A major feature of the area around Saumur are the fascinating troglodyte caves which offer lots of scope for a variety of visits for the whole family encompassing underground museums, mushroom caves, wine cellars, restaurants and even a zoo which are all given a different slant because of their unusual setting.

 

Mushroom museum (Musée du Champignon)

Description: A museum devoted to all things related to the humble mushroom!. If mushrooms are your thing then you will be rewarded with a fascinating insight into the techniques employed in growing them as well as seeing most of the different varieties actually being grown- both wild and cultivated types. As with the Parc Miniature Pierre et Lumière all of the museum is housed in vast galleries hewn out of the tuffa. It is possible to buy produce at the end of the tour.

Location: On D761 300 km on the Saumur side of the Parc Miniature Pierre et Lumière. Car park.

General Info: Route de Gennes, St-Hilaire-St-Florent.

Website: http://www.musee-du-champignon.com/

Our recommendation: It is possible to get a combined ticket for the Mushroom Museum and the Parc Miniature Pierre et Lumière.

For the children: Is part of the children orientated organisation called ‘Sur la piste se d’enfant Roy’ which means that there is a booklet available to aid childrens’ enjoyment. May need adult help if in French.

Of perhaps specialist appeal, but could be a life-saver on poor weather days!

 

Parc Miniature Pierre et Lumière

Description: Here it is possible to look at many of the most well-known sites of the Loire valley, carved out of tuffa stone by a Breton sculpturist. Castles, towns, villages and churches have been sculpted in the finest detail, with the most dramatic being a bas-relief of the nearby town of Saumur, 12 metres long by 2 metres high.

Location: Situated on the D751 6km NW of Saumur (Carry on through St Hilaire-St Florent towards Chênehutte-les-Tuffeaux). Car Park.

General Info: Route de Gennes, St-Hilaire-St-Florent.

Website: http://www.pierre-et-lumiere.com/

Our recommendations: As this is all underground, in galleries carved deep into the hillside, this is a good place to hold in reserve for visiting on days when either it is too wet or perhaps too hot to do anything else. You can combine a visit here with the Mushroom Museum on a single ticket.

For the children: Is part of the children orientated organisation called ‘Sur la piste se d’enfant Roy’ which means that there is a booklet available to aid childrens’ enjoyment. May need adult help if in French.

 

The troglodyte village of Rochemenier

Description: Slightly off the beaten track this most unusual museum is worth a visit, to see how people lived in the not too distant past. The museum reveals a community of two ancient farms and their associated dwellings which have been carved out of the local stone in a quarry type setting. It is possible to visit all manner of different properties, all fully furnished either as dwellings or with impedimentia giving an insight into a totally unique way of life. There are barns, a wine cellar, the all important communal village oven, stables and even an amazing underground Church to visit with guided tours available, if desired, in English or feel free to wander around at your own pace.

An interesting half day visit with something for everyone.

Location: Situated in the village of Louresse-Rochemenier, 6 km NW of Doué-la-Fontaine, just off the D761.

General info: Rochmenier, 49700 Louresse.

Website: http://www.troglodyte.info/

 

Zoo de Doué

Description: This zoo is perhaps one of France’s best and is a fabulous day out. As you head down to the entrance you wonder what awaits you, but all is revealed when you realize that the zoo is sited in an old quarry with much evidence of troglodytic dwellings. This makes it ideal for a hot, sunny day as there is lots of shade provided by the great variety of trees, bamboo and acacias. The more than 500 animals have lots of space to roam in their enclosures and there are many opportunities to watch the animals being fed and listen to talks throughout the day (although these are only in French).

Location: Situated to the SW of the town of Doué, best approached by taking the D960 bypass round the town.

General Info: Route de Cholet, 49700 Doue-la-Fontaine. Open every day from the start of the French February school holidays to the end of the Toussaint holidays in November. Summer 9.00-19.30. Winter 10.00-18.30.

Website: http://www.bioparc-zoo.fr

Our recommendations: Buy some food to feed the animals when you arrive and don’t forget to visit the museum at the far end of the zoo to find out more about animals, plants and their environment.

For the Children: A perfect day out for children. You’ll have to drag them away!

 

Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Loire Valley: