Friends Reunited

We slipped into September without writing a blog a post at all during August. Suffice to say, it was pretty busy here at Rue Vincent with lots of families visiting to enjoy the summer sun, the pool and the games barn. Jazz, our self-appointed four-legged front of house, has welcomed, entertained and played with them all over the course of the season. A game of chase here, a cricket match there and plenty of well-earned treats. She has loved every minute!

Jazz, the front of house collie and friends!

Jazz, the front of house collie and friends!

Amongst all the fun and games, the highlight of her summer has undoubtedly been the return of her best pal, a little rescue Spaniel who has once again made the long trek from Scotland with his human Mum and Dad to our little patch of the Charente-Maritime. 16 months on from his first visit at less than a year old, they would be forgiven for not remembering each other but we needn’t have worried - this reunion was all stereo tail-wagging and obvious affection from the moment they were reunited.

Welcome back Shearer - you’re an absolute delight!

Sunshine and sunflowers

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It’s mid-July and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a Van Gogh painting as you wind your way through the countryside around us here at Rue Vincent. A landscape of sunshine, azure blue skies and rolling fields dotted with straw bales after the early summer harvest; splashes of vivid green maize stretching ever upwards and neatly kept parcels of vines. But by far the most spectacular sight is the vast swathes of golden yellow sunflowers, nodding gently in the breeze: row upon row of jolly faces reminding us why we love this beautiful region of France.

Welcome to paradise, Charentais-style!

We are fully-booked for summer 2019 but still have limited availability in September.

Now booking for 2020.




A quiet corner

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May is a month with plenty of jours fériés (public holidays) in France, but it’s the busiest time of the year in terms of the garden and its wildlife. The whole place is alive with bees and the chirping of the baby blue tits, nestled into a crevice in the barn wall. Mum and dad dart expertly in and out of that tiny gap with food all day long. The sparrows continue to squabble in the guttering and on the rooftops while the hoopoes swoop majestically around the orchard in search of insects to feed their brood. Their call is unmistakable and seems to be a permanent feature of our early summer soundscape from dawn until dusk. The field crickets provide a rhythmic background chirrup during the day, but in the relative absence of the avian chorus after dark it takes on an altogether more dramatic quality at night, filling the air until late into the autumn.

It’s not easy to get a good close-up of our camera-shy hoopeoes!

It’s not easy to get a good close-up of our camera-shy hoopeoes!

All this new life and vitality translates into plenty of work for us in the garden. You can almost hear the plants and the grass growing, it happens at such a pace. Weeding, mowing, planting, dead-heading, trimming and sowing: it’s rewarding, of course, but sometimes it’s a joy to kick back, watch and listen to Mother Nature in action. No better place to do just that than beneath the dappled shade of the grapevine in our little coin repos: a quiet corner to unwind. For our guests it’s perfect spot to take a break between games of pool or table tennis in the barn next door, or simply to relax and enjoy the peace with a cooling drink, or a book. You may even find a four-legged friend watching you from her own patch of shade.

Thanks for your help, Jazz!

Thanks for your help, Jazz!

Bon repos!




Bonne fête du muguet!

The 1st May is a public holiday here in France. As well as being Labour Day ( la fête du travail), it is a day for celebrating family and friendship by giving a small posy of fragrant lily of the valley (un brin de muguet) to bring health and happiness for the year ahead.


un brin de muguet

The origins of this lovely tradition are said to date back to 1560, when a knight called Louis Girard presented King Charles IX with a bunch of these delicate blooms as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year. The king was so enchanted by the gesture that he began presenting small posies of lily of the valley to ladies of the court on the same day each year. Courtiers adopted the custom, which eventually spread across the country.

The tradition is still very much alive today. Roadside stalls pop up everywhere, brimming with bunches of muguet for giving to friends, family and neighbours and these delicately-perfumed beauties are easy to grow in the garden, too. Here at Rue Vincent our own lily patch has increased happily from just a few bulbs to a swathe of bright green scrolls, dotted with nodding white bells, beneath the shade of one of our peach trees with very little effort on our part. Plenty for us and for gifting to spread a little happiness (porte le bonheur) . Time to get picking!

Bonne fête de muguet et du bonheur à tous!


Été 2017: Merci et à bientôt chez nous!

A fond farewell from our fair well!

A fond farewell from our fair well!

August waved us goodbye with a gloriously sunny smile yesterday and another season is drawing steadily to a close here at Rue Vincent. We have been privileged, as always, to host some wonderful guests, many of them returning for a second or even third visit to our little corner of Charente-Maritime. It has been our pleasure to welcome you all and we hope to see you again very soon chez nous.

With an updated look for 2017, the cottage has seen visitors from across France, the UK and the Netherlands this year. The new sunbathing area in the private courtyard and the nautical-themed makeover inside have been well received by new guests and our regulars. A nod to our département's 'maritime' status, we are delighted with the responses we have received.

In addition to some excellent days and balmy evenings out our guests have spent many  hours in the pool, the games barn and playing games on the field. Jazz and Indie would like to say a special thank you to everyone who included them in their games of football, table tennis or fun around the pool. They apologise for stealing the odd ping-pong ball mid-match and hope it added to your entertainment! They were especially impressed with Jacob and Ollie's efforts at the crossbar challenge on the field and with Annabel's new diving skills.

Looking forward to 2018, our 'Rock Lobster' and Crazy Croc proved to be a huge hit in the swimming pool, so are likely to be joined by a few new inflatable creatures for next season. They will be getting a final outing when our last visitors of the summer arrive at the weekend, We are open to suggestions for some additional games for the field, too, so please tell us what you'd like to see.

We like gardening, too!

We like gardening, too!

For now it's time to tidy the garden ably assisted, as ever, by Indie & Jazz. Whilst we are on the subject of gardening, we would like to say a big thank you to Ryan, one of our younger guests, who was a star during his stay, collecting windfalls in the orchard. We are grateful also, to our family visitors who jumped on the mower or wielded a hedge-trimmer earlier in the season in return for their keep! The grass may not need cutting at this time of year but there is always plenty to keep us busy elsewhere.

It's au revoir for now to the lavender which has wafted its gorgeous perfume across the garden all season long and there are lots of roses and shrubs to prune, too. The dahlias and geraniums are still putting on a show for us and we have grapes, figs and apples a-plenty, so there's lots of colour and rich pickings for our end-of-season guests. A welcome wave of late season warmth, some spectacular sunsets and a chilled glass of Pineau - what better way to bid farewell to Summer 2017?

Pineau

If you're missing us already, or if you would like to experience Rue Vincent's hospitality for the first time, bookings are now open for 2018.



Merci à tous et à bientôt chez nous!

Pete and Jackie

 

Jackie, Pete, Indie & Jazz

x

 

 

Jolly jaunts for all in July

What a busy schedule it has been this month for us and for our visitors here at Rue Vincent, with lots of great days out for everyone. Familiar local gems such as the Château de la Roche Courbon and the amphitheatre in Saintes are always a pleasure, especially when we get to share them with somebody new. La Rochelle never fails to please: the aquarium, the waterfront and the three imposing towers flanking the harbour are a must, while lunch or dinner at one of the little eateries dotted along the quayside allows customers to sample the local wine and seafood while taking in the wonderful view.

Le Chateau de la Roche Courbon: an 'arty' makeover for a favourite haunt!

Le Chateau de la Roche Courbon: an 'arty' makeover for a favourite haunt!

A trip to Zoodyssée near Chizé (just 40 minutes from Rue Vincent) proved very popular with one of our young guests and was also a first visit for us. Birds of prey (including a beautiful Snowy Owl to delight Harry Potter fans!), wolves, bison, ancient cattle breeds, wild cats, magnificent deer, Poitou donkeys and playful Capucin monkeys among other species, all make their home here and feeding time is a particular joy for the youngest visitors. Go early to avoid missing out!

Zoodyssée collage

A visit to the old silver mines in Melle (35 minutes north of Rue Vincent) is an excellent choice on a scorching summer's day. However hot it is outside, the temperature in the underground galleries is a cool 14 degrees, so don't forget to pack jumpers! 

Discover and wonder at the subterranean caves with their wealth of minerals and crystals; galleries excavated centuries ago using ancient methods and presentations celebrating the proud history of Melle as one of the very few places in France where early silver and gold coins were minted.

Photo credit Jacques Bodin -  Creative commons licence

Photo credit Jacques Bodin - Creative commons licence

Paléosite at St Césaire (another super attraction under 45 minutes' drive away) is built on the site of an exciting archeological discovery and promises a great day out for adults and children with an interest in history. A prehistoric village, its people and creatures, together with crafts and skills such as tool-making and painting are brought to life on screen, through virtual reality and by computer imaging as well as in real life on the site where the skeleton of a Neanderthal woman was unearthed just decades ago.

Paléosite St Césaire

21st-century technology juxtaposed with ancient wisdom will fascinate children and adults alike. Step onto the body scanner to compare your skeleton to that of a Neanderthal and discover what you might have looked like via a computer program with some clever facial mapping. Try your hand at launching a flint-headed spear, join in an archaeological dig or paint your face warrior-style. Learn how those famed stone tools were fashioned and the ways in which our ancestors made fire through regular demonstration sessions.

A selection of activities runs at various times throughout the day and there is plenty to see and do around the site in between, so allow at least three hours for your visit. There are picnic benches if you choose to take your own lunch, but also a restaurant serving snacks, meals and ice creams. Full details of tariffs and opening hours here.

A little further afield, but a fabulous day trip for wine-lovers, is the pretty village of St Émilion, nestled among the vines from which this world-famous wine is produced. There is limited parking in the heart of the village, but it can be difficult to wind your way up and down again through narrow streets, so using the car parking facilities at the bottom of the hill is a better option. Once safely installed it's up to you to decide whether to climb the cobbled streets on foot or ascend via the tourist train or a little red tuc-tuc.

La Tour du Roy St Émilion

Browse and taste the wares of independent producers and larger merchants, all eager to share the story of this fine wine region. Choose your favourites to take away. You will need very deep pockets for the most prestigious houses and vintages! Happily there are plenty of delicious alternatives (reds, whites and rosés) to taste at all price points.

Bonne dégustation!

Bonne dégustation!

Lunch in one of the bistros and restaurants is highly recommended, together with a stroll afterwards to walk off your meal and admire the scenery. The views from the top of  the 13th-century Tour du Roy are stunning!

With the 14 juillet celebrations in our village added to the mix this month, it has been a most enjoyable few weeks for us all, but as the sun sets on July we are looking forward to August and a whole new itinerary. What will we be getting up to? Watch this space!

 

Châtel en Fête 2017 - Châtelaillon-Plage

Photo credit - Paul Freegard

La fête de la musique is a national event here in France with almost every town and village hosting events to mark the occasion. Having celebrated in St Jean d'Angély last June, we decided to head for the coast and our local beach this weekend to take part in the 20th annual Châtel en Fête - a two-day free music and dance festival with live bands on the beach and spectacular shoreline fireworks on Saturday evening, followed by a carnival-style procession of floats and dancers celebrating music across the decades through the centre of Châtelaillon-Plage on Sunday afternoon. 

Saturday's revellers enjoyed live music and dance on the beach and through the streets of the town until sundown, followed by a fabulous display of fireworks to round off the day in style. We were sorry to have missed them, but we are very grateful to our friend Paul for his photos of Saturday evening.

Saturday eve photos - Paul Freegard

Saturday eve photos - Paul Freegard

 

A gentle morning stroll along the seafront from Les Boucholeurs to Châtelaillon, then mocktails, lunch by the Casino and a refreshing thé à la menthe in a lovely little tea shop on the route of the parade set us up perfectly to enjoy the festivities on a sunny Sunday afternoon. 

fete de la musique 2

The stalls from Saturday, loaded onto floats, a marching band, troupes of dancers of all ages and classic vehicles jigged, played and sang their way joyously through the centre of town to bring the weekend's celebrations to a close. This little guitar player was my personal favourite!

He's the Guitar man!

He's the Guitar man!

Châtelaillon is a delightful little resort, just 45 minutes' drive from Rue Vincent and hosts a variety of popular events through the year including the famous kite festival at Easter, which has become an annual 'must-see' for our family and visitors. I suspect that Châtel en Fête will now be compulsory, too!

 

Feeling Festive at le Château de Crazannes

Crazannes Marché de Noel 2016

Trees are bare and nights are longer but the sun is beating down on this late November weekend here at Rue Vincent: a perfect opportunity yesterday for a leisurely stroll in a gorgeous location with a spot of Christmas shopping. Cue a lovely late afternoon and early evening at the nearby Château de Crazannes for the extremely popular Marché de Noël.

Crazannes festive collage

 

Against the gorgeous backdrop of the château grounds, thousands of fairy lights sparkled and children marvelled at twinkling displays, queueing patiently to see Père Noël or make their very own tree decoration. Meanwhile adults busied themselves with smart-phones and cameras aloft to record their offspring and the scenery, or browsed the wares of dozens of local artisans. Happy snappers everywhere, both inside the magnificent buildings and out, where the intoxicating aromas of crêpes, candyfloss, sausages and mulled wine drew a steady stream of visitors to the buvette.

Warmed by more than whiff of festive cheer and a nip of vin chaud*, it's one of many such markets across the region. The whole market is on again today if you are in the area and is well worth a visit. The lights and decorations will remain in place until 31st December - take your camera! For more information, visit the Château website.

Scenes such as these will be repeated across the country in the run up to Christmas, so plenty of opportunities to join in the fun if you didn't get to Crazannes this weekend.  For details of regional festive markets and those further afield, take a look at Noel.org


*Fancy a glass of vin chaud Charentais-style, to warm your cockles this winter?

Image by clementpetit2 - Creative Commons  licence

Image by clementpetit2 - Creative Commons licence

For 6 glasses you will need:

  • a bottle of red wine (a Charentais VDP is ideal but any fruity red works well)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • the zest of half an orange (a strip of peel or grated zest is fine)
  • 1-3 tablespoons sugar (according to taste)
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 60ml Cognac (optional)

Method

Put all the ingredients (except the Cognac) into a large saucepan and warm gently over a low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Heat until the wine begins to steam when a spoonful is lifted from the pan, but do not allow it to boil! For added spiciness, turn off the heat and cover the pan before allowing the wine to steep for at least 15 minutes. Re-heat to the desired temperature before serving.

To serve, divide the cognac (if using) evenly between 6 heat-proof glasses. Strain the wine through a fine sieve/muslin or a tea strainer then ladle into the glasses and add a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick if liked.

Santé!

 

 

 

 

Sunsets and Souvenirs of Summer 2016

Late September and the sun is setting on another glorious summer here at Rue Vincent. As we pack away the parasols and stack the woodpile ready for longer winter evenings, it's the perfect time to look back over the season and to say thank you to all our guests. It has been our pleasure to host each and every one of you and we sincerely hope to welcome you back soon.

sunset on Le Vincent

So here we go with our trip down memory lane for 2016. Morning birdsong, peals of laughter from the swimming pool as swifts dive gracefully overhead; the satisfying click of a well-timed shot in the games barn; the whizz and excitement of a passing cycle race; the gentle chink of rosé-laden wineglasses signalling apéro time; the scent and sizzle of the barbecue, fired up to round off a busy day's holiday-making; clear night skies teeming with a million stars... Sights, sounds, smells and souvenirs of a summer to remember. It has been a real privilege to have shared them all with so many lovely visitors. We only wish we had more photos!

 

Whether it was a game of football on the field, a splash about at poolside or copious amounts of extra fuss, Indie and Jazz have thoroughly enjoyed their summer too, as well as the chance to make lots more friends, both two and four-legged. Dogs & kisses to you all from two very happy collies!

Summer may be over for this year, but Rue Vincent will be welcoming new guests from May 2017 and bookings are now open. If you would like to join in the fun, why not take a look at our availability and reserve your stay with us today.

 

We would be delighted to welcome you!

Salut septembre!

August has flown by in a blaze of summer sun and September is upon us already. Our much-loved canopy of stars is appearing ever sooner as pink-tinged sunsets give way to inky night skies; and while day-times are still balmy, a few of our early mornings are beginning to arrive through the misty haze that heralds the onset of Autumn.

The swimming pool and games barn still buzz with activity as our late summer guests make the most of the glorious sunshine, less-crowded attractions and quieter travel options at this time of the year.  Jazz and Indie remain, as always, on duty to play football on the games field with anyone who enjoys a kick about; although some of those things that mark the changing of the season are also beginning to grab their attention.

Already, a crunchy orange carpet sits beneath the horse chestnut trees: a great place for Jazz to explore before we rake up the leaves and add them to the compost heap.  'Woodstock' has commenced: the first delivery of this year's fuel has arrived and will require an age to sort and stack. However, the heady perfume of rough-hewn oak, (off-cuts from a local cognac barrel maker) mingled with the scent of our newly-cropped lavender hedge, makes it much less of a chore. Both Jazz and Indie have been doing their best to 'help': Indie by dragging the largest pieces she can find off into the orchard; and Jazz by taste-testing and pulping some of the smaller chunks. Even Charlie, our friend's miniature schnauzer, wants to be a part of the action. This could take some time!

operation woodstock.jpg

 

Summer may be drawing to a close at Rue Vincent, but we are now taking bookings for 2017.

Take a look at our availability and book your stay with us here today.

We 'wood' be delighted to welcome you!