The kids always looked forward to their summer where all opportunities for exploration were possible. This year we rambled the Western part of France. Hubby and I also managed to squeeze in a mini-honeymoon in Bruges and Ghent.
In this post, you will find recommendation of activities and places to visit with kids in this corner of the world.
Part 1: Around Paris
Hands-down the highlight of their staying at grandparents’ was our trip to Pisciculture De Villette. This was the first time they had ever gone fishing, so they were so excited. A tad too excited indeed. Because grandma’s freezer was now stuffed with trouts, enough to last until next year. Pisciculture de Villette was about an-hour drive from Paris. Here, you would find two ponds: one with big trouts, and one with small trouts. Just fish as many as you want and pay by weight. The kids absolutely loved it. Grandparent just had to eat trouts for the rest of the year.
Part 2: Brugge and Ghent, Belgium
While the kids had fun at grandparent’s, hubby and I took off to our next destination, Bruges and Ghent (about 4-5 hours from Paris). On our way, we stopped over at Lille, the fourth biggest city of France, to have a romantic walk in downtown, a little aperitif at Le Dandy (very nice cocktails in a cute setting). and dinner at Au Vieux de la Vieille (a small restaurant tucked away from the touristy part of the town with amazing food, particularly their “tartin de boudin noir aux pommes”!).
Lodging in Bruges: We stayed at Hotel Gulden Vlies. It’s a very charming family-run boutique hotel which offered pleasant and clean rooms, nice breakfast, private parking (an extra of 10 euros per day), and walking distance to all attraction.
Eating: for casual snack, go for Frites Atelier Ghent where you can find mouth-watering fries with homemade sauce and finger licking specials).
For top-notch restaurant, go for Cuines 33. The food was so innovative and mind-blowing that we would drive 3-4 hours just to eat it here again. I strongly recommended the full tasting menu with juice pairing. It was extraordinary – you can expect an excellent piece of steak paired with a drink made of smoke and mushroom juice. The guy is a genius.
Part 3: Trouville sur mer
Summer cannot be completed without the beach. So, here we were at Trouville sur mer which offered nice tranquil beach with many cute villages around. We often spent the morning on the beach, and the afternoon exploring nearby towns.
Some good villages to explore with kids are: Honfleur (nice old port and distinct houses with slate-covered frontages), Deauville (a holiday resort for the rich). While you are in Deauville, make sure you enjoy a scoop of icecream at the famous Martine Lambert.
We were in Normandy region, so of course cheese it was! We took the kids to Fromagerie Graindorge to see how cheese were processed. But there were no cow there. Where does cheese come from then? For that, we went to la Ferme de la Tuilerie where the kids observed how to feed and milk cows. It was quite a learning experience for them.
Part 4: Brittany
Sailing. Hubby was fixated on sailing. So, we were off to Brittany for it. All three kids would start their sailing lessons at Yacht Club de Carnac for the entire week. This also meant parents had our priceless afternoons in absolute tranquility! YES!!!
When the kids were off school, we spent time on the beach, ate ice-cream and crepe every day, enjoyed artisan festival at Carnac Bourg, and visited Tumulus de Kercado and Megaliths of Carnac (the historical sites with large prehistoric standing stones lining in a mysterious way). The best crepes for us in Carnac was at La Poele a Crepes.
The kids also had great time digging sand and picking cockles at Plage du Men Du, and sipping hot chocolate afterward. It was totally worth waking up before sunrise (or that’s what I thought so).
Part 5: Loire Valley castles
We rented a farm house with an indoor pool. It turned out to be the best decision we made. There was a certain limit of places to visit before the kids got bored and whiny. Thus, a late afternoon in the pool was a big recoup of energy for them (and for us). And we spent every night grilling outdoor and drinking mojitos.
- Chateau de Chenonceau: it’s a 15th-century cute castle built over the Loire river bed. There was a nice labyrinth in the garden for the kids to run around.
- Chateau d’Amboise: this is my favorite castle – small and beautiful with a nice garden. The little town at the foot of the castle was also adorable. This was where Leonardo de Vinci lived his last days and was buried here. The kids had lots of interesting history lessons here.
- Chateau de Villandry: it had the most amazing garden out of all the castles we visited. Hubby and the kids had fun running until a small collision happened that our youngest ended up in an ambulance. Oh well, things happened. She was okay the next day.
- Chateau de Blois: this castle was huge and full of artwork. I wished we could have had two days to explore them all. The town was also nice.
- Chateau de Loches: If you are interested in dungeons and tortures, this place is for you. Me? Not so much! The surrounding neighborhood of the castle was very nice and pleasant though.
- Chateau de Chambord: this is a huge and beautiful castle. It was also popular with tourists so do expect a crowd with long lines. The kids loved the performance of horse and fight.
Part 6: Back to Paris
Back to Paris, we had a chance to catch up with families and friends, played boules at Jardin du Ranelagh, rode motorcycle and scooters around Paris, played games along Paris Plages, visited Musee du quai Branly, introduced the kids to the Asian corner of the city on 13rd district (and had authentic Vietnamese meals at Ba Mien Paris), and watched the blinking Eiffel tower from our bedroom windows every night.
It was a good summer.