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This year with my husband and two children, we were looking for a quieter destination than usual, far from a city and the hustle and bustle of major tourist destinations, with lots to do with the family, not too far from Paris to limit the kilometres, cheaper than the Atlantic coast or the French Riviera… In short, we were looking for a needle in a haystack!

Everyone in the family wanted something slightly different… My daughter dreamed of adventure on a river, playing explorers and “at least one escape game” during the summer. My son wanted ‘to be surrounded by nature’ and to go for a bike ride. My husband wanted to eat well and drink good wine. As for me, I had just read a historical novel and wanted old stones to extend the story, but I also wanted to see animals because I hadn’t set foot in a zoo for 15 or 20 years!

We searched using all these criteria and discovered the Sud Val de Loire!

 

Emma, 43 ans, Lyon.

We run around all year. You almost never have time to do simple things everyday like playing games, reading, taking a stroll or going to the cinema. As soon as we arrived, we left our suitcases at the hotel. Then we went to stretch our legs on the banks of the Cher, before a little family meeting in the shade of a lime tree to decide the programme for the next day. Then we passed the time of day in the village until dinner. After an aperitif of rillons and pate, we had a fricassee of Racan chicken with wood blewit mushrooms (which only grow round here) and some Selles-sur-Cher, a small, round cheese which I hadn’t tasted before. We drank Touraine-Chenonceaux, one of the most famous PDO’s in the region. Finally, as it wasn’t too late, we even went to the local cinema to see a film!

So, we were all in agreement: we should start with a château. It must be said that with 7 Loire châteaux in the vicinity, we were spoiled for choice: it would be a shame not to visit at least one or two! After a bit of discussion, we chose Chenonceau, the closest and the most original (it’s built on the water!). We continued with the famous ‘buffet des cavernes’ for lunch. And as it was Wednesday, we were able to do the Troglo Dégusto treasure hunt. Then we finished the day with a visit to the mushroom farm and its underground town, in the village of Bourré.

 

Expérience

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Change of programme: we were going to go to Beauval, but the weather was a bit changeable, so, instead, we decided to go the Saint-Michel biscuit factory. We were very lucky! It’s almost always full, it’s a good idea to book in advance. Before leaving, we stocked up on enough pancakes for the winter! Then, after a delicious lunch at the Bouchon de Sassay – a surprising find in a very quiet little village, we went to the Maison de la Magie in Blois: the children loved it! They even said to me, “We hope it rains tomorrow, there’s so many cool things to do indoors here!’ Good joke…

Finally, Beauval! A long day, but we would all have liked it to go on even longer: there was just so much to see… It will be a long time before I forget the children’s amazed faces during the truly breathtaking bird show. Magical! To be honest, I had a fairly old-fashioned idea of zoos, but now I understand how important this kind of place is. They even participate in the reintroduction of animals to their natural habitat, particularly in Africa.

 

We had promised ourselves that there would be at least one pairs day, ‘2 times 2’, meaning a day for Mum + Enzo on one side and Dad + Émilie on the other. As we only have one car for four, we needed to have another meeting to organise everything. I spent the day in a canoe on the Cher with my son. We canoed as far as the Château de Chenonceau and we snacked on local fish terrine at the Bistrot’ Quai, in the garden of the Lock keeper’s museum in Civray-de-Touraine! Meanwhile, Émilie and her Dad were visiting their second château, Chambord. In the evening, we met up in a lovely little restaurant in the old town in Montrichard, before we went to see the evening show in the keep. Very funny!

Panic: only two days left, and nobody wants to leave. Walks at dusk along the Cher river below our hotel had already become an essential ritual. Today it was a hike. Fearless, we chose the ‘vines and forest’ trail, 16 kilometres. The children had never walked more than 4 or 5 km before! So, tonight, everyone was aching a little and we went to bed at 9pm, the window open, listening to birdsong…

My husband had promised me at least one day off, just for me, during this holiday. No trip, no activity, no travel, no children to manage. Nothing. So today, for me, it was reading, napping, spa, massage, stroll along the Cher, reading again, bath… Meanwhile, my little gang, following on from their hike yesterday, were going for a bike ride. On the programme: 30km with a break for a picnic in a magnificent setting, on the banks of the wild Cher. And just peace for me from 10am to 7pm!

Day 8

After breakfast, a big discussion: no one wants to leave and no one wants to do the same thing for this, our last day. After a few phone calls, we find a free room for an additional night in another hotel: that’s the advantage of being in a tourist region which is not always crowded with tourists!

We can improvise and make the pleasure last a little longer! We had to keep our promise… so it’s an escape game for Émilie. A magnificent location: the Château des Énigmes. The story is called ‘The Mysterious Office of Professor Dragonard’. We all had a great time; it was a first for me and I can’t wait to try it again. At the end of the afternoon, it was time for souvenir and food shopping at the fantastic local produce shop in Saint-Aignan. Our family and friends will be happy! In the evening, after having left our suitcases at the new hotel, we listened to a tale in a park at dusk …

Unanimously for this, our last day (this time for sure, we’re going back to Paris this evening after dinner!), we decided to go to a goat farm, the Palais du P’tit Chèvre, of course with a visit to the shop to stock up. At the end of the morning, we headed to Chaumont-sur-Loire for the International Garden Festival, which we’d heard so much about. A day away from it all, really different from anything we have been able to do for years: a great way to end this holiday that has been full, very varied and really relaxing.