Water parks and swimming in Charente Maritime

We are well served here in the Charente Maritime for fun filled water parks. From babies and toddlers to teens, every child loves the water. Our own two have always been more than happy to jump into a freezing puddle in winter or an unheated pool in autumn never mind a heated pool with water slides in mid summer !

Our two closest water parks/swimming centres are Atlantys in Saint Jean d’Angely (10 mins drive) and Nautilus in Angouleme (40 mins drive) and les Iles de Jonzac, (60mins)  and a little further afield we have Ileo on the Ile d’Oleron (1hr15)

We are regular visitors to Atlantys as it is so close and being all indoors it’s good all through the year. Nautilus is more of a summer day out as much of the really fun stuff is outdoors so you need a nice hot day. We havn’t tried Les Iles de Jonzac or Ileo but they’ve got good trip advisor reviews.

Atlantys swimming centre

We’ve been swimming at Atlantys since the children were babies; On Saturday mornings (10-12) outside school holidays (so September to end June) the pool is exclusively open for the under 4’s, the temperature is turned up, change mats and pottys are supplied by the pool and the pool is filled with balls, floats, mats, climbing frames and all manner of fun stuff for little ones – I went every week with my two when they were toddlers, this is where they learnt to swim at such a young age. Volunteers give advice on how to get your toddlers confident in the water.

In summer holidays it is open every day. The doors open up into a sunbathing area and play area for the little ones. There’s also a café for snacks.  There’s no time limit on how long you stay. Clean changing rooms, lockers (need a 2€ coin- refunded after) toilets and showers. Be warned – men and boys (even toddlers) MUST wear tight fitting swimwear – no loose swim shorts allowed and this is enforced. Suitable swimwear can be purchased from a vending machine inside but may be cheaper to buy them beforehand.

The Atlantys swimming pool center is just next to the Saint Jean d’Angely park, so you can easily spend the day here.

Nautilus water park

We first visited Nautilus water park when the children were little. It wasn’t a great day out, in fact we only stayed about an hour. There was a shallow toddler area but most of the ‘fun’ was outside with rapids, and huge water slides with big teenagers running around. If you’ve got little kids we’d recommend Atlantys instead or we have heard that the Iles de Jonzac is great for younger children and has more facilities than Atlantys with a wave pool too.

 

 

 

 

 

We next went when the children were much older and good swimmers and we were able to let them run around freely whilst we relaxed on a sunbed – It was our kids that were the big kids now ! They loved it. The slide is huge, theres an outdoor water slide with about 5 lanes and you wizz down really fast then the wave pool is always fun for everyone and the rapids are fun too but if your kids are a bit younger / smaller then go on with them as the teens can be a bit excitable in pushing past.

There’s loads of parking, clean secure changing rooms with lockers and of course toilets. There’s a restaurant and a snack bar and an ice skating rink too open every afternoon from 3pm in summer (July/August) The pools are open every day from 10am in July and August. Again tight fitting swimmers must be worn.

Other swimming options

Of course you don’t really need to leave ‘home’ to enjoy the water experience. Both our family friendly holiday sites have heated pools. At La Grange du Moulin our main pool (10mx5m) is heated to 28c and the toddler pool (4m diameter and 60 cm deep) is heated to 30c. The toddler pool is filled with floats and watering cans and is shaded from the heat of the day too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also have a hot tub at La Grange du Moulin, in it’s own secure area Mum and Dad can relax at the end of the day after the children are in bed and watch the stars with a ‘glass’ (plastic champagne flutes are provided !) in 38c and massage jets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Les Vallaies holiday cottages the heated pool has a sloping beach entrance which starts at 15cm so ideal for toddlers and young children to paddle in. There’s also a bubble pool.

Just a 30 min drive from our holiday cottages is Les Gours plan d’eau. A swimming lake with a sandy beach, café bar, life guard and playground. An ideal swimming place if you don’t fancy driving to the ‘real’ beach

The Charente Maritime also has hundreds of miles of sandy beaches. for sea swimming and fun. Even in peak season you’ll be able to find a beach that’s not crowded. The mainland beaches have shallow gently sloping beaches, so great for families; the islands on the Atlantic side have rougher waters, great for older children who love waves.

 

Whatever your swimming preferences there’s something for everyone when staying with us at our family holiday cottages La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies

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.

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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.

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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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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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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K-bane restaurant – seafood lovers heaven, Ile d’Oleron

Leave early !!

We rarely have the time to visit the coast in summer but since last weekend was our wedding anniversary , Chris fancied some Gillardeau oysters so we cleared our schedules for the Sunday and headed out for the Ile d’Oleron where Gillardeau has its oyster beds, shop and 24hr oyster vending machine !

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We had planned to spend an hour or so on the beach before some lunch and before it got too busy but unfortunately we didn’t get going until 11am and should of known better We ended up in a 40 minute traffic jam – at this time of year the coast is a nightmare and we vowed never to attempt the journey again so ‘late’ in the day ! Top tip for summer excursions to the coast LEAVE EARLY !!

K-Bane restaurant

By the time we escaped the jam it was lunchtime. We had heard of a seafood place just after the bridge that is famous for it’s mussels ‘eglade’ (or eclade as it’s known on the mainland) Jean – Patrick, the owner and ‘ostréiculteur’ (oyster harvester) has been selling his oysters to the Paris restaurants for 20 years but wanted to get back to his roots and conserve his links to his original customers on the Island so opened a restaurant in a cabin just across the Ile d’Oleron bridge and next to his oyster beds; the  ‘K-bane’ seafood restaurant was born.

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Eglade or Eclade ?

The Ile d’Oleron is also famous for it’s mussels as well as it’s oysters and a well known Oleron recipe is the ‘Eglade’ . This consists of a tray of mussels standing upright and covered with pine needles from the many pine forests on the island. These are then set alight and the mussels are cooked in the heat and take on a smokey flavour. It’s quite a spectacle to watch and the preparation for each plate takes around half an hour so must be ordered in advance. We were a little confused at first as to the correct name as we had seen signs for both Eclade and Eglade – was it two different recipes ? Apparently not – Eglade is the ‘correct’ name originating on the Ile d’Oleron; Eclade is what the ‘mainlanders’ call it !

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The restaurant is a seafood lovers heaven – it’s for purists – nothing other than oysters, mussels, crab, lobster, bulot, langoustine and prawns on the menu. All dishes are served with sauteed potatoes and the desserts are simple (ice cream, galette charentaise and iles flottantes) We had hoped to try the famous Eglade but the dish has to be ordered in advance, so we had to content ourselves with oysters, fish soup, moules marinier and lobster !

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We had a delicious meal and thought the quality, freshness and value were all excellent, we’d highly recommend the K-bane and will definitely be returning.

That day was quite an oyster fest as on the return we picked up the Gillardeau oysters we had come for and enjoyed those with a few bottles of delicious white wine back at home.

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The service at K-bane was excellent, very friendly and efficient too. The restaurant is open from Easter to the end of September. Full details and opening times can be on their web site  here .When staying at any of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime we can organise the Eglade experience for you. We shall definitely be going again, but this time we shall leave much earlier to avoid the traffic and also we shall reserve our ‘Eglade’.

For details of all our properties here in the Charente Maritime region of south west France visit us at www.french-gites-and-villas.com

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Ten reasons to love (and visit) the Charente Maritime

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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

 

10, WEATHER

 

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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.`

9, FOOD

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.

8, LA ROCHELLE

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

7, WINE

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.

6, COGNAC

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

5, BEACHES

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

 

4, LOCATION

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

3, SIGHTSEEING

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

2, FAMILIES

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 – www.grangedumoulin.com and www.lesvallaies.com

For groups of adults or families with older children – www.french-gites-and-villas.com

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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For more information on the nutritional content of oysters and how to open, keep and eat oysters visit the Gillardeau web site here www.speciales-gillardeau.fr . 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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Beaches along the Charente Maritime coast

The Charente Maritime department on the west coast of France boasts the second most sunshine hours after the south coast and has literally hundreds of miles of coast and safe, sandy beaches and they are all just an easy hours drive away from our family holiday accommodation (and please note that this is a driving time within the speed limits !) There are safe sandy beaches all along the coast from La Rochelle down to Royan and beyond but we shall just be mentioning the ones you can easily get to for a day out when staying with us.

Child-Friendly-Beaches

The islands of Oleron and Ré are very popular for their beaches. They take slightly longer to get to particularly in summer as traffic over the bridge – particularly to Ile de Oleron, can be quite heavy. Top tip – go early ! The Ile d’Oleron is linked to the mainland by a road bridge, so you can easily visit the island and enjoy the beaches, the fishing or the forest. The three main towns of Saint –Pierre, Saint – Denis and to the south Le Chateau are definitely worth exploring. There are also two forests the Forest of Saint- Trojan and the Saumonard Forest which are both attractive to visit and being on the east side have more sheltered beaches suitable for the younger families staying at our child friendly holiday cottages, La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies. The Oyster farms provide the main source of income to the island and are a tourist attraction in themselves (Read about Gillardeau oysters in our blog) There are numerous footpaths in the forest where you can explore or a favourite with children – Le Petit Train Touristique Forestier which will take you along the dunes and the beaches and through the forest. we-were-here

To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park. St Martin de Ré is a beautiful small town – a mini La Rochelle with its port, restaurants and pretty shops. At the end of the island is the Phare Des Baleines is one of the tallest lighthouses in France (55 meters) and has 250 steps to the top, where you have a great view of the mainland and the islands salt marshes. The island’s still produces around 2,000 tons of salt every year. The islands also boasts some fine churches and well preserved fortifications from the Middle Ages.

The Ile de Ré is a wonderful place to hire a bike (and tag along or child seats too) and take a leisurely cycle along the quiet cycle tracks and lanes. The whole island is set up for cycling with lots of places to hire bikes and lots of cycle routes. To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park.

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The Il de Ré has no shortage of beaches; the inland side tends to be more sheltered whilst the Atlantic side enjoys some great body boarding waves. Le-Bois-Plage-en-Ré , Plage des Gollandières and La Plage de la Conche are just a few choice and popular beaches.

 

 

 

Chatelaillon de la plage just south of La Rochelle is a popular place for its beaches and probably one of the closest. In summer it has a fun fair starting every afternoon, plenty of restaurants, bouncy castles on the beach, sunbeds to hire and always lots of activities going on for the children. You could spend a morning and lunch in La Rochelle then head down to Chatelaillon de la plage for a couple of hours on the beach.

Fouras1The peninsula of Fouras stretches from Yves Bay to the Charente River. It is also historically interesting and has long been a heavily, fortified area. Originally the fortifcations were needed to fight off the Normans and then the British. Nowadays, the only invaders at Fouras are tourists ! There is a great view from the fort, along the coast to La Rochelle and across to the islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron.

Just south of Royan on the coast road  to Meschers are some lovely beaches. At Meschers you’ll find the famous ‘Grottes’ well worth a visit but be warned there are lots and lots of steps ! The beaches south of Royan are far less touristy with fewer facilities but quieter and also because of the cliffs along that area of coast, there is some shade, large caves to explore and rock pools, ideal for when the tide goes out.

La Palmyre coast line north of Royan and of course Royan itself also have some excellent beaches lined with pine forests. At la Palmyre (just past the La Palmyre animal park) Dunes have been man made to provide salt water lakes, so when the tide is out
(it goes out along way) there is still water for the children to swim in and the adults to cool down in.

280908 027We have the local high and low tides listed on our noticeboard so you can plan the best time to visit the beach but be warned it really is very very busy in summer in the afternoon so unless you want to be stuck in a traffic jam looking for a parking space you really are better going first thing in the morning. After a fun filled, hot sandy day at the beach you’ll be glad to get back to the peace and tranquility of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime department of France.

 

 

google+By Wendy Blakeman

For great family friendly holiday cottages, gites and villas visit us at La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies or French gites and Villas

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Top ten free things to do

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1, Saint Jean d’Angely – our local town has a great history and some lovely buildings and cobbled pedestrianised streets. It’s not huge with a population of 8000 so is lovely and quiet on most days but bustling with life on market days. Wander around the Abbey cloisters (now housing the centre of European culture), the IX century Abbey and the church and visit the library with it’s beautiful ’sistine’ like ceiling.

Play parks near our gites

2,  Play Parks – our local one is just 10 minutes drive away, the ‘loisier’ is located on the river Boutonne and has a lovely lake with ducks to feed your old bread to, there is a large playing field and a super childrens play park with spider web rope climbing frame, climbing blocks, slides, tyre swings, sand pit and much more. A great place to sit in the sun and watch your children making friends with the local French children. In fact every town has a great park and they are all different and all within a reasonable driving distance.

Hennessey3,   Cognac – a beautiful town with cobbled streets and dozens of  ’Cognac’ houses, take a stroll along the river and see Otard, Hennessey and Martell all within a few hundred metres. See if you can spy their storage houses or ‘chai’ where the evaporation of the eau de vie (or angels share) creates a black mould on the buildings. You don’t need to do a tour (although we have buy one get one free entrance cards for Hennessey) but you can freely enter the shops and look at the bottles of ‘Paradise’ at thousands of pounds a bottle (keep hold of the kids hands !) afterwards you could walk/drive down to the huge play park located on the river.

Great beaches4, Beaches – the Charente Maritime has literally hundreds of miles of beaches and the ones from La Rochelle down to Royan are all within 1 hrs drive of our gites. They are all safe, shallow and sandy and vary from small and quiet to large and touristy – there is a beach for everyone. In La Rochelle the town beach is plenty large enough to please the little ones and is close to the town, so you can tie up the beach with a day sightseeing this beautiful town and save on petrol. The beaches close to La Palmyre have been designed so that when the tide goes out (and it goes out a long way !) there are sea water pools left for the children to play in. Along the coast south of Royan are cliffs and rock pools – another great activity that will keep the kids happy for hours at no cost.

La Rochelle5, La Rochelle – our departments capital and a world renowned city, a definite must see when visiting our region. There are thousands of restaurants (including Michelin starred ones) but when on a budget there are plenty of small family restaurants you can eat at and enjoy the ‘moules frites’ at very little cost , better still, take a picnic, sit in the park or on the beach and watch the world go by. The city is filled with beautiful buildings and we recommend a stroll around it’s busy streets, the tourist info office will give you a walking tour with information on the various historical buildings; go on a Sunday and one of the towers is free to climb (but the shops will be shut – probably a good day to go if you want to avoid temptation)

indoor market in St Jean d'Angely6, Local markets –   All the towns will have a market at least once a week. In our area these are still very much how the locals do much of their weekly shopping, so you will find a huge array of fresh fish, meat, cheese and fruit and vegetables and much fewer ‘handbag’ stalls. We highly recommend buying your fresh fish from the twice weekly market in St Jean, there is good competition between the stall holders, prices are keen, the produce is very fresh and there’s a much better choice than the supermarkets – pick up some oysters to enjoy at our seafood evening.  A great way to practice your own French and encourage the children to say a few words too.

Ile de Oleron7, Ile de Oleron – there are several islands off our coastline but this one is free to get to, it’s larger and a bit busier than the others of course, but you can still find unoccupied beaches, woodland trails, cycle routes (if you’ve brought your bikes) and visit the lighthouse (under 6yrs go free)

8, Walks – There are lots of lovely walks around our gites. Wander up past the sunflowers and maize to the woods where you will find lots of tracks to discover, spot wild flowers and you may even see a deer if you are up early. You have the freedom to roam along all the tracks which criss cross the fields, the lanes are very quiet and you would be unlucky to see a car. One of our favourite routes is up to the woods and along the edge of the vineyards then back along the river Nie where we can stop at the ‘old stone bridge’ where the trolls live. You can cycle these routes too.

Saintes Roman arch9, Saintes Roman ruins – Park close to the Triumphal arch of Germanicus located on the river Charente, wander around the free museum close by which has a collection of stone carvings, parts of Roman buildings and statues too. A stroll through the town and past the two abbeys (also free) will take you to the ampitheatre – it is in a quiet residential area and although there is a small charge to enter, you can easily walk around the outside and see just as much. In summer they often have free concerts in the ampitheatre itself but you have to be quick to get tickets, so join the tourist office web site to keep informed. On your way home if you are still in the ‘Roman’ mood stop at Venerand, a small village en route where there is the start of the aqueduct that fed Saintes with spring water.

Teddy bear picnics at our gites10, and finally – have a day at the gites. You can sit back in the sunshine, reading a good book and sipping a chilled glass of wine whilst your children play in the safely enclosed play garden making new friends. Our weekly Teddy Bears picnic is completely free and all the children really look forward to the bubbles, Teddy cake and balloon animals.

Remember these are just the free things to do, proving you can have a lovely holiday without breaking the bank. Visit our web site for more sights to see and things to do at www.grangedumoulin.com

content by Wendy Blakeman

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