We were at the zoo on Saturday. And not just any zoo but the Zooparc du Beauval, France’s largest zoo and the home to the country’s only pandas, Huan Huan and Yuang Zi. And yes, you may remember I’ve been less than flattering about pandas in the past, finding them distinctly underwhelming! But the kids were keen to see them so off we went. I’d expected inaction and to start with, that’s what we got. Huan Huan was asleep up one tree and Yuang Zi up another, but a little later Huan Huan went walkabout and I got some nice photos of him.

Now, the pandas are totally spoiled. Here are their indoor quarters – no expense spared and even murals on the wall although these rather cruelly include a tiger’s head sticking out of the grass! Surely that will induce panda nightmares?

Anyway, they were really quite cool and worth a visit. Likewise the koalas who’d been disappointing during our visit to see them last year. They can’t help it, it’s the eucalyptus. Anyway, we arrived at their pens at feeding time and they were positively animated. Omaroo, a young male, even disappeared out through the keeper’s door at the back and had to be hastily retrieved.

The armodillos were cute too. Again we saw them at feeding time. They glued themselves to the keeper’s feet and when he bent down, they hurled themselves into the bowl of food and he had to keep hoiking them out so that he could smear portions of their noms onto separate tree stumps. They’re tenacious little critters and gave him quite a hard time!

We caught a distant glimpse of the month-old baby elephant too. He was decidedly sweet.

The place was packed to exploding. We arrived an hour after opening time but already had to go up to the farthest overspill carpark. I’d thought Saturday may  be a little quieter, what with that being the usual day for changeovers and travelling. Perhaps it was. I’m glad we didn’t come on a busy day! We were better prepared than last time and had spare camera batteries, thus allowing Caiti to rattle off 551 photos! I took a mere 98, very restrained.

The zoo really is worth a visit. It’s well laid out and there are so many animals to see, nearly 5,000 altogether. No llamas or alpacas though, which is a bit of a surprise, but plenty of their big cousins, the dromaderies. It’s pricy, so be warned. I didn’t mind the entrance fee of €90 for 3 adults and one child (up to 11 years old) but the shops and food are far more expensive than they need to be, in my opinion.

As well as the relatively recently arrived pandas, Beauval is also famous for its collection of cockatoos from the Philippines and its white lions and tigers. As I remarked last year, they appear to me as though they’ve been left out in the sun too long, but this one has a great character. I know the photo’s not good through the glass, but I hope you can see the laid-back lioness. She was awesome.

Do put Beauval on your ‘to visit in France’ list. You won’t be disappointed.