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Punting in a barque on a french streamAs Jon says in his latest letter, it's going to be a long hot summer in France. Already the temperatures are in the high 20s by lunchtime. The outside dining area is coming into its own and we're starting to enjoy barbecues and picnics once more. Visitors from abroad are making a reappearance and, if you haven't already done so, it's time to check out the Vacation France website and find your ideal holiday rental be it a cottage or a château.   Mont st Michel, Normandy, FranceMeanwhile to keep you dreaming of France, Michael is rowing gently down the stream in his latest letter. We list the Jewels of Normandy and Christine Coombes tells how to detour from the holiday route and meet the real people, while Joy Levesley looks forward to the Tour de France.   Nightingale in song, FranceJoan Stewart takes a look at one French village's associations with Saint George, and Sue Wells gives the historical slant in Saintes and Sinners. Mollie Mayes gives her usual seasonal gardening tips, and there are mouthwatering recipes as well as our wine article, Conversations with Charlie.   Near me the cuckoo sings from dawn to dusk while my cat busily chases lizards. I haven't heard the Jackie Perry - Editor, Letters From Francenightingale yet but Joan Stewart has. She's shares this very  personal experience with you in a very moving poem she's written for Views from the Vendée.   A  bientôt en France, j'espère.


Jackie Perry, Editor

Voice from the Vendee
by Joan Stewart
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Photo of a nightingaleHigh in the night sky, the moon shines brightly,
Eclipsing the stars.

Cloudless and silent, the still air hangs chill,
Dampening the ground.

Muted shades of grey, the field slopes away,
Becoming indistinct.
Silvered silhouettes of distant tree tops
Mark the horizon.

Our senses wakened by nocturnal beauty,

Spring`s enticement,
We stand warmly, wrapped in each other,
Speaking in whispers,
Bathed in luminescence, beneath boughs dressed
Fresh for the season.

Serenity is suddenly shattered.
Tcha! Tcha!  The chatter
Of a lone night bird, one but rarely seen,
Invades the sleeping world.

Whee-eet!, the speech develops into song. 
Long calls rise and fall,
Filling the emptiness so joyfully.
Embellishing the theme,
Rich trills and warbles swell ever louder,
With never a pause.

Who could be sleeping on a night like this?
Notes of pure wonder,
The nightingale sings a heartfelt melody
To beauty and love.

Brown like the earth, and secretive,
This bird of woodlands,
Unremarkable yet memorable,
Shares his gift with us.
Pleasure given and pleasure received.

Domaine de Longchamp

I cannot remember how I first got to hear about Longchamp. It is likely to have been in conversation with someone who happened to live near it, or who had had it recommended to them. I decided to go and find it, along with several friends. We knew it was off the road between Coex and Commequiers, and that, once we got near, we would see signs to it.

After several wrong turns and false hopes, we found a sign, `Domaine de Longchamp`, which directed us off the main road. We followed the narrow road through fields and occasional houses, across a level crossing and then saw we were about to enter a cattle farm. Uncertain, we stopped the car, then noticed the same sign inside the farm entrance. We had found it!

We drove up to the fairly modern farmhouse and went to knock at the door. No answer. Then, as luck would have it, a large handsome man of middle years came walking up. This turned out to be Jean-Charles, one of the two brothers who run the farm and its attached vineyard. Would it be possible for us to taste his wine and, perhaps, buy some? Of course…..

We entered the side door of one of the barns. Although it was dark, you could see large barrels along one wall and stacked cases full of wines filled the rest of the large space. Unusually for the Vendee, Longchamp makes a Chardonnay wine, some of which is sent away to be made into a sparkling wine, using the traditional Champagne method.

We lined ourselves up along the elbow-high bar on the left, just inside the door. Having switched on the lights, Jean-Charles went to the other side and began to busy himself. He told us about his wine, speaking with love about the soil, the climate far enough away from the sea to be unaffected by the onshore salt breezes, and the grape variety. As he did so, he prepared small tasting glasses, washing and drying them freshly.

We were lucky to have with us John, a friend who is also a `sommelier`. Wine is now his business, although it has been a life-long interest. He was able to reply knowledgeably and ask all the right questions….

Which wine would we like to sample first?

We decided to try the straightforward Chardonnay. It had been chilling in the fridge. The stream of pale yellow liquid was poured into the glasses. The first sniff was wonderful, fruity and fresh. The taste was even better. Light, not too much acidity. Delicious. I really liked this wine. Jean-Charles spoke of his father producing wine from a small vineyard on this, the family farm. Just enough for the family. Red and white and rose. Once he and his brother had inherited, they decided to expand the vineyard. Through trial and error, they had found that the Chardonnay grape variety grew especially well just there.

Grapes are not their only business, for they also have a prize herd of Friesians. The farm is run and managed by the two of them, with one farmhand.

The conversation continued….

Which wine next?

The Chardonnay aged in oak barrels. Darker and heavier, the `nose` pungent. Woody and ashy, yet full of fruit. Lemony. Not to my taste, however. I waited patiently to try the sparkling wine, which would come next.

Jean-Charles is good company. He has a most charming smile and a fund of anecdotes: about the tasting sessions he organises for holidaymakers, about his neighbours, about good places to eat and about his customers, including restaurants that we know quite well. It turned out that one of his friends is a neighbour of mine…..

Out of the fridge there next came a Champagne-shaped bottle. Familiar contours with shiny smooth gold foil covering the cork. Once this was removed, the wires were untwisted and the cork popped with an experienced hand. The wine creamed into the glasses. The bubbly frothy head soon calmed down. I breathed in its aroma. A wet, fruity and heady scent. It tasted absolutely delicious as I held it in my mouth.
Wonderfully sweet, yet with the harshness of bubbles as I swallowed it.
I loved this wine!

I watched the steady stream of bubbles rising from the depths of the glass to disappear as they reached the surface. I finished it rather quickly I am told. Jean-Charles saw how much I appreciated the fruit of his labours, replenished my glass…..

We finished the whole bottle.

Longchamp is also a ‘cave,’ selling wines from other producers, but selected by the brothers. They know each wine they sell intimately – good Bordeaux reds and roses from the Loire, for example. They do still produce red wine but, like their father before them, just for their own consumption.

Entrance to Wine Cellars, Domaine Longchamp, FranceBy the time we left, we were all feeling rather merry and had each bought several cases. I was looking forward to having my two new favourite wines available at home.

Promising to call again before too long, we waved goodbye to Jean-Charles and Longchamp.

What a brilliant find it had been!


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Letters From France
A Long, Hot Summer
Gently down the Stream
Pre-Nuptial Agreement

My Favourite Region
The Champagne Region
Jewels of Normandy
Finistère, Brittany

Food and Drink
Cordon Bleu Cookery
Recipes for May
Cherry Time
Conversations with Charlie 5
Bresse - A Crowing Success
Looking for Lunch
Easter Eggs
French Culinary Terms Ca-Ch

Home and Garden
Summertime in the Garden

General Articles
Saintes and Sinners
May Day in France
Holiday Route Detours
Meeting the Real People
A look ahead to The Tour
Saint George to the Rescue
Is the Law an Ass ?
And Then There Were Three
Pâques, Penitents & Pastis
Lost in Translation
Cash From Trash
Lot-et-Garonne Country Idyll
A French Wedding
Penniless Peddler in 1950
Letters in French

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New Wine, Old Enemies (7)

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Editor's Choice

Here we feature properties from Vacation France that we think will appeal to readers of our newsletter. This month...

Delightful 14th Century House on a Manor Estate with Private Fishing Lake

Furnished with comfort and charm the cottHouse to let for holidays in the Loire Valleyage is privately situated in view of the lake, on a thousand acre estate in the heart of the Loire Valley. Ideal as a base from which to explore the region, work on a project undisturbed, take a romantic break, or simply relax, contemplate and do some fishing. Within reach of many of the finest châteaux and vineyards. Near Langeais, 28 km from Tours, 55 minutes by train Paris/Tours.

Manor House Bed and Breakfast with pool near Souillac in the Lot, Midi Pyrenees

The house is the home of Anna and Abel Manor house bed and breakfast on lot / dordogne border, midi pyrenees, franceand their children Inés and Louis and golden retrievers, Roxane and Bollinger and has all the luxuries of a country house hotel combined with a friendly family atmosphere. Five individually designed bedrooms with private bathrooms, thoughtfully decorated with sumptuous fabrics and an attention to detail. Children very welcome. Wine tours by arrangement. Four course dinner on request. Vegetarian menus available. Brive 20 minutes, Cahors 50 minutes.

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