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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Coolongalook adventure park, Royan

On Tuesday it was Thomas’ 11th birthday and he requested a day at a climbing adventure park. We have previously been to one at Aytré near La Rochelle but had heard about Coolongalook parc and thought we’d give it a go .

Coolongalook adventure park, Royan

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It’s just under an hours drive to Coolongalook parc from our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime and well worth the trip. We booked in advance as it was recommended but the day we went was very quiet and for the first hour or so we were the only family there which was great !

The main attraction of the park is the climbing. You get fitted into a climbing harness and then given instruction on how the system works.The adult and some of the teen courses are not for the faint hearted, if you don’t like heights it may not be the day out for you.

 

Koala continuous belay system

At the previous parcs we had been to there was an element of risk with the climbing as you had to hook and un hook the carabinas at various points along each climb and unless you carefully followed the instruction of always being hooked on with at least one at any time there was always the possibililty of being 3m (or more for older kids and adults) above ground and not being hooked onto anything. At Coolongalook parc they have the ‘Koala continuous belay system’ where you hook on at the beginning and cannot remove the hook until you are safely on the ground again – far safer when you have adventurous kids to supervise.

12m above ground

12m above ground

There are 4 childrens courses suitable for those of 4 years and a meter tall (there are also some non harness courses for even littler ones; then another two courses for tweens of 1m30 or above and a further 2 courses for the adults. We had 6 courses of increasing difficulty to choose from having purchased the Junior ticket and Chris and I have to admit the last two were far too challenging for us !! Thomas and Benjamin managed them but at 12m above the ground and freely swinging blocks to cross it was tough going and both physically and mentally challenging – Thomas loved it !!

Skyfall

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There are loads of zip wires included in courses – the final one is 250m long and starts at 13m above the ground. For adults there is also a 15m free fall jump called skyfall (we didn’t do that one !!) included in the adult ticket

We spent around 2hrs30 completing the 6 courses and although you have unlimited time to do them all again we were shattered and ready for an ice cream at the café. The café does only sell ice creams, soft drinks, chocolate bars and crisps though, so take a picnic with you as there’s no where to buy lunch. There are picnic tables located all around the park and it’s a lovely woodland setting.

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TOP TIPS

  • take a picnic, water and snacks
  •  mossie repellant  is essential
  • go early to avoid the crowds

Laser Battle

The park also has a small area set aside for a laser battle in the woods. We purchased an adventure pass which includes the unlimited climbing, one game of laser battle (20mins) and the ‘man vs wild’ orienteering  course which takes about an hour. Individually we personally did not think the laser battle (10€ pp) and man vs wild course (6€ pp) were worth their individual prices but we were happy with the value for money of the adventure pass which included them.

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For the laser battle you are given a laser gun each and put into teams, you then have 20 mins to shoot each other. It’s a bit hit and miss as the only target that registers is on the gun (unlike indoor laser games where you get a jacket with various targets over the body) Benjamin loved it, Thomas got fed up as it was hard to target people – even still, I came last !

Man vs Wild

At 6€ pp this would be a bit disappointing on it’s own and really should be included when purchasing a climbing pass in our opinion. However we did enjoy it. We were given a list of 12 questions and a compass. We had to pretend we were on a camping trip and various situations arise at each marker which you have to choose the correct response (eg you have very little water left, what do you do a, drink it all at once because you are thirst; b, ration it throughout the day; c, drink only at night ) You mark down your answer then have to use the compass to find the next marker and question.

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We were quite tired and didn’t think we’d actually follow through the whole course but actually it kept our interest as the woodland was quite thick, the trails quite small and climbing over fallen down trees etc made us feel as though we really were in the wild far from anywhere. We finished the whole course and checked our answers at the end (we got over half wrong so probably would of died !!)

 

 

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We had a great day out, we survived with a few aching muscles, the kids loved it and we’d highly recommend giving Coolongalook parc , Royan a go. When staying at our family holiday cottages in the Charente Maritime, France we can reserve your place for you. Visit their web site here for full details of opening times and prices. For more information about our child friendly holiday cottages visit our web site here .For more information on all our cottages, gites and villas visit our web site here

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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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Laser Lander game in Saintes

There’s nothing worse than going on holiday, particularly abroad and the weather being rubbish. Unfortunately when travelling anywhere in Europe it’s a risk that goes hand in hand with the closeness of the continent to the British Isles.

Our own families philosophy is forget the weather and enjoy being away from life’s routine chores and being together and do what you can to make the holiday enjoyable as it’s a while until the next !

Here in the sunny Charente Maritime region of France we get the second most sunshine hours after the south coast so a rainy week in summer is an exception rather than the rule. We let our families know before their arrival what the weather has been like and what it is forecast to be, so they can be prepared for the worst if necessary.

All our family holiday cottages are supplied with tourist information and also a handy list of rainy day activities. One such fun thing to do is Laser Lander in Saintes, just a 30 minute drive away.

laser2Laser Lander is an ideal indoor activity, perfect for a rainy day or even an incredibly hot day when the kids need to burn off steam but it’s too hot outside.

Yesterday was a cold wet day in February, we had friends over and had planned a fun walk through the local woods but had to change our plans due to the weather as it really was just too wet even for wellies and raincoats so we called up and booked a couple of sessions at Laser Lander.

It’s a great activity for both boys and girls and for ages 6 years and up (younger children may like to play too but the jackets are too big.) It costs (2016) 8€ per player for one session of 20 mins (whether adult or child) , 15€ pp for 2 sessions and 20€ pp for 3 sessions. We have always found 1 session is not enough for our boys, but it’s an active game so it may be for young children. It’s essential to book to make sure you arn’t hanging around waiting for a free session. You need to have about 4 – 6 players as a minimum to make it fun.

Two sessions would take up about an hour with a 5 minute ‘training’ video explaining the safety and game rules, a 20 minute session followed by a 15 minute break where you’ll be able to buy a drink and get your breath back followed by a second 20min session.

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We usually extend our afternoon outing by having lunch in the McDonalds opposite beforehand and a play on arcade games located in the waiting area afterwards. (The hurricane tube being a particular favourite) The McDonalds actually has a great play area and when our two were much younger this is all that was required to entertain them on a rainy day – I’d sit down with my laptop (didn’t have a smart phone then) and a drink and the boys would come back to me every so often for a quick drink before running off again. Unfortunately that no longer cuts it with my too so I have to go to a bit more expense and be a bit more active.

If you have never experienced a laser game, it’s great fun. You wear a jacket with a laser gun attached. You have lights or targets on both shoulders, the front and the back. When someone hits one of these targets with their laser you lose 50 points and they gain 100. It is all recorded who hit you and who you hit. You can all play against each other or have teams with different coloured targets (red, blue, yellow etc) Once your session is over each player is given a printout of their position and scores of their hits.

There are two ‘salles’ or rooms at the Saintes Laser Lander and with two sessions you’ll play in each one. It is dark, with music and dry ice. You have two floors and on each one is a maze of passages with gaps in the walls so you have to be careful not to be ‘shot through the walls’

Our kids always come out hot and sweaty and it’s been first choice for their birthday parties for a couple of years now. It’s perfect for wearing them out on a rainy day and highly recommended.

Read about out top ten rainy day things to do here …….

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Rainy day top ten things to do

1,  Aquarium

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

Find out more about the aquarium…..

2, Amuzetvous play centre

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

3, Paleosite

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

Find out more about Paleosite…..

4, La Palmyre Zoo or Zoodysee

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

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

Find out more about La Palmyre Zoo……

5, Corderie Royal

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

Find out more about the Hermione here…..

6, Cognac distillery tour

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

Find out more about Cognac tours….

7, McDonalds in Saintes

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

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

8, Restaurants

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

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

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

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

9, Laser Lander

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

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

Find out more about Laser Lander

10, Stay home

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

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

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

Happy Holidays

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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