Archive for October 19th, 2021

October 19, 2021

Gan, the Béarn,and the Jurançon!!!

I passed by here many times on my way to Spain, always using it as a rest stop either at Pau or around Gan. As time went on, we spent more time here and finally several days. And of course, not only did we drank the wines from the area but visited a very nice enclave of the Caves de Jurançon  in Gan. Let me update this wonderful post for you and me, bringing back many nice family memories for me. Hope you enjoy it as I.

The wonderful  Caves des Jurançon, a wine cooperative of Gan founded in 1949, and its delicious Jurançon wines. To find it is real easy as there are right on the National road N134 at Gan just south of Pau. Just follow direction Centre Ville Gan and you will hit the cellars or Caves!

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A cooperative in the heart of the vineyards: the cellar of  Jurançon at Gan plays a major role in the Jurançon and Béarn AOC, bringing together nearly 300 winegrowers. Located a few steps from Pau, this cooperative is committed and respectful of its terroirs. Founded in 1949, it has become a landmark in the Béarn. The wine of the Jurançon: a good wine is made with good grapes, sun, rain and foehn. Its most famous grape varieties are the small and the big Manseng (petit et gros manseng). On the vineyard of the piedmont Pyrenean, the vines are planted in the direction of the slope and are oriented to the South in order to be sheltered from the West wind. Harvest by hand, sort with love, vinify patiently… so many steps necessary to the quality of the wines of the Jurançon.

We arrive early but enough to have them all set up and ready to go. Ample free parking as the Caves occupies spaces on both sides of  Avenue Henri IV in Gan. We went to the main tent right in front of the receiving of grapes store. There was music groups playing French and Basque/Béarnaise music, a beret throwing contest (beret is the hat of the basque/Bearnese) , the store was fully open and staff ready to go.

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We went Inside with a guide name Julien , who was fantastic, we exchange lots of questions and he was right on right away no hesitation real pro.  The building is where they have the process of receiving grapes from the coopératives that are members of the cave, 660 hectares are own by them and about 40 is own direct by the Cave.  The grapes are separated along the two main grapes gros manseng and petit manseng for the whites dry and moelleux or sweet sort of they go from dry to late vendage very sweet, they also do rosé and red wines from coopératives in other regions of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. They are blend it base on the master winemaker decision base on quality.

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We then, took the ride on a petit train or little train into the back of the building where huge aluminum tanks stored the juice for fermetation and treatment. And we ran across with the little train to see the building across the street where they do the filling, labeling ,and packaging of the wines with special computised machines including a robot that does 6000 bottles per hour. The place hold about 80 full time employees and the automation has not decrease the number. They ship 10% international ,30% to individuals, another 30% to small stores mom and pop places and 30% to big distribution. We are glad to be part of the 30% to individual buyers!!!

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The process is very computerized and very clean, all the personnel spoked with us very nicely, and very willing to explain their processes. Once the trip was done we headed back to the main Platform where grapes are received for a free tastings of all their lineup of wines!! Of course, we tasted them all!!! It was great the lady was very nice and we were serve sausages,and cheese to eat along the way.  You were given a list with prices and another pamphlet with the wines and matching suggestions.

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After all this process and wandering about the place we headed for the boutique store for purchases. We already had our price list completed with the wines we wanted, handed it over and they do all the packaging for you. We purchase two cases of different wines for my cellar ::) and we did said goodbye to all, a wonderful day , and very friendly folks;  makes you come back for more….And we had!!! We had always friendly welcome and sharing here, and I am on their mailing list , so if not stopping by ,get my wines by domestic transport to my house.

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For lunch we stay there, one of the bottles we purchase we asked to be open and they did for us, went across to a bakery pastry store Boulangerie le Sarment, wonderful regional products like ham and chorizos yummy with great tarte of fruits, etc there is a bench outside by the road and had our picnic sort of right on the spot with a bottle of Oh Biarnesa rosé cold from their store at the Caves des Jurançon!!!

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The official Caves de Jurançon webpage: https://www.cavedejurancon.com/

the Pau tourist office on the Caves de Jurançon: https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/home/pourquoi-venir-chez-nous-/pau-mag/suivez-le-guide-a-la-cave-cooperative-de-jurancon

The official Wines of Jurançon webpage in French: https://www.vins-jurancon.fr/

But wait, there is more than wines, there is a town name Gan! lovely place quant cosy, we love it!

Gan is located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department 64 in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region (even thus fiercily keeping the old habits of the Béarn) . 9 km south of Pau. The town is crossed by the national road 134 (N134), as well as by the departmental roads D 134, 217 and 230. Gan train station is located on the Pau-Canfranc line. It is served by the TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine between Pau and Oloron-Sainte-Marie (changing here for Canfranc in Spain). Gan is a bastide founded in 1335 by Gaston II de Foix-Béarn. He gave it this name, the namesake of Ghent (Gan) in Belgium, in memory of the campaign of Flanders to which he participated.

Some things to see other than wineries are:

The prison gate (porte de la prison) dates from 1335; the Roman Baths from 1748 (with iron and sulphur waters); The House of Bazirus (Rue Ossau); The House of Ergashali (on the road to Lasseube); The houses of Arrac (1548), of Aldoins (1593) and the Château Marca prior to 1600 birthplace of Pierre de Marca. Church of Saint Barthélémy was rebuilt near the ancient church of St. Jean, which was restored in several phases between 1811 and 1930. The Church of St. Peter (Saint Pierre) (see post) dates from 1838. The Saint-Pierre Church is well before 1838, since traces are found in the parish archives in 1759 of baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip ,and worth the detour are:

The Pau tourist office on the bastide of Gan: https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/gan/bastide-de-gan/tabid/315/offreid/d3aaafd7-56f3-4861-b3f7-92496e8f6196

The city of Gan on its heritage: https://gan.pau.fr/rechercher/patrimoine?_source=user&_org=6

The Bastides or fortified towns of the Pyrénées Atlantiques dept 64 on Gan:  https://bastides64.org/bastides/gan/

There you go folks, in all a wonderful time we had here with funny moments, great company, excellent guide and plenty of bottles home to continue the tradition!!! En vino veritas!!! and I hope you enjoy the post and do visit Gan and the Caves des Jurançon! They claim to be the third most visited company in France!

And remember, happy travel, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 19, 2021

The Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles of Mayenne!

And in my continuing saga to showcase the very best, traditional and off the beaten track of my belle France, I bring you another beauty. The city of Mayenne is one that I had to passed many times on my way to Paris from my beautiful Morbihan Breton. Eventually, I stop by for a drink or snack in town by the Mayenne river, and finally, came for a visit with the family . It was a nice moment indeed and was impressed by the Basilica , the reason of this post. The Basilique Notre Dames des Miracles or Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles is right by the Mayenne river and a must see in town. We like it even more than the old castle by the same river.

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Mayenne is in department Mayenne no 53 of the region of Pays de la Loire. Easy to come here with a train station connects to Paris and by road the A81 from Rennes or the N12 from Paris are very good and many times taken by yours truly. Some estimated distances from nearby cities are 30 km from Laval, 45 km from Fougères, 100 km from Rennes and Le Mans, 110 km from Angers, 120 km from Caen, 180 km from Nantes, and 250 km from Paris.

The Basilique Notre Dame des Miracles or Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles is a composite building of the 12C, 16C and 19C in the city center of Mayenne, on the right bank of the Mayenne river.  The original Church was built in 1110 to replace a small oratory dedicated to Sainte Anne. It is mentioned for the first time in 1124 in a charter of Juhel I of Mayenne under the name of the Church of St. Mary. At about 1119, the Church was owned by priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, which at the time depended on the Mayenne. It is described as in the form of a cross, composed only of a nave, chancel and vaults. The’ Church was plundered four times by the protestants during the Wars of religion , and during the French revolution, the priest Louis-René Lefebvre de Cheverus refuses to take an oath (to the Constitution and not to God), just as his nephew, Vicar of the parish, the future Cardinal Jean Lefebvre de Cheverus . The Church became a temple of reason and then is used as a temple and the revolutionary Commission sat there. The cult is restored in 1803. The Church is erected in minor Basilica by an Apostolic Brief of May 15, 1900.

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 A bit on the architecture and things to see

The forecourt of the Basilica is endowed with a monumental staircase overlooked by a statue of Joan of Arc, which was inaugurated in 1896. The interior of the primitive Church has still preserved the central part of its façade, the pillars and the arcades of the nave and the gravestones of the Merovingian’s. The vaults of the nave and the transept, which are 14 meters high, are from the 15C, while the aisles are additions of the middle of the 17C. The choir, which is 22 meters high, was built between 1864 and 1890. Inspired by the Cathedral of Le Mans, under the nave, the crypt contains four Chapels.

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During the bombardment of 8 June 1944, all the stained glass windows (1543-1567) of the basilica were shattered as such, three 16C canopies, the prophet Jeremiah, the Prophet Solomon and the Coronation of the Virgin, The current stained glass windows were replaced and laid between 1952 and 1962. In the lower part of the stained glass of Saint Bernard, two famous Cistercian abbeys of the department are represented: Clermont and Fontaine Daniel. You should not leave the interior of the Basilica without detailing the composite architecture (mainly 15C 19C) and some curious elements: the representation of the miraculous statue of Notre Dame and the altar-front turned into a lintel to the arms of the Bazoges family .

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The Basilica Church contains a statuette representing Our Lady of Miracles. Dating from the 16C, it was given to sisters of the city around 1630 by an anonymous rider with the message “weep, but hope”. First preserved in the Chapel of the Calvairiennes where donations helped the Religious order, it was preserved by the family Lemesnager during the French revolution and then given to the Church in 1897. It has been the subject of great devotion to today.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this part of inland off the beaten paths of beautiful France are:

The Haute Mayenne area tourist board on things to see in generalhttps://www.mayenne-tourisme.com/les-vallees-de-la-mayenne/la-haute-mayenne/explorez-la-haute-mayenne/

The city of Mayenne on transportshttps://www.ville-mayenne.fr/utile/deplacement/roule-responsable/

This is a complete story on the basilica church of Mayenne from the Château de Sainte Suzanne webpage in pdf file in French: http://www.chateau-de-sainte-suzanne.fr/images/pdf_guides/FOCUS_BASILIQUE_MAYENNE.pdf

There you go folks, another dandy in my belle France, The Basilica Church of ND des Miracles is a must to visit in Mayenne. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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October 19, 2021

Guérande a lot more than ramparts!!!

It was that time again to go visit one of my favs places in my  west coast of France. The place is not far from me about 1h30 in a free toll road to heaven.  I did some errands in the morning and home by 13h, we sat to have our goodie lunch, and finally done by 14h we set out on our way.  I had contacted a local friend (now living in Canada!) to meet us there ,and set out to see Guérande again, in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 (old Brittany) now part of the region of Pays de la Loire. There was the 2nd edition of Village Vignerons festivities for local Loire muscadet wine tastings as well!

The city of Guérande we have been several times there and even collect my Loire wines there at the parent’s home of the winemaker.  This time we set out for another quick look at the town and take part in the festival. Easy on the road N165 to exit 15 and onwards on the D774 to the Porte or gate Vannetaise just by the ramparts walls of Guérande. Here , we always get a nice metered parking and this time was no exception parking right in front of the gate! The rest is on foot!

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Let me tell you a bit on the transports: The transport here is mainly roads and car is king. The D213 road , nicknamed the Route Bleue (Blue Road) , is a tourist road, which, from the start of the route, leads to Moutier-en-Retz; It connects to Nantes-Saint-Nazaire to the city center, several departmentals roads cross the Blue Road; D 233 leads to Saint-Molf; D 51 heads towards Saint-Lyphard. The D 247 joins Saint-André-des-Eaux ; D 774a reached the peninsula of the Saillé after crossing the salt marshes.  Finally the D 99 leads to the Turballe, after being passed through Clis. The D 774, via Herbignac, joins the dept 56 of Morbihan by connecting on the National road N165 which leads from Nantes to Vannes. (my road usually) . The bus network is Lila, never used it. There are many bicycle paths and one created for the region connecting to the European network here call Vélocéan, which follows the Atlantic coastline in the Loire-Atlantique department. And is served by 4 routes of the network, me never used it.

The city urban part occupies the top of a hillside that dominates a territory almost entirely surrounded by water, salty or sweet, called the Guérande Peninsula. The history of the town itself is strongly marked by the presence of salt marshes that have made its richness.  It is located 17 km from Saint-Nazaire, also at 44 km (about 27 mi) from Vannes and 67 km from Nantes.

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A bit of history I like

The first known signs of the existence of the present locality date from the second half of the 4C. The High Middle Ages is a period disturbed by the differences between Francs and Bretons. It is then Breton under Merovingian domination, then by the Norman invasions. The first known written reference of the town is from  1206. In the 14C, the city was drawn into the war of the Succession of Brittany, which pitted Jean de Montfort with Charles de Blois. It ends with the signature of a treaty  in 1365. At the end of the 15C, the city was the refuge for almost a month of  Anne of Brittany and her court fleeing the plague which then raged in Nantes. The Duchess will maintain privileged ties with Guérande throughout her reign.

  A first church was located on the present site along the centuries, according to tradition, under the aegis of the king of Vannes, Waroc’h II. This religious building, probably modest, would be at the origin of the current urban settlement. After the transferred of the relics of Saint-Aubin of Angers, a second larger church was built in the late 9C or 10C ,and it was the Church of Saint Aubin. This church will be very quickly surrounded by a cemetery between the 10C and 12C. One of the sarcophagus found under the present choir, at the bedside level, in the 19C was deposited in the lower chapel or crypt of the Collegiate Church. The incursions of the Normans, with significant consequences in the region, needed the reconstruction of the church, in Late Roman style.  This phase began after the middle of the 12C and ended with the construction of the main façade in the 13C. After the sack of Guérande by the troops of Louis de La Cerda in 1342 in the context of the War of Succession of Brittany, the ruined Collegiate Church is rebuilt from 1380 in Gothic style; with the south transept and the Crypt done in the 14C , the north transept is then resumed and the choir and bedside are rebuilt in the 15C. A new Gothic façade finishes the church, the frame on the transepts is laid in 1541. The cemetery extends from this time to the north of the Collegiate Church, until its displacement to place Sainte-Anne in the 19C, at the site of the present place John XXIII, thus creating the present place Saint-Aubin. In 1705, a hurricane destroyed the campanile of Renaissance style at the top of the façade. A new arrow is built, it will be destroyed by a storm in 1785. In 1789-1790,during the French revolution, the Church is dilapidated, the pipes of the organ are melted, the bells also. The church will temporarily serve the worship of the temporay supreme being. The Church St Aubin was returned to Catholic worship in 1802 under the Concordat. Some beautiful stained glass; an always beautiful church to visit!

Right around the Church Saint Aubin (see post) and the wonderful Halles (covered market -see post)  you have a wonderful market and especially fish and seafood , and other local products on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday morning . The building is a nice covered market and the morning markets overflow into the place Saint Aubin, Place de la Psalette areas. City of Guerande on the marketshttps://www.ville-guerande.fr/pratique-vos-demarches/tourisme-et-decouvertes/marches

Now another reason to come this day was the 2nd Edition of the Village Vignerons; or the independent winemakers of the Nantes region. We come here and get our house wines all the way from here to Amboise in Touraine. These are wonderful wines not yet too known ,very affordable and good winemaking with lots of history behind.  For France, this is still small ,regional fanfare but its gaining nicely thanks to folks like me!! The official name of the organizers are the Association de Vignerons Indépendants Nantais. This official webpage tells of their extension:https://www.vignerons-independants-pays-de-la-loire.fr/vignobles/vignoble-nantes/

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The event took place at the Place du Vieux Marché. You buy a glass with the icon of the independent vignerons for 3€ and this allows you to taste up to 3 different wines per winery. Therefore, there were 10 wineries and we tasted 33 wines!!! Not all drank mind you, there is a proper way of spitting most of it. It was done with plenty of children games that my friend’s son really enjoyed and got us into it! there were troubadours singing trios parading the place and goodies from oysters, to foie gras, pate,and jellies/honeys from the area. 

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However, the main thing was the wine and mostly Muscadet Sévre et Marne sur lie, but also, chardonnays, malvoises, gamay, glolleau, melon de Bourgogne,  old berligou red (Breton Ducal wine), 4754 a extinct grape from the 1800’s still kept a parcel here, and of course cabernet franc and apple juice and crémant bubbly wines, sauvignon gris, grape juice,  you name all done on site by families of many generations; my real France!! All was set up in a circular motion around the square of the old market in Place du Vieux Marché.  The welcome or Accueil center where you purchase your glass and get a map of the presenters and a coupon to play on the nose senses challenge to win bottles of wines.  Some of the other producers on site were Servanne Bigot of the Conserverie Les Bocaux Locos with lots of canned, jar goodies, Les Chévres du Cougou with good goat cheese from the best area, Nicolas Josso with its oysters, and mussels etc all yummy!

We started of course with No 1 on the list Château de Fromenteau, and owners Anne and Christian Braud.  We continue with Domaine du Champ Chapron, of Carmen Suteau, Domaine Ménard Gaborit of Philippe Ménard, Château du Coing of Véronique Gunther Chéreau. Vignobles Jaumouillé of Gaêtan Jaumouillé, Domaine Le Jardin d’Edouard , with  Edouard Massart, Domaine le Moulin de la Touche of Vincent Hérissé. Vignoble Marchais of Philippe Marchais (still a provider to us). Domaine Poiron Dabin of Jean-Michel Poiron (still a provider to us). Domaine de la Coche with Laurent Guitteny, and Domaine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud with Pierre-Luc Bouchaud.

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And of course we load up as usual, the idea of coming to these things is not just to taste but to encounter the owners, learn more on wine (always time for that even for old pros like me) ,and buy some of the better ones on a foursome panel (me and my 3 boys, sadly my dear late wife Martine would have love it).

We purchased our favorites from domaine poiron dabin, domaine de la coche, vignobles marchais , and domaine le moulin de la touché. And we pickup some ideas to come back! First, the Vignobles Marchais have a lodging in barrels made into a cabin you can stay and rent it includes aperitif drink to start, a basket of breakfast, and a tour tasting of the property. We did it later and it is fun, good for a repeat! The cabin barrel is right between the vineyards! The other was the Domaine Poiron Dabin , they have a bigger selection of wines including the ones we purchase too, the Berligou Red 2015. This is a grape  ordered planted here by the Dukes of Brittany from 1460 after a gift made by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Reckless (téméraire)  cousin of Duke François II of Brittany! here you have a walk escape in the vineyards in early morning to find bottles hidden in their grape plot, middle of the enigma you will have a picnic meal, encounters with members of the wine making team that will take you to the cellar for tastings. This was done too and is a lot of fun drinking those bottles in the middle of the vineyards!!

Another possibility with Poiron Dabin, and Philippe is very talkative guy!!! just my type lol!! jointly with the La Toue de Nantes will give you a boat ride call Régal vigneron, on the boat Libellule a replica of the traditional boats of the region navigating by the Sévre river and later the Maine river with beautiful natural views and fairy tell lights, you will meet a winemaker  like him very passionate about his trade and will taste several bottles.  A wonderful tour indeed; try it! La Toue de Nantes webpage see last entry for the Poiron Dabin trip: https://www.latouedenantes.fr/balades-a-lannee/

My fav winemakers from this region webpages!

Vignobles Marchais: https://www.vignoblemarchais.fr/

Domaine Poiron Dabin: http://www.poiron-dabin.com/fr/accueil/

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip are:

The La Baule-Guérande tourist office on Guérande: https://en.labaule-guerande.com/guerande-the-medieval-one.html

The city of Guérande on things to see: https://www.ville-guerande.fr/pratique-vos-demarches/tourisme-et-decouvertes/visiter-la-cite-medievale

The Loire Atlantique dept 44 on Guérande: https://www.atlantic-loire-valley.com/suggestions/gu%C3%A9rande

There you go a wonderful one day trip as many able to do here in my belle France, wonderful west of France off the coast and rivers of my beloved Bretagne (and some parts that were like Guérande). Enjoy the tour of Guérande, worth the detour.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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