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Pays de la Loire in western France comprises 5 departments that span countryside to coast. Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe, Vendée and Mayenne.

Mayenne – glorious countryside and rivers galore

Mayenne is in the interior of Pays de la Loire but its borders are just 30km from Normandy’s famous Mont Saint Michel. The capital of Mayenne is lovely Laval. It’s a sleepy sort of town except on a Saturday morning when the market takes place and the whole town bursts into life. The department neighbours the Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy though it tends to be warmer than Normandy thanks to its microclimate.

There’s plenty to do and see in Mayenne from chateaux, to water activities, vineyards, museums and more.

5 Things to do in Mayenne:

Laval

Laval is in the centre of Mayenne. It’s the sort of small city where you can walk everywhere quite easily. It’s a designated “town of art and history” and very pretty. There’s plenty to see and do in the town as well as round and about. Enjoy wandering the streets of the town. A great place to admire the views is across the river to the Quai Gambetta, at night, the lights twinkle and reflections sparkle. Roam the streets around Place de la Trémoille where the market takes place, and you’ll find dinky creperies, art shops, fromageries and boutiques in the winding, hilly lanes. Don’t forget to buy some of the local cheeses while you’re here – the famous Port-Salut is made at Entrammes, just outside Laval. Other Mayenne-made cheese include: Chamois d’or, Chaussée aux Moines, Vieux Pané, Saint Paulin, Rouy, Babybel, Bons Mayennais and Président. There are plenty of delicious restaurants and bistros and for a gastronomic break, l’Esprit Cuisine (8 rue Mazagran) takes some beating.

Saint Suzanne

Officially one of the most beautiful villages in France, Saint Suzanne is charming, wonderfully pretty and makes for a great place to visit. A town and castle perched on a hill, flower filled streets, cosy cafés and stunning countryside make this a memorable destination.

Robert Tatin Museum

Local artist Robert Tatin is remembered at the house he transformed from a modest home to a work of art. You can take a bus from the centre of Laval for the short journey to the museum. If you fancy a gentle cycle ride, rent a bike in Laval and take the route along an abandoned railway track from the town right to the entrance. The sprawling house and outbuildings are covered inside and out with Tatin’s art and the gardens are full of extraordinary pieces of work. It’s unusual but brilliant.

Cite du Lait Lactopole

The world’s biggest diary museum is in Laval, and Mayenne is a leading dairy production area. Did you know that the average cow produces around 9000 litres of milk a year? Or that the rind of Camembert is good for digestion? Or that yoghurt as we know it, was introduced to France by Russian immigrants in the early 20th century and that in those days you had to buy it at a pharmacy because it was considered medicinal? This is a big museum with around 4000 artefacts – from milk churns to cheese lids. It’s quirky but rather fascinating!

Bike and Boat

Follow the Velo Francette through spectacular countryside on a designated cycle route in Mayenne. Of course you can go much further, it runs for 630km in total. It stretches from Ouistreham in Brittany to La Rochelle, taking in iconic landmarks from the D-day landing beaches, via the Loire Valley, through vineyards and along the most beautiful country lanes.

Or take a gentle cruise on the River Mayenne, enjoy the scenery from an electric or motor boat or pedalo if you’re feeling a bit more energetic.

Useful information: http://www.laval-tourisme.com/en; Atout France

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