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5 Patisseries with Coffee

In France it is quite easy to find somewhere for a good cup of coffee or a drink of some kind, but a coffee to go with those very tempting French patisseries is another matter.

However, here four patisseries we visit where there is a coffee shop or tea salon and where the patisserie is mouthwateringly good. The fifth is a bit of surprise, unless you are really familiar with French habits. All four are chocolatiers and the fifth ……..read on.

1.   Patisserie Bremaud – Bourgueil

Packed out on the morning of the weekly market on a Tuesday in Bourgueil, but so good! Their speciality is the Galette Bourguelloise and there is also an amazing range of cakes.  A complimentary chocolate with the coffee too and ice-creams made in-house are available in the summer.

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3, 5 Place des Halles, Bourgueil

Good to know: Patisserie Bremaud own the registered trade mark for Galette Bourgueilloise.

2.   La Maison de Rabelais – Langeais

Situated in a quaint building just opposite the Chateau de Langeais. Their hot chocolate is excellent, especially on a Sunday morning after a visit to the market. Light lunches and snacks also available as well as some superb patisserie, selected teas and coffees, plus gifts to take home for friends if you can bear to part with them.

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2 Place Pierre de Brosse, 37130 Langeais

Good to know: There is out-door seating with views of Chateau de Langeais.

3.   Duchess Anne – Saumur

A favourite place to visit when in Saumur and another centre of excellence! Even when Saumur is busy, this coffee shop feels quite removed from the outside. Light lunches also available and daily newspapers are available, an asset for solo visitors!

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22 Rue Franklin Roosevelt, 49400 Saumur

Good to know: ‘Joseph’ is their satellite patisserie on Boulevard du Maréchal Juin, next to a really good wine shop. Good parking outside for both.

4.   Au Royal Chocolate – Azay Le Rideau

Azay is worth a visit, although rather crowded in the summer. Au Royal Chocolate has a really long display counter full of tempting treats. The seating area for coffee is limited, but the coffee is excellent. Hardouin, the traiteur d’excellence for charcuterie has a shop just opposite.

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Good to know: The Paris Brest and the almond cookies are huge, enough for two people unless you are truly gourmand.

5.   The Wild Card

What is little known, is that it is quite acceptable to buy from a nearby patisserie to eat with your coffee. Of course, it is only polite to check first.

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Good to know:  There are two bars in Place St. Pierre, which is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Speaking from experience, both are happy for you to buy from the patisserie a few steps away.  Also, just around the corner in Grande Rue is the Barre du Chocolate for exquisite artisan chocolates. There is also a really good patisserie in Montsoreau next to  a bar/café and another bar a few steps away. Just perfect on a Sunday morning when the antiques fair is there and the food market just opposite.

Go on – spoil yourselves next time you are in France!

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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.

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Comparison between Combier and Cointreau for Margaritas and Cocktails

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!

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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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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 driving like in France – update

Driving in France is changing. None of the plus points in my previous post have changed, but regulations to ensure public safety are coming into force this year.

Here is a brief summary of the points which holidaymakers should be aware.

Control of speed.

Radar detectors have been illegal for some time, but now radar warnings on satnav equipment are also illegal. New systems will not include this facility, but it will be necessary to update existing ones systems so this information is no longer available.  The non-technologically inclined driver may find difficult to disengage this function although the website for our own Garmin was very helpful.

For the police, enforcing the new law will not be an easy task particularly as many vehicles now come with embedded software systems.

Nonetheless, the penalty for the new offence is steep – a fine of up to 1500 € and the loss of up to 6 points on a driver’s licence.

Using a mobile phone whilst driving.

 The fine has been increased for using a telephone whilst driving to 135 € and the loss of 3 points on your licence.  (The French systems deducts points rather than adds them!)

Straying on to the hard shoulder

The principal cause of drivers staring on to the hard shoulder is driver fatigue and up till now, straying temporarily into the emergency lane on autoroutes in France was not an offence. Under pressure from autoroute companies anxious for the safety of their workforces, the French government has introduced a new offence, effectively  clipping the hard shoulder, for which the penalty will be 135 €. Also, the existing fine for driving on the hard shoulder on French autoroutes increases from 35 € to 135 €.

Motorcyclists – high viz clothing and number plate requirements

Motorcyclists riding a motor-bike with an engine capacity exceeding 125 c.c. must wear a reflective garment. The French Department of Transport has still to define the criteria for reflective garments and the measure compelling motor-cyclists on French roads to wear something hi-viz will not come into effect before 1st January 2013. In the case of non-compliance, the offender would be liable to a fine of 68 € with a 2 point licence deduction.

There is also an alteration to the law concerning non-conforming number plates which applies to all road-users but especially bikers. The penalty for driving with a non-conforming plate increases from 68 € to 135 €. The Ministry of Transport will also introduce a new regulation concerning the size of registration plates carried by motor-bikes with the aim of making motor bikes more identifiable, especially if flashed by a speed camera.

In-car breathalysers

Local authorities have already begun to introduce on-board driver’s breath testing equipment on French school buses and such equipment will become mandatory in all vehicles in July 2012. Breathalysers will be for sale in supermarkets.

Subsequently to writing this article, The Daily Mail has published a very useful article summarising what you should be aware of.

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!

What is driving in France like?

Rainbow on the A28

Stopping distance? No problem!

This year we’ve been asked more than ever for advice on driving in France for the first time. We’ve driven in Poland, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom within the last 12 months and have always felt a sense of relief to be back on French roads again.

The plus points

Uncrowded motorways with good surfaces which make for less stressful driving.

A compulsory reduction in speed during wet weather.

Roadsides which are generally clean, without drinks cans and polystyrene decorating the verge and polythene which looks as if it grows on the roadside trees.

Well maintained roads even in the smaller villages. Pot holes are rare.

Most lorries over 7.5 tonnes are banned from the roads and motorways at the weekends from 10.pm Saturday to 10 pm Sunday and also on public holidays. From early July to mid August the ban starts earlier – 7 am on the Saturday.

As well as Service Areas on the motorways there is a plentiful number of rest areas which often have children’s play areas, trees or artificial shade and picnic benches.

Cheaper fuel. Petrol tends to be very similar to UK prices (depending on the exchange rate) but diesel is 20% less. The Carrefour website at Calais has a ready conversion of their prices to the current exchange rate.  Link

Minus points

Motorway tolls –  an extra expense, but no constant changing of speed which saves fuel.

Directions tend to be posted at the last minute.

A new law – you must stop for anyone indicating they wish to cross the road!  This does not apply if they are within 50 m of a zebra crossing.  However, stopping for a pedestrian still causes some strange reactions.

The reputation of French drivers!

Driving in Style

This post is based on our own experiences, but you may have a different comment, a useful tip, an  interesting experience or amusing tale about driving in France to share?