The Singing Nuns of Doué la Fontaine

A group of Nuns enjoying themselves - no reason why they shouldn't of course!

A group of  Nuns enjoying themselves during a fête- no reason why they shouldn’t of course!

Went to our nearby town of Doué la Fontaine the other day where there was a fête in progress.  I forget what the reason for the festivities were, (if any is needed), but everyone seemed to be having a good time including the nuns who were singing and dancing along with the best of them!

à bientôt

Le Puy Notre Dame
Too Many Loire Village Festivals
Gites in the Loire Valley
Loire Wine Tours

Doué la Fontaine

October in Anjou

There are times when the term la Douceur Angevine really does live up to it’s name. The term means the sweetness of life in Anjou and Saumur and throughout France the term is used to describe the region adding to the fame of its wine, history, culture and, of course, its chateaux. It doesn’t just mean its mild weather either, but the general laid back, relaxed attitude to life. The picture was taken on a Sunday morning from within the Bar le France, (as usual I have to say that it is “le France” and not as you would expect “la France” nobody really seems to be quite sure why)! The bar is also a licensed betting shop called a “PMU” and that is how it is normally referred to. For me It’s a meeting place for what a group of us call our “charity work” i.e., making sure that bars continue to survive in these hard economic times. It’s hard, selfless work but someone has to do it.  The temperature was around 28°C, not bad for late October and the stall that you can see in the background is selling shellfish from the region’s Atlantic seaboard.

à bientôt


Gites in the Loire Valley


Aperitifs on Arrival in the Loire

Herbs at our Gites

Sage, variegated sage, basil, thyme, savory and lemon mint in our herb garden

When our Loire Gite and Wine Tour Guests arrive here at Le Clos des Guyons we always do extensive aperitifs in the courtyard or on the wooden decked terrace around the pool area. Always accompanied by a bottle or two of the region’s famous sparkling wine, one of the talking points is always the “Cochonaille d’Anjou”.  A bit of a specialty of our region although I’m sure it exists in other French regions too.  It can be either a hot pork dish or, for an aperitif, a plate of saucisson, local rillauds (an Anjou speciallity, a sort of caramellised belly pork), and any other pork related items although we often use a lamb saucisson as well.  How the dish is presented is, of course, entirely at the creators discretion and here at Le Clos des Guyons it gives us an opportunity to use tomatoes and herbs straight from the garden!





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





Gites in the Loire Valley

Wedding photo taken yesterday outside the Mairie in Le Puy Notre Dame, of our charming next door neighbours, Veronique et Laurent, here in rue du Moulin, Le Puy Notre Dame, with a delighted Vincent at the side blowing bubbles over his parents!  Laurent looking suitably terrified!

Saturday afternoon was a very important day for our next door neighbours who were finally tying the knot!!  There was lots of excitement and plenty of cars in the rue all decorated with ribbons, flowers and broomsticks!  As the time approached for the ceremony, there was lots of deafening car tooting in the procession for the short journey to the village Mairie ……. followed by us at the end!  We all then waited finally for ‘the bride’ to arrive and there were big cheers as she surprised everyone arriving in a fabulous open topped Porsche sports car, covered with ribbons galore!  She looked perfectly lovely in her electrique blue embroidered gown and bouquet of white roses and lillies interspersed with tiny pearls. Wow! We were all so happy for her!

Marriage in Le Puy Notre Dame

Luc being all official!

The Maire himself was unable to perform the ceremony as he had another official rendezvous, and so his official deputy, Luc Jourdan, one of our local winemakers, arrived looking very smart and proudly wearing his blue, white and red official sash.  We all crowded into the Salle de Marriage where there was a big table and huge chairs for the bride and groom and witnesses to sit.  At the end of an emotional exchanging of vows, Vincent, their son, stepped in with the little white cushion holding his parents rings, then followed a few gasps as they struggled to get the rings on fingers, thankfully it was okay in the end so lots of applaude, laughter  …. and yes relief!!

It was so nice to share this special occasion with their family and friends and to see them looking so happy.

Afterwards we enjoyed the traditional Vin d’Honneur with plenty of glasses of Saumur wines of course and galettes.

We really wish them many years of joy and happiness together!

Just to explain there is an incredible amount of complex legal paperwork for a marriage in France (c’est normale in France for everything really), including medical certificate, proof of celibacy certificate, proof of domicile certificate, Livret de Famille, birth certificate, valid Passport, affidavit of laws and customers and numerous other requirements which I won’t mention here!  Tricky but worth it! For overseas couples planning a wedding I would say it’s probably best to get married in your own country and have a religious ceremony in France or your romantic honeymoon!!  Also the only way of getting married is by the local Maire or his Deputy. There is often a church service as well but that counts as a blessing and not a legal marriage.

A votré


Gites in the Loire Valley


A Chef’s Birthday Party!

Gites in the Loire Valley

Philippe dancing on a table – he’s our local Pharmacist and also a really great guy!

Our regular gite guests and those who have been on our Loire Valley Wine Tours will know one of the two village restaurants particularly well, yes”Le Bouchon Ponot” and its owner and Chef, Jean-Yves. Yesterday (Sunday) he held his 60th Birthday Party for friends and family. Originally it was going to be held on a lovely site on the side of the river Thouet.  Sadly, however, after weeks of glorious sunshine and rocketing temperatures, we had a tremendous thunderstorm, receiving over six weeks average rainfall in the space of a few hours and the result was that the site was totally inundated with the soil just too wet to risk anything on the following day.

Loire Valley Gites

Me with friend Jacques, chief party photographer.  It’s a long time since I’ve looked slim!  Thanks Jacques!

As a result Jean-Yves decided, at the last moment to move everything to the Salle de Fête here in Le Puy Notre Dame.  For people like Sheila and I, who didn’t check our phone messages, it meant an interesting half hour or so exploring the pretty lanes and vineyards and admiring the newly opened sunflowers around the hamlet of Sanziers -where we had no success whatsoever in finding the site! Finally, we decided to head on back to the village bar where all became clear!  As it happened the day was one of full sunshine and high temperatures so we could probably all of passed an idyllic day by the river as was originally intended. Mais c’est la vie.

So the guests started to arrive in dribs and drabs as the word spread around about the new location and finally, by about 1pm, around 150 had arrived so we could start the party!  First up was plates of Jean-Yves famous paté, “à la maison” and assorted other nibbles accompanied by mini “foué” or “foucé” breads.  These are a local speciality and they are similar to pitta bread but baked in a wood fired oven.  You cut one side of the bread and fill it like a “purse” with paté or whatever else you have at hand.  The foué were cooked on site by our friend, Stéphane, who does these ‘Events’ for a living.  Definitely they are a meal in themselves and were accompanied by glass after glass of our excellent, local sparkling village wine, not to mention the cocktail fountain of vodka based orange juice. You just held your glass under the never-ending stream.

After that we sat down at the long tables to enjoy plates of charcuterie, mixed salads etc., lots of bread, and then hot roasted ham accompanied by haricot beans cooked with onions and various herbs.  Finally plates of cheeses and delicious assorted desserts.

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Sheila, having a quiet moment away from the dance floor. That’s Jean-Yves sitting on her shoulder (also taking a breather)!

All the time there was, of course, endless laughter and chatter as we all met up with friends and neighbours.  Jean Yves was busy opening his presents. All very lively, but, after the meal, things really got going with the Disco and the dance floor was filled to capacity with joyful revellers happily punching the air to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” (in fact it was replayed several times – by public demand so to speak!) as were other assorted rock anthems. And so many, many hours later, after the consumption of a mammoth amount of wine and the consumption of even more nibbly foué breads, people started to drift away, some still dancing, others still singing not always with a lot of clarity, and others who weren’t quite sure what planet they were on.

The next morning I went into the village bar as normal to be met by a succession of bleary, red-rimmed eyes and the occasional grunt.  At least the strong French coffee served a useful purpose.

Jean Yves was amazingly open for business as usual for his lunchtime clients, happy that we had all shared a terrific birthday party with him, although rumor has it that he quickly retired to his bed after the end of the lunchtime service and he was noticeable by his absence when Sonia’s bar was full of people watching the France v Nigeria World Cup Match later that evening…………………..!

à bientôt


Gites Holiday Accommodation in the Loire Valley


The Loire in June – and Cauliflowers.

A Loire Valley Vegatable garden.

Me – Cauliflowers, Lettuce and Artichokes in early June. I’ve been trying to produce decent cauliflowers for some years – about 30 to be precise. This year I decided to treat them with the same care that you would normally lavish on aged relatives. I never let them wilt in the heat and I fed them once a week. Not that you only feed aged relatives once a week!  That seems to do the trick thus I think that the secret of growing good cauliflowers is to never, never allow their growth to be checked.

We love our part of the Loire and, to may French people, it is known as ‘Le Jardin de France’ (the Garden of France), and much of France’s vegetable gardens, orchards, mushroom farms, roses and horticultural producers are situated in this rich and fertile region.  June has always been a favourite time of the year for us.  Generally hot, sunny days while the whole region is still vibrant green with ripening wheat fields adding splashes of gold scattered with red poppies.  The sunken lanes and tracks which meander through hidden stone hamlets  are decorated with a profusion of wild flowers.  The vines have flowered and you can see the start of what will be this years bunches of grapes, whilst the vineyards themselves form bright green geometrical patterns over the slopes.  And, floating above the countryside, are the calls of Cuckoos, Hoopoes, Blackbirds and Skylarks and a host of other orchestral members.

Our vegetable garden, like all the others in Le Puy Notre Dame, are starting to yield their produce.  I have already harvested the first potatoes of the year, the old French variety “Belle de Fontenay”, dating back to the 1880’s.  This variety is consistently chosen in trials to have the best taste and is resistant to mildew, at least in our climate.  But my great success this year has been cauliflowers, an F1 variety called “Boris”, huge perfect white florets giving me bragging rights amongst the village, vegetable growing community, even my close friend and veggy competitor Robert has been surprised and has stopped banging on about his cauliflowers as he does most years!  The next round will be tomatoes.   To be fair there have been some problems this Spring caused by the early, unusual amount of rain, (in one night we had six weeks of average rainfall) and which  has led to a profusion of snails which have caused huge setback for the basil plants and for lettuce and roquette although the hot sunshine has now resolved that problem and our guests are now enjoying eating the profusion of salad from the garden.

Here are some other shots of the garden and courtyard:-


Roasted Cauliflower with curry and cumin

Roasted cauliflower with curry and cumin


Sheila’s take on our ‘guest recipe’  for roasted cauliflower which we sampled last year with Denise and Rod from Eugene, Oregan, USA.

It’s so simple, florets of cauliflower roasted in the oven with olive oil and sprinkled with curry and cumin, just delicious! Shown here with some roasted spuds mixed in too and rosemary au jardin.

Bon appetit et bon jardinage!


Gites in the Loire Valley