Thursday, 15 November 2012

Le Puy à Vins - Bienvenue Romain, Marie et David

With items on the menu such as : Cuisse de canard confit maison, pommes de terre sautées, ail et persil, Parmentier de boeuf avec chips de céleri, ou Financier vanille, cuit minute, sauce chocolate et glace noix, one would be forgiven for thinking we were dining in a swanky Parisian bistro. So how lucky we are to welcome chef David Beaufreton to our local village of Le Puy Notre Dame.

Under the new ownership of Romain and Marie Amblard Le Puy à Vins has had a facelift, created a menu to die for (lunch and dinner) and revamped the wine list to include many of our local favourite producers. 

An amazing 'Menu de Jour' at lunchtime from 13 euros Entrée/Plat or Plat/Dessert or 16 euros for the whole shabang features imaginative dishes such as Lamb Tagine with couscous.

Or how about a Tartine Fromage for starters...

....and a delcious Tarte de Banane for dessert

An even more sophisticated evening menu is offered with à la carte dining and the restaurant is open lunchtime and dinner except for Sunday when it is closed so that David and his team can have a well earned rest.

Wines feature many of the local Le Puy Notre Dame producers including many of our friends from Chateau de Fosse Seche, Les Noades, Melaric, Domaine de la Paleine and L'Echantoir to name but a few. You'll be sure to find something to suit your taste either by the glass or bottle.

David brings a kitchen full of new flavours to Le Puy having trained at The Box Tree in Ilkley and working as a chef in Rabat and Marrakech. We keep having to go back every week to see what is new on the menu!

Le Puy à Vins is only 5 minutes from La Grande Maison by car and a great location to walk to across the vineyards during the summer months. Cheese plates and charcuterie are also available with a glass of wine if you don't have time for the whole menu - but I am sure you will!

Le Puy à Vins on Facebook

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

On the Loire...

Where Go the Boats?

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating -
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Robert Louis Stevenson 13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894

Monday, 3 September 2012

Dine like Kings or Queens in the Loire Valley, France

Read our blog for September on Furtherafield

Now is a great time to think about travel to the Loire Valley because from late September to the end of October the grape harvest will be in full swing. In this guest blog, wine experts, Sue and Micaela, of the La Grande Maison gay friendly guest house share their Loire Valley highlights with us, and if you visit who knows you might even get the chance to pick up a pair of secateurs and join in with the ‘vendange’.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

In Deep Water ! (but obviously not deep enough....)

La Loire, longest river in France and probably the most capricious. Winding it's way north over 1000 km's from the Massif Central to Orleans where it then cuts west and heads out to the Atlantic Ocean. Shallow in summer and often in full flood during the winter she is tricky to navigate in any season.

So the first challenge was to get La Sterne off her winter mooring in the Port of Le Thoureil. A bit of a tight squeeze but with a few reverse thrusts of the engine we edged our way slowly out into the current.

We left the port of Le Thoureil in sun but although the forecast looked good there were ominous clouds on the horizon.

The river was beautiful, calm and as smooth as ice as we made our way past St Maur's and the little port of La Menitré.

"There is plenty of water at the moment" - everyone had advised us before our trip. But still we felt safe knowing we had taken copies of the flow of the river and it's sandbanks on google maps. Cunningly storing them on the iPad we had devised a sort of marine offline GPS!

Safely navigating the waters under the bridge at St Mathurin, always a challenge as the current speeds up here and spits you out the otherside!

Direction La Bohale and pretty clear sailing so far with lowest reading of 1.1 metres on the depth sounder at the shallowest points. We need a minimum draft of 0.60m to clear the sands. So at this point we are still feeling pretty chipper. That was until we hit the sandbank. The 'sonder' had been reading 1.2m ish but it was already too late (And, no, we weren't waving to friends on the shore) as we grounded 6 tons of 'toue cabanée' into the sand at a depth of only 0.20m of water. No amount of pushing with poles and gaffes was going to free her. We were well and truly stuck.

There aren't many boats out on the Loire at this time of year. Usually how lucky were we to find the gabare, La Nonchalante, making her way up stream to her winter mooring in St Hilaire-St Florent. Somehow their noble crew managed to miraculously navigate the shallows and after several attempts holding her off against the current managed to throw us a line. Within seconds we were pulled off the sandbank and floating free. The crew of La Nochalante are probably still waiting in the bar for the drink we owe them but we never made it back that evening.

Hail and dark clouds descend as La Nochalante follows us back up stream. La Sterne was struggling against the current with a blocked filter full of sand and soon an alarm was going off in the cabin signaling engine problems.

Don't panic we'll just take a few photos of rainbows and hope the alarm stops ;) - no seriously it was time to moor up and sort out the problem before the engine completely exploded.

We managed to come alongside the quay in St Mathurin and moor up. Time to take stock and let the adrenalin levels subside for a moment. In fact let's stop here the night and sort the engine out in the morning in a calm manner. We like this idea as there are a couple of good restaurants in St Mathurin and we were ready for a glass of wine!

Took some amazing riverside strolls and watched the sunset over 'La Loire.'

Idyllic place to stop for the night with the boat well protected out of the current.

We were greeted by the most amazing sunrise the next morning over the bow of the boat.

Whilst Sue enjoyed a cup of tea all warm and cosy in the bunk.....

....I pretended to know what I was doing to fix a Yamaha 50cv engine!

Clear blue skies but the wind is getting very cold.

Having effected the engine repairs by un-blocking the filter and adding more oil to the engine (just in case this might help) we decided we would head back to port at Le Thoureil. The forecast was about to turn nasty and we didn't want to risk getting stuck so we started to head for home.

Back in home waters and sailing round the Ile de Baure.

Returning back to the Port waters starting to get a little choppy.

Pheeew just got La Sterne back on her mooring in time for the snow to start falling.

Getting chilly!

We managed to track down La Nochalante in the snow a fews days later and left a case of wine on board. Our thanks go out to the crew for helping us out of what could have been a long cold wait in the middle of the Loire had they not been passing by and willing to help us out.

If you want to experience life on the Loire in warmer conditions then why not join us on one of our Boat & Wine Tours. More details can be found on the link here. Happy Sailing!!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Wine & Boat Tour 1 Day - Weekend Break from Paris to the Loire Valley

New from April 2012 we are offering an exclusive Private Wine & Boat Tour
1 day Tour - 2 night stay package

Experience the romance of the majestic Loire River with our 1 day Wine & Boat Tour on a Traditional Loire Barque. We spend the morning wine tasting at the sparkling wine houses in St Hilaire St Florent (Ackermans, Veuve Amiot, Langlois Chateau or Bouvet Ladubay) before taking a delicious picnic along the river banks of the Loire.

In the afternoon we sail from the pretty port of Le Thoureil on an authentic Loire Wooden Boat. Enjoy an aperitif as we glide past the riverside villages spotting bird & wildlife along the way. Relax on board & watch the river flow by.

Our 1 day Traditional Loire Barque & Wine Tour is an exclusively private 1 day Tour for you and your friends and offers you the opportunity of a quick weekend break away in the Loire Valley. An ideal way to take a short break out of the city whilst visiting Paris. Why not combine visiting the wineries and experiencing the beauty of the river at the same time. You will get to see hidden corners of the Loire not usually accessible by road.

All you need do is arrive - we’ll take care of the rest!

Weekend and Weekday Tours run with dates available on request.**

The 2 night stay includes the following :

You will be met at your chosen airport/station and whisked away to La Grande Maison in the heart of the vineyards. 
Or come by car so you can transport your wine home! Drive to La Grande Maison or fly to Tours Airport in the Loire Valley from Stansted and we’ll be there to collect you. Or take the train from London/Paris to Angers (Eurostar/TGV) or to Saumur.*

On arrival you have the chance to sample your first local wine as our welcome drink whilst we lead you through the next days itinerary and explain a little about the local region and it’s grape varieties.

 Once you have settled in you will have chance to go walking in the vines or even go for a bike ride before dinner.

The kitchens at La Grande Maison provide deliciously creative menus using fresh produce direct from our own organic potager. You have the opportunity to sample the local wines with the Wine Sampling Supper on your first evening at La Grande Maison.

After a yummy breakfast we head off down to the port of St Hilaire St Florent to our wine tasting and tour provided at one of the Sparkling Wine Houses listed above (still wines also included). There is a picnic lunch at the end of the tasting by the banks of the beautiful Loire River.

After lunch we make our way to Le Thoureil where our wooden boat awaits to take us on a leisurely cruise of the Loire River. If conditions are right we might even get the sail up or have chance to row over the shallows. The area is so rich in history and culture that we always throw a little sight seeing in along the way too.

We return you back to La Grande Maison where you will be greeted with tea/coffee and biscuits in the stunning gardens and have time to relax before being taken to a local restaurant in the evening. 

A not to be missed tour of the caves and tunnels at La Grande Maison awaits you after breakfast the next day. Then time to relax in the glorious gardens before being returned to your chosen departure point. SO EASY! 

The Prices :

The Traditional Loire Barque & Wine Tour 1 day :

495 euros per person (minimum 2 persons)* if you arrive in your own car

565 euros per person (minimum 2 persons)* if you require station/airport collection (includes Saumur Station/Angers Station/Tours Station or Airport - others please ask)

Includes 2 nights stay on a Bed and Breakfast basis at La Grande Maison with a Wine Sampling Supper on the first evening of arrival. Wine tour, picnic and boat trip also included.

*other travel options maybe available please ask

**availability subject to weather and river conditions. In cases where we are unable to take the boat out then the tour will be taken in our wine tour vehicle.
Additional days/nights available on request


Kirsty Lang of BBC Radio 4 says about our Wine Tours - “How wonderful to be able to drink 29 different wines in the space of one weekend and console yourself with the fact that it's educational as well as pleasurable - heavenly from the first to the last drop. Our hosts not only provided great food and fascinating lessons in viniculture but were excellent company too. We shall be back!”