Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday May 1 - French Labor Day

Today is May Day and the French National Holiday equivalent to our Labor Day, La Fête du Travail.  It is also the "Foire aux Vins" in a small town called Panzoult a bit east of Chinon, about 1.5 hours from here. Since that translates into Wine Fair, we're off.

The drive is beautiful. The past week has had rather unsettled and unsettling weather. By turns, it is sunny, then cloudy, then showery, then sunny again and the wind has been blustery. We're carrying around raincoats, windbreakers, sweaters, all to layer or un-layer with the changing weather. We've changed our activity plans several days due to weather that then didn't materialize. Today is no exception. Sun and clouds alternate. When the sun is out, it's warm and slightly breezy, but when the sun is behind the clouds, the wind is stronger and colder. And there are periodic showers.

We took a route along the north side of the Loire River from Gennes to just before Chinon, usually having an unimpeded view of the River. We are traveling along the levee that is likely the cause of the flooding experienced by Saint-Rémy's priory. We have a new appreciation for both the levee and the south bank flooded by its construction.

As we pass through the town, it is empty but luckily there are a few signs pointing us just out of town and we can see tents on the hillside, what we are guessing is the Maison de Vin (the local wine cooperative) building, and signs pointing us beyond to parking. Oh, my goodness - there are fields filled with cars.
parking at Panzoult Wine Fair
I guess it's a well-known annual event. We luck out with a good parking place near the lower sets of tents.

These, it turns out, are the food and drink tents.
The theme this year is Brittany, so the meal offering is Breton cuisine. For 15 Euros per person we get a first course of fish tureen, shrimp, hard-boiled egg with mayo and white asparagus. The main course is porc in cider, with vegetables and bread, followed by a bit of salad and two Breton cheeses. And finally, dessert, "far breton", a custardy cake with prunes. All delicious.
The feeding station

A giant pan of vegetables being served

For 8 Euros, Dave buys a bottle of the local red wine and we feast.

Janis with main course (large plate), cheese course (with salad) and dessert (small plate front right)
And once more, we are in tune with the French - there's a big tent with tables and benches and it is filling fast.
We are right in the middle of French lunch hour(s) - noon to two. Everyone is eating now.

Throughout the meal and later in the afternoon, we were treated to Breton dancers and musicians wearing traditional costumes.
Breton dancers

Clarinet, bagpipe and accordian
I tried but failed to get good pictures of the laces worn by the women. Darn. But Dave got some that will hopefully give you a hint of the costumes and instruments - a clarinet, accordian, and bagpipes, mostly.
Breton musicians in front of the wine coop

Breton dancers in regional costumes

Breton dancers doing a line folk dance 

Breton dancers

We bought wine glasses for 3 Euros each and used these for tasting in the cave - literally, a carved cave that was made just for wine-tasting it seems.

The cave circles back 100 yards to a large stone fireplace (where they were making fouée - that pita-like bread we so liked - only we were stuffed from dinner) and then back the other side of a U to the entrance.
Along the walls, little tasting areas were carved, literally, by hand it looks, that allowed someone to stand inside while patrons stepped up to a bar to taste wine.

Each space was carved differently and decoratively and there were additional carvings in the spaces between the tasting stations. We tried a few wines, met some interesting vintners - one with a gîte (self-catering house) for 6 people to rent near St. Emilion in the Bordeaux region. Clark was salivating over that possibility.
This vintner spoke beautiful British English and told us about her nephew in the States

We left around 3:30 and headed to our first "plus beau village" - a designation earned by small villages of under 2000 people who have beautiful (old) villages full of character. Crissay-sur-Manse has a castle, never finished, never really lived in, an old town of stone houses, and an old church.

the unfinished castle

the upper village


the church
The castle can't be approached because it's private property, and the town is small. The church has lots of information (in English, no less) and is undergoing renovations. There's a public toilet around the corner behind the church. Aaah. And we head for home.

Tomorrow we leave for a 3-day trip to St. Malo (just the corner of Brittany), Mont St. Michel (just the corner of Normandy) and the D-Day beaches. We'll be back on Friday. To be continued. Time now to pack.

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