We jumped on Eurostar, off for a four day visit to Angers. Angers castle, a newly opened nearby botanical theme park, an organic vineyard in the Loire valley close by, and an intriguing oriental garden about an hour’s drive away, were on our must do list.
Angers has space, light and air, courtesy of the wide river Maine that runs through it with its six beautiful bridges.
The massive castle www.angers.monuments-nationaux.fr dominates the city and holds an impressive number of events throughout the year.
Anjou was controlled by the Plantagenets, rulers of England from the twelfth century, and the Hospital of Saint Jean was built in Angers by King Henry II. It currently houses a modern tapestry, Le chant du Monde by Jean Lurçat.
The Thursday market in Anger’s main boulevard had a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and veg without a vestige of plastic baggery in sight.
It was refreshing to meet with dedicated food producers, especially those from the local countryside with products from their own gardens.
We went on to visit a vineyard run on organic principles – see our feature
And then on to Parc Oriental de Maulévrier gardens in 29 hectares first established in 1899 in the grounds of Chateau Colbert where we wandered all afternoon and admired the precisely formed trees and shrubs, known as cloud pruning representing the path to heaven.
On then to the restaurant in the chateau in the grounds, for an excellent meal of a very high culinary standard with a price to match. It was the best meal we had had during our trip. We noticed a decline in the standard of food in French restaurants overall and wondered whether anyone else has. Let us have your comments.
Returning to the gardens after dark, we were given paper lanterns to light our way round the perimeter of the lake which took about an hour. Comprehensive details about the garden are on their website
We visited Terra Botanica, a theme park with natural history and travel at its heart. Opened in spring 2010 it is intended for children to experience the adventures of travellers to exotic places and gains insights into plants, which it does very well. However for the serious gardener it needs to mature, the plants are needing to establish themselves and become part of the landscape. At the moment it has an uncomfortable look of a park needing a lot of attention. Labelling needs to be more in evidence too. There are some quite surprisingly good dynamic events to experience – the most riveting being one devoted to the ‘life’ of a raindrop from its formation in the cloud to its entry into the earth. Be prepared for a ‘moving’ experience, belt yourself well into your seat!
We travelled to Angers via Eurostar to Lille and TGV to Angers. Accommodation and transport information is on the Angers city website.
If you intend hiring a car be sure to read the recent BBC news item regarding hire car scams – forewarned is forearmed.
Val Reynolds Brown Editor
All photography © Pintail Media
Roses planted at the top of each row of vines at Domaine aux Moines, monitor the health of the plants. Black spot and mildew attack roses and vines alike so if either are detected on the roses vineyard owners know it is time to spray – of course only chemicals approved by the French equivalent of our Soil Association
I had tasted some wine from a neighbouring vineyard at a restaurant in Angers a day or so earlier and I was startled by its fresh taste and particularly the aroma, or nose. (I hate using the word bouquet, it seems so affected. Anyway it reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket and all that she stood for!) I was very keen to visit the area where the wine came from and jumped at the chance to taste the Domaine aux Moines wines.
We tasted white wines from Chenin grapes, from several years. Fascinatingly each one differed in flavour and nose. I found them all quite, quite delicious.
To describe wine is difficult for me as I draw back from eulogising in terms of flowers and fruit, nuts etc, but the wine I chose to take away – Cuvee des Nonnes 2007 – did remind me of the scent of Christmas pudding. If you consider the ingredients of that pudding – raisins, nuts, dried fruit, and brandy of course – you may be able to understand my description. It is a mellow wine, reminiscent of a Muscadet, with less sweetness but enough to serve as an aperitif. The Domaine aux Moines website provides food and wine recommendations, very useful indeed.
I realise now I have drunk a lot of indifferent homogenous wines over the years and am really eager to learn more about the differences and the reasons for them. I have to say I think it has a lot to do with the constituents of the soil in which the vines grow. Some years ago now I produced about 100 litres of wine for a family wedding, made from concentrated grape juice of no particular origins other than red grape, and tap water ferried over from Correze. People found it hard to believe I had made it at home in Hertfordshire – it just tasted so ‘French’.
The Domaine aux Moines website gives you a great deal more information about their wines and its production. Much of it is exported to America and Canada, but is available from Les Cave de Pyrene in Guildford UK.
I’m planning another visit to the vineyard in the not so distant future and hope to visit others using the same agriculture biologique methods in the area. We will be encouraging friends and relatives to do the same – we know they will have a great time and be made most welcome.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
*Located near Savenniére, Domaine aux Moines is about 8 miles west of Angers, France