- Lifestyle & Sports
- 18 Aug 15
With gorgeous scenery, excellent food and drink and copious activities, Mayenne is one of the French countryside’s secret gems.
Where exactly is it?
Mayenne is a department in the northwest of France in the region of Pays de la Loire, roughly 3-4 hours away from Paris.
How do I get there?
Dublin and Belfast offer flights to the surrounding cities (Mayenne is close to Paris and Rennes) and from there it’s easy to get a train, bus or even rent a car. Aer Lingus offer regular flights and Air France have flights daily.
Your other option is to get a ferry (the best option if you would rather bring your own car). Irish Ferries have 19 crossings a day from Rosslare to Cherbourg-Octeville.
What language do they speak?
They mainly speak French, but the majority of the population would at least have pidgin English, so don’t worry if your French isn’t bien.
What’s the currency?
France uses the euro everywhere.
What’s the transport like?
The countryside in Mayenne is very quiet so there are no issues walking or cycling around (If you are planning on walking or cycling places, you are best advised to wear sunscreen and carry water all the time as it can get very hot). There are trains and buses but stops are not well advertised online, especially if you are not fluent in French. A note for anyone driving – as in the north-west of Ireland, signposts are varied and placed erratically, so it’s best not to rely on them while travelling. Instead, purchase a map-book.
What’s the food like?
French chips are incredible, possibly the finest on the planet. Mayenne is also renowned for its production of cider, a glass of which complements a serving of fries very nicely. If you’re renting an apartment or house, there are supermarkets with a great selection of foods, drinks and desserts, so there’s no chance of you being stuck! If you
are planning on eating out there are beautiful restaurants and cafés in every town ready to supply you with classic French dishes and crépes. In Mayenne, at the higher end of the market, one spot we’d particularly recommend is the Michelin- starred L’eveil des Sens (restaurantleveildessens.fr ). They serve delicious meat and fish dishes, but there’s a lengthy waiting list so make sure to book in advance. Also worth checking out are the lakefront Le Salvert (restaurantlesalvert.fr) and the picturesque La Marjolaine (lamarjolaine.fr), where you can get a superb three-course meal for around 45 euros. Just to add to the luxury, there’s an al fresco dining option on fine days.
Mayenne is known for its high quality cider. In the 19th century, cider became France’s national drink after wine, and every year numerous medals are awarded to Mayenne’s cider producers at the Paris agricultural show. There are seven cider producers in Mayenne so you’re not stuck for a selection. We’d particularly recommend Maine Pommeau, which always goes down a treat.
Why should I go?
Mayenne offers beautiful landscapes, great food, a fascinating heritage and weather that the Irish dream of. Why wouldn’t you want to go?! And with its close proximity to Paris, there’s no lack of places to go and things to see.
What should I bring home?
In an ideal world, you would be able to – in the words of Crowded House – “take the weather with you”. Unfortunately, the app to do that has yet to be invented, so you’ll have to settle for a bottle of the celebrated local cider instead. In addition to the aforementioned Maine Pommeau, it’s also worth purchasing a bottle of one of the magnificent beverages produced at the Sainte- Anne de Champfrémont Conservation Orchard. Boasting 70 different species of apple trees and 20 types of pear trees, and located in a gorgeous pastoral setting, a visit here makes for an idyllic afternoon.
What’s the nightlife like?
There is a fantastic nightlife in the towns around Mayenne. Most bars and restaurants have outdoor seating and benches where locals gather in the evening and relax. For those looking for a different scene, there are numerous nightclubs around the area. One spot that’s always jumping is ‘La Ville’, located at La Chevallerie 53100 Moulay. But frankly, you’re guaranteed a good time anywhere.
What are the touristy things to do?
There’s so much to offer! First up, why not check out the Musee Robert Tatin, dedicated to the titular French artist, who did funky and surreal sculptures (musee-robert-tatin.fr). For those with kids, the animal rescue sanctuary at the Reuge de L’Arche is a fantastic spot (refuge-arche.org), while those with a passion for learning will gravitate towards La Lactopole, which is the world’s largest dairy museum (lactopole.com/en/). Also worth checking out is Jublains, the ancient roman town with a fortress, amphitheatre, temple and baths. Adrenaline junkies, meanwhile, will get a buzz from the circuit international de karting in Laval.
When should I go?
As Mayenne isn’t one of the obvious tourist spots in France, it’s never over-run. As a result, you can enjoy the sunshine in late July / early August without the stress of huge crowds.
What’s my challenge?
Instead of relying on your car, walk and cycle. Go out and appreciate nature – literally pick a direction and go! There’s so much to explore.
If you have small kids and don’t want to do the busy city thing, Mayenne is perfect. There aren’t many cars on the road and they’ll love playing in the French countryside.