Pays de la Loire is a little known gem, the countryside leading down towards the grand Loire valley is beautiful. Just 4.5 hours drive down from Calais (or 2.5 hrs from Caen) you are in ‘real’ France. Situated in the department of Mayenne on the border with the department of the Sarthe it is ideally situated to explore both areas plus you are less than 1.5 hrs drive away from the wine region of the Loire valley, which is a favourite day out for many.
Watch the wildlife, listen to the birds and the frogs and in the evening gaze at the stars in the clear dark skies. Pays De La Loire also has the benefit of only being half an hour from the bustling cities of Le Mans and Laval. Le Mans is well known for its 24 hr racing in June but there are events on for most of the year and the museum there is well worth a visit. A visit to the old town and the cathedral is a must, the stained glass windows are breath taking. The restaurants and the shopping are also to be recommended.
Within half an hour you can visit some great tourist destinations including the fortress and chateau at St Suzanne, the caves and canyons at Saulges - where you can climb a rock face or go down into the Palaeolithic era caves or just walk along the beautiful river. The Roman settlement of Jublains is about 20 minutes away, here you can see the remains of the baths below the current Church, a fortress, an amphitheatre and a Roman temple. There are many churches, parks and garden’s to visit as well as forest circuits to cycle or walk. You could decide to play golf at Laval, Le Mans or Sable sur Sarthe or hire a boat in Sable to cruise the Maine or Anjou rivers. There is a wonderful zoo at La Fleche – this is always popular with the kids who visit as is the rescue centre at Chateau Gontier - Refuge de L’arche, more like a zoo than a rescue centre as they rescue exotic animals such as Lions, Tigers, Bears, Wolves etc.
There are fabulous local brocantes as well as weekend ‘vide greniers’ (similar to a car boot sale) so if you are looking for a little piece of French treasure to take home you will not be disappointed. There are many produce markets specialising in fresh, local produce.