Fancy ten days in an exquisite French chateau in the Loire Valley, learning a bit of French, meeting the locals, discovering the local delicacies and relaxing in the French summer sun? Have I got something for you! Read on…
As you may be aware, I spent most of July swanning around a part of France that I love. What you might not be aware of is my long association with this part of France. I first visited the Loire Valley in the late 70s, when as a “jeune fille au pair” for a very haut bourgeois family in Paris, we would descend on the family hunting lodge for the season. It was all tweeds, boots, dogs, cigars, and I loved it. In the early 80s while teaching French in Corsica I would spend time there whenever I could, throttling a little red Citroen 2CV as I sped from one chateau to the next. Xmas in Blaison was a tramp through the snow to midnight mass at the 12th century church of St Aubin followed by oysters and champagne at home. When I started thinking about where to spend Xmas while in Turkey in 2014 I immediately thought of Blaison. Returning for the first time in many years, I discovered that the village had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was even more enchanting than I had remembered.
Fast forward to July 2019 and I spent a month wondering how I could share all this with you. Then I met the locals. Then I ate, drank and made merry at the local Bal Populaire. THEN I found the perfect chateau. Then I knew exactly what to do…
Ladies and gentlemen…I present “La Boule de Fort 2020”…a very special experience for a very lucky few.
If you Google translate BOULE and FORT you get…well…STRONG BALL. But La Boule de Fort is, in fact, a game that is very specific to the tiny region of France around the village of Blaison. And that is exactly what this little sejour in France seeks to do…to take you beyond the literal by giving you an insight into what lies beneath.
Our base will be Le Chateau de la Giraudiere (http://lagiraudiereblaisongohier.com/en/).
I cannot tell you how perfect it is and how lucky we are to have it. Catherine and Phillipe Chatelier, the owners, had decided to close the doors on paying guests and return the chateau to the family home that they had always envisioned. Luckily for me, the lethal combination of the “gift of the gab” and the local red wine proved very successful and one Sunday afternoon over a glass or two, I talked them into doing one last season!
La Boule de Fort 2020 is ten days based at the Chateau. Dates are June 26 to July 6 or July 8 to 18. The accommodation is a combination of rooms in the chateau and rooms in the cottages attached. Absolute maximum of 12 people but more likely to be 10 (depending on couples/singles/bunking in etc). First in best dressed.
The program will need to be a little flexible because summer events in the region will not be announced until closer to the time, but it will go a bit like this:
I will meet you at Gare Montparnasse in Paris and we will catch the TGV to Angers where we will be met and driven through the lovely French countryside to the Chateau. There will be a bit of time to unpack, go for a swim (yes – there is a pool!) and generally wander around oohing and aahing!
As the sun sets we will enjoy an Apéros Dînertoires with our hosts and special invited guests – your French teacher for the week, our local village guide, the neighbours, the President of the Boule de Fort Association, and various locals who will become part of your life in the following ten days.
Breakfast will be served every day on the terrace in front of the house, with sweeping views past the chapel, across the lake and down to the village. There will be plenty of time to lounge around or take a dip in the pool.
Each day will start with a little French lesson delivered by the delightful Zahia, a neighbour who just happens to be a teacher of French as a foreign language. The lesson will focus on the day’s activities and arm you with a bit of appropriate vocab and a little bit of confidence to give it a go.
We’ll explore the village with Dédé (a local historian) and we’ll join in local village festivities (1,000 year celebrations, 14th July). We’ll get some historical perspective at l’Abbeye de Fontevraud (final resting place of Henry 2nd, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart) and visit the inverted chateau of Breze (where most of the chateau is underground). We’ll spend a day with the Troglodites (visiting a kooky underground art gallery, a wine maker who learnt her skills in Tasmania and finally have dinner in a cave). We’ll have wine tastings and cheese degustations. We’ll float through a Loire sunset on a traditional boat. We’ll visit markets and villages. We’ll learn some French cooking secrets and buy and cook for ourselves. We’ll have picnics and dinners at our fabulous chateau. We’ll dance the night away at a typical Guingette. And we will thrash the locals at La Boule de Fort over a glass of rosé and some saucisson sec! We’ll taste the very best that the region has to offer. And that’s just the start of it…
If you think this sounds like you - drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll fill you in on all the details.
I need expressions of interest by the end of August and a firm commitment by the end of September. If there’s enough interest to make it viable I’ll do it. If there’s not, I won’t.
I’m trying to keep costs to around 2,000 Euros for the ten days which will basically cover everything except booze! No single supplement but a bit of a discount for anyone that wants to share a room.