Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Loire - Travel With Children

Since becoming a parent the number of parent friends that I have has naturally increased. It is great to let the little ones play and it is also a great chance for us to check in and say, how do deal with naps, how did you make that snack or how to you encourage sharing. No one pretends to be an expert we are just finding our way and that is nice.  As I like to get out and about and explore Paris I naturally do the same on holiday. One of the questions I get asked most often is where do you go? Or how do you you go out all day? It is a good job that is the advice I am asked as Sebastian has not slept through the night yet and he is almost 2, so I would be no help in that department.

He is not great at sleeping through but Sebastian will sleep in the sling or the pram so that enables us to get out and about.  After three years of living in Paris we decided to become real Parisians and go south for August. As it happens we only went for 10 days and not the full month and we did not travel that far south, mainly because I refused to drive the length of the country with a baby and dog in the car. Let me share the Loire with you

The main points to remember when planning a toddler friendly holiday are these; they love to explore, they like to be out, they like to see new things, they like your attention. Taking those points into consideration means not every activity needs to be child centred. The only time Sebastian gets agitated and grumpy is if he is being ignored when he is trying to interact with us, so as long as I talk to him he is having fun.

We stayed in a tiny village in an Air BnB property, my go to site for holiday accommodation. We explored the garden and village in our pyjamas and a very good time doing so.
There were endless fields and vineyards to walk through and around, lots of new sights, sounds and smells.

Walking around Angers is certainly child friendly, lots of quiet streets to walk down and fountains the look at. The buildings are stunning and there is a castle and gardens to run around in. I particularly liked the art museum and collage.
The zoo at Doué-la-Fontaine has to be one of my all time favourite zoos. It is set in prehistoric sedimentary rock quarry and has made it's focus creating natural habitats for the animals. The setting of the rocks and the thick foliage kept it cool even on a hot day so it was pleasant to walk around and we did not have to contend with a melting grumpy toddler at midday. Each of the animals areas flowed seamlessly it really is a must see for the area.
There were quite a few species of primates but this guy really was my favourite, just look at his face!

Bioparc
Address: 103 Rue de Cholet, 49700 Doué-la-Fontaine
Phone: 02 41 59 18 58
The commune of Doué-la-Fontaine is also home to many restaurants two of which are in a cave. How can you possibly pass up the chance to eat in a cave we chose to eat at Le Caveau. It was filled with locals which is always a great sign. They had one set menu an evening, the evening that we went it was; baked mushrooms, flat bread (as much as we could consume), pate, pulled pork with spicy beans, baked apples and ice cream. We also had an apéritif and a bottle of wine included in the 26€ per person. They did not charge us for Sebastian as he ate small amounts of what we ate but I am sure this would depend on the age of the child, Sebastian was 18 months at the time. We were also told that if we had booked in advance they would have made a vegetarian dish, we didn't, but they were still accommodating and I had extra beans, mushrooms and a plate of goats cheese. All in all price wise we were certainly not in Paris anymore.
Le Caveau
Address: 4 Bis Place du Champ de Foire, 49700 Doué-la-Fontaine
Phone: 02 41 59 98 28
We were not far from Saumur, the place to visit wine caves in the region, let's face it you cannot have a holiday in the Loire without tasting and buying wine. Ackerman is the leading producer of sparkling wine in the area. We went on the tour of the wine caves which I highly recommend it is fascinating to hear about the history and learn the processes involved. Sebastian enjoyed running around the cave and playing the sniffing game at the end that was designed to help you to identify the aromas in wine, it was not actually wine you were sniffing. Afterwards we took the opportunity for free wine dégustation. Sebastian was very interested by this but mostly involved himself with the colouring that was provided and he also found the balloons to be a huge hit.
Ackerman
Address: 19 Rue Léopold Palustre, 49412 Saumur
Phone: 02 41 53 03 10
In Saumur itself there are lovely buildings to explore in the town and a Chateau on a hill. I recommend a walk along the river and an ice cream.
If ever a place was under sold in a leaflet it is Parc Oriental de Maulevrier. When we saw the leaflet in the place we were staying we had it as a fall back activity but we were so glad we went and spent virtually a whole day there. It is the largest Japanese garden in France, it was originally designed by Alexander Marcel, a leading French architect at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. We all had an amazing time exploring the garden, looking at coy and drinking tea. If you have a child that does not need to go to bed or a baby that can sleep in the sling you can visit the garden at night whilst it is all lit up.
Parc Oriental de Maulevrier
Address: Route de Mauléon, 49360 Maulevrier

If you are traveling somewhere warm with little ones it is good to have activities that are out of the heat and the sun. The wine caves were brilliant for that so we decided to stick wit the cave theme and I little way down from Ackerman we visited the mushroom caves or musée du champignon.
The mushrooms were so beautiful to look at and it was surprisingly interesting to learn about the processes involved. Sebastian went wild in the caves and running around does not cover it! He was so excited and pointing at strange shaped mushrooms  and posters and talking semi-coherently was his thing, and it was very cute to watch.
When in doubt get a parent to do something silly and your toddler will be more than entertained, I love that Sebastian is such an easy audience right now, long may that last.
Musée du Champignon
Address: Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent, Route de Gennes, 49400 Saumur
Phone: 02 41 50 31 55  

All in all The Loire valley can serve the needs of an entire family without your little one being neglected. It was such a wonderful part of France and we will certainly go back and visit the other side of the valley that is closer to the coast.









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