Meet the owners: La Grande and Petite Maisons
In one of France’s most famous and prolific wine regions, these beautiful houses are an ideal way to explore and learn about the wines of the area, but are just as much about being able to kick back and enjoy the peace and beauty of the houses and their settings. We find out what it is that makes these Maisons so beloved by their hosts and their guests…
FA: Have you always lived and worked in France?
We moved to La Grande Maison in 2004 from a village just outside Brighton with the intention to buy and run a vineyard. Sue had gained experience working at Ridgeview Winery in Ditchling and also studied and then taught Wine Studies at Plumpton College. Micaela had tons of experience working in hotels and subsequently a career in IT, both of which proved to be ideal skills to run our Maison d’Hotels and Wine Tour business.
FA: How did you end up running La Grande Maison?
Our plans to run a vineyard changed when we found La Grande Maison! Although we’re surrounded by beautiful vineyards, the vines no longer belong to the property but we simply fell in love with the house and the location and our path altered course. The property is historically interesting and has caves and tunnels to explore along with a unique underground pigeon tower where we now host aperos before dinner! As we’ve developed the business we’ve expanded it to include wine tours (more details of which you can check out here) as well as the core offerings of the B&B.
FA: What kind of activities are available nearby?
This is a wine region, so there’s loads to do connected to wine. Our own Wine Tour options include walking, cycling, off road 4×4 or a wine and traditional wooden boat tour on the River Loire (see below). There are hot air balloon ride opportunities close by, canoeing, Husky dog sledding and caves to delve into. There are also a vast array of ancient houses, chateaus and towns to explore.
FA: What’s your favourite walk and are you a dog friendly place to stay?
We love our regular walk to our local village, Le Puy Notre Dame for coffee, the organic market on Sunday mornings or to the restaurant and wine bar, which takes about 40 minutes. Dogs are very welcome to stay (and even accompany us on wine tours). France is surprisingly dog friendly – they’re welcome in most restaurants – and there are lots of good, safe dog walks close by directly from La Grand Maison.
FA: Do you have a favourite pub / bar or restaurant nearby?
Our closest restaurant and wine bar is also one of our favourites, Le Puy a Vins. It’s friendly and relaxed – chef Pascale uses local organic produce and all the wines are organic so there’s never a headache! L’Auberge des Isles is another gem in Montreuil Bellay owned by a small group of winemakers and a talented chef, also set in a gorgeous location. For dining overlooking the Loire River, the best place to be is La Route de Sel in the village of Le Thoureil where we keep our boat. There are some fabulous sailing opportunites on the river with a local captain friend of ours. Marc and André are always pleased to welcome our guests at their restaurant Tresor Belge, which specialises in Belgian beers and cuisine.
FA: If you’re looking for a bit of culture where do you head to?
There are so many chateaux, too numerous to list! The closest favourite is Chateau Brezé (below),unique as it has a vast network of caves and tunnels to explore. Fontevraud Abbey is a beautiful abbey as well as being the resting place of Henry II, Eleanor of Acquitaine and Richard the Lionheart and is within a 35-minute drive. There is also a one star Michelin restaurant based here.
FA: What’s the best thing about running your business?
Truly it’s about meeting diverse people from all over the world and having the independence of running our own business. And the fact that the business allows us to indulge and share our love of wine, makes it that bit more special.