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Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

I’ve often thought, as I wander the highways & byways of our bit of France, what a beautiful landscape we live in. Because I’m a very enthusiastic photographer, I look at the scenery in awe sometimes, and wish that others could see it just as I’ve just seen it, you know? This train of thought is a constant in my head, and it’s not until very recently that I’ve had the wherewithal to try and realise the ambition to have a few days of informal, but informative photography workshops at our place.

La Loire and Saumur sunrise

The Loire at Saumur at sunrise.

Sure, I have a good eye, and I know how to take decent images. It’s not that difficult really, given where I live, and the types of photogenic landscape and subjects I’m exposed (forgive the pun) to on an almost daily basis. But what I lack is the reputation as a serious photographer. You see, to our guests, I’m just the grumpy bloke that owns the pretty gites and sociable campsite in the Loire Valley. They don’t realise that I do actually know a fair bit about photography, and what constitutes a decent image. If they do, then because of my ‘day job’, they fail to take me seriously if I say I’d like to teach them how to take the kinds of pictures they admire in local galleries etc.

Montreuil Bellay

Just one of the many chateaux within very easy reach of Le Chant d'Oiseau

So, when a guest here last year, Chris, at last took me seriously and put me in touch with his prospective father-in-law, UK based landscape photographer, Anthony (Tony) Blake, my creative juices began to flow again after a long period of hiatus.

To explain. Tony is an award-winning landscape photographer, making a living from his photography workshops held in his home county of Dorset. His eye for the shot is simply fantastic. His clients are mostly beginners or improvers, but he’s comfortable having professionals on his workshops too.

Image copyright, Tony Blake, Dorset based landscape photographer

Beautiful Dorset scene, taken by Tony.

Tony’s been looking into the potential for expanding his horizons, and after being introduced to one another by Chris, we got to chatting via. e-mail and arranged a visit to Le Chant d’Oiseau to get together and discuss the possibilities, and for Tony and his lovely wife, Miranda, to see for themselves just what stunning potential the area has for budding landscape ‘toggers.

They came and stayed in Chardonneret with us for an all too brief few days in April. The weather was beautiful. Warm, bordering on hot with the blue skies and clear light that attracts so many artists to the area. It bode well.

What we’ve decided, between the four of us, is to pilot a three-day workshop, based here at Le Chant, to be held in the week commencing the 24th September 2011. We’re currently looking into the costs involved, but accommodation can either be on the campsite, or in one of the two remaining gites (Tony’s bagged Chardonneret already!).

The autumnal landscape should be in full bloom by then, and the chance to bag images such as the one captured perfectly by Tony, below, shouldn’t be too difficult!

Image copyright, Anthony Blake Photography.

Autumnal splendour.

We’re working hard at ensuring there’s a superb itinerary for the three days, with a range of photo opportunities from landscapes, to sunrise/sunset shots (don’t worry, the sun rises late and sets earlier in September!), chateaux, river scenes, architecture, people, village life…. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

Here’s how we think it will work.

We’re planning on the cost to include a pitch on site for two people and their chosen unit, (though Héron & Hibou will be available too) with electric for the week. There’ll be an ample french style picnic lunch and four-course evening meal with wine for those attending the workshop. If partners wish to join us, then there’ll be a nominal fee and they’ll be made more than welcome!  If both people on a pitch wish to take part in the workshop, then a supplement for the second person will be charged. Transport to & from the locations for the three-day course will also be included. The remainder of the week will be yours to explore the area and put into practice what you’ve learned on the workshop!

For me personally, It’s exciting to think that as your guide, I’ll be able to share some of the ‘off the beaten track’ locations that I’ve come to find in the six years we’ve been here. Lots of these would be very difficult to find without local knowledge. It’s great to think that some lucky people will get to take the most gorgeous shots of the area, that they’ll be proud to hang on their walls at home, and that we’ve helped them to achieve that!

Places will be strictly limited, so please register your interest for the Loire Experience Photography Workshop now. You can do this by visiting our website at www.loire-gites.com and scrolling down the home page to the Newsletter Subscription box. Enter your e-mail addresss, and press GO! Then, tick the box marked ‘Photography’ to ensure that we keep you up to date with details of prices and itineraries etc.

Tony & I look forward to seeing you in September!

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

 

 

 

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Champignons de merde!

Remember I mentioned that Bernard had brought us the most magnificent basket of ceps for us the other day, and instructed us on how to prepare, cook and even eat these magnificent mushrooms? Yes? Well, I thought I’d just have a mosey around in our bit of forest just opposite the house and see what I could come up with. A few days earlier, M. Bellanger rang the bell to give Syb a box of mushrooms. These were ‘poutrelles’, and were nice, but lacking the knowledge on how to prepare, cook & eat them, we were a tad disappointed. But, I remembered what they looked like, and armed with a little knowledge (dangerous thing, I know…), We sallied forth to feed the family from the forest floor.

We gathered quite a basket full and returned to the house, glowing with the thought of a free meal! Fortunately, Syb suggested that it may be a good idea to show these ‘shrooms to Bernard, just to be on the safe side of food poisoning?

Off I trotted, via. SuperU to fill up the car and a couple of 5-gallon drums with unleaded. Right now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a bit of a buggeration going on with the fuel depots in France. M. Sarkozy and his government are messing about with the pensionable age you see, and upsetting rather alot of normally quiet, respectable françaises in the process. So, because they’re upset, they’re striking and blockading ports, refineries and schools etc. Just to make M. Sarkozy understand that the storming of the Bastille is entirely possible in this day & age.

Now, striking in France is somewhat of a national pastime. They’re bloody good at it. Cars are overturned and set fire to on a whim, it seems. Especially in Paris. But, they have their priorities quite correct. No striking, or demonstrating during the hours of 12 mid-day, and 2pm. That’s lunchtime, see? If there’s one thing that the French WILL stop for – it’s lunch. They’re good at that too. Everything grinds to an inexhorable halt for two hours each day. Except Sunday, when France is closed anyway. Oh, and Mondays too. Because if they work on a Saturday, they haven’t had a weekend, so Monday becomes Sunday. So we’re closed. Thankyou. Oh, and except if there’s a bank holiday somewhere in between Monday & Friday, in which case we’ll close for a week. Perhaps two.

As awful as it may sound to many of our EU neighbours, well ok, just the Brits then, it’s actually not all that bad. You get used to it, and it’s quite reassuring on a Sunday to hear the blast of the siren from the nearby Station de Secours in Vernoil announcing that France is closed. That’s it mesdames et messieurs, if you haven’t got it now, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get it. Yes, madame l’anglaise, that’s a whole 21 hours until opening time tomorrow. Sorry, but it’s time for lunch. Off you go, merci…..

Anyway, back to these mushrooms. I proudly presented my basket of ‘shrooms to Bernard & Mauricette, who looked knowingly at one another, and smiled in that way that they have when about to launch into an explanation of how les anglais just aren’t French enough to engage in such pastimes. Sure enough, the first thing Bernard said was. ‘Tu va mourrir’. Google it.

shrooms

Ceps de Sapin, Ceps proper, chantrelles and 'merde'!

The very next thing was ‘champignons de merde’. Now, you don’t need to Google that. Everyone knows what ‘merde’ means in English, right? He looked me straight in the eye (with a twinkle, I saw it….) and smiled. I did the right thing, bringing my haul to him. Because he knows about these things. Apart from being a hunter/gatherer (as is his Dieu-given right as a Frenchman), he’s been at it a goodly portion of his life, learning from his grandfather, and his father about the land, and what you can & can’t take from it. So, he proceeded to inform me that I’d done ok (for an anglais), but these were ‘ceps de sapin’. Quite different from the ceps he’d provided me with. It’s easy to see the difference once you have both examples in front of you. They’re edible, he tells me, but greater care has to be taken, as they can give you a nasty stomach. The smaller ones, the chantrelles, he delighted in telling me were ‘superbe’, and did I remember the omelettes we had at their place a few years back? That was an omelette de chantrelle. So, I was redeemed. I’d managed to pick two proper ceps, worthy of Mauricettes admiring glances and clucking noises, and a handfull of chantrelles that were ‘superbe’.

So, after dissecting my haul, Bernard duly cracked a bottle of decent red and we chinked glasses to the smell of Mauricette’s crock pot of ‘pot au feu’, simmering away on the stove. We chatted about this and that, joined by another neighbour and friend, Jacques. The ‘grève’ was discussed at length, as was the apple fair at Mouliherne the weekend just gone. Mauricette had had a good day on Sunday, selling ceps and chataignes to all and sundry. She regaled me with the tale of an English family, buying just 4 tiny ceps from her, just ‘to have a try’. Mauricette attempted to tell them how best to prepare, cook & eat them, but there was a slight communication problem. But, she said, they were very happy.

I suppose that says it all really?

Here’s a few piccies I took while out foraging in the forest with Syb & the dog.

Shrooms

Fly agaric. Not too bad if you eat just one, but more is not advised!

shrooms

They're very pretty though, especially so in the evening light.

shrooms

No idea what these are, but I thought they just looked lovely, grouped like this.

So, it really does pay to be sure that you’ve collected the right mushrooms, and not ‘champignons de merde’! If in doubt, see your best friend, who must be French, have a moustache and a wicked glint in his eye, and keep good red wine. Failing that go to your nearest pharmacie. They’ll have someone on hand to say yay or nay, and hopefully tell you that, for un anglais, you’ve done ok!

If you can’t find anyone to ask, they’re either at lunch, or on strike at the moment. Don’t worry, ditch the mushrooms, open a bottle of wine and wait. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2010

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Ceps.

Two days ago, our friend Bernard brought us a huge basket of ceps that he and Mauricette had gathered in the forests locally. These are possibly (after truffles, obviously) the most sought after mushroom in France. Yes we’d heard of them, even seen them for sale on the market stalls in Saumur, but never actually tasted them, let alone prepared them for eating. Once again, Bernard has been instrumental in introducing us to another facet of country life, here in France.

 

Ceps

Just look at that!

 

His method is a good one. Here it is:

With a sharp knife, peel the skin from the stalks, then cut off around 2cms from the base to get rid of the forest debris. Peel the skin very delicately from the surface of the cep. Some folks choose to leave this on, but Bernard says it can taste a bit funny. Turn the cep upside down and lift off the green underside, revealing a greeny/white flesh. Then cut the whole thing into 2cm morsels starting at the base, and working up to the chapeau. Wash carefully in a colander to get rid of any stray bugs/maggots. Place in a large saucepan or ‘marmite’. Over a very low flame, cook for an hour. Do not add any water. Drain off over a colander. Then fry the ceps in a little butter for 5-10 mins until just brown. Not too much. This gives you a great flavour, but if you want, you could add onions, or a little garlic, or even a bit of basil whilst frying. Au nature is best though, with fresh crusty pain, buttered of course, and a glass of spicy red wine!

Enjoy! 😉

 

Ceps.

Fried in butter after careful preparation, the cep is simply gorgeous!

 

Until the next time,

Au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2010

 

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One of the things we do in the winter is work hard on the things that make this place a better place to visit for our guests in the summer. It really is like having a full-time job, what with researching useful links with other businesses, trying to forge new and interesting relationships with people in similar lines of work, and generally building on what we already offer. I must admit I enjoy it, I find it refreshing to see different ways of offering the same thing, and I get excited when someone offers to share these things with us.

Here’s a point in case. Our friend Gérald visited Le Chant d’Oiseau each week last summer to offer our guests a unique insight into his domaine’s wines. It’s not simply a case of sniffing & guzzling each wine in turn, nodding appreciatively and on to the next…

What Gérald does is guide you through the process, in English, or French, from the types of soils, to the varietals (the grape used), to how the grapes are actually fermented – not all wines are the same, and how they’re then ‘improved’. There’s been many a time that he’s been sidetracked by interested wine-lovers, by the questions they’ve asked and he’s gladly supplied them with answers. Conversely, there have been so many times that we’ve been asked afterwards if there’s any way to get ‘closer’ to the whole ‘mystery’ of wine-making.

Which brings me neatly on to something we’re pleased to be able to offer this year. I haven’t mentioned it on the website yet, so it’s only readers of the ‘blog, and our Facebook Fan Page that are getting the news so far! Oh, this’ll be syndicated on Twitter too, just as soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button! What Gérald’s decided to do, as well as his weekly wine-tastings here with us, is to offer exclusive tours around some of his own personal favourite wines from his domaine.

This is how it’ll work…

Géralds private wine tour will be an entertaining and informative tour at a well reputed Domaine close to Saumur – where you’ll experience a working vineyard, and learn about as well as sample the Domaines’ exquisite wines whilst discovering what life for a vigneron involves.

Lunch, un buffet campagnard, will conclude your private wine tour & wine tasting.  Comprising of local artisans‘ cuisine and accompanied by a selection of wines, you will have the chance to discuss in greater depth les vins of the Val de Loire with Gérald, whilst relaxing at the delightful ‘Maison du Vigneron’, a charming cottage set amongst the Domaines vines.

The whole experience will last around four hours. It’ll cost just €85 per person, booked through Le Chant d’Oiseau. Now, to me that represents remarkable value. Not only are you in the hands of a respected and knowledgeable local vigneron, you’re also fed! You have your own private guide on hand to ensure you improve on your knowledge of our local wines – among the most respected in the world! The price is based on a minimum of two people attending.

For an extra €5 per person, we’ll take you to the domaine and pick you up when you’ve finished, leaving you to enjoy the day (and the wines) with no travel worries at all!

If this interests you, and we hope it does – please let us know when you’d like to visit Gérald, and we’ll take care of everything for you.

Here’s what one thrilled couple had to say about their day with Gérald.

“A true French experience…..”

“Our wine tour with Gérald was so interesting and informative – so much knowledge!  So much enthusiasm!  We learnt more about wine during our visit than in the last 30 years visiting France

Rose & Jeffery, July’09

We can be contacted by telephone on 0033 241 67 09 78, or by e-mail at info@loire-gites.com.

Until the next time, au revoir!

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2010

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Syb & I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary here in November. We had lunch in this petit resto before moving on to the aerodrome at Saumur, and a surprise flight in a light ‘plane over the Loire, the chateau and our home at Le Chant d’Oiseau!

We’d heard nothing but good reports about the place from guests here, and we’ve always said we’d give it a go ourselves one of these days. We’ve recommended it to others, purely on the strength of guest’s say-so too, without actually trying it for ourselves – naughty, I know! That’s the way it so often happens here though. We’re usually too busy to venture far in the season, and too tired out of season! For our 25th though, I thought that should change!

This restaurant is set back out of town a little way, on the route de Chinon. Just follow the southern bank of la Loire for a while, until you see signs to turn right for the chateau, and then take a left along a cute little ruelle. There it is, on the right. There’s quite a large car park a little further up, which serves the nearby lycée. Or, you can park on the street if it’s not too busy.

Approaching the restaurant, it’d be easy to miss. A very small terrace out front, with billboards either side of the door advertising the menus. We studied for a few moments, the smells of good home-cooking wafting beneath our noses! There was a gaggle of smokers huddled around the door, and they parted to allow us in.

The place is a gem.  We instantly loved it – the feel of the place, and its ambiance. This was a lunchtime, so many places were taken by office workers, fonctionnaires and probably teachers from the lycée just a couple of hundred yards away. The décor inside is a mixture of tastes and styles. Everything’s a jumble, but for us it works really well. there are things to look at, to point to and to generally stimulate good conversation. Essentially, food & good conversation go together like…well, like ‘Food & Drink’! Old crates were stacked to one end of the room, above a gantry which, I surmised was above the kitchen. These crates had corks from untold numbers of wine bottles overflowing here and there. There were ironwork baskets hanging from the ceilings, again filled with corks! Pictures on the walls were of local scenes and the huge blackboard was advertising food in a jumble if hand-written styles, some crossed out (popular) and some added to (newer ingredients?). It all worked really, really well. We felt at home.

We chose our dishes, starters and mains, from the menu, and plumbed for two glasses of local champigny, rather than a bottle. I didn’t know how bumpy the flight was going to be, and the last thing I wanted was for Syb to be airsick! She still didn’t know what I had planned!

We both chose the same starter, simply because we love mushrooms, and this area is famous for them. We chose the ‘galipettes farcies’. Basically, two huge stuffed mushrooms, filled with what can only be described as the tastiest meat filling, but the gravy. Wow! It has to be the tastiest gravy (or sauce) that I’ve ever, ever had. It really was special. This alone was pretty filling, especially given the size of the funghi, and the amount of bread we used to mop up this wonderfully rich, and aromatic gravy.

Syb went for a fish dish, and I a meat one for main. Syb chose the sandre. Locally caught and cooked in a butter sauce. I went for chicken, pan fried in a white wine sauce. Pretty quickly though, the owner, Olivier was back at our table to explain that there was no more zander, and recommending instead another white fish, cooked in a garlic sauce.

No problem, and Syb was happy to go with Olivier’s recommendation. When the mains arrived, I realised that we’d not have long before we needed to make tracks for the aerodrome, and our date with the pilot! So unfortunately we didn’t manage dessert. We did see plenty of them brought out though, and they looked super. The chicken was well cooked, nicely garnished with fresh vegetables, namely haricot verts. There was also a side dish of frites to accompany this, and they were thick, juicy and beautifully done! Syb’s fish, the name of which was almost unpronouncable was served on a bed of couscous, with a garlic sauce ‘moat’. She enjoyed the fish, but the garlic was just a little too overpowering, and spoiled the dish a little.

But overall, we enjoyed our meal here. The service was good, and we took a little time to chat with Olivier at the end of the meal, before we had to dash off.

After finally visiting and sampling the Pot de Lapin, we’d happily recommend it to anyone who stays with us. The ambience, the smells from the kitchen, the setting – in an older part of town, close to the river, and nestled under the escarpment where the chateau sits above, is fantastic. It’s definitely on our list of places we’d like to return to. Unfortunately, there are no pics of the dishes this time, as I’d left the camera in the car. Next time though, I promise I won’t forget!

Until the next time, au revoir!

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2010

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To kick off the new Food & Drink  ‘Patégory’ (sic), I thought I’d do a little review of our daughter and her boyfriend’s restaurant, l’Oeil de Boeuf.

The restaurant’s situated in the small village of Auverse, 7kms north of Mouliherne, so not too far from here. It’s set beside the busy main road that links the cities of Tours & Angers, so it’s very well situated and very easy to find!

The menu du jour is priced at just €10.50, and that includes a pichet of house wine (red or rosé) or a bottle of cider. Water is always available for those who prefer. There’s a good wine list, with a choice of local producers, and most areas of the Loire are covered. There are also a few popular additions from out of department too, like Mouton Cadet from Rothschild, or a champagne from er, Champagne!

The bar’s well-stocked with beers, soft drinks and spirits. There’s a house cocktail which changes each month too!

The menu du jour usually comprises (in winter) a plate of charcuterie, the plat chaud (usually meats with french fries) a very generous cheese board and a dessert. Unusually, the price also includes a coffee to round things off nicely. In summer, there’ll be a salad buffet starter from the saladerie.

On Sundays, there’ll be a Sunday roast! Yes, that most traditional of English meals has finally transferred to France! Hannah & Steve canvassed opinion and it seems that it’s a very welcome addition to the choices on the menu!

The wife & I went to eat chez Hannah & Steve on New Year’s Eve (Réveillon). We knew it would be lovely just to spend a bit of time with our daughter, Hannah and we didn’t really mind about the food so much, just happy to be a part of the opening, as we’d all worked so hard to get it ready. What a fantastic night though! We left shortly after 1am, as Sheila was flagging a little, but there was still plenty of laughter and chat going on. The food was fantastic – the scallops especially were a favourite. The biche was beautiful and the sauce! Wow! I took a few pics to share with you all too…

Amuse Bouche

Served with the house cocktail, a 'pre-starter' if you like. Delicious!

The ‘amuse bouches’ were a chili and prawn with guacamolé, and smoked salmon served on buttered blini. Superb.

Brochettes de St. Jacques

St. Jacques. Scallops by any other name…

These scallops were lovely. When the dish arrived, I thought there was rather too much sauce, but when the scallops were finished, we were calling for more of the crusty french baguette to soak up what was left.!

Déclinaison de Foie Gras

Déclinaison de Foie Gras

This was also a hit with us. There were essentially three different types of foie gras served! There was even a crème brulée, with foie gras. It was superb! the plates looked great and the food tasted as good as it looked!

You’ll have to trust me that the main course and the desserts were as tasty as these three dishes looked. I simply forgot to take pictures! The biche with its sauce ‘grand veneur’ was just lovely. Cooked to perfection, (and I’m picky with meats), and served with a fagot of asparagus and duchesse potatoes.

Farandole de Fromage

Farandole de Fromage Chaud

The cheese dish wasn’t as you’d expect. It was three different cheeses, wrapped in a paper-thin filo pastry and served warm on a bed of salad. The salad dressing was superb, just enough to complement, not overpower the cheese. This was my favourite, though I enjoyed everything that was on offer. With the meal, I ordered a bottle of local St. Nicholas de Bourgueil red. It complimented the main course very well, and also the cheese.

The dessert was again, a mix of different ‘tasters’. Steve makes his own chocolat mousse, and it is soooo tasty! The service, as I explained on the ‘blog wasn’t up to what will be a high standard, as Hannah had been let down by the girl that was meant to work. Instead, Steve’s brother and his girlfriend stepped into the breech. They did a wonderful job in the circumstances and no-one really noticed that they hadn’t had any training whatsoever! Now, they have a regular serveuse, Anne-Emanuelle who’s polite, friendly and super-efficient. In a few weeks, Hannah’s pot comes off and she can then take control of front of house.

All of this cost just €45 per person. Wines and beers were extra.

The restaurant is new, fresh and vibrant. All it needs now is to develop its own ‘character’ and ambiance. That’ll come as the two young owners get to grips with their new surroundings, and their clientele. Hannah & Steve deserve to do well with l’Oeil de Boeuf. They have our 110% support and we hope that many of our guests here at Le Chant d’Oiseau will be tempted by their resto, their themed evenings and by their simple, inexpensive midi menus!

They have a website where the A La Carte menus can be viewed, as well as their upcoming ‘theme’ evenings. Have a look at it here.

You can also become a fan on their Facebook Page. Just click here.

It’s also possible to contact them using the Contact Form on their website, in English. That’s a bonus for those in the area, either on holiday or who’re resident, who may not have the confidence or language skills to book over the ‘phone. A good idea, and a first in this area at least, as far as we know!

Highly recommended when in the area!

Until the next time, au revoir!

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2010

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The first time I met Bernard was round at my mate John’s place. He was there just on the off-chance that a bottle of decent red had been opened. Not much chance of that because John & Mary only drink rubbish…they’re from Bratferd y’see? Anyway, there was indeed a splash or two of passable vin rouge being drunk and I’d just called in to see how they were getting on with a couple of guests we’d sent their way for B&B as we were full. The two English guests were decidedly confused with the level of (loud) French being spoken by John, Mary, Bernard & myself. Bernard becomes very animated when drawn on a subject he knows lots about. Bernard is very knowledgeable about many things – hunting (naturally), local places (naturally), wine (naturally) food (naturally) and many, many other things (er, naturally). He used to be a stonemason, and a pretty good one by all accounts (naturally). I’ve seen the evidence of his work a few times and I have to say I’m extremely impressed. But, on this particular evening we were chatting about hunting. That’s Bernard’s passion in life. His home is one big trophy room with many species of stuffed animal both large and small decorating the walls and shelves wherever you look. The two English guests were fed a translation of the discussion and I knew that one of them owned a local property with a lake attached. The guy in question was stocking the lake with good quality fish and wanted measures in place to ‘detract’ the local heron population from abusing the hospitality of the English lake owners by eating the new arrivals! So, I offered Bernard’s services as their very own gamekeeper! Bernard was thrilled with the prospect of a new place to shoot and after the necessary permissions were set down in black & white, we drank to the success of the venture! (Naturally!)

Quite a few months later, and Bernard and his wife Mauricette, have become regular visitors here at Le Chant d’Oiseau, often bringing large wooden crates stuffed full of the most delicious tasting home-grown produce from their potager, a huge expanse of land behind their home given over to growing all sorts of market garden produce, and very good it is too. They take no money for their stuff, but we sit down instead, have a chat and drink some wine. We often dish up the contents of the gifts from Bernard among our guests.

The first time Bernard & Mauricette came bearing gifts was to present us with the very first duck shot on his new playground! It was beautifully presented fresh for the oven. We accepted this gorgeous gift with saliva glands on overtime. A few days later, while Syb & I were on our way back from an outing, we asked Niall (by telephone) to pop it into the oven for tea. When we arrived home the smell of freshly cooked duck emanating from the farmhouse was delicious! I carved and portioned it out. Niall declined, insisting he wasn’t that hungry. Now, that’s akin to asking what religion the Pope is, or where bears go to the toilet… Niall is ALWAYS hungry. He used to eat for England until we swopped shirts at half-time. He can now eat for France! His appetite is legendary among those that know us well. The lad can’t take a 5 minute car journey to the supermarket without taking along a snack for the journey! he’s always been the same, ever since he was small. He’s no longer small, he’s HUGE, which brings us back to the duck. After reminding him a few more times of the reputation as France’s answer to Desperate Dan, he finally came clean. He couldn’t eat it, as he’d seen the bullet hole when he put the duck in the oven! Bless! So, due homage was paid to Bernard, and his skill with his fusil, and we toasted the poor birds demise with a bottle of red. A fit and proper send off we thought.

We’ve made some good friends here. Both French & English. All of our near neighbours are French, and they’ve been nothing short of welcoming with us. We’ve already told you about the invitation last Easter round at Gérard & Sylviane’s? We’ve also made friends with David Chevallier, the vigneron (very handy, knowing a vigneron) and his brother, Pascal the roofer (not quite as handy as we drink more wine than we build roofs, but still handy all the same…). Nelly et Bruno from the village boulangerie also. They’re lovely, and we’ve looked forward to their visits each morning with the daily delivery of fresh bread. Not just because their bread and pastries are fantastic, but also because they have a real zest for life, they’re what we call ‘Super Sympa’ too. They like the English, especially those that make an effort to chat and build a life here, the same as they do. There’s a few characters that we’ve become friends with in the local bar too. Alain and his wife took over from Miriam at the Café de la Poste after she sold up. The name had to be changed of course as the Post Office moved to the other end of the village, and the old one’s now the creperie. Keep up….the post office isn’t a post office anymore, it’s a restaurant and they’re tired of being asked by little old ladies how much a parcel to Marcel will cost. So, the Café de la Poste is now ‘Le Manureva’. Alain has come to know John & I quite well, as we spend a bit of time in there lately, after working on some project or other. They have opened up a little restaurant to the rear and it’s brilliant! Alain is the most genial bar owner I’ve ever met, and we often can’t get away from the place because he’s insisting on buying another drink for us. I haven’t a clue how he manages to earn a living, because he loses count after a few beers…
I took my Dad, my eldest son and my two brothers in law there a few weeks back and they were stunned! Because Alain was very chatty (although they understood little), and because he kept sending his little son out with plates full of goodies for us. My family couldn’t believe this sort of kindness, so Alain & I explained ‘C’est normale’. When he bought us all a drink after we’d spent quite a few euro with him, my poor old Dad was almost moved to tears! He’d never been bought a pint by a landlord in the Uk in all his years of drinking!

The village has certainly been brought back to life since we’ve been here. The creperie, Alain’s bar, Nathalie & Gilles taking over the small village store have all helped. Even ‘Rocky’ at Le Bar Centrale has smartened up his act and has opened up a small ‘Bistro’ in the back room of his bar. We’re building up to trying it out one of these days. Rocky isn’t really his name, it’s just what we’ve christened him since we heard he was a rock star in a previous life! He’s taken on the role of village entertainments officer where live music’s concerned and he seems to know his stuff! It’s a strange little bar though, and Rocky’s usually to be found asleep in the back. We’ve had to wake him up to be served before. It’s still a fairly friendly place for a beer, even though he & his wife (we think, though no evidence of a ring) seem to be completely bemused by the English, but don’t mind pouring the 1664! There used to be a fairly large restaurant at the end of the village, opposite Rocky’s place called Le Cheval Blanc. It closed down shortly before we came here in August 2005. The good news is though that it’s now up for sale, hopefully with a view to turning it back into a working restaurant/bar again. There’s always room for one more eaterie, after all – this IS France!

Until next time,

Au Revoir.

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2007

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