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Anyone will tell you, go to L'Escargotiere for all things snail. Don't miss the cider stall for artisan made cider and the most delicious beer jam to drizzle over a slither of Camembert on a thin slice of baguette - it makes for a mouth-watering starter or canapé. At the bread stall which is vibrant with bowls and jugs of flowers the baker told me that flowers are a tradition here. The stall holders are all artisans and very proud of their produce and the flowers reflect their joy and pride in what they do. At one end of Place de la Trémoille a church looms, tolling its bells on the hour, its mellow stone walls a brilliant backdrop for the market. At the other end is the chateau of the lords of Laval, its bright white exterior glistens in the sunshine. In the side streets are cobbled wiggly roads and half-timbered houses, quirky shops and cosy cafés and bistros. It’s a memorable market and I think to myself that I'd go back to Laval for that alone... but there's much more to love here. Where to eat out in Laval Locals Love: Les Trois Petits Cochons (11 Rue Échelle Marteau) not expensive, good menu, great atmosphere and it gets extra points for the piano which anyone can play. Wine and dine: l’Esprit Cuisine (8 rue Mazagran: lespritcuisine.fr). Refined but not formal with great French cooking which has an international twist. Chill out: Le Vin’yle (which means vinyl as in record disc) a small bar with a lovely vintage decor with a good selection of local beers and wines (5 Rue Solférino).
Left: in the old town of Laval, cobbled streets and ancient buildings; above: copy of Henri Rousseau's The Dream, the original is in the MoMA, New York; right: on the River Mayenne What to see and do in Laval Museum of Naïve Art and Singular Arts The naïve painter Henri Rousseau was born in Laval and you can see some of his works in the Chateau de Laval alongside many of the world’s leading artists in this field. Naive art may not be to everybody's taste, but I love it. It makes you smile, think, discuss with whoever you're with - just what were these artists thinking? This is one of the largest collections in France and absolutely fabulous. LavalTourism Boat ride: Take a cruise on the River Mayenne and enjoy the scenery from a pedalo, electric boat or motor boat. If you want to go on a longer journey and spend several days on the water, visiting the many beautiful riverside towns, you can hire boats from Anjou Navigation. Bike Ride: Follow the Velo Francette cycle trail through spectacular countryside on a designated cycle route. 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, through the Loire Valley, through vineyards and along the most beautiful country lanes. www.lavelofrancette.com Jardin de la Perine on top of the hill of Laval gives a fantastic view over the city and castle, a great place for a selfie says local Michel Talvard. Alain Gerbauot, the first man to cross the Atlantic alone was born in a house on the edge of this park and there's a small museum in his honour. French parterre style rose gardens soothe the soul and the English garden style woods offer a pretty place to rest.
Author Keith van Sickle investigate
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