Monday, 23 August 2010

More Guest Reviews

Our guests are so generous with their reviews, we were delighted to receive two more in the last two weeks.

The first one is from a one week stay 15th May 2010, 4 adults and three children aged 2, 2 and 1:

"My family and friends stayed at White Shutters in May 2010. There were 6 adults and 3 small children in total, all of us wanting a break from hectic working life and that is exactly what we got. White Shutters feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, in a really good way, although there is a town with all you need less than 10 minutes drive away. We spent our days by the pool, knowing the children were perfectly safe. We spent our evenings cooking in the amazing kitchen, very rustic and a "cooks Kitchen", or having barbeques on the terrace. There are beaches nearby and plenty to see but if you just want to relax and feel like you are really living rural French life then this is the place for you. We had a wonderful time and have some cherished memories. Thank you to Fiona and Helen who looked after us so well
The Roses, Brighton

PS Can you let us know what availability you have for late june/Early july next year, before summer holidays start."

...and the second one from a two week stay 31st July 2010. 4 Adults and 4 children aged 8, 6, 3 and 2, 2 additional friends stayed for a few days in the middle.

"We spent two fabulous weeks with our two families at White Shutters during August 2010, we were joined by another friend and his daughter during the second week . It was a spacious and extremely well equipped gite with everything we could ask for. The bedrooms were spacious and comfortable with loads of space for our boys to play in.

The children thoroughly enjoyed using the toys and bikes that were there, the large garden and gravelled area added to their freedom and enjoyment. The kitchen was well stocked and the cook books came in very handy, especially when we where not eating bread and cheese or using the BBQ. We enjoyed the pool and the gates made it far more relaxing for the grown ups, knowing that the children were safe . We spent many happy evenings chatting and dining on the patio or around the kitchen table .

We sampled lots of local foods, including the odd bottle of wine !! The market at Alnay was great for fresh fruits and veg, and the occasional kilo of mussels ! Helen was really helpful and gave us really good ideas on places to visit. The local area was great to explore and we ventured to Cognac, La Rochelle and the beaches. You definitely need a car, but it was really nice to return to a quite hamlet at the end of the day. It was a great two weeks and definitely a great place for a relaxing family holiday.

Thanks Fiona for making the process so easy. The Griffiths/Savory Family (Wilts)"

I cannot say how happy we are that everyone is having such a great time this summer...thank you for taking the time to write reviews, they are appreciated! We have the best guests!!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Moules Marinieres - Summer in the Charente Maritime - defined!

To feed everyone staying at White Shutters (10-12) which is what we did on our own holiday last week with extended family!

  • Take 5 kgs of fresh local mussels, wash under running water debeard, scrub and discard any that don't shut after a serious shake in the colandar under running water.

  • Gently sauté 2 onions and up to a chopped bulb of garlic in butter and olive oil (large knob of and a good lug) in the largest pan White Shutters has (catering size.)

  • Add a bottle or so of cheap dry white wine, bring to simmering point and carefully tip in all of the mussels. Put the lid on.

  • Bring back to the boil and shake gently at intervals to redistribute the mussels so they cook evenly. Steam for 5-10 minutes until they are all open, discard any that stay shut when eating.

  • Carefully stir in a bunch of chopped parsley and serve in bowls with ladles of juice, frites and hunks of bread for dunking.

Moules Marinieres, summer in the Charente Maritime defined!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Guest Reviews!

We are well under way with the 2010 "season". I think our guests have been having good holidays as reviews received so far indicate! Thank you so much for taking the time to write them!

We spent a week at White Shutters in mid June. Our family consisted of 6 adults and 3 children aged 3, 1 and 6 months and we had a really wonderful holiday. The house is the best equipped I have ever stayed in, comfortable, beautiful with an enormous heated pool safely enclosed and there were enough toys, games, bicycles etc to keep everyone happy without any need to venture further. We did spend one day at the beach which was fun and explored nearby markets and countryside which by now must be stunning with field upon field of sunflowers and poppies. Helen arranged food for our arrival and made us most welcome. We would definitely recommend it to anyone with small children who needs a hassle-free haven.
JN - East Sussex Date of stay 19th June 2010 7 nights
Just a quick email to thank you. We had a great holiday at white shutters, weather was hot and sunny and we enjoyed the pool and sitting out late into the evening enjoying the peace and quiet. Dad and Andy enjoyed cycling round the local area and Mum and Paul went running each morning.
We were really lucky to see two tawny owl chicks fledge while we were there. There were nesting behind the brown shutter outside the poppy room window. We watched the adults feeding them and then finally just before we left they fledged. Dad got some video footage of each chick the next morning, they were lovely. The house was well equipped with lots of space for us all. We couldn't fault it really the only suggestion we had was possibly a bigger kitchen bin as we were emptying it a lot and possibly some bathroom scales to just check the weight of our cases before leaving - as Andy bought so many local goods and bottles I was trying to guess weights of cases as we only had 20kg limit.
We had a couple of lovely meals in Cognac and Aulnay and thoroughly enjoyed La Rochelle and the beach at Royan. It was by far the best property we have stayed at and we loved the area, the french locals were really friendly and the sunflowers came out just before we left.
Thank you again, Louise.
LW- Cheshire Date of stay 26th June 2010 14 nights 6 adults and 2 children age 4 and 18 months
Please note, there is now a bigger kitchen bin, and there are scales in the bottom drawer in the Bathroom next to the kitchen, I'm sorry you didn't find them and I hope no precious supplies had to be given to the douanes!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sunny Family Room Upgrade

Our multi purpose Family Room is huge, with exposed beams and stonework and a large Velux window with blackout blind, yellow of course! The Super King bed can separate into singles if you need a Teen Dorm....or smaller children can sleep in with their parents, and there is room for a cot too (either the wooden or travel cot we provide)

We have replaced the black metal bunk bed with a lovely cream day bed that can also be a full size single....Sunflowers meet the sunny seaside....and hopefully soon I will finish a sunflower quilt that is cut out but not sewn!!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Some more eating out recommendations...

Although we were very busy over Easter we found some time to try another restaurant. All work and no play and all the rest of it, anyway, it is our duty as caring owners to test out more eateries for our guests' benefit!

Le Moulin des Saules is just 10 minutes away from White Shutters in Pouzou near Les Eglises d'Argenteuil, although the mill is a little tucked away outside the village so take a map. We booked a table for two, although children are welcome this is nice for a more refined meal out in the evening. We booked for the last night of our holiday at Easter, although the moulin is open for lunch too at the same prices we believe.

Although a la carte is available, as ever in France the fixed price menu was far better value, a choice of 4 courses for €27, €33 or a discovery menu around €45 from memory, 3-4 choices per course. We had the €27 version, and very tasty it was too. The starters were amazing and huge portions too, thankfully the main courses were not proportionally larger. Everything was imaginatively and elegantly served, with nice touches like amuse-bouches. The cheese board was outstanding, and left on our table. Our only criticism was that the wine menu starts at €20 a bottle, a house carafe at a more reasonable price would have been appreciated! after all I cannot cook like that, but even I can open a bottle of wine in skill required for that!
It was a relaxed evening, we had a window seat overlooking the mill race, meadows and terracing area around the swimming pool. The sunset was very dramatic. The mill workings have all been restored and visble inside the restaurant.

So persuade other members of your party to babysit the children and take it in turns to have a couples night out here.

Le Moulin des Saules is open Wednesday-Sunday for lunch and Friday and Saturday nights for dinner, although check as it may be different in high season.

05 46 59 98 53

Somewhere else that comes highly recommended as great value for a week day lunch is in La Paille, a nice cycle ride on quiet roads from White Shutters, unfortunately we tried a Tuesday lunchtime when they are shut, duh. Hopefully next time!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Shower Rooms and Bathrooms!

There has been a bit of debate recently amongst other gite and B&B owners/friends on the advisability of having bathroom pictures on rental websites. A bathroom is not what you go on holiday for is it? On the other hand a grimy dingy bathroom with limited facilities for the number of people a property sleeps does have a large negative impact on your precious week or two in the sun! Some owners think only boutique hotel/spa standard bathrooms should be photographed. Other successful rental owners have had high bookings for years with no bathroom photos on their websites, and no complaints either! Perfectly formed "normal" clean bathrooms are so hard to photograph!

We're somewhere in the middle, we have stayed in gites where the photographed rooms have reached or exceeded expectation, only to go upstairs to hideous time warp bedrooms and a dingy bathroom to serve 10. So we are showing you our clean and functional bathrooms, not boutique with mood music or adjustable lighting, but clean and fresh (and not staged) and they do what they say on the tin....

White Shutters is set up to be spacious and accommodate 8 people in 4 bedrooms (1 downstairs), but for a more economical holiday there is still plenty of space to sleep 12 (6 adults + up to 6 children/babies)....... and those 4 bedrooms are served by 4 bathrooms, so there is no scrum if the house is fully occupied, and 2-3 family groups have use of their own bathroom for privacy and convenience. One bath/shower and one shower room are upstairs and two shower rooms are downstairs.

The bathroom next to the kitchen has been refreshed and is now a very spacious shower room, we call it the pool shower room as it's very convenient for a post swimming sluice down. We have removed the old tiled bath and moved the large shower cubicle. It's all very fresh and clean and functional now. The pool towels are also kept in here (another included extra at White Shutters but please wash and dry them before you leave!) It goes without saying that a fluffy white hand and bath towel per guest is provided each week, and a bath mat per bathroom!

The major part of our bathroom improvements have been to the Poppy Master en suite bathroom. This now has a dedicated shower bath, designed for showering without flooding downstairs, the old bath was a daft shape!. We were also keen to keep 1 bath in the house for dunking small people in at the end of their busy day. We have also re tiled the floor and walls and redecorated. Again, an efficient extractor fan has also been installed.

Thank you to Dave (our builder) for working hard on the Poppy Bathroom over Easter!

...enough bathroom talk!

Friday, 16 April 2010

NEW Angouleme Flights for June 2010 on...

Great news, City Swiss have started flying London Gatwick to Angouleme (Mon, Weds, Fri) from June 2010, and we have just two weeks available in June. Sat 5th to Sat 19th June, we know a delightful B&B near Angouleme/Cognac for your first night (or several nights!) Au Belle Fleur has 4 B&B rooms and a family suite too. We also have available August bank holiday week and mid September on!

Just finishing our 2 weeks improving and freshening and cleaning for the new season, heated pool already open , we're having beautiful weather! Why not drive out for some early precious sun in May....we are open from 1st May, and that pool is heated! Only 4-7 hours from all channel ports, and the second sunniest region of France.

Will blog next week with what's new and improved for 2010 at White Shutters!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Raymond Blanc's Apple Tart

When not in France the next best thing is another French recipe try out, Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets is a very inspiring BBC series, not stuffy or and and the great man is just so chearful and un pretentious, I am sure he washes his own burnt on milk pans occasionally, then again he would never burn a pan would he?! I can have a bash at his dishes, and he is a multi starred Michelin chef, and I am not!

So here is my Raymond Blanc "Maman Blanc" Apple Tart, just google for the recipe!! I'll be back in a bit to report if the creme fraiche was a good substitute for double cream, and whether it tasted as good as it looks. Will be making proper creme anglaise too.

The reason for the impatience, it has to cool for an hour before eating, it's murdur having to walk time! Well it's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the Cotswolds. The great man is so cruel making us wait....

A little while later...... dog walked and back home to make Creme Anglaise a la Julia Child, worked perfectly with semi skimmed milk, dash of single cream, warmed carefully in saucepan, no messing with water baths. Birds has been ousted in this house, in 44 years except perhaps in the odd restaurant, I had never knowingly known how divinely good proper home made custard is!
I used half fat creme fraiche, instead of double cream, in the egg mixture poured over the apples part way through cooking. It was fine, not watery or curdled at all. I also realised why my open tarts always seem dry, Raymond advises each apple cut into 10 slices, far chunkier than my usual, and far tastier and moister as a result. That's why he is a master, lots of simple tips that make all the difference to us ordinary cooks! The apple is brushed with a melted butter/sugar and calvados glaze before the first part bake, and then egg custard added and finished for 10 minutes. All the cooking times perfectly calculated so the result is light, apply tasting and not at all dried out or sickly. The calvados glaze tasted very good out of the pan too!

I am afraid to say I forgot the "dressed" photo with tart dusted with icing sugar and home made creme anglaise dribbled artfully. We don't do delicate portions, and all 4 of us had seconds and the whole tart has vanished. I do like my Portmeirion pottery though! There was a tart there not long ago.

I blame the dog myself... I think we should go out for another walk now, the dog will think it's died and gone to heaven, eventhough he got no tart. Merci Maman Blanc.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

This recipe is not "very French", but it's turned cold again in the until we can get out to France and some warm rays of sunshine at Easter, I devised (with a little help from some nice twitter friends) a warming winter soup, around the ingredients I had in the house!

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

1 large sweet potato (grated in food processor)
4-6 large carrots (grated in food processor)
1 large onion (white or red) chopped finely
2-3 garlic cloves crushed
3cm cube ginger skinned and chopped finely
1tblspn olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 litre vegetable stock (cheated I made using Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)
0.25 l orange juice
Grated zest of an orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Sweat the grated vegetables, garlic and ginger in the olive oil over a low heat with pan lid on, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

  • Stir in cumin and orange zest and plenty of pepper.

  • Make up the stock and add to vegetables with the orange juice

  • Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes

  • Blend carefully and adjust seasoning to taste (for me I add even more black pepper and little salt as the stock has salt in it)

  • Serve with a swirl of low fat yogurt, creme fraiche or cream and sprinkling of paprika.