La Grande Tablée du Saumur-Champigny

For those visitors using accommodation in the Loire Valley week commencing 29th July.  The following week is an entertaining one in terms of the various fêtes which are going on. The last Sunday of July is the Grand Prix Retro in our own village of Le Puy Notre Dame and, on the following Thursday, it’s La Grande Tablée du Saumur-Champigny in Saumur. 

This fete is billed as the biggest restaurant in Europe and, this year, involved over 4,000 people sitting down to eat inbetween the Marie and the Loire. One pays €9 for the meal consisting of all regional products and then a further €4 for a Saumur-Champigny wine glass. Once purchased you can wander up and down, filling your glass at strategic locations and tasting various vintages, on this occasion, dating back to 1989. It really is an excellent way of trying the various Saumur-Champigny vintages.

This Link is to the Saumur Champigny site which includes TV news videos of the fête.

Accompanying the eating and drinking is a music festival which features up to 10 bands, playing concurrently at different locations and, over the years, I have to say there have been some excellent “turns”, as my father would have said.

Last year one of the bands playing was a blues band which were so good that there was almost a riot when the organisers finally insisted they stopped playing.

This year was not as mainstream and featured a band playing what I think Frank Sinatra called soft jazz, another playing New Orleans, trad. Jazz and even a Yiddish band who started off with, “Wish I was a Rich Man”, and then went on to play a lot of stuff which seemed to mean a lot to their aficionados but, to me, seemed to consist mainly of them shouting something that sounded like “ROBBIE!’, at which, for some reason, everyone jumped in the air waving their arms around.  If anyone can enlighten me as to what this was all about I would be most grateful.   

There were also two guys with an on accordion and a guitar who were having a whale of a time, jumping on tables and getting everyone dancing.  I don’t think they were anything to do with the fête but it did not stop them hurling abuse at any of the “official” bands who dared to strike up near them!

Starting from about 11pm. The focus moves from alongside the Loire to La Place Saint Pierre where a stage is set up for the final band of the evening.  These were quite good with the normal band line-up plus bagpipes, flutes and other Celtic like instruments.  As I said pretty good but I could not help thinking it was a bit like Braveheart meets Jethro Tull.  For those of you who had the misfortune not to be around at the time or for those who were around at the time but cannot remember much about it!, Jethro Tull were a vintage rock band where the lead singer and flutist, for some reason best known to himself, spent a lot of time standing on one leg. I believe he now raises fish in Scotland. I assume he uses both legs!

Before and during the gig, a marching calypso band materialised from somewhere with their own group of aficionados who were dancing away like crazy to the drums and whistles.  Friends of mine who know about this sort of ethnic thing said they were very good indeed. To me it sounded like ….well…..drums and whistles, and, at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do with drums and whistles.

We were sitting in a bar in the square watching the Celtic Rock Band when Sheila, who had just gone to the toilet, returned with the bad news that, on tonight of all nights, the toilet had broken in the bar.  There then ensued a comical half hour whilst patrons of the bar tried to obtain permission from neighbouring bars to utilise their toilets and many were the discussions and heated words and no doubt many cunning plans were hatched, one can imagine; “Do you sell elephants?’

“No, of course not”,

“Well, can I use your toilet then?”

Sheila, incidentally, just walked straight in and used it, disregarding any preamble!

Which just goes to prove that the simplest plans are always the best.

à bientôt

Brian                Accommodation in Loire Valley