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Pictures: Above, hobbit house; middle tree house; right Monmoussea Caves lumiere show And now for something completely different... If you hanker after a hobbit house, or dream of a tree house stay, yearn to live in a yurt or go wild in a gypsy caravan then head to La Domaine de la Roche Belin. It's in glorious countryside that wouldn't be out of place in a film about bucolic locations. Have freshly prepared, organic, seasonal meals brought to your accommodation, or eat in the beautifully converted barn where there are also barbecue facilities. The chef is an ex caterer to the French President and the food is amazing. Sheep, ducks, chickens, horses and donkeys roam the grounds, it really is idyllic - perfect for families and couples. There's a lake filled with fish, from the double storey tree house you can see huge trout swim below you, and look out over the countryside. In the hobbit house, if you leave the skylight open - you're likely to see a sheep looking down at you as he chomps away on the grass roof! The yurts are roomy, colourful and romantic. The gypsy caravan is beautifully furnished and rather luxurious. The night I stayed, a full moon hung in the sky, deeply yellow like a giant mimollette cheese, it looked closer than I have ever seen. I sat on the steps of my caravan, listening to frogs croaking, a gentle baaaa now and again, birds singing sweetly in the night air and just a few crickets up for a late night party. Otherwise the night was silent, the stars shine so brightly I could see the outline of the trees and the pretty duck house though the ducks had long gone to sleep. The night air was filled with the scent of blossom and fresh grass, clear and clean. When I turned in for the night, a little reluctant to end the magical moment with nature, I slept like a baby.
wine tasting Vineyards were first planted in the area in the 1st century but it was in 1884 that Madame Amiot set up Veuve Amiot to make the sparkling wine for which the area is famous. The tuffeau, a local Loire limestone, in the soil gives it a unique taste. Though its made in the same way as champagne with the same grapes it cannot be called champagne as it's not produced in the strictly controlled areas of the champagne region. Veuve Amiot make 300 million bottles a year – and it’s delicious! You can take a free tour and tasting which is available in English, but you need to book in advance via their website: veuveamiot.fr This is the only area in France to produce sparkling red wine – drink it chilled, it’s utterly lush. You can buy online from www. iziwine but the postage is expensive, much more fun to go and buy it! Monmousseau also do tours and tastings. They have a fabulous Lumière show in the caves which are completely covered in bright lights. The sparkling wine is matured for a minimum of three years and is very popular in the US where its been exported to for a century. Next time you raise a glass, think of those grapes growing in the soil of the Loire valley and resting in the the cool dark caves where it's matured. Website: monmousseau.com
BISOUS From France Bonjour This iss
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"Like walking into a painting" It
NOUGAT the sweet taste of the south
Gigot d'Ag aux legum by Sara Neumei
What a mad few months it's been her