Dine like Kings or Queens in the Loire Valley, France
Now is a great time to think about travel to the Loire Valley because from late September to the end of October the grape harvest will be in full swing. In this guest blog, wine experts, Sue and Micaela, of the La Grande Maison gay friendly guest house share their Loire Valley highlights with us, and if you visit who knows you might even get the chance to pick up a pair of secateurs and join in with the ‘vendange’.
The Loire Valley is at the heart of French antiquity with chateaux and wine domaines happily complimented with deliciously fresh produce, amazing wines and beautiful blue skies. The majestic Loire river winds it’s way though the centre of the valley and out to the ocean and is bordered along the route by vineyards and beautiful scenic countryside. In the midst of the vineyards you will find LA GRANDE MAISON, home to us, Micaela and Sue along with our three friendly springer spaniels, four laying hens and an ever growing family of koi carp. A little corner of paradise in the vines that we hope to share with our FURTHER AFIELD friends one day.
Chateau of Chinon and traditional Loire boats
What’s not to like? From the start your stay is centred around wine! We welcome our guests with a chilled glass of rosé, always refreshing after a long journey, as you relax in the private walled gardens or stroll in the vines. We offer customised wine tours for our visitors which are ideal as you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, we translate for you and take you to meet some of the best ‘vignerons’ of the area where you can taste the different cuvées and buy your wines at cellar door prices.
Food is fresh from the markets, much of it local and organic. Every season, we select the best of this produce to serve with our Wine Sampling Suppers which start with a glass of chilled Cremant de Loire or a sweet chenin such as a Coteaux de Layon. Specialities of the area include delicious St Maure goat’s cheese and homemade pork rillette which go perfectly with the local Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc wines from regions such as Saumur, Anjou, Vouvray or Chinon.
When not eating at LA GRANDE MAISON there are plenty of opportunities for fine dining and gastronomic treats including :
The gay owned TRESOR BELGE run by Marc and André who have set their charming restaurant in a rustic walled garden where they serve Belgian cuisine along with some of the finest Belgian beers. (should you ever tire of the wine – as if!) Fresh Belgian chocolates are also available to bring home for the chocoholic in you.
In Chaudefonds-sur-Layon, in an undulating landscape of vines and olive trees you will find the TABLE DU SQUARE, a restaurant built largely of glass and providing a panoramic view of the Domaine Saint-Pierre wine estate. An innovative improvised menu depends entirely on the inspiration of the chef on his return from the market that day.
Closer by in Champ-sur-Layon (no not Camp sur Layon), LA TABLE DE LA BERGERIE caters for all the senses. David Guitton, the young, highly praised chef, combines the local grapes varieties of chenin and cabernet flavours with culinary creativity. Here you can lunch in the sunshine and dwell over dinner by candlelight, all in a huge sea of verdant vines.
When you are not wine tasting there is just so much to see and do. You can take a trip down the river on one of the old traditional Loire wooden boats or for the more adventurous pick up a paddle and canoe a stretch of the water. There are caves and chateaux around every corner and restaurants that will delight but not ruin your wallet. As an Unesco world heritage site history is preserved and little is over commercialised so exploration is always a thrill. Take a trip to some of the major chateaux such as Chenonceau, Chambord & Chinon or go and visit the tomb of Leonardo DaVinci at the Chateau in Amboise or Eleanor of Aquitaine at Fontevraud Abbey.
Much more than wine tasting, lots to do and see, including Brocantes every Sunday at villages along the river
You won’t get tired of walking the vineyard trails but if you are feeling a little more sporty then we also offer a fleet of bikes for you to go and cycle in the vineyards. With its nearly flat terrain, the Loire Valley is custom-built for traveling by bike, and the newly created Loire à Vélo signposted bike trails extending 800 km (500 mi) from Orléans to the Atlantic Ocean make it even easier to cycle between each town and village. Who can fail to stop and enjoy a vineyard picnic under blue skies surrounded by fields of sunflowers.
There are many markets to explore where you might find hidden treasures at one of the Sunday morning brocantes or antique shops. Get lost in the amazing gardens of Villandry or simply sit in the garden of LA GRANDE MAISON with a good book. On your return to La Grande Maison from a days sightseeing you’ll be met with pots of tea or coffee and perhaps a chance to explore the troglodytic underground caves and galleries that are cut from the ‘tuffeau’ limestone underneath the house. Or end the evening by watching the glorious sunsets across the valley from the potager terrace above the vineyards.
There is no one better time of the year to come to the Loire as each season has it’s own pleasures but if you want to see the grape harvest then from late September to the end of October the harvest is in full swing. Who knows you might even get the chance to pick up a pair of secateurs and join in with the ‘vendange’ or try some of the freshly pressed juice at the end of the day just before it goes into the tanks for fermentation. We even make a little ‘garagiste’ wine ourselves, hand picked, organic, natural, even pressed by foot but don’t worry it’s not for sale commercially but you might get to try it none the less!
Travel is easy – there are plenty of flights into Tours, Angers or Nantes from the UK but if you want to drive (a better option if you want to pick up some of the wine bargains to take home) then take a ferry across the channel or hop onto the Eurotunnel with your car, easier still take the Eurostar to Paris and pick up the TGV to Saumur. We have had folk cycle here from the UK but that’s not for the faint hearted but which ever way you choose to arrive rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
We look forward to welcoming you at LA GRANDE MAISON
Sue and Micaela Frow-Hunt and Les Poules – Virginia, Violet, Vita and Vanessa.