Last month, while busy with the alterations to the bedrooms, we took the weekends off. There are plenty of things going on at the weekends to keep us entertained. One of which, at this time of year, is that many of the region's wine makers have their "portes ouvertes", open days which include wine tastings and which are usually free.
This one was at Domaine de la Bonnelière which is in a village called Varrains near Saumur. They make a wine called Saumur-Champigny and we first tasted it at the wine fair in Le Petit-Pressigny last summer. That in itself was a day to remember and we like the wine so much that we went in search of the winery to buy some more.
This events are one of the things I absolutely love most about France. You pay nothing for admission or parking, you get to taste lovely wines for free and get to buy them at discount prices. In the UK we would have parted with twenty quid for parking and admission before we got to see or buy anything.
Sometimes there is a small charge for a tasting glass which you can either keep or return for a refund on leaving. In this case they were free and you just handed them in as you left. No doubt a few did not make it back to the owners but all the people that left at the same time as us left them on the welcome desk on their way out.
We took our friend Lisa with us. It was a beautiful cool but sunny day and the event was very much a family affair with entertainment for children as well as adults. There were food stalls where you could buy local delicacies or a snack and the caves were open to visit freely.
It was a really relaxed, non stuffy, unpretentious event. There were certainly plenty of friendly staff on hand to give advice, provide tastings of anything you liked and sell the wine. Whilst there were obviously plenty of serious, well heeled customers around, the rest of us, the enthusiasts, were made very welcome.
Saumur-Champigny is a wine that we had forgotten about until last summer. We used to drink it often when we spent holidays in and around Chinon but in recent years we have bought more wine from the vineyards that are more east and north of us. Now that we have rediscovered it, it has become one of our favourites again and this winemaker makes some really delicious wines. You can read all about them here.
The next day, a Sunday, we went to a nearby Brocante. I'm never sure what the difference is between a Brocante and a Vide-Grenier but whichever this was, at Azay-le-Ferron, it was, as always, a good one. It's the right kind of size, not too huge but big enough to make it worth going, and the streets are closed to traffic so that there's no dodging of cars between the stalls.
There was the usual selection of toys, clothes and household stuff, much of which you can't imagine why anyone would have bought it in the first place. I did find some bargains though - a glass cake stand, some small dessert dishes and a ceramic soufflé dish which is an ideal size to use as an outdoor water bowl for Hugo. Total spent so far - five euros.
I also bought this three strand necklace. It's made of beautiful glass beads and is perfect for taking apart to remodel into something different. Just as I took its picture, Daisy jumped up onto the worktop to remind me that it was Dreamy Time. To us it's Apéro Time when we sit outdoors in the evening sunshine to enjoy a drink. Hugo and Daisy join us for a game of ball (him) and a few Dreamies from the tin (her). It's a routine that we are only able to ignore at our peril!