Je suis Charlie. Amazing Scenes in France as the Population Unites

Angers, je suis charlie

Angers, Sunday. Picture taken from our local paper as we just couldn’t get the right perspective.

Je suis CharlieOn Sunday the French people came out onto the streets in a amazing display of unity after the horrors which they have suffered in the past few days.  In fact it’s ironic that these brutal terrorists have succeeded in bringing the French together more than anything else could have done.  Millions were in Paris and here, in the ancient dukedom of Anjou, there was overwhelming support.  The centre of our “prefecture” of Angers was crammed with 45 000 people all holding their “Je suis Charlie” signs and holding aloft pencils as a sign of press freedom.  In the Place du Ralliement, on the steps of the magnificent theatre were hundreds of candles and giant white boards placed for people to write their own heartfelt messages.  We left ours.

“Nous sommes anglais et toujour Charlie”

à bientôt et bon courage
Brian et Sheila

Gites in the Loire Valley
Loire Valley Wine Tours.


A Treasure in Cars

Millions of Eros worth of classic cars.  Forgotten in an old barn

Millions of euros worth of Classic Cars forgotten in an old barn!!

Les Deux-Sèvres is our adjoining Departement, just a few minutes down the road.  It is not particularly famous, very rural with a handful of large towns.  However, it is very much favoured by ex-pats who enjoy living in the countryside and the reasonable property prices. Echiré is a village of around 3 200 on the edge of Niort, one of the largest towns in les Deux-Sévres.  It is also the last place one would have expected to find …… ‘treasure’!  Not, it is true, a cashe of medieval objects which you would perhaps expect to find in a country as historic as France, in fact something much more modern but extremely valuable nevertheless.

The Ferrari 250 California, owned for a time by Alain Delon and worth it's weight in gold!.

The Ferrari 250 California, owned for a time by Alain Delon and literally worth it’s weight in gold!.

Roger Baillon was a haulier and also an avid collector of old vehicles.  He died in the early 2000’s and his collection, stored in a ramshackle barn, was simply forgotten about by his family and, when his son died recently, the inheritors of the estate asked for the collection to be valued.  I imagine that both the family and the valuer have still not recovered from the shock of the said valuation.
In fact, the collection, covered in dust, straw, old newspapers and old rubbish revealed some of the most valuable cars in the world. To name just a few:-
A Ferrari 250 California owned by the French film-star Alain Delon. Designed by Pinifarina, only 52 were ever made.  All of which have now disappeared.  The car behind the rubbish is now valued at a stunning 9 to 12 million Euros.  Alongside it was a 1948 A6G Gran SportTalbot Lago T26 formerly owned by King Farouk of Egypt.  Nearby was a Maserati A6G Grand Sport Frua dating from 1956 and now one of only three in existence and, behind a stack of empty oil drums a Hispano Suiza H6B dating from the 1930’s.
In all the collection included up to 300 vehicles and, despite the efforts of les Deux-Sévres to keep the collection in the Departement, it now looks as if it will be auctioned in Paris on the 6th February in Paris.  The total value is expected to be over 16 million Euros.

So, there you go, have a look in your old out-buildings, you never know.  I’ve had a look in mine and I’ve found an old bucket and a load of empty wine bottles.  No treasure for me then!

à bientôt

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Language Minefields

Poster in a shoe shop in Doué la Fontaine. Don't think that they were quite aware of the nuances!

Poster in a shoe shop in Doué la Fontaine. Don’t think that they were quite aware of the nuances!

Many of our French friends think that English is very simple to learn and to start with, of course, they are quite right.  None of that confusing le and la or tu or vous.  But, my contention has always been that when a non-native speaker tries to go to another level the sheer complexity of possible constructions which English uses can lead to a whole minefield of potential “faux-pas”.  Of course for a non-french speaker French has exactly the same problems it’s just that I think that English probably has more of them.

This poster was in a shoe-shop in nearby Doué la Fontaine and obviously the publicist hasn’t really been made aware of another potential meaning!


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!

Why the Saumur Wine Producing Cooperative was re-branded “ROBERT ET MARCEL”

The new label of the Saumur wine co-operative

The new label of the Saumur wine cooperative

The ‘Caves des Vignerons de Saumur’, Route de Samoussay, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg   is the Saumur Cooperative, about 12 kilometres from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons and a  real must visit for our guests during their holiday!  The tour begins with a large, twelfth century vaulted cellar and from there it continues in the maze of 100 kms of underground galleries. Indeed an underground ‘safari’ and great place to visit, taste and buy wines of the region.

And now a change! If you did not know – everyone is talking about their new brand name of “Robert et Marcel”.

Initially we thought why would they want to call a Cooperative Cave Robert and Marcel but apparently the reason for the new name is that Robert and Marcel Neau  were the names of the founding Chairman and Director back in 1957 and hence the Cooperative wanted to put this story forward.  Marc Bonnin  became President of the winery in January 2013.

The new name was unveiled on November 14th 2013, so  with continual quality improvement over the past few years and a respectable haul of medals, a new logo and new marketing strategy, they have chosen this concept to be at the heart of their new strategy whilst all employees are now  apparently called Robert or Marcel!

At first, the new brand will apply to wines sold in the basement of the Cooperative at Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, which annually hosts 56,000 customers a year, the biggest individual selling point in the Val-de-Loire (10% of turnover of the cooperative, or  2.5 million€ ).

Afterwards the label Robert and Marcel will be available throughout region in 2014 through Alliance Loire, responsible for marketing the wines of the cooperative, and finally at the national level in 2015.

Good Luck to the new initiative!!

A bientot!


Wine Tours of the Loire Valley


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.