Holiday Homes In France
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Holiday Homes In France
The Pays de la Loire region in Western France
Nantes is the capital of this region of France and stands at the mouth of the River Loire upstream from La Baule, a popular coastal town with a vast beach, cafes, bistros and casinos. Nantes is a city with everything you would expect of a modern town, a mixture of old and new with a lovely old quarter with lovely 18th century mansions and narrow winding streets with half timbered medieval houses. The Ducal Castle was where the Edict of Nantes was signed in 1598, giving freedom of religious belief to non Catholics in France, and houses two museums. Don't miss the Talensac market, open every day.
The Muscadet and Gros Plant vineyards begin on the outskirts of the Nantes and lie mainly to the south. To the east, is the old town of Ancenis, surrounded by several village vineyards and a historic town in its own right. Visits to individual vineyards are welcomed.
Angers is about thirty miles along the river from Ancenis and is dominated by its great castle. A herd of fallow deer live in part of the moat and there is a fine collection of tapestries on display. The town itself has many beautiful carved timbered buildings dating from the 15th century. Nearby there are several chateaux to visit, Serrant, to the west on the N23, is one of the finest in the Loire.
Saumur is at the heart of the Anjou vineyard area and the home of the famous riding school, the Cadre Noir, founded by Louis XV. Just outside Saumur is St-Hilaire-St-Florent, the best place to taste some of the Anjou wines. There is a quirky museum devoted to wild mushrooms and the National Riding School is next door to this. The English Kings Henry II and Richard the Lionheart are buried at Fontevraud near Samur.
Food plays a central part in family and social life in the Western Loire and the larder is one of the richest in France. Fish from the Atlantic, shellfish from the estuary and freshwater fish from the rivers. Fresh and simple dishes like gravette, a sweet flat oyster, near the coast and in the western part of the Loire; lamproie, an eel like fish caught in the estuaries and cooked in walnut oil; grilled chard, tench, or carp, with a sorrel sauce; friture de la Loire, small fish caught in the Loire and deep fried, served with lemon.
There are good fish stews such as conger eel and white fish cooked in garlic and white wine with potatoes and matelote, different freshwater fish with onions, mushrooms and wine. As you travel through the region, fish dishes give way to meat and game, pork with plums and cream, stuffed cabbage with hare, partridge with wild mushrooms. Vegetables are used in abundance, a variety of salads and charcuterie, potato cake, duckling with tiny fresh peas and baby turnips, pumpkin pie, asparagus.
The people of the Loire have a very sweet tooth and tarts and pies, using local fruits, figure prominently. Clafoutis is a batter cake stuffed with cherries, which used to be served to the pickers during the grape harvest and there are baked apples and jam, pancakes and fritters and excellent cheesecakes.
Varieties of cheese to look for made from goat, ewe or cow's milk include: Bondaroy au Foin, a soft cow's milk cheese with a tangy flavour, cured in hay, Chabichou Fermier, a strong cone shaped goats cheese, Crémet, is a mild creamy cheese, often eaten as a dessert with jam or fruit. Olivet Bleu, is a rich blue cheese, wrapped in plane tree leaves, and there are numerous others.
As always, it is worth hunting out small village restaurants, or making friends, and with luck, being invited to someone's house to dine.
Good swimming and sailing on the coast and hire boats on the inland rivers. There is excellent fishing, particularly in the Mayenne. Holiday permits can easily be arranged through local tourist offices or tackle shops.
Buggy racing, le trot, is a favourite country sport in the Mayenne and lots of fun. It is great riding country too and horses can be hired at local stables for an hour, a day, or for several days throughout the region. Families with children are welcomed and well catered for. Superb golf courses, particularly around La Baule, are easily accessible and inexpensive.
There are markets in all towns and villages on different days of the week and a succession of festivals and events throughout the year.
A maritime climate, generally warm in spring with temperatures often reaching 30 plus degrees through the summer extending into late autumn.
Regional airports: Nantes, Angers and Laval. The airport at Tours is about an hour from Angers.
There is a TGV service from Paris to La Croisic, via Le Mans (55 minutes), Angers (90 minutes) and Nantes (2 hours) with connections to all other main destinations in the Western Loire.