Chinon

 

The chateau and cobbled streets of Chinon are 6km drive away. It is an enchanting town and we are thrilled to have it within such easy reach of La Fuye.

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We have done lots of hard work knocking on doors and shortlisting all of the places we think you need to know about, in and around Chinon. Here’s our guide to local hangouts, markets, delicious restaurants, the best boulangeries … and more

Markets:

Make sure you get to the town’s charming main market, which happens every Thursday (8am-1pm). Visit the retro Citröen van for a breakfast crêpe and a coffee and browse all the lovely local produce. The market grows over the summer months and you can sometimes spot the odd stall selling brightly coloured pottery from Provence. There are several regular linen stalls, of varying quality, that are sometimes worth a look, as well as a man selling pashminas (note, not the same as the cotton scarf stall). Rummage and be rewarded! (Place Jeanne D’Arc)

Chinon also has a very small Saturday Morning Market just outside the Marie/Café des Arts as well as a slightly larger Sunday Market (also just by the Marie) selling seafood, cheese, fruit and veg (open 9am-1pm). There is usually a great atmosphere in town on a Sunday - make sure you visit the pop-up oyster bar that is there most Sundays, or have a coffee on the square.

Note that on Sundays, the focus is on the heart of the town and L’Eclerc (see Supermarkets) and all the out-of-town shops are shut - they reopen on Monday. However, the small, in-town Carrefore, the butchers, the bakers and so on, all remain open on Sundays until around 1pm. As a general rule, anything that is open on a Sunday, will be closed on a Monday, and visa versa (except La Tour de Pain which manages to stay open regardless of the day - see Boulangeries, below). Don’t forget that most independent shops will shut for lunch as well as some chains too (timings vary from shop to shop but things usually close 1pm-3pm).

Boulangeries:

The best boulangerie closest to us is La Tour de Pain, on the road in to Chinon, with very easy parking and a big orange awning. It’s on the left hand side as you approach the town and is hard to miss. It is rarely closed, even on public holidays and it is open on Sundays and Mondays too. (45 Avenue François Mitterrand)

Fournil du Chateau is excellent and sits on the cobbled street just around the corner from the Café des Arts in town and is well worth the queue that sometimes snakes out the door. Try their tarte abricot which is not too sweet. (16 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau; closed Sundays)

Wine Bars:
Chinon has two, both quite different from each other and both selling excellent local wines, with charcutterie and cheese to eat ‘sur place‘. Emilie at the Cabane à Vin, which sits right next to the Marie (23 Place du Général de Gaulle), can give you a great education on Chinon wine, helped by the fact that her husband is an organic winemaker. Cave Voltaire (owned by Patrice) is tucked away down a beautiful cobbled street under the shadow of the Château de Chinon (13 Rue Voltaire). He is also very knowledgeable and they both carry a slightly different selection of wines from each other. Both open around 11am-3pm and 5pm-8/9pm. Sometimes later depending on what is going on. Pop in and check!

We have a number of friends who produce excellent, organic, local wine, some of which is sold in the George V in Paris. If you are interested in any Chinon wine recommendations, please do get in touch with us at frog@lafuye.com and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. Tours of vineyards are also possible, upon request.

Restaurants:

Simple, great value for lunch or dinner and very popular with the locals is Un Air d’Antan (54b Rue Rabelais). It has a chalk-board menu and a limited choice, but it’s traditional home cooking and very relaxed and one of our favourite places for a low key but delicious dinner. If it’s good weather call ahead to get a seat on the terrace. Owners Fred and Antoine are the chef and waiter respectively. It has a good wine list (try the Bernard Baudry). For a quick lunch, there is Café Chaud (good salads) on the square or Café des Arts (good wine list) and for formal dining, Les Années Trente is hard to beat (ask for a table upstairs and order any wine from Pascal Lambert). Au Chapeau Rouge is lovely for dinner in the summer months when you can sit in the square outside. Also recommended are L’Ardoise and La Part des Ange (indoor dining only).

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In the summer, La Guinguette on Rive Gauche is a must for a stunning view of the chateau (see above), riverside dining and a relaxed vibe. Boat tours can also be organised - just ask us.

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Out of town restaurants:

We recommend Château de Marçay (in Marçay, just outside Chinon) as well as Auberge de L’Île (I’Île-Bouchard).

Patisseries:

Patisserie Ayrole is the best in town and inventors of the Tarte Vigneronne - which is the local delicacy made from thin slices of apple set in a Chinon wine jelly, with a slightly caramelised mille-feuille base (delicious - try it!). You can’t go too far wrong with anything from here though. (5 Rue Neuve de L’Hôtel de ville). Fournil du Chateau - albeit a boulangerie and not a patisserie - has great, more rustic puds in mini format only. Order a day in advance if you want things in a larger size. La Tour de Pain (also a boulangerie) has a good selection of patisserie on Mondays when Ayrole is closed, including a perfectly acceptable Tarte Vigneronne.

Traiteur:

Aux Délices du Terroir on the pretty square Place Mirabeau is brilliant for fait maison patés and cold cuts. Excellent celeriac salad too as well as oeufs au lait. (2 Rue Marceau).

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Butchers:

Chinon has two good butchers. There is the excellent organic butcherie Marquet Stéphane as well as Ondet (non-organic) - both are almost next to each other on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. (Open Monday-Saturday 8am-1pm; 3.15pm-7pm and Sunday 8am-1pm. Closed Mondays). There is also an exceptional, family-run butcher in Husimes which is very close to La Fuye - see our page on Huismes here for more details.

Fruit & Veg:

Les 4 Saisons (on the roundabout towards La Roche-Clermault) is over on the other side of the river. This has quite a following. Terre Y Fruit (23 Rue René Cassin) is larger and has a great choice of both fruit and veg plus local, organic milk and a small selection of cheese.

Supermarkets:

L’Eclerc - huge and very close by. On the useful, if not very beautiful, Blanc Carroi industrial estate along with a Bricomarché, petrol station, Norauto and much more. Opening times: 9h-20h (with extended summer hours). L’Eclerc does not close for lunch, but most of the other shops on the industrial estate do.

There is a handy little Carrefore right in the centre of Chinon - it is open over lunchtime and also extends its opening times over the summer months. Much smaller than L’Eclerc but much more manageable.

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Brocante:

Try the very charming and idyllic blue shop in town, tucked away in the corner of the square shared with Café des Arts. Emmaüs is also great fun, although not for the faint hearted. It’s a charity-run rummage-fest and occupies several buildings. It’s open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (2pm-5pm). Great for the odd piece of furniture and vintage china but you have to be a committed brocanter to love it. (46 Route de Saumur)

More organised and edited (but a 45-minute drive away) but still with a definite house-clearance vibe is one of my favourites: Brocante de la Vallée in Beaufort-en-Vallée. It’s perfect for a rainy afternoon and is open most days, including Sundays (call ahead to check before making the drive). Prices are good and you can bargain gently if you are buying in volume!

On the last Sunday of the month, there is the Brocante Menseuelle de Chinon set up along the lime-tree lined Promenade Docteur Mattraits (pictured above) and Place Tiverton. This runs all year round and is well worth a visit if your trip happens to coincide with it. There is also a charming riverside Puce de Montsoreau not too far away (many of the same stall holders attend both). Montsoreau’s brocante takes place on the second Sunday of the month (double check it’s open with us before visiting).

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Tours of Chinon:

Jeff is brilliant, speaks a bit of English and runs Café Français (great for a late night drink - see below) AND segway tours of Chinon. To book, either pop into the bar one evening or go to his office: E-follow Me (4Bis Rue du Commerce) - or alternatively ask us and we can arrange it for you. Booking is essential. He can accommodate up to eight guests; children welcome although they need to be aged eight and above.

Late Night Chinon:

Both wine bars tend to close 8pm-ish (check both though as sometimes they may stay open if there are a lot of people). Move on to Jeff and Severine’s Café Français (37 Place du Général de Gaulle) and the boîte de nuit La Place, which is just next door (arrive after 1am to see it in full swing).

Hair & Beauty:

I go to L’Essentiel just near Place Mirabeau. One of the ladies is actually English (she grew up in Chinon) so if you need a haircut and your French isn’t fluent, she is a safe pair of hands and an excellent cutter. Waxing, manis and facials are all possible at their adjoining beauty salon. Book ahead. (T: +33 (0)2 47 98 49 93; 6 Rue Philippe de Commines)

Picnics & Wild Swimming in La Vienne:

This is great fun, but be warned, La Vienne is a fairly fast moving river. It is easy to swim against the current though and La Belle Laveuse is Chinon’s designated swimming spot. Bring a picnic lunch and sit on the sandy riverbank after your dip. (If you’re planning to go here, check with us first as sometimes during the summer you can’t swim due to algae). Usually pretty deserted, it’s a lovely in-town picnic spot, even if you’re not swimming.

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Other Places to Visit Nearby:

Montsoreau - a charming riverside town at the confluence of La Vienne and La Loire. Well worth a trip, especially if their idyllic Sunday ‘puce’ is on, hailed as the largest brocante in the Loire Valley (see Brocantes section, above). Beautiful to stroll through, even for non-shoppers. There is a good Sunday (food) market here too.

Azay-le-Rideau - with a wonderful and recently refurb’d Château, you can also hire a cannoe here (check the water level first as someone has a sluice gate and half the water in the river disappears if he opens it; if it’s shut, the canoeing is gentle and easy and circles round the Château) and picnic on the riverbank.

Saumur - plan a trip to coincide with their large Saturday market and visit the chateau here. Eat at Le Pot de Lapin (37 Rue Rabelais). If you are visiting, make sure you also pop into the lovely cheese shop Saumur has.

Tours - our nearest city, Tours has a wonderful food market, Halles de Tours (1 Place Gaston Paillhou) near the cobbled old town, and a variety of good shops and restaurants.

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Which Châteaux?

Start with the Château d’Ussé, the so-called Sleeping Beauty Château - it is said to have inspired the story - and about our nearest. Pictured above, it is a 7 minute drive from La Fuye. The Château de Chinon is an obvious choice and shouldn’t be missed and the recently refurbished Château d’Azay-le-Rideau (20 minutes drive) has just had 20 million spent on it and is a lovely one to visit. Last but not least, Château de Villandry with its glorious gardens is 40 minutes from us (co-incidentally, the family who own Villandry also used to own La Fuye and it was their private, weekend residence).

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Chinon with children:

Nail a few of the Château. Particularly child-friendly ones include the Château de Chinon with its ‘knights’ area and Château de Ussé - said to have inspired Charles Perrault's original Sleeping Beauty and they retell the tale here through figurine form. There are good outdoor playgrounds at Villandry and acres of gardens they can run around in (they employ nine full-time gardeners). Château de Riveau hosts a two day jousting event in the summer and Château de l'Islette is also great for children.

St Benoit le Fôret Adventure has a brilliant treetop adventure course in the shade of the forest. It’s about an 8 minute drive from La Fuye. Courses vary from easy to very challenging and there are lots of zip lines. For children aged 5-50. Bring cash (it’s cash only). Opening times vary.

There is the option of tennis on the courts in town or a segway tour of Chinon with Jeff - see listing above. We can organise a boat trip on La Vienne (you can do a cruise and then have dinner onboard) or you can hire a canoe or kayak (just ask us). We have an assortment of bikes you can borrow (you can hire more, if necessary) to take advantage of the gentle La Loire À Vélo cycle path that runs very near La Fuye.

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Take them racing during the summer months, to watch the ‘hippique racing’ with chariots behind the horses. Here’s last year’s clear winner! There are food and drink stalls and a good, local vibe.

Walks:

There are lots of lovely walks that you can go on, right from the house. One starts just 2km from the front door and leads you deep into the countryside of Huismes and past eight beautiful local châteaux (13.5km long or there is a shorter 7km version). There are maps provided in the house, but a digital version can be found here.

There is also a longer walk that skirts La Fuye and takes you into and around Chinon and the neighbouring countryside (15km).

If you need any more information - just ask!

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