Friday, 25 March 2011

Oh What a Beautiful Day!

The 2011 season got off to a fine start for us yesterday, with the loveliest weather imaginable - bright warm sunshine, a light breeze and deep blue skies. Our first clients for the year were Michael, Terri and Sarah, a charming family from Pennsylvania, and we were delighted to be able to show them Loches and Chenonoceau in virtually perfect conditions.

After visiting the church of Saint Ours, where the lovely Agnès Sorel is buried, and the Logis Royale where she lived, we meandered down through medieval Loches to the Gerbe d'Or for a superb lunch of shrimp salad, steak with blue cheese sauce and citrus fruits in jelly accompanied by a local Gamay red wine.

Relaxed and happy in the sun, Terri and Sarah ham it up a bit
with Célestine, while we wait for Michael to find his prehistoric souvenir.
Michael was particularly interested in the prehistoric dolmen we stopped at on the way to Chenonceau and he spent some time intently peering at the ground hoping against hope to find a piece of worked flint. Not far away, the Chateau of Chenonceau was a big hit with daughter Sarah, who is studying Renaissance art at college.

The final stop before catching the train back to Paris was Chateau Gaudrelle, a magificently sited wine cave in Vouvray. Terri left her email address with them, because they are now working with a wine merchant in the US to deliver their wine to American customers.

All in all, just about the perfect day in the Loire.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

How we choose a Restaurant

You may have noticed in some of our posts about our tours (and on the Loire Valley Time Travel website) we refer to "workingman's restaurants" and wondered what we mean by this.

In many parts of France lunch is the biggest meal of the day, which makes life difficult for artisans who are working away from their workshop, or who are always working on site. In order to cater for these people, many restaurants specialise in three or four course lunches aimed specifically at people like roofers, plumbers, stonemasons, many of whom who dine at restaurants every lunchtime.

The meals may be inexpensive, but
the surroundings can surprise
These meals are incredibly good value, and are often made from top quality ingredients, prepared and presented skilfully and served with wine. We take great care in selecting where we take you to dine (it involves many lunchtimes of research) so we are confident you will enjoy your 90 minutes eavesdropping the chatter and banter that accompanies any meal in these restaurants.

If you would like to join us for lunch, email us, and experience a part of everday life in France.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A Friday Mystery

"Roll up, roll up, step right this way"... anyone who owned "Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band" will recognise we are talking about magical mystery tours.

Loire Valley Time Travel's mystery tour is available only on Fridays, and concentrates on places in the immediate vicinity of Tours. Sit back in Célestine's lounge room like back seat and relax while the surprises keep coming.

No photos of the destinations -
that would ruin the mystery!
Being close to Tours doesn't mean a lack of chateaux - on this tour we visit two historic buildings: one chateau has links to the biggest scandal of the 1930s, whilst the other was the home of the greatest of all French renaissance poets. Along the way we will see three of the major rivers of the Loire basin: the Loire, the Cher and the Indre.

The cost for this tour is € 380 for two people starting in Tours. If you would like to be surprised, email us.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Rillettes de Tours

Ask anyone who grew up in the Touraine what their favourite local dish is and they will say rillettes de Tours (pulled pork terrine). Everyone is delighted that this regional delicacy has recently been awarded Indication Geographique Protegee certification. This means the authentic dish can only be made within a certain geographic area around Tours.

It is made from pork cooked slowly for many hours which is then pulled into strands by hand, mixed with simple seasonings and local Vouvray white wine then pressed into a terrine, all according to an age old recipe. Sometimes it is served scooped from a large terrine, sometimes it comes in little round pots. Real gourmands, like Balzac, who affectionately dubbed it 'brown jam', eat it with a spoon straight from the pot, although in restaurants it will be served with toast. Last year 300 tonnes were made by the 20 local certified artisanal producers. With the new certification guaranteeing quality and authenticity, the producers are confidently expecting sales to double in the future.

If you think this sounds delicious (it's a great alternative if you don't like liver patés) and would like to sample some yourself, please email us and we will design a day that includes gourmet treats.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spring is almost with us

This year holds the promise a wonderful spring: last year the weather was unseasonably cool until June, but this year the sun is already out and the plants are really starting to grow.

We have an orchard which is managed to make the most of the wild orchids of the area, and it looks like this year we will have even more orchids than last year. Already we have signs of over 300 plants. There is a substantial colony of Early Spider Orchids (Ophrys sphegodes), which will be the first to flower, along with Lady Orchids (Orchis purpurea). Some weeks later, Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) and Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) should start to flower in nearly as great a number.

Bee Orchid
Last year there was also a single tiny specimen of Greater Butterfly Orchid (Plantathera chlorantha) which we are hoping will have spread its seed. The roadsides also have substantial orchid colonies, so in the space of two hours it is not unusual to see 10 or 12 different orchid species.

Luckily, at Loire Valley Time Travel we have a nature and wildlife expert: Susan is a trained Field Taxonomist. If you are visiting the Loire Valley or South Touraine and would like to take an orchid walk with Susan, email us to arrange a "follow my leader" tour. These walks are available in May and June (and late April or early July if the season is favourable) for groups of 2-6 people. All of the sites are privately owned, and in some cases special access has been granted for these walks. The cost is €50 per group .

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A Stylish Taxi Service

I think all of us like the idea of travelling in style. These days it is difficult to find any sort of style in air travel, but the train system in France can still be fast, comfortable and hassle free. For many people the idea of a weekend away where someone else takes the strain is becoming really attractive, and this includes not having to drive yourself everywhere.

Your car awaits - 1950's style in the 21st century

The South Touraine has many attractions that bring millions of tourists to the area every year. It also has miles of unspoiled countryside, amazing wildflowers, forests, and small villages with comfortable and friendly chambres des hotes (B&Bs), hotels and gites. If you travel light and need to get to or from your accommodation, book a station pick up from Châtellerault, Tours or Poitiers. If you have less time to travel but still want to make a stylish entry we can also pick you up from Tours or Poitiers airport. Likewise, if you want to dine out but no one wants to drive, we will pick you up and take you to the restaurant.

We can reserve accommodation with one of our partners, book restaurants, and advise the best methods for getting to this beautiful unspoiled part of France for a weekend or longer. Email us for more information.