The botanical garden on the Cider Route in Normandy, France

Back in August, my parents traveled all the way from my native Norway to spend a week vacationing with me in France. More precisely in Normandy.

The beautiful region known for its apple cider (and calvados) production, cheese production (some smelly, others not so much)  and the quaint half-timbered houses that are ever so charming and fairy-tale-esque!

Being given a whole lot of responsibility and becoming my parents’ personal ambassador of France (you know, considering I live in the country and all) I went out of my way to make sure we wouldn’t spend a single second of the day being even remotely bored. While doing my Normandy-research, I found plenty of articles about some kind of a Cider Route.

“When in Lower Normandy, you have to check out the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) in Pays d’Auge. It’s a 40 kilometers stretch of idyllic scenery, pretty little villages and home to several producers of the “AOC Pays d’Auge” cider”.

Alrighty, then. Off to the Cider Route, we go!

Was it worth exploring?

You bet your sweet ass, it was.

If you weren’t already in love with the French countryside before, you sure will be after a day or two spent exploring the scenic Cider Route. The rustic charm of the half timbered houses and old fashioned cafes, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped right into a fairy tale. The traditional farmer’s markets and the cider farms, now this is the icing on the cake. It sure completes the ambiance Normande!

But… Yes, there is a but.

As amazing as it all is, at one point you might wanna take a short break from all that cider shopping and village hopping and do something else, I’m certain.

Because things can get kind of repetitive. And you can get kind of broke.

Luckily, on the Cider Route itself, there is indeed another activity you shouldn’t look past.

cambremer

If you’re someone who enjoys photography (nature, macro, floral) , idyllic picnics, beautiful parks and romantic gardens – or you’re a painter/artist searching for inspiration; you’re in for a treat.

Creative souls and nature lovers alike; you are gonna love Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge (the gardens of Pays d’Auge)!

These charming botanical garden is open from May 1st until October 20th, which means you might want to hurry up if you wanna spend a day in this picturesque location before it’s closed for the season.

pays d'auge

Back in August, while exploring the Cider Route with my mother and stepfather, I took them to Jardins du Pays d’Auge – and, just as I expected, they loved every minute of it.

Well, except from maybe the thirty minutes of sudden rain showers. But hey, Mother Nature decided it was time to water the plants – and just happened to water the three of us at the same time!

According to the lady at the ticket counter, we would need about one hour and a half to quickly see everything Jardins du Pays d’Auge had to offer. The different themed gardens, such as the rosary, the devil’s garden (Jardin du Diable), the angel’s garden (Jardin des Anges), and the September garden (Jardins de septembre), were the perfect spots for photo-enthusiasts like myself – and my mother, to take lovely photos (of each other as well as the flowers and plants).

lavender

While strolling through the gardens, at one point you will end up wandering through a maze, which will then lead you to a cute little chapel. With music playing inside of it.

Apparently the gardens are available for wedding ceremonies, so I guess the chapel is used when celebrating the most romantic events of them all. The big day.

Would you set your future wedding to a botanical garden? I sure would (if my significant other was up for it)!

On site, there are some traditional half timbered houses open for guests to explore. These houses are fully equipped with different tools formerly used in production of food, hardware and clothing, back in the good, old days before modern day technology.

As my stepdad is an engineer and naturally curious about how everything is/used to be made, this was without a doubt his favorite part of the visit.

half timbered house

My mother, on the other hand, was ecstatic when we walked past a small stable with two donkeys in it.

Random, I know.

She went photo-crazy and took maybe thirty pictures of the poor animals, all from the exact same angle (as they were busy eating and couldn’t give a rats ass about my mom) and then she acted as stubborn as the donkeys themselves, when my stepdad tried to pull her away from them so that we could move on and continue our visit.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed to bring your own food into the gardens or not, but we did it anyway. Earlier that day, we bought a couple of sandwiches from a nice little bakery in the village of Cambremer (where Jardins du Pays d’Auge is located). We hid the goods in my stepdad’s backpack and saved them for the right occasion; picnic time in beautiful scenery!

If the weather (or the staff) is telling you your picnic ain’t gonna happen, and you happen to be so hungry you’d easily start chewing on flowers and leaves from the trees, fear not. Put the flowers down and wait until you’ve finished the tour around the gardens.

You see, on site – just in front of the entrance to the gardens – there is a lovely crêperie just waiting for your hungry belly to be fed with delicious galettes (savory pancakes) and crêpes (sweet pancakes).

normandy

Well, if you’re visiting the gardens between May and September, that is.

My parents and I, finished our sandwiches, finished the tour, and ended our visit. The rain showers had made the grass wet and slippery, which again had made our shoes wet and muddy. But it didn’t bother me, nor my parents. In fact, my stepdad was thrilled.

“Now, this has been a great day. Beautiful scenery. Tranquility. This beats all the villages that kind of look the same, anyway”.

His words, not mine.

Go to LesJardinsduPaysdAuge.com for more information and updates.

normandy gardens

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A day in Terra Botanica – The theme park devoted to plant life (Angers, France)

Like many other women, I am obsessed with flowers. Looking at them, smelling them, photographing them, learning about them – I love it and I can’t get enough of it.

So it doesn’t exactly come as a shocker to those who know me, that I’ll always make sure to schedule in a visit to the local botanical garden, whenever I’m planning a trip to a new destination. It’s just one of those things I have to do. Because, enjoying the scent of beautiful flowers while strolling through a picturesque garden is something that gives me a feeling of tranquility. And it fills my Instagram with amazing colorful photos too!

roses

The day I scrolled through my news feed on Facebook and stumbled upon an article (including a video) on Terra Botanica – a botanical theme park in France – I knew I’d just made a great discovery. I had found my paradise.

Right there in Angers, a city in western France.

I thought to myself, a theme park AND botanical gardens in one? That’s just a whole other level of happiness right there – and it’s something for all generations to enjoy.

Me, I have moments where I behave older than your grandma, and moments where I behave like a little child, which makes it all just perfect.

Considering the fact that I already live in France, I knew I could easily go to Angers on a weekend trip – which made the temptation to go there, even bigger. Just a two and a half hour drive from Paris, and I’d be there.

I showed my boyfriend the article on Terra Botanica and played him the video. He wasn’t too excited about it, being a macho man and all. “A flower park? The rides don’t even look exciting. It’s just slow and boring”, were his exact words, when referring to the scenic boat ride and the journey in a nutshell (pedaling through the forest, past the tops of the trees). Boring my ass. It looked awesome.

My puppy eyes and multiple repetitions of “please, please, please” and “come on” – as if I was a little girl begging her parents to take her to Disneyland – paid off in the end.

We spent the day of arrival just visiting the city of Angers, which is a lovely city famous for its medieval castle with as many as 17 towers!

The following day, we left the hotel at an early hour and were all set and super stoked (well, at least I was) and couldn’t wait to spend a full day enjoying everything Terra Botanica had to offer, before returning home from our overnight getaway.

The sun was shining through the windy clouds, bees were buzzing around and flowers of every color imaginable were decorating every corner of the park. Due to the strong wind, the big yellow air balloon was sadly closed to visitors, but we still had lots of other interesting things to see and do!

terra botanica flowers

First thing up, was a 4D adventure. There are actually two different adventures, depending on what time of the day you get there. In the morning and until 2 pm, there’s a film where you’ll see things from a water droplets point of view and follow its journey from the sky to the heart of the plant. After 2 pm, there’s a film where you’re placed at the wheel of a Jeep and you’ll drive right into a dinosaur reserve. My boyfriend is a huge fan of dinosaurs and absolutely loved it. So did I. It reminded us of Jurassic Park, and who doesn’t love Jurassic Park?

walnut ride

Then we pedaled into the forests and enjoyed the view of the park from above while snapping a few photos, before changing the perspective and admiring the view from the relaxing boat ride. I asked my boyfriend if he still thought the park was boring, and he said no. Ah, see? I bloody told him so!

smiling

We fed our brains with interesting information about plants adaptations in different habitats (accompanied by hologram projections) before walking through different rooms to experience those different climate types and seeing the plants adapted to it.

After feeding our brains, we fed our bellies with a quick lunch from one of the restaurants in the park. My fish and chips was surprisingly as good as the fish and chips I’ve had in England – which means it’s freakin’ delicious (for a fast food meal). While my boyfriend was sitting there chewing on a mediocre hot dog, I could tell by the look on his face that he wanted to steal my fish. And then he asked me if I’d really be able to finish all of that, and offered to help out if not…

butterfly

We continued exploring the park and moved on to the butterfly greenhouse. I’ve already been to plenty of butterfly greenhouses/butterfly sanctuaries in my life, and I just can’t seem to get enough of them. Ever. I love how aesthetic butterflies are. The colors, the patterns and even the way they flutter their wings. From a hobbyist photographers point of view, they are magnificent creatures.

butterfly transformation

Before leaving the park, we went to see something kind of creepy, yet extremely fascinating; carnivorous plants. Yes, meat eating (insects, mainly) plants. Some of them have teeth and look quite intimidating, while others just look like some kind of a tube. Harmless. Apparently they eat mosquito’s, so if you’re someone who’s always targeted by those bloodsucking insects, you might wanna consider investing in a carnivorous plant.

carnivorous plants

We left the park feeling smarter, feeling happy and feeling exactly the way I’m sure the park was designed to make you feel.

What else should you know about Terra Botanica?

  • It is closed during winter (doesn’t quite come as a surprise, does it?)
  • There’s an Autumn festival in the park from the 28th to the 31st of October, and a Spring festival on April 1st and 2nd!
  • It is located in Angers, and is a 1 hour drive from Nantes and Rennes, 1 hour 20 minutes from Tours and 2 and a half hour drive from Paris.
  • It’s on the top 10 list of TripAdvisor’s Preferred in France Theme Parks.
  • Book tickets online and you’ll get a discount!

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