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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Saint Jean d’Angely…..

Our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely

Just a 10km easy drive from our family holiday cottages, La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies lies the market town of Saint Jean d’Angely. With a population of just 7000 it has a surprising number of great facilities. There are two large supermarkets plus several smaller ones; providing a good array of produce including fresh milk, big familiar names (Kelloggs, Nescafé and even PG tips in the foreign foods section)

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The town also boasts a thrice weekly local market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings and a smaller Sunday morning one too) Here you can wander the cobbled medieval streets with the locals and pick up fresh fish, oysters and mussels, home grown vegetables, as well as local wines and cheeses.

Restaurants, cafés and bars

After practicing your French chatting to the producers and picking up some local delights for your evening meal you can relax in a café bar and watch the local life go by. There are dozens of bars where you can sit outside and soak up the atmosphere of a small French town. ‘Ellis park’ and ‘Rum runners’ are two of the most central ones, located on the place du Pilori. The children can run in and out of the tables and peer into the ornate Pilori well (don’t worry it’s covered !) whilst you enjoy a morning coffee. When my two were young, they used to enjoy dipping their croissants a large hot chocolate – very French !

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The town also boasts a good selection of restaurants from simple bistros to top class cuisine. Le Scorlion and La Goule Beneze are two restaurants worthy of a babysitter. Enjoy a night out whilst I (a registered childminder) look after your children in your holiday cottage. Alternatively enjoy one of the many family restaurants the town has to offer – L’Annexe and Le Cabanon bistros,  Les Jacobins pizzeria, Le Mareyeur fish restaurant or La creperie de l’Abbeye for some simple crepes. All the restaurants do however not open until 7pm in the evening and many are closed on Sunday and Monday. We can make reservations for you.

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History of Saint Jean d’Angely

The town of Saint Jean d’Angely has had a long and brutal history. The Abbey is the main feature of the town. It was founded in the ninth century to house a relic of Saint John the Baptist, and rebuilt in the 14th, 17th and 18th centuries because of repeated destruction. The Abbey was then abandoned and is now a listed building.

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Saint Jean d’Angely is situated on the pilgrim route that led to Santiago de Compostela] the edifice still constitutes a major stopping-off point for pilgrims. Since 1989, the Royal Abbey has housed the Centre of European Culture, which has breathed new life into the Abbey by restoring it as a historical and cultural site and as a place for the exchange of ideas.

For a small town it has a great selection of fun family things to do:

Atlantys swimming pool centre

Again for a small town, we are privileged to have such a great indoor swimming centre. The Atlantys swimming pool center boasts a 25m sports pool, a 5m deep diving pool and most importantly a large kids pool with fountains, hot tub, baby pool and huge slide.

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On Saturday mornings (10-12) outside school holidays (so June and September) 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.

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 fittening 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.

Saint Jean d’Angely park

located next door to the Atlantys swimming pool center (follow the signs for the hospital and the urgences until you pick up signs for the Base de Loisirs or Plan d’eau (both mean the park) there’s plenty of parking but only one toilet next to the café so go before you walk over to the other side of the park to the play area !

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Located on the lake you can hire canoes and pedaloes and it’s linked to the river Boutonne, so you can take your canoe further afield if you wish. There are some (signposted ) lovely walks, there’s a café /restaurant open in summer, a football pitch, ping pong table, mini golf, skateboard parc, childrens play park and rope climbing web. Take a picnic and feed the ducks. It’s a very easy and pleasurable afternoon out.

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Saint Jean d’Angely itself

The town itself is a pleasure to walk around with its cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The tour de l’horloge is worth a look – push open the door and climb the steps. (open mid june to mid sept, tues- sun, 10.30-12.30 and 14.30 – 19.00 & FREE !) wander around the old abbey, take a look at the ceiling in the library and the beautiful old herb market too (now the indoor market) On a rainy day maybe pop into the museum des cordeliers which among other things has a fabulous exhibition of the expeditions of Citroen in Africa in the 1920’s (open tues – sun, 10.30 – 12.30 & 13.30 to 18.00 from mid june to mid sept, see web site for openings at other times)

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All in all our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely has a wonderful history and although small is a bustling, vibrant town (just don’t go on a Monday when it’s asleep !) and has everything you will need for an enjoyable self catering stay at our family friendly holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of south west France.

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Valley des Singes (monkey valley)

Created in 1998, Valley des singes (singes is a monkey in French), is a zoological park dedicated to primates. It aims to be both a place of entertainment and education of the  world of primates and of environmental consciousness. The park’s main objective has been to contribute to raising awareness in the protection of nature and of the environment.

Valley des singes philosophy

Valley des singes is home to 450 primates in 16 hectares. You will enter the world of primates with no fences, the vast majority of monkeys are free to roam and interact with the humans, only the more dangerous primates have water barriers – for your safety, not theirs !

The main aim of the valley des singes is awareness of issues affecting and endangering primates throughout the world. The park works throughout the globe, through its Conservatory for the Protection of Primates, for the protection of monkeys and their natural environment. Over the years, Monkey valley has become a leader at European level in the proliferation of primates and even worldwide with more than 700 births to date.

Our visits to valley des singes

We have visited valley des singes twice since the children were born. The first time was before Thomas, when Benjamin was a tiny tot of 2. It was a freezing February day, it took longer than we expected to get there (about 1hr30 as we lost our way – there’s no major roads/motorways to get to it) ; most of the monkeys were hiding away in the warmth somewhere and the café was closed – so it wasn’t a great success. Still, Benjamin enjoyed running freely around the walkways and we did see the odd monkey that we got really close to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second time was for Thomas’ 10th birthday. He had heard one of the guests in our family holiday cottages talking about how much fun it was and decided that is what he wanted to do for his birthday treat. This time it was a hot August day and we knew the best way to get there so we were off to a better start !

Valley des singes prices and opening times

It’s 19€ per adult and 13€ per child age 5 – 12yrs (free under 5). It takes a good 1hr15 to get there, (80km drive in the middle of nowhere) so you really need to love monkeys ! Personally I think the animal park in La Palmyre (about the same drive time) is far better value and far more interesting plus you can tie it up with a few hours on the beach afterwards too. However for our families who have ‘done’ all the usual sights, it’s definitely a good alternative day out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s well laid out, there are plenty of toilets and nappy change facilities and you are given a map so you can pick and choose which direction to take. It’s set in a woodland location so there is lots of shade around although some areas are very exposed, like the Bonobo feeding time seats – so take sunscreen, hats and water. I would highly recommend watching the feeding times. Its more like an informative show. The handler gives you lots of information about the primates and they are very entertaining without being  forced into any silly tricks – just their natural behaviour is fascinating.

It’s open 7 days a week from April to the end of October and from 10am to 7pm in July and August. Full details can be found on their web site

Restaurants at Valley des singes

The eating options at least have improved slightly over the years. Being high season both the ‘restaurants’ were at least open and they were offering more than a sandwich and crisps, however as with most tourist attractions the food is pricey and basic but the kids enjoyed the peacocks wandering around ! It may be a better option to take a picnic. There are plenty of picnic areas to choose from. You can also leave the park to eat – just make sure you get your hand stamped so you can come back in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had great fun on our second visit to Valley des Singes. It’s a great place for families. Young children can run freely around (it’s unlikely they’ll actually catch a monkey – they arn’t tame despite being surrounded by humans most of the time) and it’s lovely to be in such close contact with them. There’s also a petting zoo and play park. The feeding shows are very informative (in French but with audio translations available).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Le Scorlion restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

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We have been frequenting the Le Scorlion restaurant in Saint Jean d’Angely for 20 years and have enjoyed the food there from all the three restauranteurs that have owned it during that time. We are incredibly lucky to have such a top class restaurant in our little town of St Jean with it’s population of just 8000 people.

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Thomas and Claire Routhieau

Le Scorlion and it’s present owners Thomas and Claire Routhieau are really pulling out all the stops to really put the restaurant on the map. Having travelled all over the world and working at the Georges V in Paris no less, Thomas is putting all his experience into his menu and dishes and it really shows. The food is becoming more and more refined and has this year been awarded the new ‘ l’assiette Michelin’ for recognition of a really good quality meal.  The restaurant also has two knives and forks which recognises ‘good quality’ in terms of the restaurant itself – table setting, greeting, service etc

Worth a babysitter

We always recommend this restaurant to our families staying with us in our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime. It provides a lovely grown up ambience all year and in summer has a delightful wooden deck terrace at the front, inside the old Abbey cloisters – perfect for a warm summer evening. If our families ask for a recommendation we generally send them here as the quality of the meal is worth paying the babysitter (me !)

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Recent visit

We ate here quite recently with the boys and had a lovely Sunday lunch. It was very busy with both the terrace and inside full so it’s important to make a reservation (we will do this for you when staying with us)  We all chose the Menu Gourmand at 39€ (there’s no childrens menu and our two wouldn’t choose it if there were !) which includes ‘La Surprise’ if you are adventurous – which we are and it was a delicious piece of …………. (shan’t spoil the surprise) They will suggest a wine to accompany the surprise if you ask.

Amuse Bouches

We love restaurants where they bring you the bite sized hors d’oeuvres and we always get at least two at Le Scorlion. It makes you feel like you are getting really good value for money ! They change regularly so it’s always a treat as you never know what they’ll be.

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The Menu

Thomas has three menus: menu de l’abbaye at 26€; menu Gourmand at 39€ and their mid week lunch menu is just 16€50 plus their occasional brunch menu individually priced dishes such as eggs benedict, pancakes, grilled fish with potatoes, ceasar salad with confit of duck and a variety of desserts

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The future

We’d love to see some home made rolls of different flavours – walnut and fig for example and butters to go with them as we have experienced at some Michelin starred restaurants and a dedicated wine waiter too.

We love their themed nights with Jazz and their regular brunches where they offer a completely different menu and hope those continue.

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Chris, Wendy, Benjamin and Thomas

The Blakeman family

Chris and I met as teenagers in 1983 and have been together ever since, in 1993 we married and in 1996 we moved to France. The move wasn’t hard. Although originally from Cheshire, we moved south in ’91 (Tunbridge Wells) and Chris was commuting often to London, we both worked weekends and evenings and long hours; so when the opportunity to move to France came along we jumped at it. Two children and 20 years later we are still loving it here .

Chris and Wendy Blakeman

Then

Chris and Wendy Blakeman

Now

20 years in France

After many years of holidaying in this area, staying in my parents holiday home, we finally moved here . We havn’t looked back since. After a number of years renovating stone barns into family gites, learning how to look after our guests and drinking many glasses of wine with them, we now feel very confident in our ability to offer just what young families like our own really need from a holiday here in France.

We have not, however, become complacent. We are constantly thinking of new ideas to add to the enjoyment, every year we update, replace, renew and re- paint as well as add. Our cottages today are very different from what they were when we first started out. In 1996, the most common question was ‘is there an iron and a tea pot’. Times are different and expectations are higher. (wifi, hot tub)

For more about how we came to be here and our last 20 years…..

Benjamin and Thomas

Benjamin (born March 2003) and Thomas (born August 2005) are our two boys and they love the summer when they have new playmates every week and although they are now getting a bit older than the average child, they are still great with the little ones – having grown up is such a social environment.  

We love parenthood especially in such a beautiful rural environment where the boys are free to run around in great open spaces. They are now both at the local secondary school in Saint Jean d’Angely , which they enjoy and they are both of course as fluent in French as all their French school friends but are learning German and Spanish too. They both play  badminton and volleyball, swim like fish, love scuba diving and Thomas enjoys Aikido and cooking too.

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Learn about wine and…

Over the years we have developed the wine theme to our guests stay. This sets us apart from everyone else. Chris worked all his adult life in the wine industry, selling, buying and teaching wine, its also a passionate hobby. Our wine tastings, taste du terroir evenings and family vine walks add to the enjoyment of the parents holiday and are extremely popular, but its not compulsory of course ! Chris will happily chat all you like about wine in general, as long as you offer him a glass whilst hes doing it !  In fact he’ll chat about anything with a glass in his hand ! (religion, politics and Brexit are particular favourites – anything contentious, he always has an opinion !!)

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Wendy and Chris

In the winter time I concentrate on being a Mum, taking the children to all their activities, participating in local events (member of the parents association and also ran an English workshop at the primary school) plus running the office side of the business – updating the web site, taking bookings, social media and dealing with all the French bureacracy ! and then in my spare time, help Chris with building projects (I learnt how to do plumbing and electrics when we first moved here)

Chris concentrates on improving and expanding our business structurally, by renewing and repairing. We are also in the middle of building a whole new house
to let out on a long term basis, it will be our second and has an extension to our own house to finish too.

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Family friendly

Wendy has become a registered child minder here in France, so now Wendy can look after you children during the day to give you a break and some time to relax even more . You can rest assured in the knowledge that you also have a capable babysitter
on hand so you can enjoy a night out too.

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Since having our own children, the needs of young families on holiday were made even more evident to us. We have always been a family location but we now specifically cater to young families where we not only provide  pleasant self catering  accommodation but we can provide all the things required by a family with young children, from cots to steam sterilisers; baby bath to hand blenders; saving you room in the car and making your holiday run more smoothly.

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Entertaining children is a constant job; by providing toys, slides, swings and of course our pirate ship, trampoline, teddy bear picnics, pottery and T-shirt painting, scuba diving and other family activities such as the weekly barbecue and family vine walks an all in a safe environment where there are other English speaking children to play with too – your children are happy all day and I pretty much guarantee you’ll have the time to finish at least one book whilst staying with us !

Read about what our families think on Trip advisor……

 

We do go on holiday…

Just not in summer ! We have to take advantage of the winter period to take our own holiday and try to take a weeks skiing break plus a trip maybe to the Uk or somewhere else in France in the October half term or Easter. Occasionally we manage a much longer trip as we adore travelling. We did a lot before the children (Mexico, Guatemala, Egypt, Thailand, Australia ) and even when they were little but now we are restricted to school holidays it’s less often. We have been to New Zealand though which was amazing, Florida and Italy.

Climbing Fox glacier in South Island New Zealand

Climbing Fox glacier in South Island New Zealand

Eating Out

Chris and I love our food and wine and love to cook but also to eat out when we can. When the children came along we wern’t going to let that stop us. It takes hard work and commitment to take a 2 year old to a great restaurant but we persevered (taking it in turns to eat while the other entertained them, taking them out when they had a tantrum etc) For many years now the boys have LOVED eating out.  When the pennies allow and the occasion demands, we will happily take them to a Michelin starred restaurant – they love to try new foods, enjoy dressing up in their shirts, ties and aftershave and are a joy to converse with over a delicious meal.

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Your family holiday with us

It really is important to us that our guests enjoy their stay with us. Ask us as many questions as you can, we will be honest. We really do want everyone to have an amazing holiday and will go above and beyond to make sure that happens. If you are after crystal glasses and Louis 14th furniture you are on the wrong web site ! Our cottages are comfortably furnished, clean and well equipped but with the needs and comfort of young families in mind so you can relax. We treat everyone as friends, we are relaxed and informal and very approachable but not intrusive. We hope this has given you a little more insight into the Blakeman family and look forward to welcoming you to us in France soon.

For details on all our properties – both family orientated or stand alone villas take a look at our web site here….

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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Fishing with kids at Migré

Fishing with the kids

We just discovered another great place ! One of our families recently asked where he could take his son fishing. They had no rods or tackle and wern’t really into fishing, but fancied having a go. A friend had mentioned a place about 30 mins from our family holiday cottages where you could just go for a full or half day and the river was stocked with trout several times a day – it was pretty much guaranteed you’d catch something ! They hire out the rods and bait so you don’t need expensive equipment so it’s perfect for families with kids who just want to try it out. I got the details and sent them on their way. They came back with 3 trout !

This Sunday I took the boys there to check it out and wasn’t disappointed , we also came back with 3 trout  !

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My father loved fishing but rarely had the time but when he fell ill he made time with the boys and they loved helping him tie the flies and land the carp. One of their last memories of him was catching a huge carp together at a local pond a few weeks before he died. They were keen to go fishing again.

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Les Sources du Moulin

Les Sources du Moulin is in Migré a 30 minute drive from La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies. There is a restaurant which offers a lunch menu at 12€50 and is reported to be excellent . We took a picnic as did many of the fishermen. In the typical French way, they had sunbeds, chairs, tables, wine and even a fondue in the spot next to us whilst their 5 rods sat waiting for the fish to bite. We had a plastic bag to sit on and a bottle of water.

We had no equipment and had no idea what we were doing but the rods (long bamboo sticks) with line, hook and float were provided for a 10€ deposit; we paid extra for maggots and didn’t pay the fishing fee of 5€ per child until later in the afternoon when the river was re stocked, so we could of fished for free – if we had we wouldn’t of caught anything though ! (not through lack of fish, just lack of expertise – our neighbours despite sleeping off the lunch time wine on their sunbeds seemed to catch plenty !)

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We want fish !!

We arrived at 1pm and were told the trout were released at 3pm so we had a 2 hour wait although we remained hopeful of catching something before then – everyone around us seemed to be landing fish (and an eel) every few minutes !  3 o’ clock came and went and despite our neighbours shouting ‘we want the fish’ (in French) he didn’t turn up until 3.20pm (apparently it’s all dependent on how busy the restaurant is that day)

We had to wait until then as everyone was saying how we need to be quick landing the fish and putting new maggots back on the hook – we were getting very excited ! At long last the owner started up his tractor and came along the track, scooping net fulls of trout into the river for each group. We had at least 5 placed right in front of our hooks but they all swam down to the 3m50 depths below and ignored our wriggling maggots.

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Nibbles and success at last

However after about 5 minutes Benjamin got a nibble or two, his float went down but he pulled up too quickly (apparently) and the hook was empty of maggots and trout when it surfaced. This happened at least 3 times – we blame the hook, it must of been blunt !! Thomas on the other hand had a sharp hook and he landed a whopper within 10 minutes of the trout being released (this was after 2hrs 30 of sitting on the bank holding a bamboo stick) He was thrilled (of course) and wants to go again (of course !) Benjamins not so keen.

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Team ‘fishing’ spirit

It’s very much a team spirit and all the neighbours helped us – we would of been lost without the kind lady next to us removing the hook from the poor fishes mouth or the man on the other side getting the line untangled from the tree branch. It was very much an ‘experience’ for me and fun in an odd kind of way. I doubt any of us will become members of  the Prince Albert fishing club (or its French equivalent) – although I was, as a child thanks to my Dad. We enjoyed the ice creams and will definitely try the restaurant at some point. If we fish again we will go more prepared (something other than a bag to sit on will be a minimum) but we came home with 3 trout on barbecue night and they were delicious (thank you ‘you tube’ for the gutting video )

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Three trout – how ?

Well the family next to us caught 19 and felt sorry for the boys, so gave us 2 of theirs so we could come back home and proclaim huge success, they were all delicious. It was fun and a great experience for anyone who’s not fished before. The owner recommended coming in the morning when it’s cooler (it was 34c in the shade that afternoon) and just before the fish are released at 9am….

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www.moulindemigre.com ,  20 route du moulin 17330 Migré ,   +33 546240392

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Les Gours plan d’eau – swimming lake with beach

After 20 years here we are still discovering new places. On Sunday we were at one of our stand alone villas – Villa Fontaine in the rural French hilltop village of Fontaine Chalendray so after our mornings work we thought we would check out a swimming lake a friend had told us about.

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Just 10 minutes drive away (and 30 mins from our La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies holiday cottages) Les Gours plan d’eau is in the middle of no where and you can’t even see the lake from the road so you’d never come across it by accident; there is a small sign but if you blinked you’d miss it, so you definitely need directions to get there. Consequently it’s not busy – just those ‘in the know’ have reserved tables in the restaurant.

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We arrived at lunchtime so were pleased to find the restaurant serving steak frites for just 9€50 including an ice cream for dessert. They also offer a full menu of tomatoe salad, paté or melon followed by steak frite (a very nice piece of faut filet and a huge platter of homemade chips), cheese, ice cream cone, caraf of wine, water and bread – all for 13€50; no wonder most tables were reserved. Apparently this menu is only offered on a Sunday but the bar is open throughout the week offering drinks and snacks such as waffles. It’s very simply done so keeps the costs low – very French actually – paper table cloth, thin plastic plates and cups and the food served on platters for you to help yourselves.

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After lunch we headed across the lane to the lake. It’s a beautiful situation – surrounded by mature trees giving lots of shade. Lots of benches and lots of space. There’s a good sized man made beach with lovely soft sand which leads down to the paddling and swimming areas. The paddling area is a maximum 80cm depth and has a rope to define the area, as does the swimming area which goes from 80cm to 3m50. The swimming area is surveyed by a life guard from 2pm until 6pm most days during the summer holidays. The rest of the lake is reserved for fishing.

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A nice play area is provided too with swings, slide and a see saw.

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We had a lovely few hours, the children didn’t come out of the lake until it was time to leave, they had so much fun. We highly recommend it as an alternative to going to the beach for the day – it’s much closer and there’s no low tide !

Find out more about all our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France on our web sites

www.grangedumoulin.com

www.lesvallaies.com

www.french-gites-and-villas.com

www.childfriendlygites.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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