St. Florent Le vieil

Today I drove a few miles south, across the Loire in search of an ancient church and abbey. I drove and walked around the town, but couldn’t figure out where it was. I just now read that it was burned during the Revolution and reconstructed. Here is what I found.

No biggie. It was just an excuse for an excursion and another fabulous lunch. Carpaccio with Parmesan (ok, not French but delish). Pieces of duck in a duck reduction. Ok, maybe too much gray on the plate with roasted potatoes and mushrooms, but Ellie and I both enjoyed. Dessert was included (as was wine, for €15) so I forced myself to finish a cake of sabayon with berries on a cookie crust. With whipped cream! Time now for a sieste. 

ellie ignoring Loire view

Home Tuesday if there is no perturbation, as the French call anything that can make life difficult. 

Bluebeard’s castle

On the main road into Angers, I have often passed the ruins of a castle in Champtocé. It turns out to be the birthplace of Gilles de Rais, whom many think was the inspiration for Charles Perreau’s Bluebeard tale. The real Gilles was hanged, not for murdering his wives (he only had one) but for murdering hundreds of children. What I didn’t know until I read the plaque was that he was an officer in Joan of Arc’s army and helped retake Orleans. 

I had gone to Champtocé for lunch at a lovely old moulin next to the ruins. The lunch was only ok, but it was very reasonably priced and a delightful setting.

Fuel strike

Yes, there is definitely a problem here. I had arranged to meet my hosts, Fabrice and Nathalie, in Angers for lunch. Fabrice left me a message this morning that there was fuel available at a single station in angers if I got there soon. Until then, I hadn’t really paid much attention, but on my drive into Angers (about 20 miles) not a single gas station was open. After lunch (sorry, just a burger for me, not really wanting the head cheese Fabrice ordered), Nathalie accompanied me to the gas station. Good thing because it was automated and my American credit card doesn’t work in those (no pin code).  So I have a full tank but am not sure I can find more on my way back to Paris. Hope so. Apparently there is also an incipient strike of nuclear facilities which could cut off all the electricity in France. Hope not before I leave. 

After lunch I drove (!) about 15 miles to meet a Facebook acquaintance and his family. They are coming to New York for 5 days in July and he asked me to look at his plans. He had tried to squeeze in every possible sight, from Harlem to Brooklyn. I advised him to cut it by a third (at least). He also introduced me to the dessert wines of Layon, which are delicious. 

Received a fun comment from my cousin, Carol, which I’ll share. “Your postings have been wonderful except I think I’ve gained weight just reading about the food!”

Return to reality

You may not be hearing much from me for my last week in France for lack of interesting things to report. Edward left sunday and the last 2 days Ellie and I have been in a routine. Late wake up, piddle around the morning, go to lunch in some small village nearby. The food is quite good here, and relatively healthy, with a lot of local farms providing fresh veggies (I have chard growing in the garden). Yesterday I had a hangar steak with foie gras sauce. Today it was a duck pate en croute. And I’ve been stopping in patisseries as well. Since I am not exercising, expect to see a blimp when I return. 

Wine touring

For the past 2 days, Edward, Ellie and I have set out for a destination and have gotten sidetracked. Yesterday, we were headed for the Routes des Vins d’Anjou (the local specialty). We stopped at a random winery en route and had a tasting. It was ok, not great, but the proprietor was nice and recommended a restaurant in nearby Chalonnes. Where we had a 3-hour feast: mussels followed by salmon for Edward, chèvre salad and steak for me and Ellie. It was now about 3 pm and we decided to drive home for a nap. 

Today we set out with even more grandiose expectations-the abbey of Fontevry where Henry II (who was duc d’Anjou as well as king of England) and Eleanor of Aquitaine are buried. After driving for 1 1/2 hours, we realized we would not arrive before the 12 noon lunch closing. So we pressed on to our secondary destination–Bourgeuil.

Bourgeuil wine is not well known in the US. In fact, I first heard of it when I was served by friends in Nice. I also drank a bottle in a restaurant on ile de Ré. Both Edward (who had encountered it before) and I were impressed by the quality of the wine and wanted to visit the source.

We did a tasting of 5 different bottles at a Cave in the town, with the intention of visiting a few more wineries after lunch. But we wandered around town without finding a place to eat. Here I am asking some random passerby for a recommendation, under a road sign for 3 famous wine towns. 

We finally ended up in a grill where we had good burgers and frites and I ordered a glass of Borgeuil. We were both blown away by the wine, which was the best we had tasted. The restaurant gave us directions to the winery where I bought a 5 liter box (!) of the same wine, which worked out to about $3 a bottle. 

the winery and its hound. ellie stayed in the car.

And we are enjoying it as I write. Well worth the 150 mile round trip drive. 

Château d’Angers 

Edward and I went into Angers this morning where we met our host, Fabrice, who took us to a fabulous local market. As I write this, Edward is cooking up some mushrooms he bought there to go atop ravioli we bought, some stuffed with shrimp and others with spinach and ricotta. Drinking local Loire wines. What a feast. 

In the afternoon, we went to the Chateau d’Angers, an impressive fortress/castle of the ducs d’Anjou, dating to the 13th century. 

Inside the castle, there are extraordinary tapestries from the 14th century, illustrating the book of Apocalypse with the devil and his minions associated with the English forces in the 100 years war. The gallery was dimly lit, so I downloaded this selection. 

After more than an hour closely examining the tapestries while the audio guide explained the symbolism, I was exhausted. We cut our visit short, came home to a waiting Éllie, and took a long nap. 


I picked Edward up in Nantes today. He took me to a restaurant he knew, celebrated for its art nouveau decor.  

Then we came back to our farm, where the sheep were happy to see us. After a light supper on the terrace, Edward built us a fire. A

Magic kingdom

That is not Disneyland. It is the Chateau de Chaumont-sur- Loire, a 15th century castle that belonged to Catherine de Medici, among others. We were there to see, not the castle, but the gardens, which host an international competition each year of a variety of horticultural designs on a designated theme.  This year’s theme is “Gardens from the coming century” with 24 sites of around a 1/4 acre each. Everything from plastic composting plantings to post-apocalyptic shelter. Quite imaginative and very interesting. 

My hosts, Nathalie and Fabrice, invited me to join them on this road trip, which took me nearly 5 hours round-trip. It is their house I’m staying in while they are in their home in Angers.  In all, I traveled much of the Loire valley from west of Angers to close to Blois.