Monday, 10 October 2011

Le Chateau de la Roche Courbon

Le Chateau de la RocheCourbon is a great day out from White Shutters.  It’s near the hamlet of Saint-Porchaire, the easiest way is to get there is via Saint-Jean d’Angély and then on to Saint-Savinien, a gentle run of about 40 minutes or so.

Before you set out make a nice picnic lunch, the grounds are lovely and as always there are picnic tables, and children can run around.  You can buy a chateau lunch, a delicious looking plate of charcuterie, cheeses, salad and a glass of wine to eat al fresco, but at €11 I thought a little expensive.  Ubiquitous saucisse frites, croquet monsuier etc are around €5.  In contrast the entrance fee to all the attractions (except chateau interior) was reasonable at €6 for adults or €9 to include a guided tour of the château as well, in September 2011.
The landscaping is magnificent, with a lot of renovation work on the waterways in recent years, but walk across opposite the chateau and climb the escaliers for a magnificent view back across the lake. There is a small archaeology museum but the “Jeu” room had lots of traditional wooden games that you could play which was much more fun than an amusement arcade, and interesting working out the rules!  I don’t think it’s called “shove ha’penny” in France!  You can also walk the pleasant 1km tree lined avenue down to the original habitation, the prehistoric grottes.

If you want to do the tour of the chateau check the times on arrival, as in September there was only one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Refreshingly you can arrive at any time; the ticket office isn’t shut at lunch time.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Lazy hazy family days...

No one holiday suits everyone; we all want different experiences from different holidays too. If quality time with your family and friends is your goal, time to kick back and enjoy extended casual meals outside, trips to the beach and a gentle cycle ride through sunflower strewn countryside, then White Shutters will suit you perfectly. If watching your young child, grand child or great grand child learn to swim with the sound of uninhibited laughter drifting across the garden as dad gets soaked again in your own private heated pool is your idea of the perfect family holiday, then why not book White Shutters? Sit under the gazebo with a good book from the gite library, a glass of chilled wine and the BBQ on standby then White Shutters will be your two weeks of bliss. I haven’t even mentioned the moules frites, pineau and weaving down the lane on a bike for the morning crusty baguette nor perusing the local Sunday morning market.

Recent guests, did all of that and more We were delighted to host 4 generations of the same family in June, and from their review I think they all got a lot out of their two weeks of kicking back and winding down.

Hi Fiona - just to let you know that we had an absolutely fabulous holiday at White Shutters. What a lovely villa you have and we feel privileged to have stayed there. Everyone enjoyed themselves from the very young (Jacob - 10 weeks old) to the very old (my Dad - 89 next birthday).
Apart from the beautiful setting, one of the real bonuses for us was the pool. Joshie, our 4 year old grandson took his first real swimming strokes and we were so proud. He has been having lessons for a little while and having the pool at our disposal he grew in confidence every day to the stage where he was happily jumping in and going under and resurfacing. The only problem was the little tantrums when he was told he had to get out and get ready for bed.
We thought Aulnay was really lovely. My sister lives in Rostrenen as you know, and by comparison Aulnay is such a buzzy little town.
It was handy to know that Sharon and Steve were there if we had any problems - but happy to say there were none.
I do hope that we left the villa in the good order that we found it in. We were conscious it was your home and what a home from home it was. We felt so relaxed and settled it was a wrench to leave.
Sadly we have to get back into work mode as Monday morning looms unfortunately.
Thank you once again for sharing your home with us. I am attaching a picture of my daughter and family on the bikes, you can just see my Dad sitting in the shade behind them.
Kindest regards

Gill & Simon
The photo sums up what we try and offer!  We hope to welcome you to White Shutters soon, now booking for 2012!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Shabby Shutters are no more!!

White Shutters finally has white shutters!  We had recently been feeling we should have named our house "Shabby Shutters"as les volets needed repairing, stripping and painting and there was also one brown pair.  Although the dream was always blue shutters, in true Charente-Maritime style, we kept the original "blanc"colour as they are pretty big, and we have called our dream White Shutters, they look so fresh against the dark green Virginia Creeper.  Changing colour and name is just too complicated now......wooden shutters are authentic but my goodness they take a lot of repair, prepping and painting 2-3 coats on each, I have a secret inkling that the very authentic looking uPVC ones would have been so much easier, but traditional wood is still best. 
They are made of hardwood and very heavy, it was interesting getting them off their hinges upstairs, and even more interesting getting them back on 10 days later. Three people, one climbing rope and an awful lot of choice language. Thank goodness the weather has been stunning this Easter.

White Shutters is well and truly ready for the 2011 season now, the pool is sparkling, geraniums planted and a wood burner looks quite stately in the salon.

The pool is gorgeous, as we were swimming in it Easter Weekend, once it had been opened up and cleaned and heated up for the husband.  We do have limited availability in May, one week in early July and September/October is available, please see the website for up to date availability.  Variable length holidays are no problem in May and September.
Can someone please let me know if the hammock is comfy, I never did get to try it out!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

French style Sausage and Puy Lentil Casserole

I adapted this classic French style dish from a recipe in Good Food magazine, September 2010.

Three cooking ingredients I always bring home from our holidays at White Shutters are lots of the cheapest wine for cooking (red and white), chorizo sausage (Intermarché in Aulnay do a fantastic budget one for €1) and big fat garlic bulbs.

Recipe (serves 4)

1 tblspn Olive oil and extra for roasting veg if using

8 good quality pork sausages (or Toulouse!)

1 red onion sliced

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 red pepper sliced

50g chorizo finely diced

250g Puy (green) lentils

300ml veg stock

250ml red wine (cheaper the better!)

Optional Courgettes and aubergines (or similar veg) for roasting

Le Creuset or similar heavy hob to oven pot (provided at White Shutters!)
Serves 4

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees (160 fan)

1 Brown the sausages in half the oil in the Le Creuset on the hob, put to one side (1 pan meal, less washing up!)

2 Add the rest of the oil with the onion, garlic, chorizo and pepper to the pan and sauté for 5 mins

3 Add sausages (chopped if desired), lentils stock and wine and bring to simmering point, stir, cover tightly and put in oven for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Do not add salt at this stage as this stops pulses cooking properly.

4 Chop veggies for oven roasting (if using), toss in a little olive oil and roast on a pre heated sheet for about 30 minutes.

4 The lentils should be soft (not crunchy) when cooked, but this isn't a saucy dish either.

5 if cooked on the hob (very low heat) it will take 30-45 minutes but keep an eagle eye on the pan and add a little more water if necessary. I prefer oven so you can go off and have a sneaky aperitif, or another dip in the heated pool before dinner!

6 Add the roasted veg to the pan, adjust seasoning and stir through and serve. Don't forget a baguette for mopping.
I loved it, definitely a "rustique" style dish as the picture shows. The family still prefer sausage and chips, Toad in the Hole or sausage and cauliflower cheese....ungrateful lot, but give it a go. At least they can eat the sausages leaving a beautifully smoky lentil concoction for my lunch the next day.
Bon appetit!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Attractions of the Poitou Charente near family friendly gite with heated pool

There is so much to do at White Shutters. Swimming in the large pool kept at 26 degrees for your comfort, cycling the quiet sunflower lined lanes from the house on the bikes we provide. Perhaps a game of pool in the games room, or enjoying a long lazy lunch under the gazebo may be more your style. However, you will also want to explore some days, and all the attractions in this video are a 4o - 90 minute leisurely drive away.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Cognac Blues Passions Festival July 5th-9th 2011

The famous Cognac Blues Passions Festival has changed it's dates this year, and is now being held from Tueday 5th - Saturday 9th July 2011 in various locations around Cognac centre. Last year it was the last week in July and co-incided with our holiday, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Most of the sets are free! There is a headliner act each day, culminating with Jamie Cullum on Sat 9th July.

It was easy to drive into Cognac (about 40 minutes leisurely drive through the vineyards from White Shutters)and parking is free in the side streets about a 5 minute walk from the centre. Enjoy lunch in a pavement cafe and wander between the different venues in the park, stretch out on the grass in the sunshine and enjoy the atmosphere. Very definitely a multi generational affair in the daytime. Unfortunately we are unable to go this year, but highly recommend the experience on one or more days of your holiday. White Shutters is still available Sat 2nd-Sat 9th July or treat yourself to a fortnight with friends and family and add a June week when the weather is perfect and just before French schools break up for summer.