Saturday, July 5, 2014

Châteaubriant Loire Valley France

Châteaubriand And Ruffigné

this lens' photo
They say when we are born we have only two fears the fear of falling and the fear of being alone. Our parents, coupled with our environment (the people we associate with, our music and the literature we read), as we grow older, dictate what we fear.

A mix bag of fears come from people purchasing property and usually those fears are caused by one person, the Estate Agent.

My first experience with an Estate Agent's tour was in the 80's, Loire valley France - well technically the Brittany ferry terminal in Portsmouth.

I had purchased property in England, but this type of Estate agent is a different animal and in those days they weren't as infamous as they are today. The advertisement in the exchange and mart read: Property viewing trips £99 for a week, including travel and hotel.

Our escort, a middle age Englishman who wouldn't of look out of place selling second-hand motors from an east-end car sales forecourt, crammed us into his min-bus with five other people. I was starting to become cynical.

When we arrived in Chateaubriand we were introduced to his French business partner. The Frenchman was charming, helpful and believable.

Eventually we found the perfect property for us before we told the agent that night over dinner. He preceded to over sell the property and his final-what he thought was the closer...

He told us the reason the French owner was selling because he makes a modest living growing fresh produce, but has had enough of the constant raiding of said garden by the wild deer jump over the fence from the forest at night - in fact, they practically live on the property. I nearly chocked on my Chateauneuf du Pape and my significant other was in fits of laughter. The agent threw a hissy-fit, which was even funnier, he left the next day. We signed with the Frenchman, secured the property and drove back to Blighty.

A month later, we returned with our furniture and started our dream. Two days went by, and one night, we came back to pitch black. As I drove onto the land, we stopped and stared in horror, as we looked down the land towards the forest, there were eyes everywhere, high-beamed-stunned, they eventually disappeared into the forest. I don't know if the agent knew this for real, but it was true. The deer did practical live on the land - at night anyway.


When I first arrived in Ruffigné the village was quiet. The first thing I noticed was the church missing its spire, which collapsed in 1916 and was never replaced.

The village had a boulangerie (bread shop) and a bar called Chez Ann. It seemed like most of the village were in the bar when we walked in. Their eyes focused on us followed by greetings. One man threw his lips on my partner’s cheeks four times; by the time we left the bar that day they lined up to kiss her. Several people were dressed in costumes. Woman in sack-back gowns with tall hair and men dressed as musketeers. As the day was The Fête de la Fédération – Bastille Day.

Outside, three Frenchmen urinated up the side of the building as the only toilet was reserved for females.

At the time the BBC had a program called Post Card. A fly on the wall situation where they gave a couple, who had just moved to France, a camera and told them to get on with it. He was refurbishing the house and she was an artist, both from London, and I felt a connection with this couple as I was doing the same and there they were sat in the corner of the bar apparently they lived down the road from me.

The property was so cheap in this region even the two young BBC produces brought farm houses. Prices started at two thousand pounds and you could buy a large place with land for under ten grand.

A French farmer wasted no time introducing himself as my neighbour and what did we have planned for the cider apples from the orchard. I replied ‘nothing’ he asked ‘what do we want for them’ and I jokingly said our grass cut all two and a half hectors.

The next day several people and tractors turned up to cut down the over grown grass and a huge cider apple harvester truck to harvest the apples – turned out they are worth a lot.

I did get a chance to sample the cider as the bar stops trading when the maire (Mayor) turns off the lights to the village and the doors are locked. The pumps turned off and several barrels of cider heaved onto the bar you just hand the landlord a couple of francs and help yourself. After a few of them my words “I’ll never use the outside toilet” went out the door.
My place in France.

My Favorite French Film


Steak For Two


1 whole Beef tenderloin, 6 pounds, trimmed
3 tbls butter
8 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the Oven gas mark 6 – 400F – 200c.

Season the meat with salt and ground black pepper covering the whole joint.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the beef and sear for 3 minutes turning. Place in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Serves: 2


  • 4 tbls white vinegar
  • 4 tbls white wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 15 peppercorns
  • crushed
  • 4 tbls finely chopped shallots
  • 11/2 tbls chopped tarragon
  • 11/2 tbls water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 11/2 cup unsalted butter
  • melted


  1. For the sauce
  2. Combine the peppercorns, wine, vinegar, shallots, and tarragon in a saucepan and bring to the boil reducing for five minutes and strain.
  3. Mix the liquid in a bowl with the egg yolks - the bowl should be in hot simmering water. Whisk until frothy adding the butter until the sauce thickens.
  4. Season with salt and pepper

 Films set in France

Films set in France
It was because of films like this period adventure, I sat and watched on a Sunday afternoon, that started me thinking about France as a child and it is still a classic to this day. One of those films that could never be remade successfully because of the actors like Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer and Eleanor Parker. - this film was directed by George Sidney and based on the book by Rafael Sabatini.

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