Family Days Out
La Vallee des Singes (The Valley of the Monkeys)
Over 350 primates roaming free in one of the most delightful environments. Your children will love it.
Web site at www.la-vallee-des-singes.fr
The "capital city" of the Vendee region, La Rochelle has a beautiful old town and famous harbour. See if you can borrow one of the Velos Jaunes (yellow bkes) from either the Place de Verdun or the Quai Valin for up to two hours free cycling around. You will need identification with you (passport, driving license or similar.)
Web site at: www.ville-larochelle.fr
The Aquarium at La Rochelle
A fantastic day out for the whole family. You can see all kinds of fish including manta rays and a variety of sharks.
Web site at www.aquarium-larochelle.com
Ile de Re
Close to La Rochelle, this is a beautiful island with wonderful beaches on the it's west shore and lovely towns and villages. The best way to visit is with bicycles which can be hired. The only way on to the island is via thew toll bridge which is quite expensive so it is worth making a day of it. It takes approximately 80 minutes to get there from Chille.
Web site at: www.iledere.fr
Arche de Noe (Noah's Ark)
This is an animal farm on the Ile de Rey which is worth a visit if you have children.
Web site at: www.parc-archedenoe.com
Lac des Gours
Just 10 minutes away, the Lac des Gours is a great day out for the family. An artificial beach with separate bathing areas for toddlers and older children is watched over by a lifeguard. There are showers for rinsing off the sand and just across the road is a restaurant which seves meals, drinks and ce creams all day. There are picnic benches if you would prefer to take your own lunch with you. If you enjoy fishing then you can do so on the other side of the lake (you will need a temporary license). This is a great hit with kids of all ages. The beach is rarely too crowded but it usually gets busier later in the afternoon when French families come along after work to enjoy themselves.
No web site. A well kept secret.
Velo Train at Roumazieres
A wonderfully eccentric idea: weld a couple of bicycles to a steel platform running on a disused railway line, put 3 other seats on the platform and Bob's your uncle, you have a great day of exercise and entertainment for all of the family. This nearby activity runs for 5 miles from Roubazieres through the forest. It is open all year but you do have to phone and book from October to May. We like to take a picnic and have lunch at the halfway point.
Web site at www.velorail16.com
Of course, La Grange has its own swimming pool and you don't really need to go to Nautilis - unless of course you like the idea of massive slides, a great flume, a truly impressive wave machine, a "river" that sweeps you along and down slopes, an indoor whirlpool, a diving pool, a bubble shelf and an Olympic sized swimming pool. And if that isn't enough there is also an ice skating rink in the same complex. Outside you will find a huge lake where you can enjoy the artificial beach and try your hand at wind surfing or canoeing. It makes for a really enjoyable morning or afternoon out and if the children we know are anything to go by you'll have difficulty rounding them up and getting them out. Please bear in mind that the outdoor attractions are closed in winter. Nautilis is near Angouleme so you could combine this with a trip to see the city. Please bear in mind that in France you are only permitted to use swimming pools if you have a "Speedo" type swimming costume. You may not wear swimming shorts.
Web site at www.nautilis.fr
Aventure Parc (Adventure Park)
An hour's drive from La Grange you will find this wonderful day out for children of all ages from 8 to 80 (you need to be at least 1m 50 tall). The theme is treetop adventure with a variety of challenges to suit all ages. You climb into the branches and then tackle all sorts of obstacles ranging from cable slides to wobbly ladders. Everyone is equipped with safety harnesses and there is no danger at all provided you obey the simple rules of the park. A large number of skilled monitors provide constant supervision, encouragement and, where necessary, assistance. Why don't we have this sort of thing in the UK? Well, 'Elf and Safety would probably hate it but your kids will love it (ours did anyway). Finish the day with a terrific cable run across a lake followed by a stroll back along the wobbliest bridge I've ever been on. Complete maniacs can also have a go at bungee jumping.
Web site at www.aventure-parc.fr
Futuroscope at Poitiers
A fantastic theme park dedicated to the magic of film and image. There are virtual rides, exhibitions and a large water park. Well worth a day's visit. Your children will love it.
Web site at www.futuroscope.com
Chateau des Enigmes
Literally, the Puzzle Castle, this is a great day out for children as it is fundamentally a themed Treasure Hunt. The questions take the visitor round the Chateau and at the end you check your answers yourself using a computer and if you have solved the final puzzle certificates are awarded. The questions are given in English and English speaking attendants are on hand to assist if required.
Location is at Chateau d'Usson, Route de Fleac, 17800 Pons which is South of the D732 on a minor road (D249) on the southerly edge of Pons which is at exit 36 of the A10. Signposting is patchy. You can ring for more information on +33 (0)5 46 91 09 19 or visit the web site.
Web site at: www.chateau-enigmes.com
La Rochelle, Ile de Re, Ile d'Oleron
Just an hour away are the beaches of La Rochelle, the Ile de Re and the Ile d'Oleron on the western coast (Cote Sauvage) of France. The Ile de Re is well known as the preferred summer playground of France's chic Parisian society who have abandoned the Mediterranean as it has become more and more populated. Bicycles are the preferred form of transport and the long sandy beaches will provide families with excellent traditional seaside pursuits.
Web site at www.ville-larochelle.fr
Horse and Pony Riding (Les Ecuries de Lancelot)
There is an excellent friendly stables at Lucheville, only minutes from the house where you can attend for riding lessons or hire a horse or pony by the hour or day. The horses and ponies are very well schooled and are manageable by complete novices. You can either practice your skills on the well equipped manege (riding arena) at Les Ecuries or you can opt for a ride through the nearby woods and fields. You will also find a variety of interesting animals at the stables including, on our last visit, a goat with a mightily impressive pair of horns. Details are kept up to date in a file in the house. Riding instruction is provided in English or French.
It is worth booking your rides as early as possible as the stable does get quite busy. You can contact Les Ecuries de Lancelot on +33 (0)5 45 21 09 73. We cannot guarantee that an English speaker will answer the phone so be prepared to practice your French!
There is a wide choice of places within easy travel time where you can rent canoes and go for a trip on one of the many rivers in the Charente. Some companies offer you "one way" travel, driving you to a selected dropping off point and then letting you work your way back to their base, others will only provide canoes on a "there and back" basis, which means of course that you will have to paddle up river one way or the other. We can help you to choose the right option for you. Details about where you may rent canoes are in the "Entertainment" file in La Grange.
Angouleme Golf L'Hirondelle, Cham-Fleuri, Chemin de l'Hirondelle, 16000 Angouleme. Tel: +33 5 45 61 16 94
18 hole course over 5365 meters. There is is a clubhouse with bar and changing rooms. You can hire clubs, trolleys, electric carts etc. from the Pro Shop and there is also a driving range.
Golf du Cognac, La Maurie, 16100 Saint Brice. Tel: +33 5 45 32 18 17
18 hole course over 6148 meters designed by Jean Garaialde. There is also a four hole practice area with various hazards, a driving range with 16 covered bays and 30 open spaces, pitch and putt, 2 practice greens and 1 chipping green, 6 buggies and 2 pros.
You can fish in any of the local rivers and there are also plenty of well stocked fishing lakes nearby. You will need a French angling license, available from the Tabac (tobacconist) in nearby Aigre which also sells an extensive range of fishing tackle. The owner of the Tabac will be delighted to help you plan your fishing expeditions. Be prepared, his English is minimal.
Only an hour away you will find yourself in the Bordeaux area where the world's finest wines are produced: St Emilion, Pomerol, Graves, Entre Deux Mers and all of the other famous wine growing regions are here. St Emilion alone is well worth visiting just for the charm of its location and the breathtaking views of the local countryside.
The nearby town of Cognac, between Saintes and Angouleme on the N141, is famous as the home of the world's leading brandy distilleries. Most of the cognac distilleries have regular guided tours of their facilities. Take half a day to visit one of them and then enjoy a meal in one of the excellent local restaurants where you can sample the output of the house you have just visited. We recommend going to see Balluet at Neuvicq-le-Chateau around 25 minutes from Chille. Jean Balluet's family have been making Cognac for nearly 150 years and a visit to his distillery is both entertaining and educational.
Web site at www.cognac-world.com
Also: Remy Martin at www.remy.com/remy_site/classic/history/index.htm (A train ride around the production facility)
and Hennessey at www.hennessy-cognac.com/visiting/tour.asp (A boat ride included)
OK, here's the plan: strap yourself to an experienced instructor with a hang glider on his back, and position yourself behind a car which has a lengthy reel of cable attached to the pair of you. The car sets off down a runway and when the cable goes taut you will be pulled into the air to a height of 300 metres at which point the cable is released and you and the instructor are literally free as a bird. The next trick is to find the the ascending currents which will lift the hang glider over two thousand metres into the air. Yes folks, that's two kilometres high strapped to a bit of reinforced nylon and an aluminium frame. Wear brown trousers. It must be safe though because they have got insurance.
You'll find this aerial madness at Plaine Vol Libre, Le Vivier, 17400 Bignay. Tel: +33 (0)546 26 33 61
Web site at: www.plainevollibre.net Email: email@example.com
Le Tour des Remparts
Held annually on the third weekend of September, Le Tour des Remparts is a must for lovers of vintage and veteran cars. For one weekend, the centre of Angouleme is transformed into a race track where you can watch Bugattis, Rileys, Edwardians, MGs, Maseratis, Porsches and a host of other famous marques speeding around the ramparts of the old city. Some of them even crash! Spectacular.
Web site at www.tourisme.fr/office-de-tourisme/angouleme.htm This website covers all of the events happening in Angouleme. The Tour may not be covered until near the time that it is due to take place.
within 15 kilometres
Pleasant restaurant that is popular with tourists and which is very child
friendly (my son's favourite restaurant). Good selection of dishes including
many varieties of pizza. Reasonable prices.
Le Bilboquet, 3 Place de
l'Hotel de Ville, 16140 Aigre
Tel: +33 (0)545 213922
(approx 10 minutes)
Typical French restaurant offering good selection of well cooked food.
Very popular with the local lunchtime crowd although rarely too busy in the
evenings. Good opportunity to try either snails or frogs legs. Child friendly.
La Compostelle, Tusson
Tel: +33 (0)545 311590
(approx 15 minutes)
Excellent food and wine served in a delightful setting in this charming
ville protégé. Be prepared to take your time as the service is rarely very
speedy because the dishes are all individually prepared. This restaurant is
probably better suited to adults and older children. Great wine list. Pricier
than other restaurants in the area but terrific value. Nobody we know who has
been there has ever said they were not satisfied. La Compostelle was recently
mentioned in the Guide Michelin.
Bizarrely situated opposite the railway station in Luxe, this upmarket restaurant offers very good cuisine and an excellent wine list. Never mind the fact that you can hear the odd TGV whistling through across the road, you will still have a really enjoyable meal here. Best suited to adults and older children. Prices are higher than elsewhere but you do get value for money. Also given a mention in the Guide Michelin.
Le Beau Rivage, 16230 Mansle
Tel: +33 (0)545 203126 (approx 20 minutes)
This restaurant is wonderful for summer dining as it is right on the banks
Relais de Verdille, Route d'Aigre, 16140 Verdille Tel: +33 (0) 911282 (approx 10 minutes)
An unpretentious Routiers restaurant that does excellent steaks. There is also a good buffet. It's proximity to La Grange makes it a great favourite if you just want a simple night out. The owners also have a takeaway pizza service if you feel like having night in without cooking.
Auberge du Fins Bois, 19 Route de Jarnac, Rouillac Tel: +33 (0)545 708679 (approx 20 minutes)
A lovely restaurant that offers an excellent menu for those who want to be more adventurous with their food while also catering for simpler tastes. The two owners, one French and one Portuguese, met and married in the UK. Neither spoke the other's language at the time so they had to do their courting in English so you can be sure that they are fluent. Good value and an excellent wine list.
La Chaumiere, 16140 La Chappelle Tel: +33 (0)545 965813 (approx 20 minutes)
A recent discovery, right on the banks of the Charente river, we could not believe how the owners manage to provide such an excellent meal at such a low price. It is unbelievable value for money. At least 5 courses and a free cognac with your coffee at an average price of less than 15 euros per head (menu fixe). In the middle of the river you may see goats wandering on the island, while in the river itaslef there are fat trout and other fish.
Restaurants within 50 kilometres
La Grange aux Oies, Chateau de Nieul, Nieul
Tel: +33 (0)545 718124 (approx 60 minutes)
Don't let the distance put you off.
If you are going to spend a day in
King Long, Avenauds, 16160 Gond Pontouvre Tel: +33 (0)545 684241 (approx 45 minutes)
May seem a bit strange when you are in a gastronomic centre, but sometimes you just fancy something different and this is a great place to get a Chinese meal. It's all offered at a fixed price for the food and you can eat as much as you like. There is a choice of sushi and Chinese dishes and kids can have as many visits to the drinks fountain as they like. Alcoholic beverages are extra.