Tuesday, 30 November 2010

When to Visit the Loire Valley

It is at this time of year we all start planning for next year, and particularly our holidays. If you are reading this blog then you are likely planning a holiday to France and will want to choose the best time of year to visit.

Not many people choose the winter months, because they think the weather will be cold and damp and the days are short. However, February is often one of the most spectacular months, with clear days and bright blue skies that are a photographer's heaven. Spring is a favourite time for many, with gardens bursting into colour again, and orchids and cowslips flowering on the roadsides. Remember that this is the wettest time of year here though and be prepared with a lightweight raincoat for the sudden showers.

In February the light is perfect for
capturing architectural details
Summer is when we get the most reliable weather, usually with dry warm days for weeks on end, but rarely getting unpleasantly hot so air conditioning is not required. Of course, July and August are when most people visit the Loire, so you might like to avoid the crowds and come in the autumn. The countryside is mellow and golden and September rivals May as the most beautiful month to visit.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Being Part of the Community

As relatively recent arrivals to living in a small French town, we like to be involved in community life. Célestine is a great door opener for us.

This year we have been asked again to be involved in Téléthon, the annual television event raising funds for research into muscular distrophy. Our small part in this France wide extravaganza will be driving in convoy around the villages of the area, offering short rides in return for a donation to the cause.

Part of last year's convoy at Chaumussay, Indre et Loire
If you are in France on the first weekend of December you will see groups of cars and bikes from owners clubs driving from town to town, headlights blazing and horns sounding. Give them a wave, and if you see them stopped drop a coin into the collection bucket.

You never know: in exchange you might even have the opportunity to ride in Célestine or one of her sisters.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Cars, Cheese and Chateaux

One of the towns in the Loire Valley area that possibly doesn't receive as many visitors as it deserves is Valençay.

Not only is there a great château at Valençay, there is a really interesting car museum which is sure to appeal to any car lover, and especially people who appreciate a really good fire-engine. The museum also holds a number of car related events during the year: rallies, sales, and conferences.

The area is also home to Valençay wines, which has one of the smallest AOC areas in France of 142 hectares - 350 acres, the size of Hyde Park in London. It will also come as no surprise that Valençay cheese, a soft white pyramid shaped goats' cheese is made in the area. What may surprise some people is that the region is the first in France to hold an AOC for both wine and cheese.

Loire Valley Time Travel offers a one day tour that takes in the museum and château, calling in at wine and cheese producers, as well as lunch in an authentic French working man's restaurant. The tour is all inclusive, but doesn't include the cost of train travel from Paris to Châteauroux. This tour is only available from the middle of March to the middle of November, but please check with us for exact dates.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Café Culture

I think that one thing we all like to try at some stage is sitting at a table in a typical French café, doing some serious people watching.

In small villages cafés appear to be dying out, but luckily they are not completely disappeared. These days the cafés are likely to look less romantic that the one in the photo (and have convenience stores attached) but the coffee is no less good. Call in at the right time of day and they will also have freshly baked croissants from the village baker.

We often start our tours at a café as this gives us a chance to meet our visitors and talk over the day's plans, have a coffee and a bite to eat, and start the day in a relaxed style.

If this sounds like your idea of the start to a special day in the country, email us.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Visiting a Winery

The LVTT team have recently been enjoying some sparkling red wine from Domaine de Rablais, run by the Simoneau family. Célestine's boot (trunk) may not be as capacious as a modern car, but it can certainly hold important cargo such as a couple of boxes of wine. Our guests really enjoy visiting this small family run vineyard, especially during late September and early October, when the harvest and grape pressing is underway.

Sparkling reds are not traditional in the Touraine, so the wine is sold without the Appellation d'Origine Controllée certification. Nonetheless, it's a fun wine to serve for apéro, and we compare it very favourably to the Australian sparkling reds. It's not as heavy, not as syrupy as some of the Australian offerings, and comes across as a nice light red, albeit with bubbles. The Simoneaus are rather pleased with how their little off piste adventure has turned out, and have very sensibly included a decorative metal cap on the cork for the collectors, too.

We plan on attending the Simoneau portes-ouvertes this Saturday (the 27th of November) to try some of the new season's wines. However, the winery can be visited at any time of the year and the staff are enthusiastic about showing our visitors the cellars and winemaking process. Why not book a tour of the chateaux of the Loire and visit the winery with us?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Christmas Special Offer

It's only five weeks until Christmas, and at the moment we are looking at what we can offer our clients for the holiday period.

Many places in France don't close over the holidays: hotels and restaurants remain open, as do some of the chateaux and other tourist sites. Before we came to live in France we would travel here for Christmas to sample the season's foods and visit some of the more popular sites when they are quieter.

This year we are looking to offer two lucky clients a two night Christmas break in the Loire Valley. If you are interested in spending Christmas Day at one of the world's most famous buildings before returning to the warmth of a quality hotel, sampling fine wines and gourmet foods, email us.

Depending on the itinerary (and hotel/restaurants) chosen the cost will be about €1800 for two people. This includes all expenses excluding travel to the Loire Valley.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bon Rapport de Qualité et Prix

French people will often recommend a restaurant by telling you it is a bon rapport de qualité et prix. It may not be cheap (although often it is) but the important thing is that it delivers a good quality for a fair price.

We like to offer the same approach. You won't see four chateaux in a day with us, but you will see a couple and be able to take time learning about what makes them special. In between chateaux we are able to visit smaller sites along the way - pre-historic burial mounds, memorials to the French Resistance of WW2 - because we never plan an itinerary that means we have to spend all day rushing from place to place.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Touraine in Autumn

Don't disregard the cooler months when you are planning a visit to France. Autumn in the Touraine (the heart of the Loire Valley) is a lovely gentle time, with the trees turning golden and tawny, every now and then with a spectacular red to provide a focus point. The wooded hillsides and rural roads are slipping into their winter slumber, but there are still a few wild flowers on the verges and conditions are perfect for all sorts of mushrooms to pop up.

Although the days are shorter at this time of year, if you stay in a well appointed gite you can come home to a cosy sofa in front of a log fire and your favourite comfort food in the evening, relaxing with a glass of the local red.

Contact us for further information about the attractions of the Touraine in Autumn and recommended places to stay. These range from cottages in the countryside to medieval castles in small villages and elegant townhouses in historic towns.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Welcome to our Blog

Here at Loire Valley Time Travel we have been really busy, so we thought we would take this chance to set up a blog to share some of the things we have done and some of our upcoming events.

Last week we hosted visits by an Australian, a Frenchwoman, and an Englishman.

On Thursday night we visited La Bûche Pizza Restaurant in La Roche Posay, on Friday we visited the château at Montrésor, the pretty riverside town of Montrichard and the Simoneau winery in St Georges sur Cher, and on Saturday we spent the day in and around Loches.

Célestine at Montrichard

This coming weekend we will be visiting the open day (portes-ouvertes) at Huilerie Lepine, Availles en Châtellerault.