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La Grande MaisonLoire Valley, France
Sue and Micaela's gay friendly tranquil and romantic 17th century manor guest house with an emphasis on great local food and wine. Wine tours, tastings and courses make it the perfect base for all things wine related.
"Heavenly from the first to the last drop. Our hosts not only provided great food and fascinating lessons in viniculture but were excellent company too.” Kirsty Lang, BBC journalist, and Misha Glenny, writer.
A donation of 5 Euros to Stonewall will also be made for each booking.
Situated on a hill surrounded by vineyards. Set in the heart of Loire Valley wine country and within the UNESCO World Heritage French national park. Nearby typical Loire Valley market towns, wineries and chateaux – ten minutes drive.
About The Owners
There is not much that Sue and Micaela don’t know about wine. They created the original Loire Valley tour package back in 2004 and have been building on their knowledge and experience ever since.
Both originally from Brighton, Micaela’s background is in hotels and computer software and Sue worked in the wine business. They both fell in love with La Grande Maison in 2004 and now enjoy sharing their passion for wine and the Loire Valley.
Review by Jane Czyzselska, Diva Editor who stayed at La Petite Maison and visited La Grande Maison. The review appeared in the November 2012 issue of Diva.
There’s so much more to the Loire than the river and wine tours.
Pedaling along the Loire river at the end of August is nothing short of dream-like. The area is still relatively unknown as a holiday destination – by the native French too, it seems – so there is little road traffic to dodge as you explore the quiet leafy country roads and two-a-penny spire-peppered chateaux. What you do get in abundance here is wildlife, trees groaning with peaches and pears, brightly-coloured butterflies dancing around you as you walk along the sandy – and dry in the summer - river bed.
Getting to the Loire couldn’t have been easier - a relaxing train journey from St Pancras International to Angers via Paris and a forty minute drive from Angers to Treves – and we were equally delighted when we found the romantic gite with its slate roof and covered veranda. Set just off a quiet main road, La Petite Maison is ‘rough luxe’ and with a laid back vibe like it’s owners, Sue and Micaela Frow-Hunt. When we arrived we discovered a vegan-friendly chunk of Sue’s home-made strawberry sorbet in the freezer and a kilo of marinated artichoke hearts. The couple make a point of personalizing the welcome package for their guests and once we’d unpacked in the downstairs oak beamed and wattle wall bedroom we padded back up through the cosy open planned kitchen area to the outside veranda to take in the local sights and sounds. Except there were no sounds short of a dog barking and the slap of a neighbour’s shutters being closed so we soaked up the gorgeous silence, breathing in gulps of sweet clean air.
When we awoke the next morning we took a peek inside the troglodyte limestone caves in the next village, Chenehutte at the Caves aux Moines, where we found the most succulent Paris, Oyster and Shitake mushrooms being grown and harvested. We bought a kilo of the beauties for a mere 5 euros and my girlfriend swallowed them down with a glass of chilled red cabernet sauvignon (domaine Phillipe Pain) she’d picked up from the nearby artisan town of Chinon. But more on the wine and Sue and Micaela’s wine tours later.
Our base in Treves was the perfect location from which to walk up through the troglodyte villages – some locals really do live in beautiful homes dug from the ubiquitous limestone rock - into the countryside for a picnic. Our stop-off at the nearby Le Prieure a former 16th century monk’s priory set back in the hills overlooking the Loire river was a welcome and elegant – if slightly pricey - watering hole but worth it alone for the vista over the sprawling countryside.
If you’re a wine buff, La Petite Maison owners Sue and Micaela will take you on tours of the surrounding vineyards, of which there are many. All wine tours need to be booked in advance as a package and this includes dinner on the evening on arrival and accommodation at La Grande Maison. The tours are open to all who stay at their even more secluded retreat La Grande Maison tucked away in the rolling hills of the Saumur region. Between you and me, I reckon the duo love the idea of hosting a group of queer women. In fact their tours are pretty legendary.
Tasting forms a vital and important part of the tours (we learned that they only use two types of grape here the chenin blanc and cabernet franc and they also offer wine shopping tours, so anyone preparing for a civil partnership or other occasions would do well to join them. Specializing in matching up wines with menus, the duo have the local know-how and contacts to organize the best deals for you. If you do decide to stay with them in La Grande Maison, you’re in for a treat – a B&B with a difference, guests get their own cottage with private garden area or spacious rooms within the main house – the place is dog-friendly, too - and you’ll be taken (if you want to – nothing is compulsory) on a fascinating tour of their cool and capacious underground 17th century caves from when the house was a working wine estate and whose walls feature carvings from the first World War or you can simply read and watch the sun set from the roof of the pigeonnier. Artists and musicians often come for a week or two to immerse themselves in their work and enjoy the tranquility, and certain celebrities pay regular visits because the place is so hidden away.
When we sat drinking rosé and home made elderflower cordial under the magnolia tree with white flowers like tea cups, we were knocked out by the smell of the hollyhocks and buddleia. Just out of earshot are free range hens Vita, Vanessa, Violet and Virginia, all named after the Bloomsbury set. If it’s history you want, there are churches with screeds of history about Joan of Arc who came from Aquitaine to Chinon before her final battles and Catherine de Medici who brought Leonardo da Vinci to nearby Amboise where his tomb now is. There’s so much to do here; fishing, cycling, boat trips, promenades en voiture, mushrooming, following the ley lines and discovering the standing stones.
The truth is you could spend weeks here just chilling out and discovering the treasures the area has to offer. Local food specialities include the mushrooms but also fantastic fruit and vegetable produce – the strawberries we bought at the local supermarche tasted like proper old fashioned wild strawberries. There’s also great local goats cheese and chopped pork pate and some great local restaurants if you fancy a night off cooking include Le Bouchon Ponot in nearby Le Puy Notre Dame.
It’s the richness, beauty and peace of the area that drew Micaela and Sue to the area in 2004, from Brighton when they fell in love with the estate after deciding they wanted a life change. And despite their initial concerns, being gay hasn’t proved difficult for locals in the slightest. “Things have changed a lot in the last five years and because we’re open about who we are and what we offer there have been no problems at all,” says Sue. There’s even a lesbian disco in the area twice a year at the Moulin de Sarre in the town of Gennes and if you’re keen to organize your trip around this momentous event, just ask Sue or Micaela or visit the local website tonics.fr the local gay group in Angers for more information.
Dear Micaela and Sue!
We are back in the UK and we would like to thank you once more for your hospitality. We truly enjoyed our days en France and at La Grande Maison, the house, the dogs, the food and the wines ... and especially how you managed to put us at ease and temporarily at home. In short, we loved it!
This was an ideal stop off en route back home from the Dordogne to the UK. It's a rambling rustic house with a courtyard garden full of wild flowers and shrubs and several interesting aspects including a tower-like pigeonnier at one end. Micaela and Sue are charming hosts and particularly helpful - their bespoke wine trips would be a great way to spend a holiday in the Loire Valley. The rooms were cool and spacious and after a boisterous welcome the trio of Springer spaniels treated us like old friends. Breakfast was excellent with lots of home-made goodies. Highly recommended.
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