Rent a houseboat on the Mayenne
We are planning a trip with the houseboat on the Mayenne. Our little Air France plane is circling over Nantes. There a strong thunderstorm forces us to draw a few circles over the Atlantic. This allows us to see how close we are to the sea. But the raindrops on the airplane windows will soon disappear. The sun quickly breaks through the clouds again as soon as we leave the thunderstorm cell behind us. Blue extends the water surface to the horizon. Only when the aircraft turns towards the land while circling do we see the threatening storm clouds over Nantes. After half an hour, the thunderstorm cleared the city. Our plane finally prepares to land and delivers us safely at Nantes airport.
French Savoir-Vivre in Château Gontier
Michel, our contact in the Mayenne, is already waiting and brings us in an hour first on the highway and finally through rural regions to Château Gontier. There we spend one last night ashore in the Hotel Parc, before we get our houseboat the next day. This is waiting for us in Daon. The landscape we drive through makes an almost pastoral impression. It reminds me involuntarily of paintings by Watteau, with their ancient oaks, rolling hills and cattle pastures, where black and white spotted cattle seek a sheltering place in the shade against the sun, burning hot from the sky.
One night at Hotel Parc in Château Gontier
Our hotel is a former mansion of a large family in which once lived a family of sixteen children. The present owners took over and built it, together with a flat outbuilding to a charming hotel. The rooms are simply furnished but have everything you need for a short stay. "Fourteen years ago, when we opened the hotel, the two buildings were still out of town," explains Anne-Laure, the owner. "Today we are in the middle of the city."
That's how you enjoy France
During our tour with the houseboat on the Mayenne we experience French savoir-vivre. For dinner she set a large table in the garden with a large bouquet of hydrangeas from her own garden. On the other side of the table is a large vase with a large bouquet of wildflowers. The wine glasses on the table give us an idea of what is good. Our dinner eventually overflows the table. He bends under delicious French food, There are bowls of salads, a plate with a salmon terrine, which turns out to be a real treat, a plate with various ham and sausage varieties of the region and a plate of cheese.
"These are all products from the environment," says Anne-Laure. "We are near the sea and even get fresh sea fish from there every day." In addition, you grow blueberries, as shown by the numerous signs on the way.
Château Gontier on the Mayenne
Chateau Gontier turns out to be a nice little town on the banks of the Mayenne. The place also boasts of being one of the flower cities of the Pays de la Loire. Olivier, our host at Hotel Parc, does an extra lap the next day to show us the flowers for which the place has already been awarded. Several themed gardens are lined up along the river bank and offer the passing houseboat drivers a beautiful view of the city.
Our houseboat tour starts
We load our groceries and groceries, purchased the day before, into Olivier's car and travel with them Elena Paschinger, Monique Hasselbach, Laurel Robbins to the ship landing stage in Daon, where our houseboat awaits us. Neither of us has houseboat experience yet and slowly - at least my - nerves are on edge. Especially when I see the size of the boat. It is the largest one anchored there and offers four cabins, two bathrooms, one of them with a toilet, an additional separate toilet, a large sitting area next to the inner helm and a kitchen with a refrigerator and gas stove, which we will use for the next few days will cook our food. Our houseboat tour on the Mayenne will come true.
Although we want to go out for dinner on the go, but since this is not possible everywhere, we at least pack the food for breakfast and dinner for two days on board. That should turn out to be a wise decision, because not all the restaurants on our route along the Mayenne are open. That's why we need to provide supplies on the river right after our first night.
Short instruction in boating
When we ask the boat rental company whether we can actually drive this boat on the Mayenne without a license, he just laughs and says: “You will see that it's not that difficult.” At the moment, that doesn't calm me down. However, he first explains to us what we should pay attention to when operating the boat. He also shows us which switches on the control panel on the rudder are for what. He takes time to explain the meanings of the signs we will see along the way.
I just hope we can remember all of the information that is beating down on us. The others don't seem to fare any differently. Elena, who likes to talk, keeps getting quieter. However, JP can hardly wait to steer the ship as the "captain" and announces this with enthusiasm. Monique draws our attention to the fact that towels are missing on board. And detergent. And toilet paper. Only Laurel has the calm gone. And me? I just wonder what adventure we embarked on on this tour in the houseboat on the Mayenne, and whether we will come back safely.
By houseboat on the Mayenne
And then it's off. After only a quarter of an hour of instruction, we can set out on our own to go on a houseboat on the Mayenne. At first JP steers the Gabrielle a little hesitantly out of the jetty and zigzagging along the river until he gets a feel for how to steer the boat and how it behaves on the water. But already a few kilometers after Daon he brings it safely under a narrow bridge passage, where only centimeters to the left and right separate the boat from the bridge walls. Petar helps vigorously by using a wooden pole to prevent the boat from touching the bridge walls. Three days later, the two are finally a perfectly coordinated team and take turns steering the Gabrielle.
The female members of our travel blogger crew share the work in the caboose and take care of your physical well-being during the trip, because not all the restaurants shown on the river map are open. Some of the places we planned to go out to eat are closed, so we're forced to go back to the Château Gontier to get more supplies.
One and a half days from Château Gontier to Laval
Then we head towards our destination in the houseboat on the Mayenne: the town of Laval, which is located a good 50 kilometers north of Daon. We need one and a half days for the trip. This leads us through a fertile agricultural landscape, from which black and white spotted cattle watch us while we leisurely drive along the river. Sometimes we pass dense deciduous forest regions, other times the view opens onto pastures. Magnificent châteaus that are in private hands appear again and again on the bank. Few other boats are with us on the river. Therefore we only notice a slight swell at one point. Water skiers train their skills north of Bazouges. Their vehicles ensure unsteady water that makes our Gabrielle sway.
Spend the night by the river in a houseboat on the Mayenne
The lockkeepers on the Mayenne work until 19.00 clock. Since we do not want to open and close the floodgates ourselves, we are looking for a suitable berth. Once in Azé, once at a lock just a few miles from Laval and finally in the middle of nature on a frog pond whose inhabitants deliver us a loud frog concert, near Houssay. That's why I finally lose my heart to the Mayenne at this dock: after our dinner together, we sit for a long time on deck, watching the setting sun. We watch a heron pulling his circles over the river and the ponds, looking for prey. So I had imagined our houseboat tour in France: an oasis of peace in the midst of nature.
Conclusion on the tour with the houseboat on the Mayenne
So it is all the more difficult for me to say goodbye to this river after our three-day tour on the Mayenne. We spend our last night on board before we leave for the airport in Nantes early in the morning. With regret I look back one last time at Daon with its ancient houses and the river, which we cross again on the drive to the big city. A very special experience in France is behind us, which I will not soon forget.
By the way: You might also be interested in ours Houseboat tour on the Saone in Franche Comté?
Before the Hausboottour we stayed in the
Hotel Le Parc
46, Avenue du Maréchal Joffre
Information, availability query and online booking *
Further information for houseboat trips can be found here:
16 tips for beginners
You can find our film about the impressions of our houseboat tour here:
On the way on the Mayenne in France
How Creativelena experienced the houseboat trip on the Mayenne:
"Glamping" like God in France
So part-time traveler has experienced our tour on the Mayenne
About tiny showers and the French way of life
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Source: own research on site. We thank you for the invitation of Tourisme Mayenne. Our opinion remains our own.
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline