cart which in the hot summer months wouldn’t of been a good idea ! However when water temperatures warm, wild oysters are induced to spawn creating a ‘milky’ appearance, they are perfectly safe to eat, its just the taste is not as good, however in these days of controlled production techniques if you are buying your oysters from a reputable supplier and not picking them off the beach, this does not happen – Gillardeau in fact state their oysters ‘never become milky’.

After shucking and eating our oysters we then whip up a pan of mussels but you can read more about this in our ‘seafood evening’ post.

Our Gillardeau oysters are in the fridge together with a delicious Pouilly Fumé ( de Ladoucette 2011 to be exact)  that we also picked up from the Gillardeau boutique – they have an excellent choice of wines, chilled champagne and other local delights such as Ile de Ré salt, Pineau de Charentes, Cognac as well as gifts and essentials like lemons, butter and onions in red wine vinegar.


For more information on the nutritional content of oysters and how to open, keep and eat oysters visit the Gillardeau web site here . For further infrmation on our family holiday cottages exclusively for families with young children, toddlers and babies visit our web sites La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies

My mouth is watering just thinking of the delicious creaminess of the Gillardeau oysters, the warm spring sunshine, chilled wine and the good company of our friends. We hope you enjoy your Easter as much as we are.

Content By Wendy Blakeman



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Andrés restaurant, La Rochelle

Andrés in La Rochelle is by far and away our most favourite restaurant
in the Charente Maritime. Found at the entrance to the old port, it is
easy to find and is the centre of all the best restaurants in La Rochelle –
our theory is the andres2-218x223further away from this point you get along the harbour, the further you get away from top class seafood ! If you want moules
frites then feel free to choose anyone of the hundreds of seasonal restaurants that pop up as soon as the sun starts to shine, but if like
us you love seafood and want top quality and freshness served with professional and friendly staff then Andrés is a great choice for all the family.

t is set on a pedestrianised cobbled square centred on a large anchor (which the children love to play on inbetween courses) We love
to sit on the terrace in summer and watch the world go by as we tuck into our Gillardeau oysters (grown just down the road and
considered the best in the world )

There is a very relaxed atmosphere, high noise levels and informal table settings. High chairs can be provided and we have always
found the staff to be extremely friendly and welcoming towards our children (and we have been taking them since they were born) Our
boys particularly enjoy the ‘space dust’ sprinkled on the ice cream which pops in their mouths.

Considering the location we have always found it excellent value. You are of course sitting in a central position in the third most visited cities in France with over 3 million visitors each year – so yes – you will pay a bit more for the location than sitting in a back street café. However they do a superb three course 18€ lunch menu which is delicious and excellent value. What we love most, apart from the food and location is they do a delicious ‘grown up’ childrens menu which incorporates a beautifully cooked piece of fish in a divine butter sauce and they will bring crayons and colouring pages for the little ones and also (if you sit inside) sit you next to the live lobster tank which will help keep the little ones amused whilst you dig into your own cooked lobster or crab !

Apart from the superb ‘fruits de mer’ platters and world renowned Gillardeau oysters they also do an amazing fish soup which is a complete meal in itself being served with the traditional croutons, grated cheese and rouille (named for it’s ‘rust’ colour) a spicy (chilli)
garlic sauce that gives a great kick to the already hot and tasty soup – perfect for a winters day or a meal in itself if you don’t have time for more courses and at just 9€50 for a massive tureen full – can’t be beat for value. Long tables, great for family meals, bustling and good noise levels (so no one hears when the toddlers shout a bit too loudly !
anchor-275x215We always recommend a full day out to take in the sights of La Rochelle. With an early start, visit the aquarium first to miss the queues in summer then take the electric boat taxi over the harbour (fun for the kids and costs about 70cents for adults) which drops you off right at the tour de la chaine next to Andrés. Enjoy a delicious seafood meal – taking it in turns between courses to let the children play on the anchor then stroll along the promenade under the trees and browse the market stalls and watch the street entertainers making your way through the town. In the heat of the sun you can walk protected by the ancient overhanging buildings (good if it rains too !) window shopping (or buying !) in the hundreds of independent stores.

After your stroll around the shops, having walked off your lunch then you
must stop at Ernests le glacier – homemade ice creams and sorbets in
every imaginable flavour – choose just a cone or a bucket full, the kids
won’t forgive you if you don’t !
To make it a full day out (and perhaps to kill two birds…) you can then take
a walk along the city walls to the town beach. Always bustling and with
several cafés from which to enjoy an afternoon coffee, the children will get
a few hours playing in the sand and jumping the wave if the tide is in (if
not they can hunt for crabs and tiddlers in the rock pools) whilst you sit
and sun yourself gazing at the boats sailing in and out of the harbour.

A perfect day

content by Wendy Blakeman

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