Category Archives: Events

Cointreau or Combier – or both!

combier

Sun-dried orange peels from the West Indies, local spices from the south of France, alcohol from France’s northwest, and secret ingredients from the Loire Valley – a formula that became the world’s first triple sec. It sounds wonderful. It happened in Saumur and was the inspiration of Jean-Baptiste Combier after countless years experimentation to make the perfect recipe.

Combier orange liqueur was first available in 1834 in Saumur. Cointreau followed 41 years after in nearby Angers. Both Combier at Saumur and Cointreau, near Angers, are situated on the River Loire which was used for a main river for transporting goods, such oranges from the West Indies upwards from the coast and then onward by canal to Paris.

Combier is still in the same premises where Jean-Baptiste Combier and his brother opened a confectionery shop in Rue Saint Nicolas, Saumur,  in 1834. In back of his shop, he developed alcohols and liquors with his still to fill its sweets and chocolates and created the famous “Triple Sec” liqueur.

His dream of inventing something new and original was a great success and was only followed later by Cointreau. It is worth a visit to see the beautiful copper stills, sample some of the huge range of liqueurs made there and come away with a selection of your favourites. Visit Combier

Cut and paste the link below to see a  video about Combier (in French)  with some great photography showing some of their other syrups and liquers too and also what goes in to making their products.

http://tv.bpifrance.fr/Combier-createur-de-saveurs-depuis-1834_v3041.html

To end,  just for fun, here are a few recipes (not cocktails) using Triple Sec, but visit and you will come away with more than Triple Sec.

Margarita Cake

Over the Top French toast made with Triple Sec

Two simple ideas – add Cassis liqueur to home-made ice cream for something quite special or a dash of Combier Fruits of the Forest liqueur makes a fresh fruit salad into something special.

The difference between the two could be the subject of great debate, but far better to spend the time sampling them both with friends. The link below gives a comparison of both drinks.

cocktails

Comparison between Combier and Cointreau for Margaritas and Cocktails

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

Bust

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

Footnotes:

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.

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

What is the connection between Miss France and chillies?

Miss France 2012 is visiting La Fleche on February 5th and there will be a chance to see the crown specially designed for her by Julien d’Orcel displayed in the window of one of the jewellers.

So why did I notice this? It happens that whilst on holiday in the Pyrennes we went to Espilette, having seen there was a Chilli Festival there about the time we were in the area.

We saw hundreds, no thousands, no millions (now I exagerate) of chillies, but we also made a discovery. Espillete is the birthplace of Agnes Souret who was the first Miss France.  It is a charming story of how she won the title.



In 1920, after suffering the rigours of the First World War, a Parisien journalist took an initiative to raise moral. He initiated the first competition for the most beautiful woman in France.  “La plus belle femme de France”. The journalist responsible for this grand scheme was  Maurice De Waleffe, the founder of Paris Midi.

1700 girls applied and 49 were shortlisted.  Then, each week, for 7 weeks, the photographs of 7 candidates were shown on cinema screens throughout France. A voting slip was given to everyone as they entered the cinema.

Agnes had sent a faded photo of her first communion with a letter saying that she was only 17 and did she have to cross the whole of France to try her luck?

Agnes Souret was a resounding winner and so became famous throughout France and farther afield, an innocent 17 year old girl with a Basque mother and Breton father was “La plus belle Femme de France”.

So often a charming story has a sad ending and this was so for Agnes Souret, for soon after here reign as Miss France, she died from appendicitis.

The crown will be displayed in the jewellers at 29 High Street, La Fleche, Dept 72, on Wednesday, February 8, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. A chance for budding princesses to go and have a look as Wednesday is not a school day for French children.

A day in the life of a wobbly jelly.

A day in the life of ………. but which day, everyday is different. One of the things I love about working from home is that my work changes with the seasons. This post is just about today – tomorrow who knows!  In a few months, perhaps a different account of my daily life.

I’ve read a lot recently about the Jelly Movement! I am beginning to get what it is about, although I am sure my interpretation of a wobbly jelly is not quite the same. I wobble from job to job as they need doing. There’s inspiration while I’m weeding, seeing other areas of the garden to improve, planning new projects for our three gites in the Loire Valley or how to answer tricky questions from the anglers from all over the world, who contact us each day asking about using the silk lines we make here in France.

Wobbly Jelly from Cardtastic - Stylish Photographic Cards

 

I seek inspiration and perhaps this Jelly thing might be for me, where folks get together but doing their own work, bounce ideas off each other and learn. New ideas inspire me.  The big question is: Am I organised enough to commit to this? Would my daily routine (?read on…..) allow me to do this?

Today started at 7.30 am in the garden. It was just too hot yesterday and both the plants and I were wilting with the heat.  This morning, lovely fresh cool air and I work on one of the shrubberies before the sun got round to there. Then time to move on and check out the plants in the poly tunnel.

What a surprise was waiting for me as I walk round the corner of the barn to go the poly tunnel. The English cherry tree we planted when my granddaughter, Tia, was born was in full bloom. She will be 9 years old in June and it seems like yesterday when we planted the tree.  This beautiful tree has exploded overnight into wands of candy floss.  There will be cherries for us later and some for the birds too.

The church clock in our village, Parcay Les Pins, strikes and I forget to count the chimes.  No problem, it strikes before the hour and then after the hour. In the past it was to ensure that workers on the land or in the vines knew the time of day. It still works for me, I never wear a watch and if the wind is in the wrong direction I do not hear it at all and get extra time in the garden before other duties call.

A break at 11.00 am (‘Elevenses” – so English) with Mike. We run Phoenix Lines making fishing lines in pure silk for trout and salmon fishing and run courses on making bamboo fishing rods, so a quick discussion on where we are and what needs doing.

Today we sat under the garden abri with James who is building a second deck by the swimming pool. The shade under the abri was welcome, it is absolutely scorching around the pool. When the plum tree by the decking grows a little more there will be some lovely shade there to sit and read a book or magazine. It was heavily pruned this winter and at the moment it looks like something from science fiction.

Too hot to work outside now, so off to one of the gites to take photographs of the changes we have made.  I will probably do the same tomorrow, as I know, when I look at them this evening, there will be something out of place or not to my liking. I can be so fussy about details!

Lunch was so easy today, lots of ratatouille bottled last September which seems to be lasting too well. It’s so nice to have garden produce still at this time of year.

La Poste arrives whilst we are having lunch in the garden. We went paperless from 1st April, so all incoming papers, bank statements and so on will need to be scanned sometime today and then filed electronically. Perhaps it will make us more efficient and empty some much need drawer space – watch this space!

After lunch, I check the phone messages we might have missed between us. Whoops, our friends Any and Didier have phoned to say they have bought 10 litres of Aubance, one of the Loire’s best sweet wines, for us when they visited a favourite viticulteur. We have forgotten to collect it and the weather is getting hotter. It needs bottling and storing properly.

La Poste has delivered orders for fishing lines, invoices to do, packaging and more admin. Monday is the day for the bulk of my paperwork, but our friendly lady from La Poste keeps delivering more each day. It’s part of our daily routine to walk to the post box half way down the drive. The excitement mounts when she drives in to the yard instead of stopping at the post box. It could be a parcel or something that requires a signature. It is surprising how the visit from La Poste quickly became an important part of our daily lives.

My next job is to sort 70 new paperbacks for our Book Swap ready for our new arrivals due soon. There are now 250 paperback books for our guests to swap holiday reads for more of the same. It’s not compulsory to swap and any book half read at the end of a holiday can be taken home to keep.

Mike finishes work and goes to collect the wine from Any and Didier. It’s 6.15 pm now and this wobby jelly is going to swim in the pool and then to smarten up a little for his return and lighting the barbecue…

…….. and just as I took that decision, the phone rang. Florian Stephan, one of France’s best known fly tiers has phoned.  He lives nearby and is off to an Angling Fair early tomorrow morning.  He would like to take some more of our fly lines with him. Each one of our lines has an individual care instruction so more preparation to get them ready for him……… an extra glass of wine with the barbecue is starting to look like a reasonable reward.

So it’s time to record the orders and print the care instructions for the lines, finalise some invoices for our gite guests coming from the USA and The Netherlands.

Mike returns with steak for the barbeuce and the Aubance, apparently it is very good, the barbecue is lit and it starting to smell good. I think I will just wobble across there and have a glass of wine.

Tomorrow’s another day!

Chouze sur Loire 8 eme Festival des Quais

Local  residents of Chouze alongside the River Loire.

Chouze sur Loire is a small village on the north banks of the Loire, one which you could easily zip through with a passing ‘that was a nice place’, but you will be missing out on its secrets.

Like many of the villages on the banks of the River Loire it has contributed to the wealth of the area and its rich trade.  The river Loire after all was the main thoroughfare for the area and a vast array of goods were shipped along the river, timber to build houses in Nantes, oranges and spices for the wealthy chateaux owners and later for Cointreau and Combier to make their renowned liquers.

However, take a detour from the road at Chouze sur Loire down to the river.  There you will find the vestiges of an old port, a cobbled road and some extremely pretty houses facing the river.  You might even spot an old Loire river barque with a decorated mast.   Each boat mast had a rigid ‘flag’ showing either the mariner’s trade or a suitor’s love emblem for someone on a passing boat.

So that’s Chouze sur Loire, but what other secrets does it hold?  The last Sunday of May each year it holds a festival – Festival des Quais – and Chouze sur Loire becomes alive again as it celebrates its heritage.

Art, Loire, Terroir – it’s all there on 30th May

During the day there is a chance to sample local food and wine, listen to music and enjoy special events with the children.  There are marked pedestrian walks of 4k, 8 k and 12k along the Loire, passing gardens and watermills along the way.

And the festivities continue into the evening too!  There’s Irish music, an illuminated show celebrating life on the River Loire and a grande finale of fireworks, something which the French do spectacularly well.

and into the evening too!
Irish music, water spectacle and fireworks too.

Make a date in your diary to visit on 30th May if you are in the Saumur, Bourgueil or Chinon area, it’s within easy reach.  Too late to plan a holiday this year, well the Festival is always the last Sunday in May, which happily coincides with the English Bank Holiday each year.  It really is a good time to visit this part of France, local asparagus and strawberries are ready, the evenings are light and warm and the first bottles of the previous year’s wine are available.

And how was 2009 for you?

For many 2009 was not a good year –  economic crises, falling currency values, unemployment. However, there are going to be some great memories of 2009.  So far the wines of Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny ,and now Chinon.

The Fete du Vin at Panzoult is every 1st May and a visit has been on the ‘wish list’ for a long time. This year – success!  How fortunate to join the viticulteurs of Panzoult in celebrating the 2009 Chinon.

The  day started with a visit to Domaine Hérault where Eric Hérault produces a consistently good Chinon every year. The 2009 Chinon, full of promise, and the 2009 Vielle Vignes is already rich and silky.  A good benchmark to start the day.

The cave at Domaine Hérault is magnificent.  Arriving at the same time as Eric Hérault’s mother, she explained the cave was discovered ‘par hazard’ by the family dog who had disappeared into the fallen rock. Further investigation revealed this huge cave, originally excavated to provide stone for Le Chateau close by,  and now serves as a magnificent and welcoming place for degustation.

We then wandered down happily to the Fete du Vin and the Cave des Vignerons of Panzoult, hearing music and merriment as we approached.

Fete du Vin - May 2010

The cave at Panzoult is dedicated to wine, with purpose built niches and  a bar for each viticulture. The stone around each niche is carved, delicate, erotic, sensual, suggestive……..

Just under 20 viticulteurs from the commune welcome visitors in this magnificent cave.  There is no entry fee, but for degustation a glass is essential- a bargain at 2 € with so many wines to taste.

So here goes ….

Tasting so many wines in one day was a challenge.  We decided to stay with Chinon 2009 red so as not to get too ‘confused’.   It was essential to crache (spit) in order to stay the course.

Was the wine or did I really think the personality of the viticultuers influenced my opinion of each wine?  There is something to be said for a degustation with the viticulteur, rather than the confusing array of bottles on a supermarket shelf.

If  the choice was only four, it would probably be:

Domaine Héraut

Françoise et Francis Desbourdes

Domaine Grosbois

François Caille

There were many more and a long list of visits to make in the Panzoult area.

We were sustained by fouées, baked in the enormous fireplace in the deepest part of the cave.  with a choice of rillettes, beurre d’escargot et fromage de chevre.  We ate a picnic at midi overlooking the vines in this beautiful little valley and returned home tired by very happy.

Links;   Cave des Vignerons de Panzoult