31 July 2017

L'autre Saint-Aignan — le nouveau

What's the biggest tourist attraction in the Loire Valley? Or in France's région Centre? You might think it would be a famous château like Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Azay-le-Rideau, or Chaumont-sur-Loire. But it's not. It's the Beauval zoological park in Saint-Aignan. The zoo is changing our landscape.


Le ZooParc de Beauval, on the south side of town and just two kilometers (1¼ miles) from our house as the corbeau flies, attracts nearly a million visitors a year nowadays. The zoo is by far Saint-Aignan's largest employer, and the owners of the zoo have not only expanded the site by acquiring more and more land, but they are building more and more hotels around the town.


I was surprised a couple of weeks ago to find a new hotel complex going across the road from the town's main supermarket, SuperU, also located on the south side of town. It was the construction cranes that caught my eye. This new hotel complex, the zoo's fourth, will offer another 130 hotel rooms for tourists to rent.


There's already an imposing Chinese-themed hotel out at the zoo, called Les Pagodes de Beauval, and it has about the same number of rooms. There's a Bali-themed hotel, older, just across the street from Les Pagodes. And there's a new vacation apartment complex in town, on the site of Saint-Aignan's old gendarmerie base, that caters to zoo visitors. I just heard on the national news that Beauval's giant pandas, acquired from China a few years ago, are getting ready to have a baby. That will draw even bigger crowds.


So the town is really changing. It's not just the old Saint-Aignan that I did a series of posts about a couple of months ago (starting here, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click the "newer post" link to see more). Traffic is worse. Stores are more crowded. Living out here surrounded by the Renaudière vineyard, we don't feel it on a daily basis, but when we try to cross the river on the town's narrow old stone bridge, we feel the pain. And the changes keep coming. On n'arrête pas le progrès.

18 comments:

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

To some extent this may be a good thing. It will certainly keep Saint-Aignan alive.But I hope it will not go too far. It really sounds as though it already has! Your location is a good one, with the vineyards and being a little hamlet and not in the center. What does the mayor think about all this "progress"?

Gosia k said...

it can be a modern town one day

Ken Broadhurst said...

Our neighbor the mayor is the mayor of our village (pop. 1,200), not the mayor of Saint-Aignan (pop. 4,000). I haven't talked to her much about the new zoo-sponsored development. We are just hoping that any new bridge built to carry tourist traffic will be on the other side of Saint-Aignan from where we live. And it probably will be over there, because coming through this side of the town would mean cutting through a lot of valuable vineyards.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I don't know if that's a good thing or not. But it's probably inevitable.

Susan Sims said...

Not what you moved there for though!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Hi Sue, what you say is true. But who would have predicted panda bears and millions of tourists in a (formerly) quiet little backwater like Saint-Aignan?

chm said...

I am against putting wildlfe in prisons however gilded they are. All this is a matter of money, the animal's real welfare is not taken into account.

Jane Whitaker said...

We haven't been around the Loire for 15 years but are spending a week near Saumur in September. It will be interesting to see how the area has changed. I'm hoping it will be tranquil but maybe I should have a re-think!

Suecee said...

We found your blog particularly interesting this morning as we noticed the new building projects around but hadn't connected them with the zoo. As you know, we use the campsite a lot and every weekend there, the campers are mainly French families with children come to visit the zoo.
I can take or leave zoos but we were very impressed with Beauval as it has been very well designed to give the animals the maximum protection and privacy when they want it but the arrangement of paths and bridges on multi levels give visitors a very good view of the animals. Very unlike some UK zoos we know.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Well, CHM, Soon there won't be any animals left in the wild. Better to live in a zoo than be shot by poachers out in the wilds of whatever continent.

NotesFromAbroad said...

I have learned to resist all that modernity and be content in the quiet peacefulness of those places where Everyone doesn't want to go or visit :)
After living in some major cities in this world, I now treasure the quiet of the world around me. It is nice to be able to visit those noisy crowded places but lovely to go home to peace and quiet.
I hope the opinions of the vineyard owners sways all the worst of the mess of traffic and noise-away from you.

NotesFromAbroad said...

I agree ... I hate to see these fabulous wonderful animals, tigers, lions, depressed to death in an enclosure or pacing insanely back and forth all day .. And yet the alternative seems to be death and extinction. What a crap world we have made :(

Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

I just saw that online, about the Pandas at the Beauval Zoo, and I figured that would mean increased interest!
Judy

Emm said...

That was my question: Is it a place of cages or of "natural" environment, where they have habitat and room to move around, be relatively free?

Ken Broadhurst said...

There is some of both, cages and big enclosures where the animals can roam and graze. It's one of the nicest zoos I've ever seen.

Ken Broadhurst said...

It's true, isn't it... I keep hearing reports about how the elephant, the chimpanzee, and the rhinoceros, to name just a few, are endangered in the wild. There are just too many people on Earth.

Ginny said...

I remember that day at the zoo with Walt quite fondly. It's a nice zoo. I was entertained to see American raccoons on display there. The Asian section was just being built, and there were a couple of new red pandas in an otherwise empty section of the zoo. I'm sure it's all finished and fancy now. Zoos do serve a purpose for education and now preservation of several species, but they must have room for the animals. Newer zoos tend to be roomy.

Everywhere you go these days, there are more people and more buildings. Hasn't the world population tripled or quadrupled in our lifetimes? That's something. At least you get to stay in your quiet corner most of the time. It's something to hope for.

Ellen said...

The baby twin pandas are due today, Aug. 2, I believe. That will bring in even more people. It's probably better to just pay you guys a visit.