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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Cognac Museum - Where you can discover one of the most wonderful brandy in the world


What is the Cognac?

The Cognac is one of the most famous symbols of France.

The Cognac is also a picturesque town situated in France in the region of the Charentes Maritime, not far from Tours and Bordeaux.

The Cognac is a particular and unique variety of Brandy tipically French, famous and admired all over the world.




What is this post about?

In this post we are visiting one of the most amazing museum in France, dedicated to the wonderful Cognac, dedicated to this particular variety of brandy.

How is called the museum of Cognac and where is it?

This amazing museum is called Musée des arts du Cognac, litteraly Museum of the arts of Cognac and it is situated in the town centre of the city of Cognac, less than an hour away from Saintes.




What is the Museum of Cognac about?

The Museum of Cognac is a unique exhibition where you can understand the methods used to distil the cognac, the history of the Cognac and of its production, how the Cognac production become larger and larger and how Cognac become famous and appreciated all over the world.

What I can see in the museum?

In the museum you can see:
- a large collection of the instruments used to produce Cognac
- videos and other explanations about the methods of production of the Cognac
- an interesting exibition about the history of the Cognac and how Cognac become famous all over the world
- a wonderful collection of bottles of Cognac including rare bottles especially designed for the best cognac in the world.






What is the Cognac? (from www.wikipedia.com)

Cognac is a variety of brandy.

It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name, in the French Departements of Charente and Charente-Maritime.

For a distilled brandy to bear the name Cognac, its production methods must meet certain legal requirements.

In particular, it must be made from specified grapes, of which Ugni blanc, known locally as Saint-Emilion, is the one most widely used.

The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine when aged in barrels, and most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement.

The white wine used in making cognac is very dry, acidic and thin. Though it has been characterized as "virtually undrinkable", it is excellent for distillation and aging. 

After the grapes are pressed, the juice is left to ferment for two or three weeks, with the region's native, wild yeasts converting the sugar into alcohol; neither sugar nor sulfur may be added.

At this point, the resulting wine is about 7 to 8% alcohol.

Distillation takes place in traditionally shaped Charentais copper stills, also known as an alembic, the design and dimensions of which are also legally controlled. Two distillations must be carried out; the resulting eau-de-vie is a colourless spirit of about 70% alcohol.

According to the interprofessional French institution BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac), the official quality grades of cognac are the following:

    V.S. ("very special or superior"), Very Special, or three stars designates a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years in cask.
    V.S.O.P. ("very special or superior old pale") designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask, but the average wood age is much greater.
    XO ("extra old") designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years but on average for upwards of 20 years. In 2016, the minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an XO blend will be set to ten years.

The names of the grades are in English because the historical cognac trade, particularly in the 18th century, significantly involved the British.


What else can I do when in Cognac?

You should absolutely visit one of the many distilleries in town: the most famous in the world are here, including Courvoisier (owned by Beam Inc.), Hennessy (owned by LVMH), Martell (owned by Pernod Ricard), and Rémy Martin (owned by Rémy Cointreau).

What else can I do when in the area of Cognac apart for visiting distilleries?

You can visiting the fascinating Roman Town of Saintes, with its beautiful town and amphitheater, situated around an hour away from Cognac.

Where I can read more about eno-gastronomic products typically French?








A huge thanks goes to Aurelie Simonnet, super expert and super passionate about the wonderful Cognac!




What else should I visit in France?




Read our page Visit France for more 

posts and destinations.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In the heart of the Charente-Maritime: discover the roman town of Saintes


Why to visit Saintes?

Arriving in Saintes you immediately realize you are in one of the richest Roman towns in France (or saw it was at the time of the Roman Empire).

Situated in the heart of the region of the Charente-Maritime, Saintes is a very popular destination in the region, famous for its Roman heritage.

Although the most famous monument in Saintes is the Roman Amphitheater, the Roman heritage of Saintes is extremely rich and there is much more to see apart the Amphitheater.

Walking along the Charentes, the river that divides in two Saintes, you will immediately see a rich Roman heritage making the city extremely interesting and unique.







What is the Roman Heritage of Saintes?

Saintes is a wonderful Roman city and one of the best kept in France.

The Amphitheater is certainly the most famous Roman monument in Saintes.

But the Triumph Arc is certainly amazing and so is the large collection of statues and other Roman relics situated just along the River Charentes in the town Center, near the Tourist Office.

You can ask at the Tourist Office for a free map of the town, there an interesting itinerary is suggested, follow the itinerary and you will be able to discover Roman Saintes at its best.







Is anything else to see in Saintes apart for the Roman Heritage?

Although Saintes is mostly famous for its Roman heritage, Saintes has a beautiful town center, with some interesting building like the town church, the council hall or you can just stroll around the main street or relax walking along the river Charentes.


There is more I can read about Saintes?

Yes, read our post dedicated to the amazing Saintes Roman Amphitheater.


This post has been made thanks to the help and support of Aurelie and David Simonnet



What else should I visit in France?




Read our page Visit France for more 

posts and destinations.






Friday, December 27, 2013

Back in Roman times: The Roman Amphitheater of Saintes


Why to visit Saintes Amphitheater?

The Roman Amphitheater of Saintes is one of the most interesting and better kept in France.
The Roman Amphitheater is particularly scenic.
Situated outside the old town, the Amphitheater is surrounded by a beautiful grass and visiting the Amphitheater you easily feel back in medieval time.
 







How to visit Saintes Amphitheater?

The entrance fee to the Amphitheater is extremely reasonable so you should absolutely visit the Amphitheater. Alternatively you can see most of the Amphitheater walking around the fence.

This post has been made thanks to the help and support of Aurelie and David Simonnet




What else should I visit in France?




Read our page Visit France for more 

posts and destinations.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Back in Middle Age: discovering the most amazing Medieval monuments in Europe: The church of Notre Dame La Grande




Where is this amazing church?

This amazing church is the Church of Notre Dame La Grande, one of the most beautiful churches in Poitiers.

The French town of Poitiers is a wonderful medieval town also known as the church of 100 bells because the high number of churches in town.

The Church of Notre Dame La Grande is situated in the heart of Poitiers in the old quarter of Monternieuf and it is one of the most beautiful and inspiring.





What is so special about the Church of Notre Dame La Grande in Poitiers?

There are two main aspects of the Church of Notre Dame La Grande that make worthwhile visiting the church.

First is the beautiful facade of the church. 

Carved in the first half of the twelfth century, its famous facade recounts episodes of sacred history: from Adam and Eve until the birth of Jesus. 

Christ in glory dominates the whole composition.

What it is really unique is the wonderful interior of the church.












Why the interior of the Church of Notre Dame La Grande in Poitiers is so special?

The unique columns in the nave of the church are so special because they conserve the original paintings dating back to middle age times.

They are not just beautiful they are amazing because they are an amazing example of medieval design and style that it still be modern today.

Although the paintings pertain to the medieval times, they are impressively modern and fresh in their design and in their colours.

The atmosphere is unique: you really feel back in medieval times. You can nearly expect to see some a knight dressing is armour appearing from behind one of the beautifully decorated columns. 





What is the legend of the miracle of the keys?

The legend that follows make the church of Notre Dame La Grande so special.

The legend goes back in the year 1202, when the English besieged the city of Poitiers. 

The mayor's clerk promised to deliver the city to them, on Easter Day, by providing them with the keys to the city in exchange for a large sum of money. 

In the night, the clerk went to the room of the mayor to steal the keys, but they had disappeared. 

To his dismay, the mayor also realized that the keys had disappeared and he was alarmed because he realized that treason had been committed. 

He thus held back his soldiers and went to the church of Notre Dame-la-Grande to request a miracle. 

There he discovered the statue of the Virgin Mary holding the keys. 

However, during the night, under the ramparts, frightened by the appearances of the Virgin, Saint Hilary and Saint Radegunda, the English killed each other and fled. 

You can see this event is represented, in the church, in a stained glass window of the 19th century and on a table of the 17th century. 

The church of St-Hilaire-la-Grande of Poitiers preserves three stone statues (the Virgin with the Child, Saint Hilary and Saint Radegunda) which formerly decorated the gate of the moat, the place of the miracle. The legend is not credible from a historical point of view since, in 1202, Poitou formed part of the English duchy of Aquitaine, under the reigns of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

The oldest account of the legend can be found in Jean Bouchet's Annals of Aquitaine. 

Where I can read more about Tours?

You can read more on our post Exploring Tours - click here to read it.

Where I can read about dolmens and menhirs in France?

Here a list of posts you may find interesting if you are looking for dolmens, menhirs and generally speaking the Celtic heritage in France:

Carnac and the amazing heritage of Brittany 

Menhir, ghosts, mysteries and great countryside... where? In Brittany!

What's to see in Plouescat?


A wonderful dolmen in the outskirts of Tours



What else should I visit in France?




Read our page Visit France for more 

posts and destinations.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What is to see in the outskirts of Tours? - Exploring the most beautiful towns in France - Tours #4


What is this post about?

 This post is about one of the most amazing and well preserved dolmen in France.

It is situated just outside the tour and its part of the rich heritage of menhir and dolmens that is present in the North of France.

What is so special about this dolmen?

Apart for its beauty and its dimensions, this dolmen is particulary interesting for the story and the legends to this amazing piece of history.

It has been recently discovered that around this dolmen ritual cerimonies were held to propitiate fertility.

In more recently times the place has been converted in a devotional sanctuary in honor of St Anthony.

It is said that this dolmen was a  meeting point for the fairies.

According with the legend the fairies use to sleep under the dolmen, after having built it in just one night.




Where I should go to see the dolmen?

The dolmen is situated in the outskirts of Tours, in the Commune de Saint Antoine de Rocher, follow the directions for Saint Antoine de Rocher, around 16 km North from Tours town centre.



 
Where I can read more about Tours?

You can read more on our post Exploring Tours - click here to read it.

Where I can read and see more dolmens and menhirs in France?

Here a list of posts you may find interesting if you are looking for dolmens, menhirs and generally speaking the Celtic heritage in France:

Carnac and the amazing heritage of Brittany 

Menhir, ghosts, mysteries and great countryside... where? In Brittany!

What's to see in Plouescat?



What else should I visit in France?




Read our page Visit France for more 

posts and destinations.




Friday, December 13, 2013

What is to see in Tours? - Exploring the most beautiful towns in France - Tours #3




Why to visit Tours?

Tours is a beautiful town situated in the heart of the River Loire Valley and it is a perfect base to visit the most beautiful Chateaux de la Loire.

The great thing about Tours is that the town offers so many different things to do.

Below you can find a list of the top ten attractions 



What can I do in Tours?

You can visit the medieval town, with the cobbled streets and the many restaurants and pubs outside.



You can visit the beautiful and famous Cathedral of Tours: click here to read more about Tours Cathedral.





You can visit the beautiful church dedicated to St Martin of Tours: click here to read more about the Church of St Martin of Tours in Tours.




You can visit the beautiful Musée de Beaux Arts.



You can walk along the River Loire, admiring the beautiful panorama.



You can visit one of the many castles situated along the River Loire Valley: like for example the Chateau de Chinon: click here to read about the Chinon Castle.



You can visit one of the most amazing dolmen in France, situated just in the outside of Tours.



This post has been made thanks to the help and support of Caroline Lemerle et Anne-Claire and Ludo Chêne-Geffroy!





What else should I visit in France?



Read our page Visit France for more 


posts and destinations.


 

The burialplace of Leonardo da Vinci - The Chateau of Amboise - Exploring the Castles of the Loire Valley #7


Where is buried Leonardo da Vinci?

We don't know where Leonardo da Vinci's human rests are now, but we know where he was buried.

Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d'Amboise, in France, accordingly with its last will.

Today if you visit the Château d'Amboise, in the chapel a large tombstone marks the site where he was buried and a statue in the gardens of the castle remember Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the Château d'Amboise because in the little town he lived his last years serving the King of France.

Leonardo da Vinci's last home Clos Lucé is a very interesting museum of the Italian artist and inventor.

Today Amboise is a very popular place for those who today are still fascinated by such an amazing personality and life as the one of Leonardo da Vinci.




What is so special about the Chateau of Amboise?

When you ask yourself this question you probably mean: "Why is so special about the Chateau of Amboise apart from being Leonardo da Vinci burial place?"

Arrive at Amboise and go towards the river Indre et Loire that crosses the little town of Amboise.

Arrive at the bridge, look infront of you and enjoy the best view of the Chateau d'Amboise and maybe to one of the most beautiful Chateaux in France.

If this is the best view of the castle on a distance the other great views you have walking around the walls and in the narrow street of the village surrounding the castle.

The castle  is so big and so impressive that you will remain amazed of its size and it is beauty, look at the photos below and you will have just an idea of its grandness.

Is the history of the Castle particularly interesting?

The Chateau of Amboise was a royal residence and as many others in France is astonishingly beautiful and impressive.

What is particularly interesting about the history of the castle is the strong connection with Italy that this castle possess.

Apart for being the place where Leonardo da Vinci was buried and lived the last years (although his private home was just a mile away from the Chateau of Amboise, at Clos Luce), the castle of Amboise enjoy a strong connection with the Italian architecture and style, making of the chateau "the first Italianate palace in France".

"Following the Italian War of 1494–1495, Charles brought Italian architects and artisans to France to work on the château, and turn it into "the first Italianate palace in France". 
Among the people Charles brought from Italy was Pacello da Mercogliano who designed the gardens at the châteaux of Ambois and Blois; his work was highly influential amongst French landscape designers. 
Charles died at Château d'Amboise in 1498 after he hit his head on a door lintel.  Before his death he had the upper terrace widened to hold a larger parterre and enclosed with latticework and pavilions; his successor, Louis XII, built a gallery round the terrace which can be seen in the 1576 engraving by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, in Les plus excellens bastimens de France. 
The parterres have been recreated in the twentieth century as rectangles of lawns set in gravel and a formal bosquet of trees".  (from wikipedia - Chateau d'Amboise)






Why the myth of Leonardo da Vinci exists?

Many explanations can be given for the existence of Leonardo da Vinci's myth, we loved the one of Giorgio Vasari a famous Italian painter, architect, writer and historian, who lived in the same time of Leonardo:

"In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease".






A great thanks goes to Anne-Claire and Ludo Chêne-Geffroy for making this post possible!





What else I can visit near Amboise?


Near Amboise you can visit the beautiful town of Tours click here to read more.


If I have to choose, what are the other castles of the River Loire Valley I should absolutely visit?

All the castles of the River Loire Valley, but time and money suggest you should make a choice.
We selected for you an itinerary, so to give you the widest sight and prospective about these beautiful chateaux, so unique and so different one with the others.

Here the links to the other castles we absolutely suggest you visit:

Exploring the Castles of the River Loire Valley #1 - The Castle of Nantes





What else should I visit in France?

Read our page Visit France for more posts and destinations.