Monday, May 22, 2017

May 20 - Roses in bloom and a local wine fest

We pass through and around Doué-la-Fontaine much of the time we're exploring the sites to the near-east of our location. It was the location of our first market experience when we were newly arrived in April. It is famous for its zoo which is housed in old stone quarries and it is called the City of Roses. Today, we are off to discover the roses of this city.
We're the blue dot near Brissac. Doué just south east of us about 20 minutes.

As usual, there is much we will miss in Doué. This place has been inhabited since neolithic times, as evidenced by local dolmens. In Roman times, it was a villa at the crossroads of trading routes between Saumur, Angers, Montreil-Bellay, and Gennes. We've certainly found it a crossroads for our travels in the area.

In the 8th century, Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious, lived here. In usual medieval fashion, the town passed from Carolingians to Aquitaine to Anjou with the monks of Cunault also sheltering here from the Vikings. At one point, the town was fortified and a bit of the walls still remain.

Doué has its share of troglodytic areas due to the quarrying of the tufa limestone. We have already visited the near-by Rochemenier troglodyte farms. The zoo is located in another tufa quarry and is a most popular place to visit. (And they have picnic tables for lunch, we discover). The Arena (les Arènes) has been turned into an event venue with hillside seating and a stage as well as troglodytic areas of gardens, dining areas, and exhibition spaces. Along the Rue des Perrières, one sees troglodyte houses with profusions of roses over their walls. There's a tourist site called "Le Mystère de Falun" (mystery of the limestone) which does a sound and light show in abandoned troglodyte caves. I believe you can also stay in a troglodyte hotel.

The town owes its international reputation for growing roses to Baron Joseph François Foullon who with the help of one of the king's gardeners, created a rose-growing industry in Doué. He was also instrumental in improving public areas - the lavoirs (for community clothes washing), repairing the town fountain (only source of water), built a fair grounds, established nurseries for growing plants, especially poplar trees. Unfortunately, Foullon, who became minister of finances for Louis XVI on July 12, 1789, was arrested and hung, then decapitated by an angry Paris mob on July 22, 1789, one of the first victims of the French Revolution.

There remains a stables from Foullon's estate which has been turned into a museum of old shops from 1900-1950.

these flowers grow everywhere but seem to prefer old walls like those of the stables
Privately owned, it costs 8 Euros to enter, so we pass. Outside, however, there is a lovely city garden in what was the grounds of the château. It's a lovely walk around these grounds and there is no cost.
trees in training - we've seen these "skinny" trees that have a rectangular shape. Used to form boulevards along roads and for pedestrian walks, we wondered how they get their shape - now we know. Wires are strung horizontally from tree to tree and the limbs are trained along these wires. Constant pruning is necessary to grow and maintain their shape.

rose arbor

roses on the arbor

an interesting tree - no idea what it is

Doué produces sixty percent of the 12 million rose plants grown in France each year. More than 40 nurseries produce over 2000 varieties of roses per year. Below are some of the varieties we saw in bloom at Les Chemins de la Rose.

An old 2 CV in front of the garden entrance

We pass a rose distillery which has some connection to some troglodytic caves on our way to a private garden that you can tour. We arrive at Les Chemins de la Rose which is a 10 acre (4 hectares) private garden planted with over 10,000 roses of over 1200 varieties. Paths lead you around the park which has a very calm and peaceful setting with a couple of ponds, lots of trees and grassy areas, along with a few peacocks for the viewer's pleasure.

Now that's a peacock!

There are plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the wide variety of roses. Sign's along the way (in English as well as French) teach about roses and their propagation.
A rose arbor with tables and chairs underneath

reading signs about the culture of roses

my vantage point -  a little knitting on the bench in front of the peace roses while waiting for the others

Everything is draped in roses right now

After a lunch at the zoos picnic tables, we head home. Naps for some and then we prepare to go to a local wine fest called Vins sur Vingt (wines on the 20th).
This is the 4th year of this festival held at Saint-Jean-des-Mauvrets, just 5 km from here.
Again, we're the blue dot and the "city" of Saint Jean is the other blue dot just north of us by 5 km. The red outline is the area of the township.  It includes many of our local wineries.
The fest starts at 6 PM with a "fanfare" - a parade led by Angers area group of 30ish percussionists called Los Percutos, drumming out carribean rhythms.
We be jammin'

Behind them a group of 5 people pushing a wine barrel with a large corkscrew on top followed by a pedal car shaped like a bottle of wine.
(When I told the driver his car looked dangerous, he responded that it was not really since it only drove slowly.) Then followed the members of la Confrérie des Rillauds d'Anjou et des Vins de Brissac, dressed in red robes with black graduation caps on their heads, and wearing a beribboned medal around their necks. One carried a large bottle of wine (turns out to be this year's special red), another the oath of office for the confrérie.

Low and behold, we knew the carrier of the oath of office. It was Sheila Plumejeau from the Gonorderie winery we visited yesterday.
We marched along with this procession and then watched the official part of the fest.
The 5 people pushing the wine cask are this year's inductees to the confrerie, young wine growers, sponsored by another confrerie member we recognized, Pascal Biotteau, the owner of the Avrillé winery that we see from our garden. The ceremony is short (thank goodness) and involves drinking the wine, giving the oath, and receiving their be-ribbonned medals, after which they open the fest by crashing a bottle of this year's vintage into the side of the oak barrel they pushed during the parade.

Four wine growers from the area pool grape resources to produce 2 special wines just for this fest. We drank the Anjou Villages Brissac (red) and there was also a Cabernet d'Anjou (rosé from Cabernet Franc grapes) that we didn't try.
 Food offerings included the regional specialty, Rillauds, pieces of pork belly (think bacon) marinated in anherb brine before being cooked in lard. Or there were sausages of merguez (slightly spicy beef and lamb mix) or herbed pork. And of course, frites. Dave and I had some of all of the above and pronounced them delicious.

Once the cermonies are finished, the festing begins. There are tables and chairs in two locations as there are two music stages - one up by the church
Judy up at the church site

A very French and very entertaining trio called Beretta Chic were the first entertainers. All music groups were from the Angers region

The fest is a family affair and there were balloons for the kids
and the other in an open field below the church. After eating dinner at the church, we mosey down to the other stage where we stay for only a short time.
the venue down below the church

It wasn't as cold as we dressed

The church in Saint-Jean-les-Mauvrets
It's 9 pm already, feels like 6 pm, judging by the position of the sun. Time to head home for us old folks, but the party was really just beginning.
  However, we have a full day planned for tomorrow. Luckily it's a short ride home.


  1. Lynn, your mystery tree picture is a "smoke bush", most likely (Cotinus coggygria) - there's one in my front yard, and I was curious too! (PS, I'm enjoying reading all about your trip, as usual; thanks for letting us all come along via blog!) -Marie

  2. Thanks, Marie. I was hoping one of my biology friends would be able to identify it. It's a beautiful planting.