Records of Parçay Les Pins date back to 1070, with as many as 78 surrounding hamlets, one of which being Les Mortiers. Nowadays it is a pleasant village of less than 1,000 inhabitants, with a strong rural culture and several different clubs and associations supported by the community. The larger towns of Saumur, Angers, Le Mans and Tours are within easy reach and make an enjoyable day out.
Saumur — “The Pearl of Anjou” is a startling white town built in the chalk tuffeau stone, characteristic of the Loire Valley and its chateaux. The magnificent chateau at Saumur is perched high on a rocky promontory overlooking the Old Town and the River Loire. The chateau houses the Decorative Arts Museum and the Horse Museum. There are fine views along the Loire from here, whereas in the Old Town you will find interesting buildings, a lively atmosphere and good bars and restaurants.
Saumur is also the home to the Distillerie of Combier, which produces some fine liquers. In past days oranges were brought up the River Loire by boat and were taken to this distillery, who produce the fine Triple Sec, a forerunner to Cointreau who later established at Angers.
This is also the Kingdom of the Horse. Saumur stages famous equestrian events, military tattoos and riding galas each year. As well as the Horse Museum, there is a Cavalry Museum, the National Riding Academy and the home of the prestigious Cadre Noir cavalry.
A pleasant drive along the Loire valley to Angers. Angers is regarded as “chic” and has an excellent shopping centre, good restaurants and galleries. Take time to discover the impressive castle, some fine examples of “Plantagenet Gothic” architecture, ancient cobbled streets and pleasant pedestrianised areas. Visit the Chateaux de Pignerolles en route, dedicated to communications from old radio and TV to the very latest Internet technology or call at the impressive Cointreau distillery. The modern tram system can be used for out of town parking, although facilities in the town are good.
Le Mans is less than an hour away. Le Vieux Mans has a network of medieval cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. The film Cyrano de Bergerac with Gerard Depardieu was filmed in the shadow of its cathedral. For motor enthusiasts the Musée Automobile, part of the 24-Hour Race Circuit complex, is a must.
Tours is the original home of the French language and the art of living. It is rich in history, yet a thriving modern city. The old quarters are a delight – timbered buildings, animated streets with cafes and bars. La Place Plumereau, know as “Plum” to the locals is the place to eat and drink and soak up the atmosphere of old Tours.
A visit to Tours must include the covered market. Les Halles is built in the form of a ship and modelled on the famous Paris market of the same name. Both markets were designed by Gustav Guérin. It is the perfect place to treat yourselves to local delicacies of meat, fish and cheese, beautifully displayed fruit and vegetables, wines and spices.
Tours is also known as a national centre for research into food science and culture at its University Francois Rabelais de Tours.
Bourgueil and St Nicholas de Bourgueil sit happily in the heart of the vineyards amongst the countryside of a World Heritage site. The market each Tuesday bustles with life and delicacies – well worth a visit. It is a regular meeting place for many local people, either sitting in the bar by the old market hall or sampling the delicious Gallette Bourgueilloise – a specialty gateau of the town.
Places to visit are: the ancient Bénédictine Abbey which dates from the 10th century, Moulin Scée – a magnificent water mill which has recently been restored to working order and the Cave Touristique to discover the history of wine-making in the two appellations. There are numerous viticulteurs to visit too.
Chinon is a town steeped in history and is dominated by its magnificent fortress overlooking the town and the River Vienne. The town developed in the Middle Ages and was included in the French royal estates in 1205. In 1429, Joan of Arc came here to acknowledge Charles VII. The historic centre is a conservation area with some fine buildings. Chinon was the home of the writer François Rabelais, who sung the praise of its wines.
Combine a visit to the market and the Chateaux with lunch in the Square under the shade of the trees.
Noyant is a small market town with a bustling market on a Friday morning. There’s the smell of roast chicken and potatoes ready to take home or on a picnic, local cheeses, fresh fish, stalls brimming with bedding plants and vegetable seedlings at bargain prices and a strange assortment of garments on display.
Baugé is to the north west of Les Mortiers, boasts a fine 17th Century Chateau and apothecary. Bauge hosts the Opéra de Baugé, an international opera festival, with a programme of 3 operas each year in July and August. (see Calendar of Events). The audience can picnic in the park or to dine in the manor house restaurant.