A week-end in the city of Saumur and in the Maine and Loire

This is an extraordinary destination to live as a couple or family at about 3 hours from Paris by car. The change of scenery is guaranteed thanks to the many cave dwellings of the area, its castles and vineyards. Whether you are fond of history, gastronomy, animals or unusual places, this region will suit you.

We started our visit by the nearest point from Paris, the troglodyte village of Rochemenier which is located 24 km from Saumur and where you can visit two old farmhouses dug in the rock of falun. This rock dates from the times when the sea was covering the whole area. You can see some shells in that rock that proves its marine origin.

You can discover the life of these farmers and this incredible site inhabited since the Medieval Times until the twentieth century. The guided (and free) 30 mn tour (and free) is really interesting, because without it, you miss important elements that help you to understand the lives of these farmers, breeders and cultivators. http://www.troglodyte.fr/

 

I thought I had found a nice bed and breakfast in my wanderings on the various websites of the area but nothing had prepared me for what we discovered: a beautiful room and a gigantic troglodyte bathroom! Le logis des roches d’antan is an exceptional place renovated by enthusiasts who are happy to welcome their guests in their area. https://lelogisdesrochesdantan.wordpress.com/

Our room was named the « Tuffeau », the freestone of the area in which they used to built the houses and castles. The breakfast is very abundant and made with excellent products. Sophie and Gilles are adorable, a real sense of hospitality and friendliness!

 

The next day, we continued our cave dwelling visit by discovering the castle of Breze.

This castle contains a secret in its basement: an entirely troglodyte part carved in the tuffeau stone which constituted the dependences of the castle. This part under the castle looks like an underground labyrinth and the lighting reinforces this idea of a secret place hidden from the outside world.

The part in the moat is more like a village with stalls of craftsmen like the baker or places for the wine trade. The wine was an important element in this castle which contains cellars with vats and a press. There is also a place where silkworms were raised.

 

A visit to the sparkling wine cellars in Saumur is essential. We chose those of the Veuve Amiot who offer a day guided tours with actors dressed like in the old times. The great interest of this visit lies in the discovery of the manufacture of this sparkling wine, the history that surrounds its creation and especially the many tastings that marked the entire course.
The city of Saumur is situated along the banks of the Loire river. A very good restaurant to recommend: the bistro Les Tontons with great wines by the glass and varied dishes. Very nice atmosphere. It is advisable to book especially on weekends!
Ville de Saumur
Our last day was devoted to two very different places but also astonishing ones: the Mystery of the Faluns and the exotic Bioparc of Doué La Fontaine.
The Mystery of the Faluns is a walk-in show set up in a former falun stone exploitation quarries. The place is absolutely magical. For those who loved the movie « The Lord of the Rings », I had the feeling of entering into the mines of Moria : an immense vaulted height which gives a breathtaking sensation.
 Add to that some very successful visual and sound effects that plunge us into prehistory and help us understand how the falun stone appeared beneath the surface of the earth. It takes a good hour to visit this place so old and modern at the same time. A real success!
 And finally, let’s end with the Bioparc of Doué la Fontaine. The nuance is important because you do not feel in a traditional zoo. The cages disappear in the benefit of glass walls or raised spaces. Created in the 60s, it is run by the son and grandson of the creator. The latter is also a landscaper and you can feel it in the layout of spaces dedicated to animals. The people who work here are passionate. We met the director of the Bioparc Pierre Gay who would inquire with visitors of their satisfaction. The parc participates in species conservation programs and financially support wildlife conservation associations, including the excellent NGO Kalaweit, directed by Chanee, that protects Indonesian’s gibbon.
Bioparc de Doué la Fontaine
The Bioparc is built on ancient quarries of falun rocks and it can be seen in the habitat of the giraffes and in the – incredible – aviary of exotic birds. They approach and fly around you, it’s an enchantment.

Two other rather magical places: the Okapi habitat, very rare in a zoo, where you can also see many exotic birds and the habitat of the big cats (tigers and panthers).

Do not miss the feeding the giraffes at the end of the day because you can give them some leaves! A very special moment.

Have a nice stay in this beautiful area of France !
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