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The wild west meets the Beaujolais at the edge of Le Roannais !
It was sunny, hot, and ideal for a stage coach ride to the 'Rodeo'.
Well, a short 30 minute car journey to a fantastic wooded park with huge lake (called Lac des Sapins), and plenty to do for family and kids alike.
We were on a day out in the sunshine with some friends who were staying at 'Le Cuvage' for part of their holiday in France with us.
The kids needed somewhere to let off a bit of steam, and we wanted a bit of fun, too!
'Lac des Sapins was certainly a great place to start.
Now,I've done some horse-riding in my time (not alot, admittedly!), and I am certainly no expert.
I've ridden (if you can call it riding, of course!) in England, Austria, Portugal, Greece, and France' before.
Doesn't really mean much, except that I've seen some brilliant scenery in different countries, and in places where it is a little more difficult to access by foot. (So my claim to fame is that I have almost fallen off several horses at an international level!)
Why do I do it? I don't know. I just love it! The excitement of riding an animal. The uncertainty. The scenery and the overall experience.
I want to be Clint Eastwood or Zorro, but never quite manage it!
Usually, the stable master or owner asks," Can you ride, and have you ridden before?"
And I cannot help but answer, with some degree of macho confidence (which, of course, is a huge mistake on my part),"Well, er yes, a little bit"
Then the next thing I know I'm being introduced to a huge black horse called 'Satan' or something else even more alarming, which is stomping its legs and snorting fire.
It's one aim in life, of course, is to end mine!
Or, at least scare me to death! Usually with some degree of success, I might add, before I even attempt to mount the damn thing!
I have had many close encounters of like kind.
However, I digress.
This is really an introduction to the wonders, fun, and facilities of Lac des Sapins in the Rhone Alpes region, Le Pays Beaujolais (not far from us in Le Roannais)
Basically this is a huge lake (4.5 km around) set in a sensational valley of pine trees (hence the name 'Sapins' in French).
The overall site is about 115 hectares with a plan d'eau of about 38 hectares.
It is an excellent, well-maintained, and beautiful location where families can enjoy a great day out either just relaxing or engaging in all types of activities – boating, sailing, canoeing, fishing, swimming, quad biking, cycling, etc., etc., and, of course, horse-riding and pony-trekking.
This time we decided immediately that we would get some four-legged creatures involved in our fun-making.
Myself, and my 6 year-old son Ellis, along with my friend Mark and his 6 year-old son Daniel, had excitedly booked ourselves down for the 'Rodeo'.
Well, Ellis and Daniel were going on a half-hour pony ride, and Mark and I were going for a bit of a gallop around Lac des Sapins for an hour – whooppee!! Yah!
Our wives, Lucy and Jackie were in charge of reportage and photography!
Ellis and Daniel went first.
Mark and I were a little surprised that we were given the reins of each pony with the boys clad and astride, and then told quite matter-of-factly to wander off round part of the forest for half an hour!
This was very trusting, and also a little scary at first, because although the ponies looked cuddly and like something out of a Thelwell cartoon, they were tough, strong beasts with their own minds!!
Always searching for the next sweet clump of grass to bury their big heads into!
We had to show them who was boss. We were tough, too!
We tamed them (I don't think!), and pushed and tugged them around at quite a trot in the heat of the mid-day sun.
Ellis and Daniel absolutely loved it!
Mark and I were ready for the knacker's yard afterwards, and glad of a bit of a respite before our own 'gladiatorial' event!
Which was soon upon us.
However, we waited expectantly, and somewhat hesitantly, to see what monstrous steed we would be climbing onto.
In the end, despite the jokes, the stallions were reasonably sized, and beautifully groomed, and we were very much relieved (neither of them were called 'Satan', thank God!).
Then we were off! Yippee!!
The ride was exceptionally well organised, and as safe as possibly it could be while you're dangling on (or off) a wild beast.
The scenery we saw off the beaten track was breathtaking, and the trotting, and cantering were great fun.
In fact, we could easily have done another hour, and certainly much more galloping.
When we eventually returned to the stables, we dismounted slightly sore around the edges, but there was not a bow-legged cowboy's walk between us!
We will no doubt do it again.
Of course, there is much more to do at Lac des Sapins than just a bit of horse-riding.
There are activities of all sorts in the open air, on the beach, or at the side of the lake.
Recreation and sport for families, friends, and children.
Suspended in the trees, discover the forest from another angle.
With the beauty of different courses, the Adventure Forest allows children and adults to move from tree to tree in total security with rope-swings, suspended bridges, and tight-rope of 100 metres, plus new activities for personal enrichment and new sensations.(Many regional schools and associations use this facility regularly.)
Walks in the Beaujolais Countryside
Also, discover the fantastic Beaujolais countryside accompanied by a country guide, including local history, natural, religious, and industrial.
En route you discover the life and the evolution of the local textile industry, along with agiculture, and local artisans – not forgetting the local food and wine!
There are conference and seminar facilities for large or small groups, all on site at 'Maison d'Europe, with giant 'cinema' screens for film and presentations of all kinds.
It is very much an educational, communcative, location.
Camping facilities are also available on site, along with fully-equipped luxury chalets.
Auberge de la Voisinée
Traditional flavours from the region for you to savour.
In the welcoming atmosphere and pleasant surroundings of the 'Auberge de la Voisinée'.
A superb on-site restaurant at the lake's edge.
All-in-all Lac des Sapins is a great place to visit for all sorts of pleasures, or business.
Check out the website for more information : www.lacdessapins.fr