On Saturday morning we said goodbye to Auvillar and the gite owners, who told us that we were the first Americans to stay at their gite. We also made one last stop at the great boulangerie in town and picked up some pastries for our long drive, plus a special Brioche de Pacques (Easter brioche). Most of the day was spent driving to our next gite in Ancenis. It was raining a good part of the way, and the drive on the “A” roads (the A roads are the French equivalent of the American interstate systm) was not particularly interesting.
After arriving in Ancenis we took a short walk through town, picked up some provisions, and then took a walk along the Loire River before gong to meet the gite owners, Andrew and Aline, who also run a small chambre d'hotes near the gite. Andrew is British, and Aline is French and grew up in the Ancenis area but worked in the wine business in London in the 1980's. The gite was formerly a bar which they gutted and renovated into a beautiful townhouse that they plan to eventually live in. They told us that the butcher shop in town was very good, so we stopped there and picked up some things for the next couple of evenings. One thing that looked particularly interesting were little packets of rabbit meat wrapped around a prune and some stuffing, all wrappd in bacon. We got a couple of them and braised them for dinner that night.
The next day was Easter, but most small shops in the area were open in the mornng, and the bakery and butcher shop in town were quite busy. There was a small outdoor market in the nearby village of Oudon, which we went to in the morning. Like Ancenis, Oudon is on the Loire River; it also has a medieval chateau with a tall tower in the center of the village. Across the Loire from Oudon, the town of Champtoceaux is the site of a medieval fortified village. Some of the old walls are still partly standing, as are the two towers at the entrance to the old fortifications
|Remnants of Ancenis Chateau|
We wanted to visit some wine producers in the region, but since it was Easter Sunday we knew that almost all would be closed. However, I had discovered that Chateau de Fresne, a producer in the Coteaux du Layon region, was having an open house (Portes Ouvertes) all afternoon, so we decided to head there. We weren't the only ones, as the parking lot at the winery was pretty crowded. Upon entering the winery, we bought tasting glasses and went about trying their wines. The 2012 vintage was in the process of being bottled, and was available for tasting out of barrels. One just had to go to a barrel, turn the spigot, and pour some wine. In addition, they were also pouring some earlier vintages of their Anjou and Anjou Villages reds and sweet white Coteaux du Layons, and we tasted and bought some of each.
The next day was Easter Monday, which is also a holiday, and given that Monday is a closing day for most shops anyway, very little was open, although the little produce and wine shop in Ancenis was open in the morning, and I picked up some local red wines: a Coteaux d'Ancenis Gamay and a Coteaux du Loir made from the rare Pineau d'Aunis grape. We also found a small weekly market not far from Ancenis, and in the afternoon, when we needed some bread to have with our foie gras appetizer, the trusty self-serve baguette machine outside the closed bakery in town was stocked.