France is a great location for a cycling holiday. We are not quite ready for on-road cycle routes and travelling miles and miles each day so this year we opted for one base that was in easy reach of family friendly rides.
The canal paths and sleepy waterways are perfect for cyclists of all abilities. We set off for the day, loaded up with picnics, drinks and sun cream and just loved the relaxed and easy way of life. No one rushes anywhere in Burgundy. The colourful canal boats drift along with ease, the crew giving a wave as you ride by or perhaps lifting a glass of wine in your direction to say ‘Bon Soir’. The beautiful villages along the way are very welcoming with their boulangeries and cafes.
Our accommodation was on the edge of Vermenton. A lovely small town with all amenities and a very good campsite by the river. Friends of ours stayed at this site for a few days and loved it.
We stayed at Le Moulinot. This is a wonderful property that provides everything a family needs for a fun-filled holiday. The property is spacious and welcoming, has all mod cons (including a DVD player with English films) and is situated next to a beautiful millpond and swimming pool.
There is a canoe on the pond which we made use of every day. The swimming pool was cool and inviting during the scorching hot days and there were plenty of loungers for relaxing and reading.
You feel completely free here and are surrounded by fields, streams and wildlife. Other than the owners who live in an adjacent property, there are no other neighbours and it felt very safe for the children to be wild and free. It is a bird spotters paradise, with a resident Kingfisher, Dippers, Herons and Buzzards flying over-head and beautiful dragonflies flitting about on the water.
Our favourite wildlife were the Coypu who doggie-paddled across the pool at dusk and entertained the children for hours. Although they are from the rodent family they are very sweet and look like little otters or beavers. They have been eradicated in the UK so we were quite excited to see them. There were also red squirrels and Loir (Edible Dormouse). We had a brief glimpse of a red squirrel but sadly never spotted a Loir as they are nocturnal. We did however hear them in the roof space at night!
Vermenton is an excellent base for exploring Burgundy. Here are our recommendations for places to visit.
- Noyers-sur-Serein. A beautiful medieval town with an old castle to explore. Try lunch at Rouge et Blanc where you can get a fantastic platter of cheeses and cold meats.
- Grottes de St More – Quite an energetic hike to these and you do need to be a bit of a mountain goat at times! If you are feeling adventurous though they are definitely worth exploring. Good for spotting sleeping bats!
- Avallon – Another medieval town with some great restaurants. Thomas had his first taste of snails here. L’horloge restaurant on 63 Grande Rue Aristide Briand was really good at accommodating my gluten free requests. The owner spoke good English and was very reassuring in talking me through their menu.
- Chablis – The only place I have ever been where it seems normal to have wine with breakfast! Check out the wine tours here, there are plenty to choose from. The open air market is excellent too.
- Vezelay – A trip to the Basilica is definitely worthwhile. We had lunch at Restaurant le Dent Creuse which was very reasonably priced and despite looking like a tourist trap was actually very good.
- Grottes D’Arcy – These are excellent caves with a guided tour in French (my husband and children enjoyed a spontaneous translation from a lovely Parisian English teacher). Look out for the second oldest cave paintings in France and amazing geological formations.
- Auxerre – We visted here on our last day and I wish we had discovered it earlier. It has the best market of any we had seen. Do not miss Cathedral St Etienne, it has stunning stained glass windows, statues, gargoyles and paintings that take your breath away.
As well as site seeing there are plenty of other things to do in the area…
There are quite a few options for Kayaking the Burgundy rivers. We decided to head to St Pere in the Morvan Valley and chose AB Loisirs. They were helpful and friendly and spoke English which was very useful for us! Our route was a five mile fairly easy paddle and was easily managed by our 7 and 10 year old who shared kayaks with us. This was a great way to explore the river Cure and get up close to the wildlife.
Two minutes from AB Loisirs is Brasserie de Vezelay where you could buy a perfect, cold, gluten free beer. They also serve bar snacks. Definitely worth a visit if you are a coeliac like me.
We love visiting French markets with their atmosphere, sights and smells and stocking up on local cheeses and pastries. You can find a list of market days here.
Ecluse Des Dames on the Canal du Nivernais
I have to mention Ecluse Des Dames which we happily discovered on a bike ride. This is a play park in the trees! For just five euros each your little ones can play tarzan for as long as they like whilst you enjoy the picnic areas and hammocks and keep a close eye on them. (Children under 6 must be accompanied by an adult). The owners also have a small bistrot here where you can enjoy a glass of Chablis and a goats cheese salad. What a perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Burgundy was a delight for all the family and we would definitely recommend Le Moulinot. We will have some very happy memories of this trip.
What is your favourite holiday destination as a family?