Chateau Villandry

Chateau Villandry

Bonjour to you all!

There is some  interesting news for bird lovers!

The LPO, la Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (The Bird Protection League), is a very active society of which we are members. Our guests often enquire about bird life in the Loire Valley region and so to keep you up to date the LPO has awarded two recent nature awards.

At the end of  2012 the CHATEAU AND GARDENS OF VILLANDRY were awarded the ‘Refuge LPO’ label following an inventory that counted some 90 species of birds across the estate’s 25 hectares as well as the ‘EcoJardin’ label for the high standard of its ecological management.

Common Firecrest

Common Firecrest

1 . Refuge LPO label – some of the 90 or so species of bird listed include:- the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the Grey Wagtail, the Tree Pipit, the Marsh Tit, the Sand Martin, the Stone Curlew, the Cattle Egret, the Redwing, the Common Firecrest, the Great Egret, the Little Egret and the Reed Bunting. 

2. The EcoJardin label – was launched in 2012 following the initiative of nine cities with other contracting authorities and technical partners under the auspices of Plante&Cité, the EcoJardin label and is aimed at encouraging the adoption of environmentally friendly management practices, highlighting the merits of the work carried out by gardeners who manage green spaces and raising users’ awareness of sustainable development as well as ecological practices of green spaces. Villandry is one of the first 56 green spaces to be awarded this label, and the first in the Centre Region. The gardeners at Villandry stopped using pesticides four years ago. By accepting this label, Villandry undertakes to continue and build on its action in favour of protecting the environment.

In fact, Villandry is the first Chateau to have been awarded Refuge LPO label and in 2013 it’s undertaking a major photographic report throughout the season with the association La Cambrousse, the results of which will be shown in an exhibition entitled “Villandry: a 100% Organic Garden and Haven of Biodiversity”, before being included in a complete exhibition on Villandry’s birds in June 2014.


cabbages at Villandry

The ‘Ornamental Vegetable Gardens’ at Villandry with the famous cabbages.

About a 40 minute drive from our self catering holiday accommodation at Le Clos des Guyons, on a scenic route from Le Puy Notre Dame through Saumur in the Loire Valley.  It is one of the most popular Loire Chateaux.

It was recently featured in last week’s BBC Broadcast of MONTY DON’S FRENCH GARDENS  (what a fabulous series by the way and hope you are watching it)!  

The Villandry Estate has belonged to the Carvallo family since 1906. It’s a friendly family property where each room recalls a period of history thanks to the beautiful furniture and careful choice of decoration.  It’s the last of the great Chateaux to have been built on the banks of the Loire and is in the heart of three terraces of gardens famous for its ‘Renaissance’ gardens which include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and amazing vegetable gardens (or ‘Potager’ as is called over here).  I say amazing because thousands of  vegetables and herbs are grown in absolutely perfect geometric plots which all contribute to a marvellous sight!  (Brian and I have our own ‘petit’!!! potager at Le Clos des Guyons which includes a herb garden, and our guests are welcome to enjoy this with us during their stay, especially when our asparagus arrive, usually around the end of April/beginning of May,  it’s simply delicious and impossible to keep up with, having to be picked fresh each morning so that new shoots arrive)!

Anyway, during the month of July Villandry holds a special event where it’s open for visits at night. Over two consecutive evenings more than 5,000 candles are carefully placed around the gardens and lit early evening!   As you can imagine, this is an awesome experience. …..awesome too for the staff who spend all day long driving around the gardens working to a specific plan placing the candles for the evening’s spectacle – bravo to the team!  This spectacle is called les ‘Nuits des Mille Feux’ or ‘Night of a Thousand Lights’.  You can soak up the fairy tale atmosphere as you stroll through the gardens and it ends with a musical firework display reflected on the mirror like surface of the water. Magnifique!   The dates for 2013 are the 6th and 7th July.  


Tour de France

The Tour de France passing through fields of sunflowers

This year the Tour de France will be marking the 100th Edition and to celebrate this event, it will be on the theme of France”s cultural heritage.

So, after being to Corsica as well as the Mont Saint Michel, it will continue along the route of the Chateaux of the Loire and pass through Villandry on Thursday 11th July before going on to Tours, one of the stage towns of the Tour de France.

Château de Villandry and its gardens are quite used to receiving plenty of cyclists every year because of the “Loire à Vélo” circuit. This year Villandry will have a ringside view of the event and plenty of visitors strolling the gardens whilst waiting for the cyclists!

Lots to look forward to and can’t wait!

Bon weekend a tous!


Holiday Lets in the Loire Valley


Rendezvous Le Elite “Cadre Noir de Saumur” (National Horse Riding School, Loire Valley)

cadré noir

A horseman of the Cadré Noir with Saumur Chateau in the background.

Bonjour a tous!

We are currently doing all the usual replacing, repairing, fixing, spring cleaning, and oh yes painting!  Oh horrors, Brian is up a ladder again and I daren’t look in view of his track record with ladders especially the last time when he slipped off one and dislocated his shoulder – he became a man in great pain and remember I drove him to the Urgences in  Saumur at a speed as if he was in need of a blood transfusion – not to mention on arrival the trauma and challenge it involved in resetting it because of his broad shoulders none of the duty doctors could do it and it thus necessitated in waiting for the great Consultant man himself to arrive ‘toute suite’ and crack it back into place in seconds leaving the duty doctors in admiration of this genius and Brian in great relief!!  Actually they had pumped him full of morphine.  He said it was great but not worth a dislocated shoulder for.  Anyway, moving on because it gives me positive nightmares to think about it again!

Anjou’s tourist sites are now slowly re-opening and we are eagerly looking forward to the start of the season and the excitement and pleasures it gives! Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to a private demonstration at  the internationally renowned “Cadre Noir” which is is part of the French National Riding School located in Saint-Hilaire Saint-Florent, a commune, set in lovely countryside, about 6 kilometres from  Saumur.  We had been invited  to view their new 2013 programme along with other partners in tourisme. It also gave us a chance to chat with other familiar faces from the locality after what has seemed an eternal  winter!  In actual fact, of course, it has been very mild and we have been spared the floods and snow which have hit other parts of France.  Nevertheless, it has been the wettest winter in living memory and after all these years living here we are just not used to continual grey days.

The Cadre Noir, a joint civil/military equitation team, is now under the auspices of the  National Riding School  which is aimed at organizing the teaching of riding in France;  to prepare for high level teaching diplomas and top level competition. Under the wing of the Minister for Health, Youth and Sport, the National Riding School is founded on the knowledge and experience of the ecuyers (Riding Masters) of the Cadre Noir who have followed the history of equitation in Saumur and Anjou; with a mission to develop horse training, to teach riding for sport, and to teach the equestrian professions.  Saumur and Anjou in general is France’s horsey centre with a history going back to the beginings of cavalry in the French Army.  Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington spent three years at the Royal Academie d’Equitation in Angers.  He acquired an excellent french accent, a love of French culture and an admiration for the French Army.  Like Malbourough before him, you would never hear Wellington being demeaning about the bravery and military prowness of the French Army despite, or perhaps because, he spent most of his life fighting them.

All the teachers of the National Riding School are members of the Cadre Noir. The principal purpose of the ecuyers, each one a real expert in their own discipline, is to pass on their technical and theoretical knowledge. They also have to train and keep in condition the horses presented in the Reprise de Manège (Musical Ride), and those who perform the ‘airs’ above the ground, as well as representing the school in national and international competitions. They are also entrusted with the preparation of the horses used in the training of their pupils. Taught by the great masters and with a great interest in the evolution of riding, the ecuyers of the Cadre Noir actively support and influence French equitation by their public presentations.

We took our seats in the Grand Manége, a modern and impressive huge indoor arena 83 metres long and 32 metres wide, with a seating capacity for 1500 people – in fact this is the largest indoor arena for riding in Europe. Introductions were given by Robert d’Artois (Directeur de l’Ecole Nationale d’Equitation et Directeur General adjoint de l’Institut francais du cheval et de l’equitation), the Colonel Jean-Michel Faure (Ecuyer en chef) and Thierry Lacombe (Directeur de l’Office de tourisme du Saumurois et du PTI de Saumur et sa region).  One had to feel sorry for them as despite their best efforts everyone’s attention was already fixed on the Cadré Noir, doing their exercises in the background.


Sheila with the le Colonel Jean-Michel Faure,

It was a delight to see the Cadre Noir horses entering the arena wearing their traditional gear with the riders in their famous black uniforms.  These elite riders have reached the highest level of international sport being olympic or world champions. Their presentation is pure ‘equestrian art’ with the riders on the centreline parting to left and right in half pass, pulling their hats off to acknowledge us all and it’s fascinating  the way that the riders part and come together.  The famous ‘airs’ above the ground never ceases to amaze as they syncronise this together and  needless to say there were lots of gasps from us all and rounds of applause!

After the presentation and refreshments, we were given a guided visit of the extensive stables.  This took about an hour to see all the facilities including the arenas, tracks and stables but, best of all, the chance to admire the hundreds of horses. Many of our guests are tempted to take a visit during their holiday in the Loire, happily combining it with a visit to the Saumur Chateau (and its wonderful views), walks either in the town, down by the Loire or around the old Protestant Quarter, wine tours/wine tastings, in one of the many prestigious sparkling wines houses, like Ackerman, Bouvet Ladubay or the Combier Distillery, etc., etc. and of course let’s not forget midday lunch in one of its many restaurants offering  good value ‘Plat du Jour’ (plate of the day) food with lots of crusty bread and a glass of wine’!!

This is a link to the Cadré Noir Site.

The Cadre Noir presentation dates are on our website under “What’s On” and their first full “Gala” of the year is being held on the 15th March. 

There is always something equestrian going on in Saumur, pageants and displays happen frequently and there are many riding schools close by for energetic enthusiasts.  You can also take in the sights of Saumur on a horse drawn carriage or ‘Caleche’  which is so relaxing!

Wishing everyone a “Happy March”!

A la prochaine mes amis!

Sheila and Brian