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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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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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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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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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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Ten tips when booking your holiday to France

Planning a trip abroad or more specifically to France ? Then here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years that may help you plan your trip saving you time and money and hopefully make the experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

1, Budget range –

This must include travel to your destination, accommodation and any extras eg if its a self catering property are linen and towels extra or included, if its a hotel is there any food included, if not what are the prices of the hotel or local restaurants. Luxury 5* or camping or something in between ? If you are taking your kids out of school make sure you include the fines in your budget. Also consider what entertainment there will be and whether this is free (walks, beach, on site activities) or not (aquariums, zoo, water park)

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2, Travel options –

plane, train or automobile ? Don’t forget the cheap flight may be turn out not so cheap when you look at the car hire , insurance and getting to/from the airport, airport parking plus tolls and petrol if the airport is a long way from the accommodation; the tunnel may be handy for those living nearby but the cheap crossing to France may be outweighed by the tolls and petrol and maybe even an overnight stop in a motel if you are traveling to the south or south west of France.

What ferry port to choose ? If you are close to Dover then the obvious choice is P&O ferries or the tunnel, but if you are closer to Portsmouth, Poole or Plymouth then there are good ferry routes with Brittany ferries to northern France. P&O also do Portsmouth to Dieppe. We can offer a 20% discount off Brittany ferry crossings when booking with us and can also give you a link to get 5% off P&O ferries too (read on to find out how to get these discounts without booking !) Being on a decent ferry can be like a mini cruise – the Portsmouth to St Malo route on the Bretagne ship (Brittany ferries) is our favourite and has a superb restaurant and the lovely Commodore cabins – it costs more but gets us 4 hrs drive closer to home than the Dover Calais route and the 60€ + of tolls and a potential stopover.

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3, Region of France –

there are now just 13 regions in France rather than 22, (as of 1st Jan 2016) The Charente Maritime is no longer a part of the Poitou – Charentes region but Nouvelle Aquitaine.

However most tourists are more interested in 3 main things :

a/ whats the weather like – do you have to have ‘guaranteed’ sunshine or are you happy in your wellies and raincoats as long as you are with your loved ones

b/ how easy is it to get there – how far is the nearest airport and is there a link to your nearest airport in the uk; how far is it to drive and which is the best ferry port to travel from

c/ is there anything to do – what do you enjoy doing ? Are you after non stop activities or just want to chill out on the beach; do you just need to entertain the kids or do you need grown up activities too ?

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4, Time of year –

Everyone hates it but the price of holidays in the summer school hols can double (or more) and with schools fining parents for taking children out of school its a difficult decision . Unfortunately it’s a supply and demand thing – we can let our cottages in peak season 20 times over yet in June we have to fight to compete to get bookings; since the season is so short in Europe nothings going to change – even if school holiday dates are made more flexible, most people want sunshine and a tan so will still choose to go in July and August so it’s always going to be more expensive.  My advice is if you are able travel out of season – do, May half term perhaps if you have school aged children, with pre school kids travel in June or September when prices for accommodation and travel are much cheaper – the weather at those times is just as good and just as reliable as the peak months.

Some of the cheap airlines only operate a service to certain smaller airports in peak season, so check first.

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Another consideration on the time of year you are travelling is In peak season (July and August) there are several weekends that are terrible for traffic. To avoid spending hours sitting in a traffic jam visit Bison Futé which will tell you what the traffic is likely to be like on your date of travel. They have black days (standing traffic) red days (bad) and orange days (heavy) – avoid the black and red days on certain routes if possible. Some holiday accommodations have different changeover days so search out ones which will give you options for cheaper travelling days  (like ours !!)

5, Motorway driving –

Wherever you go or whichever route you take to our family holiday cottages you’ll likely end up on a toll road. Many of the motorways are free – around large cities usually, but you have to be pretty determined to avoid the ones that arn’t free.

A good web site to use to give you an idea of current charges along your route is autoroutes.fr  just enter your route and it will give you an estimate of petrol costs and toll charges. Also drive-france and headlampconvertors web sites provide useful info on driving in France. Motorway tolls do take uk credit/debit cards, but have some euros handy just in case.

Fuel is still cheaper in France than the UK but the difference these days is not as much as it used to be. As with the UK avoid filling up on the motorways if possible as fuel will be a lot more expensive there than in the supermarkets.

There is no excuse to have a regular break on French motorways, there are rest stops pretty much every 20km or so; they may not be full services, just parking, a loo and a picnic area usually, but a definite plus when you have an active toddler who needs to stretch their legs.

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6, When Flying –

shop around and keep an eye out for the deals. Most airlines (and ferry companies for that matter)  use twitter, facebook and google+ to let everyone know about the deals they are offering, yet its surprising how few people follow them to be first in the queue, by the time you hear about the deals they’ve gone – so start following your favourite airline to get the deals. Follow us on our social media or if you’ve booked then email us to get the 20% discount code for Brittany ferry crossings.

Baggage charges are the biggest bug bear of cheap airline clients, so check the small print, how much can you carry, check the bag sizes and hand luggage allowances and remember to check in and print off your boarding card before you get to the airport.

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7, Car hire

is very competitive and all the big companies offer deals just like the airlines, at different times during the year (usually early on before Christmas to get early bookers and then later in the season to rid themselves of empty seats/cars) Its probably wisest to check for the best deal through a price comparison site.

Many families now book their car hire through the airline, but check prices first as it’s not always cheaper and there is always a huge queue since most people on the aircraft have booked too.

Make sure you check the small print too – things like having to return the car full (or empty ) of fuel, cleaning it thoroughly (we’ve had guests think they’ve cleaned it yet still been charged) and charges for car seats (and whether there is anyone qualified to fit it for you) Consider taking your own car seats, If your child has their own airline seat, with permission you should be able to take your car seat on board and your child can sit in it which makes them more comfortable and secure – you then have your own seat for the car which you know how to fit safely.

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8, Accommodation

do you want 5* all the way in which case the large online companies are good ways of finding a place and the best deals – we find booking.com very handy when searching for hotels as once you enter your family size / dates, they only show you hotels with family rooms/can accommodate your sized family which saves time – we then often book direct with the hotel as its said that a hotel will treat you better if you book direct as they havn’t had to fork out the commission !! (Whether that’s true or not I don’t know) we treat all our families the same and we advertise with booking.com too but are happier when families book direct !! If considering camping or a mobile home then think about  the alternatives too, we have had numerous families come to us after camping and cannot believe they have a whole house slightly inland for less than a tent near the beach !

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9, Safety and comfort –

when traveling with young children you need to be organised. Babies and toddlers need lots of equipment to make their lives comfortable and your life easier but it’s a lot to carry so look for places that offer family rooms, cots, high chairs, booster seats at the very least. Our own properties offer so much more as we specialise in accommodating families with young children.

All our properties are equipped with stair barriers, full sized baths, high chairs, cots and booster seats, plastic crockery, cutlery and even hand blenders we can also offer steam sterilisers, play mats, change mats, pottys and toilet seats – just ask, if we have it, it’s yours !

Safety is also a consideration with young children, a campsite or holiday camp may be fun but you can’t allow your little ones to run to the swings alone, you’ll need to be with them all the time. A stand alone property may be more your style but then the kids will need entertaining and so that means you’ll have less time to relax . A small complex (like ours !! ) at www.grangedumoulin.com and www.lesvallaies.com may be just what you need.

shady-sandpit

10, A little planning

and discussion of all these issues before searching for this years holiday will save a lot of time and will make sure the holiday you pick is right for you and your family.

Wherever and Whichever way you decide to travel, make the choosing, planning, booking and traveling part of the excitement and enhance your holiday enjoyment. Remember to follow/like our social media pages .

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

content by Wendy Blakeman

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Aquarium in La Rochelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reviews and whats new

It’s been a while since I posted anything , it’s been a hectic summer and I didn’t quite manage posting a blog a week as I said I would in my new year resolution so to get 2016 off with a swing I thought I’d finish off 2015 showing you why we have been so busy and shall just add a few of the wonderful reviews we received through the season in 2015.

Firstly we have very exciting news that our HOT TUB is now delivered and up and running. It has to be tested of course so this task fell down to us yesterday.

HottubIt’s located in a decked area near the wifi area, overlooking (but separate to) the pool area. Open to the night sky we anticipate it will be a popular feature with the Mums and Dads staying in our family friendly holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France; once the little ones are asleep you’ll be able to slip into your swimmers, take your baby monitor (and some wine !) with you and enjoy some couple time watching the stars .  time watching the stars .

deck2Chris has fully decked the area and it is enclosed with fencing and a gate with child safety latch. Children will be allowed to use the hot tub too during the day but only when an adult is in the tub with them. It has some great jets for a good massage and has lovely lights for night time which fade through different colours.

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We have also had the main heated swimming pool renovated. For the last 20 years it has been a tiled pool, very hard wearing and pretty too with dolphin mosaics but it had come to the end of it’s life. We have chosen a new product called armoured pvc , a product used in public pools throughout France. It looks very different from before being all one colour (and no dolphins) but looks great.

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We will be busy throughout the winter painting and decorating as always but now our main projects for the gites are complete we now have another small job to complete – the building of an extension to our house ! The boys are getting bigger (Benjamin will be 13 and Thomas will be 11 in 2016) so we need a bit more space. We love living here and of course our livelihood is here so we couldn’t move even if we wanted too ! Chris is laying blocks as I type, fingers crossed the weather stays good for us.

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And now to a review of 2015. We had another great year, particularly good since many holiday cottage owners in the area suffered a big downturn in bookings. September was a little quieter than normal but June, July and August saw lots of familiar faces and lots of new families too. We had some excellent weather and received lots of wonderful reviews, here are just a few but you can find lots more on our web site, just click on the link at the top of the page.

Ings family review of La Grange du Moulin, September 2015

Fleurie holiday cottage, child aged 2 years

We had a fantastic holiday, our daughter thoroughly enjoyed her safe surroundings in which she could explore and play. The cottage was well equipped and had everything we needed. We enjoyed many fun days out, especially the zoo but still enjoyed our afternoons and evenings in our accommodation. We met some lovely families and it was very social, we particularly enjoyed the communal barbecue evening. They have plenty of other activities for the kids to enjoy too. One week was not long enough ! Thank you very much Chris and Wendy.

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Kirkpatrick family review of La Grange du Moulin, September 2015

Ruche holiday cottage, children aged 3 and 1 year

Thank you – so friendly and welcoming and helpful. So safe for the kids – great that they could explore and play and we could relax. Trampoline and all the toys in the gite a real hit too. Beautiful spot – so quiet ! Really enjoyed the vineyard walk and fabric painting/teddy bear picnic.

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Hamilton family review of La Grange du Moulin, Peche holiday cottage,

August 2015, children aged 6 and 2 years

Our sixth year back here at La Grange du Moulin – says it all ! We have enjoyed trips out to the beach, La Rochelle and Cognac as well as the many on-site activities provided for the children including pottery painting, t-shirt painting and scuba diving. The hospitality and attention to details that Chris and Wendy provide are what makes this holiday stand out – and why we will be back again next year ! A great time had by all the family, thank you Chris and Wendy.

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Cope family review of La Grange du Moulin, July 2015,

Horloge holiday cottage, children aged 4 and 1 yr

What an amazing place. We’ve had a wonderful weeks stay here at La Grange du Moulin and have loved seeing our children make friends and play safely right outside our gite whilst we relaxed and enjoyed the local Pineau ! In the words of our 4 yr old ”its much better than the last place we stayed because I can just go outside and theres a pool and a trampoline and a pirate ship AND a sandpit !” Even our 1 yr old has been exploring on her own (under supervision !!) more than ever – so much so she took her first steps 🙂 Thank you Wendy and Chris for creating such a wonderful place to holiday with children.

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Kenyon family review of La Grange du Moulin, August 2015,

Horloge holiday cottage, children aged 5 and 2 yrs

A very happy couple of weeks. As a city family, it took us a while to get used to the open fields and quiet, but the amazing night sky (and excellent local wine) helped us adjust. The gites are comfortable, well equipped and both shared and private outdoor space. The stand out feature of the gites is the amazing facilities for young children. Our two loved it and after 2 days would disappear out of the door every morning to play with their new friends. We enjoyed some proper ‘couple’ time while they played knowing they were safe and us enjoying the peace !

And here are a few of the families that joined us in 2015 at our

family holiday cottages – L Grange du Moulin

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Content by Wendy Blakeman

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les Pigeons Blancs – restaurant Cognac

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Today we were celebrating a friends birthday and decided to try a new restaurant – well new to us any way, the restaurant and hotel have been in existence since 1973 but we have only just got around to going and we are so glad we did.

Les Pigeons Blancs is set on the edge of the town of Cognac (of the drink fame) which is an easy 20-30 min drive from our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France. The hotel has been home to the Tachet family since the 17th century and has been a ‘relais de poste’ since Francois 1st. Family member, Jaques Tachet is the chef.

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It is set in beautiful gardens filled with oak and walnut trees, rose bushes and well manicured lawns. We visited on a perfect day, the sun was shining, the temperature a very pleasant 28c with a gentle breeze – perfect for a long lazy birthday lunch.

We chose the 5 course degustation menu at 59€ a head with one of us choosing a supplement of 16€ for the lobster – the menu was excellent value but the lobster supplement was not, it was a very small lobster dish and not worth the extra 16€ on top when the perfectly cooked sea bass alternative was included in the menu. We had a foie gras starter, the fish course, then duck, cheese and dessert.

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It was a refreshing change to find the cheese course included as so menu restaurants these days seem to be offering it as a supplement.

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We also had a childrens menu (19€) which was a delicately cooked piece of salmon served with risotto followed by a choice of desserts from the dessert trolley – we always think its a sign of a very good restaurant when they offer a grown up childrens menu which any adult would be happy to eat.

The dessert trolley was fab – we were told by Jean-Michel that we had to choose a MINIMUM of 3 desserts so here is our youngest with his strawberry creme brulee, raspberry charlotte and coffee meringue !

 

One of our party also chose the 38€ ‘le nez du marché’ menu which is described as  1/3 of fresh produce, – 1/3 of Skill, – 1/3 of Friendship … Jean- Michel describes the options in detail and it is all the more charming and feels more ‘spontaneous’ than being written on a board. Catherine and Jean – Michel are so relaxed and friendly, you feel very welcome; despite it being a ‘gastronomic restaurant’ there is no stuffiness; we had a very relaxing and enjoyable meal.

Since we welcome families with children, toddlers and babies to our holiday cottages here in France it would not make sense to simply go for a gastronomic meal and then go straight ‘home’ again so we recommend working off some of those desserts with a walk around the André Mermet park, just a couple of km away from the Pigeons Blancs restaurant. Its a bit far to walk with young children although you could take the river bank walk with a buggy which would be beautiful on a sunny day (we were lazy and took the car !)

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Being a very sunny Sunday the park was very busy, filled with families barbecuing, picniking and  eating in the onsite café/bar . There are bouncy castles (optional extra fee)

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a play park, petanque court, huge sandpit, football ground, zip wire, lots of trees, park benches and tables and lots of space to run around and work off that lunch

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all set on the edge of the Charente river where you can hire pedaloes and canoes, go swimming or go for a walk

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All in all a lovely family day out, you could really make a full day out by visiting one of the many Cognac houses in the morning before lunch !

For full details of all our family holiday cottages in the Charente Maritime department of France visit our web site 

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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