Before the Grand Prix, Le Puy Notre Dame

Too many Loire Village Festivals?

On Monday morning I went to the village bar, (Chez Sonia), as normal for my morning coffee.  I sat outside in the morning sunshine with a group of villagers who, after all the ‘bonjours’ and handshakes, sat quietly without the normal animated chatter.  Finally Jean-Yves, the chef in the Bouchon Ponot muttered, “C’est bien le calme”  which triggered nods of heads and many Oui, Oui, Oui’s.  “C’est aussi bien retrouver notre village” said Stephane who had been the mainstay in organizing  much of the festivities which we have had in the village over the past few weeks.

Grand Prix Retro, Le Puy Notre Dame

Pre 1935 Classic Cars racing around Le Puy Notre Dame on the annual festival at the end of July.

Basically what was happening was a sort of stunned reaction to a series of fêtes which really started with Jean-Yves’ birthday party in June, went on through to the first “Fête de la Musique”, then into the 18th Grand Prix Retro Weekend – the first “les Grandes Tablées du Regalade”, when the rue du Collégiale was closed and filled with tables and chairs in the road, music, wine and evening meals served for around 400 people with several hundred being refused!  The next day was the “Nocturne” when a couple of hundred classic cars and motorbikes raced around the village in the evening. This was followed by a meal in the Salle de Fête for the participants and then, here at Le Clos des Guyons, we do a BBQ/meal for around 30 people being gite guests, friends and neighbours on Sunday, the day of the “Grand Prix” proper.  As a consequence of all this, people were pretty shattered.  Jean-Yves had around nine hours sleep over three days not helped by constant temperatures of over 30°C and even hotter in that kitchen!

Don’t get me wrong ………….. everyone had a thoroughly great time and all the Fêtes were an overwhelmingly great success.  But, to create the great atmosphere in Le Puy Notre Dame or “l’ambiance Ponot” as it is known locally, it’s not easy and there is an incredible amount of organisation and work which goes on behind the scenes.

BBQ at Gites in the Loire Valley

BBQ held on the Sunday of the Grand Prix Retro here at Le Clos des Guyons for around 30 friends including gite guests and neighbours. Here we all are enjoying sunshine food and Saumur wines.This year, after previous years of boiling in the hot sun, we decided to hold it in one of the old barns. Why it has taken us 10 years to do this I do not know!!

I can’t do as much as I like to help because we have our own gite and wine tour guests to look after but we owe a great debt of gratitude to all those villagers who freely give their time and expertise to making our village such an attractive place to visit.

Bravo to all!

And now to and join our guests at Le Clos des Guyons for some relaxation!!



Gite Holidays in the Loire Valley

Our Gite and Winetour Facebook Page






le puy a vins

In Le Puy a Vins Restaurant with our regular guests and friends, Jim and Sue from Kent, who came to Le Clos des Guyons for a March break.

It’s always been a bit difficult for us to eat at Le Puy a Vins Restaurant at 10 rue des hotels, in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame, as we are such good friend of Jean-Yves who is’ le patron’ of the older village restaurant, le Bouchon Ponot  but, as he was on holiday, we ate at le Puy A Vins Restaurant without feeling guilty!  Situated in a wonderful position at the side of the gothic, Collegiale church, the restaurant is just a five minute walk from our holiday accommodation gites “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” at Le Clos des Guyons  in rue du Moulin.

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely, with a warm welcome, nice fresh tablecloths and lots of softly lit candles making it all the more inviting. The food was prepared by their excellent chef, David Beaufreton, who offers lots of culinary creativity.  This was accompanied by a bottle of 2010 AOC Saumur “Puy Notre Dame” Vin Rouge made by fifth generation winemaker Bruno Albert of the  ‘Domaine du Vieux Pressoir’ situated in the adjoining commune of  le Vaudelnay. Of course we were not disappointed!  This Domaine now has 26 hectares of AOC Saumur  and Saumur-Puy Notre Dame vineyards located on two hills of different terroir (Turonian and Jurassic) and a high reputation for excellent wines.

We liked the restaurant wine list having an extensive range of over 60 Loire wines, all from the Loire Valley but with an emphasis on the local wines within a 20 kilometre radius. Romain Amblard, is in charge of the wines and he has made his clients very spoilt for choice!

Le Puy a Vins Restaurant offers ‘Cuisine Gourmande” to its customers and is open all the year round for service at midday and evenings. Lunchtimes prices are a  two course menu at 14 Euros or a three course menu for 18 Euros. Evening prices ares a two course menu at 19 Euros or a three course menu at 24 Euros. We are looking forward to making another visit very soon and recommending to our guests but don’t tell Jean-Yves who’s restaurant we will, of course, continue to frequent as well!  In fact we are very lucky indeed to have two quality restaurants in such a small village.

Bon appétit a tous! Sheila and Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

See all our restaurant reviews here


Aperitifs in the Loire

Barbara and Nick enjoying nibbles and a few flutes of Saumur Brut Sparkling Wine.

It’s been ‘Apero Time’ outside in the courtyard at Le Clos des Guyons this week and our new guests enjoyed the arrival of some wonderful warm Spring sunshine to make their stay in Le Puy Notre Dame complete with temperatures at times up to 25 degrees!  We’ve even got the first asparagus popping through.

Barbara and Nick from Tasmania, who headed to the Loire for a short stay here, enjoyed daily strolls around the village and nearby Chavannes, Sanziers and Vaudelnay, where they were fascinated by the architecture of many beautiful mansions and gateways to be found. Also the many underground caves and and cellars  –  indeed this is the complex basement of the village incorporating 100’s of kilometres of wine cellars and mushroom caves.  Of course they had visits to the Cafe/bar for refreshments after their excercise and to the two restaurants for a lunchtime value ‘Plat du Jour’ at Jean Yve’s Le Bouchon Ponot and neighbouring Le Puy a Vins.  Food is always the essence of French life and culture and so to be part of France you have to be part of the food too! And this is one of our great passions of French life!!

Being wine lovers, on their last day they managed to indulge in a wine visit and tasting session of Loire wines with Brian before they left for their journey to Paris.  Also, courtesy of the Domaine de la Paleine, whose wines they tasted, they managed to organise a delivery of their chosen favourites to be forwarded on to Paris for their extended holiday stay.

Bonne degustations Barbara and Nick and happy memories for us both – we loved to hear of your amazing travel adventures and feel honoured you came to stay with us in Le Puy Notre Dame!


Why not visit our NEW website  If you are interested in coming to the Loire Valley combining relaxation with tasting Loire wines, then take a look at our holiday accommodation.  We have Three Star ‘Gites de France’ gites and are ideally situated in the village both for wine domaine tours and tastings, sightseeing and walking to the local restaurants and artisan boulangerie too!

Hotel Le Bussy, Montsoreau – Restaurant Review

Hotel le Bussy, Montsoreau

Since we moved to the region in 2001 one of the things that we have noticed is that it is actually quite difficult to eat anywhere with really great views of the Loire.  There are some restaurants of varying standards but they are few and far between.  However, one that we have found only recently, (don’t know why because it’s not far away), is the Hotel Le Bussay in Montsoreau, just the other side of Saumur.

Montsoreau is one of the “Plus Beau Villages de France” and worth a visit just for that.  It has a famous Chateau and a stroll on the “coteaux” the narrow, winding streets on the hillside opposite the chateau, is well worth the time and effort.  The hotel is just past the Chateau, heading East towards Candes-Saint-Martin on the higher road which passes in front of the Chateau although there is a track up to the restaurant which goes from the road alongside the Loire.  It starts just past the Chateau again heading East.

The Hotel is one side of the higher road and the restaurant on the other, overlooking both the river and the Chateau and the views are truly stunning. We have only eaten there at lunchtime because we called in on the last day before it closed for the winter so we can’t say what the full evening dinner is like.  Lunch was the typical three course formula which is so common in these parts.  For around 12€ it was extremely good value, simple local produce mostly cooked on a giant BBQ outside the kitchen.  As in any eating establishment around here it provided good, well made wine from local producers.  So, well prepared and tasty, to be fair, not exactly a gastronomic masterpiece but, then again, what would you expect for that price.   Certainly when the restaurant re-opens at the start of the season, we will be eating off the menu and, if it is as good as the ambiance, I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Brian and Sheila

Restaurant Reviews

Loire Holiday gites and Wine Tours


Le Puy Notre Dame centre

Le Puy Notre Dame Centre


This is a story about previous American guests, Lea Duffy and Andy Kosusko from Oregan, who enjoyed staying in our “Le Sauvignon” gite at Le Clos des Guyons in Le Puy Notre Dame, a wine producing village with its own appellation Saumur Puy Notre Dame, in the Saumurois, along with their Belgium friend Aurore.

Here is the picture of us altogether in the Loire sunshine sharing a few glasses of Saumur Rouge, along with our other regular gite guests, Geoffrey and Doreen, very sadly Doreen has since passed away since the photograph was taken but Geoffrey still returns and we are looking forward to seeing him in July this year for the fabulous Bastille celebrations!

Lea and Andy at Le Clos des Guyons

Lea and Andy at Le Clos des Guyons

We did not know of Lea and Andy’s future plans after leaving France and so it came as quite a surprise when they told us about their adventures. This is a testimony from them, telling us they have built their own dream hostelry back in  Oregon, USA, using the charming wine village of Le Puy for its name!

Their hostelry is so called  “Le Puy – A Wine Valley Inn”  built on a hill-top with 8-bedrooms, in the Willamette Valley.

The Story from Lea and Andy:-

“So many people ask us why the name Le Puy?  I think most people look at it and think … why would you name your inn that?  Well, thank goodness there is a good story behind it.  First of all to put to rest the mystery of how to pronounce it… think “pwee”.  Le Puy.  Easy! 

We toured the Loire Valley in France with our home base in Le Puy Notre Dame, a quaint French countryside village. 

The land surrounding us was full of vineyards and where the soil was deemed unsuitable for grapes, there were rolling fields of sunflowers.  Inspired by the beauty of the Loire region and the simple sweetness of the name Le Puy, we looked further into the origin and meaning.  Basically, it is old French for “isolated hill” or “volcanic hill”.  There are several Le Puys throughout France.  They are most often ancient worship sites which contained a dolmen (sacred stone) and were usually replaced by Christian churches.  Le Puy Notre Dame contains bones of Mary or a saint, I think. (Actually for the record, the Collegiale holds a relic of the belt of  the Virgin Mary which was brought back from Palestine by William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, from the Crusades.  Le Puy Notre Dame is hence on the traditional pilgrim route through to St Jacques de Compostelle and on many village houses you can see the symbol of the pilgrim which is the scallop shell embedded above the door).

Our own property, although located in wine country, is not really suitable for grapes, so that is why we infused the sunflower theme into our name.  We sit on a hillside with spectacular views of the Chehalem Ridge and peeks at the Coastal range, Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson.  We feel the mix of nature, spirituality and deep rooted history behind the name, fits into our dream for creating a holistic, sustainable Inn.  Thus, “Le Puy, our Wine Valley Inn” was born”.

And voila!  ……… Lea and Andy have recently added two new builds to their Inn,  the Saumur Room, named for the city closest to the village of Le Puy Notre Dame, which they use as a wedding venue and the Loire Room used for wine tastings, meetings and parties.

We exchange Christmas cards reminding us of  happy memories at Le Clos des Guyons and guess we will be friends for life now with our shared Le Puy connections!

One day they hope to return to France to visit their namesake village and you never know, perhaps we may pay a visit to Le Puy – A Wine Valley Inn that would be nice!  

Anyway, it’s complimentary they took inspiration from the spirit and life of the village of  Le Puy Notre Dame (but that’s not hard to do!) and the Loire Valley region of France, all the way to Oregon for their dream Inn!

A wonderful story.

Sheila and Brian

Take a look at our NEW website 

We have two fully renovated and charming, well equipped, self-catering holiday gites to rent on the edge of the village within walking distance of the Collegiale, Boulangerie, Office of Tourism, , Wineries, Café and two Restaurants:- “Le Bouchon Ponot” and “Le Puys a Vin” plus the Mushroom Caves St Maur (albeit 2 kms).


Two generations of wine makers

Happy New Year from ourselves with Robert and Jeanette Guyon and Franck Bimont. The old and the new winemakers at the Domaine des Guyons in Le Puy Notre Dame.

A Happy New Year  to you all from Le Clos des Guyons!

It’s true that the 31 December in France marks the last day of the year but it also marks the beginning of a very long night of eating and drinking!  The New Year’s Eve called ‘Saint Sylvester’ celebrations are between friends as Christmas was for the family.  And so last night there was another food orgy in local restaurants and village salle de fetes, with  all the decadent food ‘encore‘ of foie gras, oysters and many bottles of Saumur wines including Crémants de Loire!  Traditionally Saint Sylvester finishes around dawn with Onion Soup, that is if you have the stamina to keep going that long, usually in Le Puy that will be  5.00 or 6.00 am!  And, on New Years Day, it’s not over in Saumur and Angers as many restaurants continue working with a specially prepared ‘Menu du Fete‘!.  Another guarantuan meal if you are up for it.

This period is  followed by Epiphany and the tradition of sharing the ‘Galette des Rois’ – or known also as the ‘Twelfth Night Cake’ or ‘King Cake’ celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. This cake is in all French Boulangeries and is made of puff pastry and has a small porcelain hand painted charm called the féve hidden inside.  The cake is usually filled with frangipane (a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar) but it can be fruit or chocolate and is shaped as a crown  with a cardboard gold paper crown placed on the top.  Whoever the lucky person is to find the little féve in their slice of cake is then named King or Queen of the New Year and wears the gold paper crown – it is then that persons turn to buy a cake and repeat the occasion.  January is a very sociable time and endless aperitifs are going to be held with the Galette des Rois accompanied by glasses of Coteaux du Saumur and delicious bubbly from Saumur.  Ah a wonderful tradition!  The sparkling wine houses in Saumur are many and include the prestigious Gratien and Meyer located high above in the cliff rocks on the route to Montsorea and Ackerman, Langlois Chateau, Bouvet Ladubay to name but a few in Saint Hilaire Saint Florent, just outside the centre of Saumur,  so you see we are really spoilt for choice and all these alongside Le Puy’s fantastic fizzy sparklers as well!!  All are well worth a visit when here in the region!

Brian, Claire and Liz doing the first wine tasting of 2014

Brian, Liz and Claire doing the first wine tasting of 2014 in the first week of January.

We had our first winery visit in 2014 this week! Here is a picture of our guests at Le Clos des Guyons, Claire and Liz from the UK, enjoying an afternoon with Brian on a wine tour and tasting in the cosy and chic atmosphere of the tasting room at the Domaine de la Paleine! As ever, many wines were sampled from their diverse and superb range.

Hoping you have enjoyed some memorable wines over the festive period and here’s to a Very Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone!

We are looking forward to welcoming both old and new guests to our home in 2014 and sharing some interesting Loire wines together.

For now bon apetit!

Sheila and Brian

If you are thinking about a holiday in the Loire Valley in France this year, relaxing and enjoying some lovely Loire wines, then visit our new website for more details of our wine tours (with or without accommodation) and charming self catering holiday gites:- “Le Sauvignon”(4-6 persons)/“Le Chenin” (2-3 persons), at Le Clos des Guyons, a former Wine Domaine, in the medieval village of Le Puy Notre Dame.


The creche in the medieval church of Le Puy Notre Dame

The Créche in the medieval church of Le Puy Notre Dame

Bonjour and Christmas Greetings from not too cold Le Puy Notre Dame.
Many parts of France have snow already particularly in the ski resorts and so for the Alps holidaymakers this is a fun time of the year for them, but for us in the Loire Valley we have lovely blue skies and rays of sunshine to keep us happy. I’m passionate about France and all its seasons but I wanted to say that France really is a magical place to be at Christmastime not only for the beautifully decorated  and illuminated villages, towns and churches, but all the lively Christmas markets. It’s certainly an experience and what could be better than strolling around all the cute wooden chalets, eating and drinking gastronomic treats offered by the stand holders and bumping into friends along the way, then afterwards just relaxing and engaging in people watching over a hot coffee or hot chocolate in a nice cafe. It’s heartwarming!
Each country has its own Christmas traditions and customs but one thing in common all the world over are the beautiful Nativity scenes displayed in our churches. Above is a picture of the marvellous Nativity scene in the Church of Le Puy Notre Dame.  The Créche was created by a dedicated team of retired gentlemen in the village at the weekend who give their time to the design and construction (verified afterwards by their wives I am told, to make sure everything is in place and no shepherd or animal missing), celebrated ‘ensemble‘ afterwards with some well deserved glasses of wine and a slice or two of cake! The church in Le Puy Notre Dame is on the pilgrim route to St Jacques de Compostelle and with its magnificent architecture of the 11th century is famous for holding a relic of the Virgin Mary.  At Christmas there is always a huge sparkling star towering above it which can be seen from miles around looking awesome in the night sky.
Today village activities are taking place for Christmas with  ‘Portes Ouvert’ at many wineries and a Christmas Market being held in the Mushroom Caves of St Maur in Sanziers, coupled of course with degustations afterwards of wines from the family Domaine.  This place is very atmospheric with its incredible galleries of caves, a perfect venue for a market as well as its main activity of  mushroom production.  After lunch we have an invitation to view the newly opened ‘Shiatsu’ Cabinet at a local Domaine just around the corner, afterwards dégustations of the Domaines wines and that famous creamy and delicious Crèmet d’Anjou Dessert!  (Hopefully I will get the recipe). I know very little about Shiatsu therapy but perhaps it may be of interest to our guests during their holiday in 2014!
There is no busier time of course than in the kitchen right now, lots of new recipes to try in advance of the big day, and of course lots of shopping expeditions to the local supermarkets where there are so many delicious choices of food and wine to find!  Shall we have Canard, Porc, Venison, Sanglier, Goose, Chapon, Veal, Turkey, what a decision?!  Brian’s main Christmas contribution, however ……. (yes I am sure it is!),  is the purchase of our festive wines!  We always buy our wines locally in the village of course being as there are bucket loads of accolades won every year by the vignerons and so the choice is phenomonal.   Yes, very time consuming work doing the ‘wine route’ of Le Puy Notre Dame for Brian!!  In fact it’s a great village for wine tasting holidays which is probably why Le Clos des Guyons is a popular choice for a self catering holiday.
We are on countdown to the Christmas Eve Réveillon (a million and one things yet to do but we will be ready)!  It’s the busiest day in France as this is the main celebrating day not Christmas Day! Families get together, restaurants are packed at lunchtimes and then follows evening mass and that wonderful platter of seafood, along with smoked salmon, escargot, fois gras and of course the Buche de Noel with glasses of refreshing Sparkling Brut amongst many including the Coteaux du Saumur which is absolutely obligatory!! And then time to collapse into bed!
And so Christmas Blessings to all.
Joyeux Noel and a bientot to all our guests who we will be welcoming back in 2014!
Sheila and Brian
Take a look at our NEW WEBSITE  for our gite holidays and Loire Wine Tours