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

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Ten essential things to pack when travelling to France

Essential things to pack – well many of these things will seem obvious but in the last 20 years we have experienced families who have forgotten at least one of these things – new baby passport is the most common ! But as well as remembering to take them away – don’t forget to bring them back home too !

1, Current passport

– check all passports are in date at least 3 months before travelling to give time to renew if necessary. Don’t forget new baby needs a passport too.
To renew or apply for a uk passport go to www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport

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2, Tickets

– whether this be a printed email ticket, a barcode on your phone or just a reservation number its easy to forget these days as few people receive ‘old fashioned tickets’ but you’ll definitely need something ! Many of the cheap airlines require you to check in online and print boarding passes before arriving at the airport, so make sure you check your airlines requirements before getting to the airport to avoid extra costs

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3, EHIC card

– European Health Insurance card . This will cover 100% of emergency treatment and 70% of other treatment when in France . Apply free from the www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/ there is no fee so stay away from web sites that charge

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4, Driving papers

– if hiring a car you’ll need your passport, details of your car hire reservation and your current drivers licence including the paper part for those who still have one, if taking your own car to France you must have a current drivers licence, current car insurance document, GB sticker, warning triangle and headlamps must be adjusted, a breathalyser is ‘compulsory’ but you cannot be fined (at present) for not having one . For full information on other European countries, motorcycle requirements and more in depth information about driving in France visit drive-france.com web site

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5, Travel insurance

– if you have taken out travel insurance (highly recommended) remember to bring your contract number and contact information for emergencies

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6, Accommodation details

– an address, a contact number and name and directions, you’d be surprised how many people have no idea where they are meant to be staying and end up in all sorts of places ! Don’t completely rely on the sat nav. There are many villages with the same name, roads that have changed, new one way systems – have a back up.

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7, Essential prescribed Medication

– such as inhalers, birth control, or any pre existing medical conditions. Bring prescriptions with you, so if you lose what you need, it can easily be replaced. Pharmacies will often honour a European prescription.

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8, Mobile phone

  • with charger and travel adapter and roaming set up with your service provider

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9, Clothes !

  • check out the forecast before you leave to help you pack. Remember it will always be easier and cheaper to pick up extra t-shirts and shorts on holiday if needed than jeans and fleeces

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10, Credit card

– if you forget everything else or disaster strikes at least you can buy what you need with your card. Maybe have a few euros available too, not essential but may come in handy for an emergency coffee or pay loo !

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MAKE A LIST, TICK IT OFF, ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY !!

content by Wendy Blakeman

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money saving ideas

The last thing you want to be is worried about money whilst on holiday so how can you have a great family holiday and keep to a budget ?

1, Travel – take advantage of the offers. Holiday and travel companies often have early booking deals – Brittany ferries always increase their standard 20% discount to 25% during the month of October (we can give you a code when you either like our facebook page or make a booking with us)  Lots of companies start to advertise deals straight after Christmas, so sign up to follow their twitter and facebook accounts so you see the offers as soon as they appear. Check out your supermarket loyalty cards as points can sometimes be exchanged for tickets for the tunnel or ferry crossings. Check out the price comparison sites likehttp://www.skyscanner.net/ and Martins money tips for deals on cheap car hire and flights.

2, Shopping – on a self catering holiday it is one of my favourite parts wandering around the ‘foreign’ supermarkets and markets, but just as in the Uk there are cheap ones such as Lidl, Ed, Leader Price but they often do not have the same range or quality products that the larger hypermarkets do and although you may be happy to shop around and buy certain things from certain shops at home, who wants to spend time doing it on holiday ! In a study last summer of the larger hypermarkets in France E.leclerc was found to be 20% cheaper than the highest priced supermarket which is great news for us since our nearest supermarket happens to be E.Leclerc ! They now have a good range of ‘premier prix’ own brand products many of which are good value, but unlike UK supermarkets these are not placed at eye level but down on the bottom shelf, so rather than automatically picking up the obvious ‘BN’ brand kids biscuits at 0.94€, look down to the bottom shelf and pick up a packet of own brand for 0.46€.

Another thing about shopping is that some things are cheaper than the uk but others are a lot more expensive. For example a pack of 68 Pampers 4+ active fit in Tescos is £10 or 11.15€ – in E.leclerc it is 21.19€ !! A huge difference, so worth bringing all you need from the uk if you are driving (but a bit harder to do if flying !) However wine is another matter – as long as you are happy to drink French (and why wouldn’t you be when coming to France on holiday !) You’ll find incredible value not only in the local supermarkets but also in small local producers too.

3, Petrol/diesel – is a huge expense both in the UK and in France but it is still cheaper here and if you are driving down this can be a considerable cost on your holiday. Today a litre of diesel in France is approx. 1.00€, in the UK 1.50€ ; for unleaded it is 1.30€ in France and 1.45€ in the UK. So don’t top up in the Uk, top up when you get to France. Another point about fuel is, just as in the UK it is more expensive on the motorways and at branded stations such as Esso, so if possible fill up in the supermarkets before your journey. Tolls are another consideration when travelling through France. This site http://www.autoroutes.fr will plan your journey and give you an estimate on not only the tolls but the fuel cost too, giving you a good idea before you leave. For example, you may decide the tunnel is much cheaper than a ferry crossing but make sure you factor in 130€ of tolls (65€ each way) and a similar amount in fuel, plus it is a long drive to the west and south coasts so you may need to stop en route, especially if you have young children.

See our top ten list of free things to do

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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