I thought it was about time that I told you about my lovely food memories from my holidays in the Loire Valley in France. The Loire is about five hours drive south into France and slightly to the west side. It hugs ‘The Loire’ a stunning river that is the longest in France. The part where we stay near Saumur is dotted with chateaux and vineyards, and chalky white buildings.
As a child I used to go to the south of France with my family every May half term, but the Loire is a relatively new discovery and N and I have been twice. I never thought I would want to return to the same place, what with holidays being so rare and costly, and there being so many places to visit, but last summer we knew that we wanted to go back for a second time. We ended up in the Loire after I found this pretty little campsite on an internet search – Le Chant D’Oiseau.
Many of our holidays are chosen by beautiful places to stay – we find somewhere that we think “we’d really like to stay there” and then we look at what the areas like, then off we go. We are now good friends with the English family that run Le Chant D’Oiseau and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a home-away-from-home; a relaxing retreat; or a safe, family-friendly site. They also have really nice gites if you want a few more luxuries.
N and I camp. I am currently of the mind that France is the only place I’m really happy to camp, as the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be nice during the summer hols. A fair weather camper, is me.
Going back for a second year meant that we knew quite a few places that we liked, and it was nice to know that we sort of knew our way around a bit. However, since the first time we went my passion for all things edible has increased so now most of the holiday was based around food – markets, lunch, dinner, local food production etc. I have to remind myself that it’s N’s holiday too and that he might like to do something other than trek round France looking for a small village that produces poires tapées…
Poires tapées is a unique way of preparing pears (and apples – pommes tapées) from a village called Rivarennes. The pears are scalded and peeled before they are cleaned and put into a furnace. From my understanding, the furnace is there to dry the pears out, not cook them. A couple of days later the pears are pressed using an unusually wooden device called a ‘platissoire’ that presses them flat, hence the ‘tapées’ part.
In Rivarennes we went to a small cottage where they used to make poires tapées and watched a short video on its history, and then got to try some of the products they make with the pears. We were given a whole pear that had been rehydrated in red wine…blimey it was strong and I only managed to nibble at mine (I’m not a red wine drinker). Then they gave us these little bowls with diced dry pear – each bowl had a different variety of pear and it was really interesting to taste the differences between the varieties. My favourite was the funny sounding Queue de Rat.
So where else did our food travels in the Loire take us… Well, we fell in love with two pretty towns right on the banks of the Loire – Montsoreau…
We ended up spending a large part of our holiday here, whether it be wandering the quiet streets of Candes-Saint-Martin and dreaming of living in some of the stunning houses, or sitting up on top of the huge hill that overlooked the towns and the Loire with stunning views.
Many a cheese and saucisson picnic was eaten in the dappled shade on this hill.
In Montsoreau we found a popular little cafe that was full of locals and therefore bound to be pretty decent food. We ate here twice in the end, because the food was honest and tasty, and the waitress was extremely friendly and tolerant of our attempts to order in French (we’re not that bad I don’t think…). If I remember correctly, I think we ate the same food both times – very adventurous of us, I know. I had Croque Monsieur (yum, yum, yum) and N finished off a big plate of Steak Frites. It was some of the best cooked steak he’s ever had, almost mooing on the plate!
We also had starters of locally-grown mushrooms in a simple vinaigrette sauce (can’t remember the details of it which is a shame), but it was really good. There are lots of caves along the banks of the Loire, some were used as dwellings (troglodytes) and others are now used to grow mushrooms in. Lots of mushrooms.
We went into the mushroom caves on our first visit to the Loire, which was back in 2006, so I can’t remember the types of mushrooms. But this is how they grow shitake type mushrooms…
I’ve realised that on two trips to the Loire there is quite a lot of lovely food experiences to share. For now I shall leave it here, and will post Part 2 in a couple of days, and I shall tell you about possibly my favourite place to eat ever. The place I would go back to for my last meal.
Have a great weekend!