How much more can we do to save the environment?

This is not a personal cry for help or a plea for the greater good.  It is more pondering what we can do as responsible individuals and also with the selfish wish to reduce our own running costs.

We have achieved a lot in the last 15 years turning what was a rather neglected farmhouse and out-buildings into our home, a workshop for making silk fishing lines and 3 gites, not necessarily in that order and with constant investment in both time and money. I would not dare to guess how much!

Our Eco-Friendly strategy was probably the first ever to be published for a gite business in France. It has grown incrementally, initially in small steps with eco-friendly cleaning products – low energy bulbs – natural fabrics and so on, a leap forward with solar water heating over 10 years ago, followed by more small initiatives, then another leap with geothermic heating to replace energy guzzling gas heating in the gites, a few more steps and then our latest project of photovoltaic cells and a wind turbine.


We still keep chipping away at the little holes too. A planned schedule to move from halogen bulbs to LED bulbs where appropriate and with a quick payback to fund the next phase. In one gite the consumption of 750 watts of lighting in spotlights (Poppas) is now reduced to 60 watts. A few more bulbs have been put into critical areas and all checked to see that the lights still provide the right ambiance.

We do not know what comes next, we just keep chipping away at it. Suggestions are very welcome.

First take a look at our Eco-Friendliness here.  You will find a lot I have not included here, but there must be more?

A cycling holiday in the Loire Valley

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This post was going to be about safety and cycling, but there are so many excellent websites dealing with this that my mind switched to options for a cycling holiday in the Loire.  The different nationalities, ages, abilities and ways guests have enjoyed cycling from Les Mortiers is interesting too.

There is a link to a cycling safety website is given below. The site has many other useful links on the subject and worth looking at if you are considering cycling on holiday.

A well seasoned and keen cyclist might look for a specialist offer, where everything is provided,  at a price. However, the region is so well provided for cyclists that, unless you want to spend  every day on the saddle, then being free to pedal as you wish, when you wish and as the weather suits you is a good option.  If your partner or the family do  not share your enthusiasm for a daily ride, then self-catering with cycles provided, or bringing your own, is a good option.

The wide spectrum of people who cycle for instance from our own property is interesting.  Here are a few examples:

  • Keen cyclists from the USA, one family brought their bikes in their suitcases.
  • A father who cycled each morning for the bread with both his children on one bike, one at the front and one at the rear.
  • A family who brought a tag along bike with them, the first we had seen but very popular now.
  • A lady from the Netherlands with a bike with hydraulic brakes.  Mike was in awe!
  • An Estate Agent  from Canada who was privileged to visit Cyfac, a local and highly renowned company making high end cycles and frames for many of the bikes in international races. He was awestruck by the bike he was given to road test
  • A New Zealand girl traveller sponsored on a cycle trip around the world and currently in South America. Her bike was wrapped with inner tubes to mask its value against theft.
  • Guests who have pushed themselves to the limit, not having ridden since childhood and not walking far the next day!
  • An amateur cyclist from the USA who rides like a professional and even helped us put the roof on the new extension to our house!
  • And a family who experienced an exploding tyre whilst they had stopped at Lac Rillé for a picnic! It happened during the excessively hot summer.
  • And, of course, like many of our guests a short cycle in the morning for fresh bread and croissants or  a coffee in the bar.

The countryside, quiet roads and forest routes in Anjou and Touraine are perfect for cycling, whatever your style. The slide show link below has some views from cycle rides around where we live. For the less adventurous a ride to Lac Pincemaille is a pleasant outing with well marked trails through the forests, whereas the more experienced venture to Bourgueil, along the banks of the Loire or as far as Chinon. Information is readily available for the many routes marked around the region. The most famous being the Loire a Velo. We have a library of local cycle routes for our guests including maps for the local area and further afield for the more intrepid or those who carry bikes on their car wishing to cycle a particular route.We have cycles available for your use and a rescue service, if required.

Just for interest, below are some Solex bikes which were for sale at a recent Vide Grenier (car boot sale).


Cycling around Les Mortiers

A site with some useful guidance about cycling and keeping children safe.


Traces of World War 1 from the people of Parcay Les Pins


A very special exhibition ‘Traces of World War 1’ opens this May,  where the people of Parçay-les-Pins tell their stories by means of objects, images and testimonies. The aim is to show traces of the past to better understand and comprehend how it was.

Parcay Les Pins is very privileged to have a museum of national status in the village centre. It is dedicated to the French sculptor, Jules Desbois, who was born in Parcay Les Pins. He was a friend of Augustus Rodin and Camille Claudel.

‘Traces of the Great War in Parcay Les Pins’ opens on 23rd May until 1st November 2015 at the Musée Jules Desbois, Place d’Eglise, Parcay Les Pins, France.

Website: Musée Jules Desbois


The museum also contains the very beautiful works of Jules Desbois as well as the, no doubt, very stirring reminiscences which will be part of this exhibition. Do not miss them!

More photos to be added, when available.

Let’s have a cake, we’re on holiday!

Watching James Martin make an absolutly scrummy white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake this morning, reminded me of this ‘cake tour’ in France on one holiday. It was awesome!

Frenchholiday's Blog

I have a weakness of cakes, once likened to have a mouth like a CD drawer which accepts pain au raisin with ease!  I love to try local cakes. It tells me about the local produce and often includes learning a little more about the region.  But that’s an excuse, a piece of local patisserie is my treat, it lifts my spirits, gives me a sense of being spoiled.

So here are five cakes from our autumn trip.

So I started with a ‘Pastis de Quercy’

Something like filo pastry, with either apple or prunes, honey and pastis.  This one I bought at the market of Praysac, held on a Friday.  I ate it at the view point of Ballaye, overlooking stunning views of the River Lot.  We met a group of local walkers there who said we must go to Montcuq market on a Sunday  (one to save for…

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What have apes got to do with the need for water safety?


Our early ancestors spent most of their time adjusting to a damp environment., so much that humans evolved as virtually hairless and young babies can swim instinctively. This is the basis of  the Aquatic Ape Theory.  We think we are more sophisticated now, but out of our normal environment, such as the annual holiday, proximity to water still presents dangers especially for children.

This post contains some tips for water safety and also a very useful link to an interview with Sharon Davies, form British Swimming Champion, where she answers questions about water phobias, teaching youngster to swim and gives some practical advice.

When do accidents happen?

RoSPA found that the majority of incidents happened on the first or last day of a family holiday. Other research highlights early morning or evening as being  the times when children are most at risk, when keen to explore they may easily slip away unnoticed.

A few thoughts to bear in mind.

Commonly people drowning are shown to waving their arms to attract attention. This is not what happens when children drown. Instead, they slip silently under the water and drown quickly.

On holiday where the environment, regulations and routines are different it is wise to supervise younger children closely around water. So, if you stay in a private property –you are the lifeguard and responsible for your children’s safety. 

Test your safety knowledge

If you would like to test either your knowledge or that of your children, here are two quizzes to try.

Key points on Water Safety from ROSPA
Before you go:

  • Check the safety arrangements in advance.
  •  Teach children never to swim alone.
  • Be cautious about booking properties that do not have safety fencing (in France such properties do not comply with the law).
  • Take a first aid course – know how to resuscitate a child.
  • Ask your travel company if the hotel pool has a lifeguard.
  • Actively supervise all young children near water.
  • Choose pools that are fenced with locking gates. 
  • Even if a pool has a lifeguard or alarm – know where your children are, and what they are doing in the water.
  • Let children take swimming classes whilst on holiday – a great way of gaining water confidence and learning essential water safety skills.
  • Inflatables are not a substitute for supervision or swimming ability
Some simple rules for children to learn
  • Never swim alone
  • Do not dive into unknown depths of water, and only jump feet first into water
  • Do not push or jump onto others
  • Know where to get help in an emergency.
Sharon Davies talks to Bristol Netmum about swimming and water safety.
A useful link:

Graded grains make finer flour – Le Moulin Boutard, Bourgueil

I was kicking myself as I typed the title for this post!  We could never fathom the French system to classify flour and know which one to use and yet the famous catch phrase for a well known UK flour held the answer.

Graded grains make finer flour!

A few years ago  we  met Madame and Monsieur Piaumier, owners of the Moulin Boutard, at a Craft Fair in the grounds of the Chateau at Giseux. Monsieur Piaumier explained the finer the flour the ‘whiter’ it is, the higher the category the nearer it is to the wholemeal flour which we were looking for.

So the flour we use now ranges from Type 55 for making croissants, Type 65 for pizza dough, through to Type 170 for rustic wholemeal bread. We also get rye flour, spelt and a speciality mix of chestnut flour, fig and hazel nut for cookies.

This website gives some good descriptions of the different types.

The Flour Bin – Home and Artisan Bakers Supplies

Through the generations

In the nineteenth century, there were no less than 22 water mills on the River Changeon., but they closed one after the other when industrialised production of flour and bakery goods started to arrive.

The Moulin Boutard was a true water mill until 1956, when it too was mechanised to keep pace with the demands of the market. It is the only mill still operating in the Bourgueil area.

The mill is owned by the Piaumier family, a family with a traditions of seven generations of millers. The family member who will make it the eight generation is currently working in a mill near Tours.

A Short History 

The changes at the Moulin Boutard over the years demonstrate how life changed so much more quickly from the 19th century onwards compared with when it was built by the monks of Bourgueil in the XII century.

1850 – The mill was extended

1928 – Mr. Albert Piaumier became as tenant operator of the mill

1930 – A diesel engine was installed and it is still in operation today,

1957 – The production rate is increased by the modernisation of equipment and it is then possible to mill 300 kg of wheat per hour instead of 100 kg.

1963 – Cleaning equipment and storage is installed.

1966 – A bulk tank is installed for receipt of wheat. This is the first mill equipped with this system in Indre-et-Loire. Also machinery installed for the manufacture of animal feed.

1974, – The son of Albert Piaumier, Paul, bought the Moulin Boutard from Madame Garnier Moreau.

I983 – A major change in the milling equipment increasing throughput up to 10 quintals (ie 100 kg) per hour.

1998 – Moulin Boutard gets organic certification

Graded grains make finer flour

Graded grains make finer flour

Ets Piaumier et Fils, Moulin Boutard, 37140 Bourgueil


Phone Apps for Saumur and the Loire Valley

1 telephoneHow quickly things have changed. The slow dial up connection when we first arrived here 15 years ago, now that seems more like a caveman chipping  at his tablet of stone.  People still live in caves, but with modern comforts,  in this part of the Loire Valley, but things have moved on fast for everyone.

We live in an exciting world, where we can fly over our house with Google maps, visit the chateaux from our sofa and plan a walk around Saumur whilst sitting in the garden on an iPod touch, phone or tablet.

At Les Mortiers there is a wireless connection to all our properties, ipod docks and phone signals and wifi that works all around.

Previously, we wished for a high speed internet connection like the sophisticated folk who lived in the towns and it took a while before it finally arrived at Parcay Les Pins. Guests ran around waving mobile phones in the air to get a signal.  The meaning of ‘mobile’ meant being mobile, climbing steps, venturing on to the raised filter bed or even driving to an area where there was half reasonable reception.

So here are just a few applications I’ve found which you might like to try when preparing for your holiday – or just enjoy a virtual holiday to brighten the day.

Saumur Touristic’Tour

In French, but some planned walks around Saumur which are easy to follow. It is mainly written in English and packed with local information and history, maps and photographs. It seems to have lots of potential to be a very useful app. when more is added to it.

iTunes Search:  Saumur Touristic’Tour

Chateaux de la Loire

Mainly in French, but a list of 66 chateaux and the distance to each from your location with links to the websites for most of the chateaux. Fun to use.

iTunes Search – Vallée des Rois Tour

Fontevraud Abbey

Henry II king of England and count of Anjou, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine along with their son King Richard the Lionheart were buried at Fontevraud Abbey although it is rumoured the remains were removed during the French Revolution. Fontevraud Abbey is the largest collection of monastic buildings in France. This app. gives a tour of the Abbaye and a rather complicated Agenda (Events List) which is best skipped. Do not be put off by the French text as there are three good videos.

iTunes Search:  Fontevraud

and they are all free!

Finally a Cellar is a ‘must have’ for visitors to France

We have found the  app. Cellar is invaluable for cataloguing our wine and a very useful reference to look at stocks when we are tempted to overbuy – it even gives statistics and a total value of your collection! There’s a wish list, a cellar with creaky doors and the good reason for not putting the car in  the garage!

iTunes Search – Cellar – manage your wine collection in style at a pocket money price of 4.49 euros

ITunes Search:  Cellar Manage your wine