Thames Rockets | What you need to know?

To be rated as Trip Advisor’s number one outdoor activity in London is something of an accolade. London has a never ending and ever changing number of things to do so reaching the top spot is surely a difficult feat.

thames rockets

Thames Rocket gives customers the chance to zoom down the Thames River taking in the sights whilst enjoying the thrill of 30 knots onboard the red RIB. RIB stands for Rigid-hulled inflatable boat which should give you some indication of what the boats are like. You’ll be riding in a heavy duty inflatable similar to what the SAS Elite UK forces use and don’t underestimate how fast these boats can go!

The Thames Rockets tick a lot of boxes as a London activity; it has a centrally located launch point so you won’t have to travel far to get to on board, it’s suitable for all ages, it takes in a lot of the key sights along the Thames, and it’s also a hit with thrill seekers!

My parents were visiting London and I decided to take them on the Thames Rockets to get a different perspective of the city. Judging by the joyful whooping, the whole boat greatly enjoyed the ride and interestingly perhaps for different reasons. A few visitors from the USA were on the boat with us, and for them the opportunity to see so many of London’s top sights for the first time was a dream come true, the guide was informative throughout as well as rather funny and it helped our overseas visitors understand a little bit more about what we were going past. Equally for my parents it wasn’t the first time in London but definitely gave them a completely unique view of many of the familiar sights on the Thames including seeing Canary Wharf, St Catherine’s Dock and even the police boats!

It’s easy to see why it’s so highly rated and will continue to be a top activity in the capital and so I’ve put together a list of some ‘need to know’ Q&A before you jump on board.

How to book tickets
Whilst it’s essential to book in advance it’s always worth seeing if there are last minute tickets available as the Thames Rocket operates around 10 times a day. You can book online here or via the phone operator by calling the booking hotline on 020 7928 8933.

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thames rockets london

Who can/can’t ride?
The experience is suitable for all ages but unfortunately not for lades at any stage of pregnancy. Equally it’s not recommended for anyone with past or current back, neck or heart condition.

Will I get wet?
The quick answer is ‘not really.’ Before we boarded we were all offered waterproof jackets which most people declined as it was lovely weather. On the way out of London I didn’t even feel a drop of water on me, but as we headed back towards the pier then the wind did catch the water resulted in a little spray. Whilst you’re definitely not going to get actually wet, for anyone particularly precious about their hair it’s maybe advisable to at least tie it back.

Is it scary?
I would use the word thrilling rather than scary. Sure enough the RIB can get up to some great speeds but it’s incredibly enjoyable in the same way a roller coaster is. There’s always somewhere to hold onto and there were people of all ages on board my trip proving that it was enjoyed cross generationally.

What safety precautions are taken?
Lifejackets are provided and must be worn at all times. It’s a self inflating one and is very lightweight so you wouldn’t really notice you’ve got it on. Equally there are children’s lifejackets and facilities for toddlers too. Thames Rocket is fully insured and also has ‘full Public Liability Insurance to four times the legal requirement level is in place as standard.’

Where does it go from?
The rides take place from two locations. I went from London Eye Pier which is just to the left of the London Eye when facing the river, but they also have a departure point for certain trips from the Tower of London .

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What will I see?

Many of London’s most iconic landmarks are along the Thames and it’s definitely a great way to see many of them from a completely different perspective. Even the launching point for the boat is right next to the London Eye and opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Some of the top sights along the route are;

  • The Tower of London- Home of the  crown jewels, where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and the home to various exotic animals over the years incoming a polar bear!
  • HMS Belfast  – WWII ship and the first ship to fire shots on D Day. Decommissioned in the 70s, it’s now a museum.
  • The Shard – The tallest building in western Europe.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe – Replica building and one of the most popular theatres in London.
  • Blackfriars Bridge – Attractive bridge featuring decoration only seen from the water such as columns decorated on one side with seabirds and on the other with fresh water birds as it’s the divide between fresh water and salt water in the river
  • Tower Bridge – The most famous bridge in London and one of the most famous sights with it’s beautiful twin towers.

 

tower bridge by boat

tower bridge by boat

Canary Wharf by boat

shard through tower bridge by boat

What are the guides like?
Our guide was very friendly from start to finish, not only was he making every laugh and creating a great atmosphere but he was also very knowledgable about the sights along the river.

As we went past a variety of spots he would give us a brief guide to each of the locations and made personal recommendations. For the Americans on board who hadn’t visited London before he was a good source of knowledge and even for us Brits then he had some lesser known facts that I actually had to Google when I got home as I didn’t know how I hadn’t learnt them previously. (I’ll let you find out for yourself what they were.) thames rocket guide

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For more information visit –

https://www.thamesrockets.com
https://daysoutnow.co.uk.

 

A day in Guernsey | Guernsey Port Guide

When I initially looked at the destinations I would be visiting on my cruise with Princess Cruises from Southampton then Guernsey wasn’t the one I was most excited about. I had naively expected it to not be that different to what I’d seen before in the UK, but I will happily be the first one to hold up my hand and admit that I loved Guernsey and it was actually one of my favourite days of the cruise. Guernsey is just off the coast of Normandy, France but a British Crown Dependency which technically means it’s a self governing place for which the United Kingdom is responsible. In reality it means it feels like a delightful mix of traditional British charm mixed with French influences and of course it’s unique personality.


How to get around

Guernsey has a fairly good bus system and it’s pretty cheap to ride, with most tickets around £1. However they aren’t always that frequent so do be sure to check the timetables especially if you have a ship to get back on at a certain time.

There are a number of taxi services on Guernsey, all of which need to be booked in advance.

If you’re happy to get some exercise then Guernsey is actually a very pleasant place to walk around, and the lack of busy roads means it’s fairly safe even if there isn’t a footpath.


What to do

Visit some of the beaches & bays

I’d heard about Guernsey’s beaches before visiting and I’d been told ‘the water looks like the Med’, however I’d passed this off as nonsense until I actually visited myself. Now I’m the person saying it to others who haven’t been, because it’s true! The water in some of the beautiful bays around the island is turquoise and streaked with other blues making it look like water you’d expect to see by the Greek Isles.

Guernsey’s beaches are vast and clean, particular favourites include Vazon Bay, a haven for those who enjoy extreme sports. Favoured by surfers, kitesurfers and bodyboarders it’s home to Guernsey Surf School which runs classes for all ages and abilities.

Pembroke Bay & Chouet Bay are north of St Peter Port and easily accessible by bus. Virtually deserted when we visited they are a peaceful and beautiful place to visit, with only the neighbouring golf course and odd ice cream stand in sight.

Check out the Loophole Towers

The loophole towers were originally 15 towers built along coast to deter possible French attacks; 12 towers still remain. The towers had three floors and were all built in the same style at 9m tall.

Explore St Peter Port
Charming Saint Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey and the main port. It’s a picturesque town with narrow cobbled streets decorated with flags & bunting making it a colourful and pretty place.

As well as many British high street stores you might recognise it’s also home to many individual boutiques and shops. The port itself is lovely to sit by and there are some delightful cafes nearby including Cafe Emilia as well as traditional fish & chip shops such as The Chip Inn.

Visit the Little Chapel
The Little Chapel is one of Guernsey’s top attractions and for good reason. It’s a 9 foot long and 4.5 foot wide chapel decorated with broken china, shells and bottles resulting in a colourful and unusual design that glistens in the sunshine. Built by Brother Déodat it was designed as a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica in Lourdes.

The chapel is free to visit and relies on donations from the public, it’s served by bus route 71.

May – Sept daily 9am – 6pm
Oct – Apr daily 9am – last light

Visit the lovely Candie Gardens
Candie Gardens is an award winning restored Victorian flower garden. Lovingly maintained these gardens are a tranquil place commanding great views out to the port.

They are home to the oldest known heated glass-houses in the British isles, as well as cafe serving afternoon tea, a museum and art gallery. The Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery and is open daily 10.00-17.00hrs (closes at 16.00hrs 1st November to 29 March). Closes 25th – 26th December and 1st – 31st January. The Library is open from 09:30-17:00 Monday to Saturday, excluding Public Holidays.


For more ideas here is my Guernsey vlog from my visit.


To book a cruise with Princess Cruises that stops at Guernsey click here. This article was written in partnership with Princess Cruises.

First time on a cruise? What you need to know?

If you’ve booked to go on your first cruise or are currently browsing options to have a cruise as your next holiday then you may be wondering what things you need to know before you travel on a cruise ship for the first time.

I recently travelled with Princess Cruises from Southampton on my first ever cruise so I’ve put together a handy guide that answers all the questions I had as well as some things I found out on the way.

What do I need to pack?
Obviously this will vary from cruise to cruise but below is a list of general items you will need to pack. Just like a hotel then often you will be provided with a toiletry set in your cabin, equally there will be an on board shop where you can purchase any items that you may have forgotten. Don’t panic if you do forget something as at the port days you’ll also be able to go shopping.

  • Comfortable shoes for hiking/walking on port days
  • Swimwear for the pool
  • Suncream
  • Smart clothing for any formal nights on board (see ‘Formal night’ section.)
  • Travel adapters
  • Camera (obviously) although there will often be on board photographers
  • Gym kit; many cruise ships will have gym facilities that you may wish to use

What is the formal night like?
Many cruise ships have at least one formal night, and whilst it’s not always compulsory that you get involved, it is a fun evening and an excuse to dress a little fancy. Formal nights will be announced in advance so you’ll have time to plan. On my cruise is Princess Cruises on board the Sapphire Princess then many people opted for tuxedos and evening gowns, with a few choosing a more simple shirt and tie.

Our formal night started with a champagne waterfall in the main atrium which was a fun activity where you could volunteer to pour the bottles and was a great photo opportunity.

Can you get laundry done on board?
Just like at a hotel it will more than likely be possible to get your clothes washing done on board. The system will probably include ticking a box to say what needs washing and leaving it for housekeeping to collect.

What about phone signal?
When you’re near a port or of course docked then of course you will be able to get signal on your phone and the normal roaming charges from your network supply will apply. However once you’re out at sea then if your phone joins a maritime network then you’re likely to come back with some pretty hefty charges. Best advice would be to switch the roaming off your phone shortly after you leave a port to avoid any extra costs.

Can I drink the water on board?
Unlike on a plane, there’s no need to worry about the quality of the water on board. It will all have been through rigorous testing to ensure it’s top quality for your to drink straight from the tap.

What kind of activities are on board?
There will be two separate options for your time on the ship.
1. Every ship will of course have the options available every day; for example the swimming pools, perhaps a casino, gym, running track or shuffleboard.
2. There will be daily activities announced on the ship, these will vary but may include shows and live performances, bingo, quiz sessions, art auctions and movie nights (on the Sapphire Princess they had the popular ‘Movies under the stars.’
For the daily activities you will be able to plan your day as you’ll have access to a schedule to see’what’s on’.

What happens on port days?
Of course the ports of call are an exciting part of any cruise. You’ll be informed as to the time of arrival and if the ship is docking right by the port then you’ll be able to disembark when you wish. If you have a tour booked of course you’ll have to ensure you’re off in good time to meet your group/guide. Equally be mindful of the time you need to back on the ship and leave plenty of time to board.

What is a tender?
A ship’s tender or just ‘tender’ is a boat used to transport the passengers to the port when the ship is unable to dock directly by the land. It’s a safe and quick way to get to shore. Sometimes this will involve travelling in lifeboats for example or just smaller boats to reach the ship.
If tenders are being used on a port day you will be informed in advance and sometimes may be given a specific time or group to travel with. Before the ship leaves in the evening you will be informed of the time of the last tender.

What is a muster station?
You’ll be allocated a muster station when you get on board. Put simply, this is the location you need to meet at should there be an emergency. If the emergency alert were to go off then you should make your way to the assigned location (clearly marked) and await further instructions from the crew.

Will I need an adapter for the plug sockets?
This will vary from ship to ship. On board the Sapphire Princess as it was an American ship then the plug sockets were 3 pin US so many people required an adapter, however these were available in the shop to purchase.

Will I feel sea sick?
Generally it’s not common to feel sick on cruise ships, as the larger the ship the less noticeable it will be that you’re slightly swaying. Some people actually find the movement of the ship fairly relaxing as they are going to sleep.


This post was written in AD partnership with Princess Cruises however the article and everything in it of course reflects my opinion and not that of the company.

What to do in The Black Forest

Getting around

Whilst it is possible to travel by public transport, so many of the beautiful scenic routes aren’t going  to be easy to navigate without your own transport, so it’s recommended you hire a car. We chose to hire from Basel Airport and did a full loop for the week, arriving back to the Swiss side of the airport. Parking is fairly easy around most of these sites, and generally free parking could be found.

Baden Wine Route

At around 500km long, the Baden wine route is considered to be the oldest wine trail in Germany. As well as a delightful drive for nature lovers through the pretty hills, it’s a place where people know how to live and enjoy food and of course drink to it’s fullest.

We started our drive with a visit to the Weber Winery located between the Rhine Plain and the Black Forest. It’s a cool looking building, quite “Grand Designs’, with a glass  front and modern interpretations of Black Forest traditional wear on photographs around the main room. Started almost 70 years ago, the winery also produces some special brandies and other specialities including a walnut liquor, and stores the bottles in racks that sink down to 50 meters deep into the hill. The staff here are fresh and fun and they host regular parties at the winery; ranging from simple tastings to huge parties of over 1000 people with top DJ’s.

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Amusingly before we arrived we’d seen that you can do a ‘wine tasting with traditional vesper’. I had images in my head of zooming around the vineyards on a scooter, but it turns out that a ‘vesper’ is in fact a snack plate. We were given a lovely selection of Black Forest treats including meats and cheeses, homemade bread and candied walnuts that taste like caramel.

As much as we didn’t get to ride scooters, Weber do offer tours of the vineyards by Segway, which is possibly even more fun! After a brief introduction and lesson on how to power it and more importantly, stop, we had a lovely hour zipping up and down the hills past the vines. It’s fairly easy to get the hang of, and certainly quite an unusual offering. The Weber Winery also offers a range of gifts including decorations and their popular t-shirts as well as of course their fantastic selection of beverages.

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Our second stop was Alde Gott,  the name comes from a legend during the Thirty Years’ War. Apparently a lonely young man was travelling through the area which is now known as Sasbachwalden. He was on his own but then came across a young woman and in his relief shouted out  ‘Der alde Gott lebt noch!’ which translates as ‘The old God still exists!” There are murals and mosaics to this legend around the winery as well as a marker in the hills as to where it supposedly happened.

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It’s located on the edge of the Black Forest and the Badische Weinstraße, and the surrounding hills are stunningly beautiful. We took a drive up to the vineyards and stood for a while taking in the views (as far as Strasbourg on a clear day), while watching the mist roll over the hills. There are some lovely buildings in the town that feel like something from a Disney movie, with their half timber frames with white & black colourings.

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We had a fantastic wine tasting here, including a wonderful Riesling, but Alde Gott doesn’t just offer wine. They are one of the only places in the region that make their own whiskey, and it’s a limited run each year making it extremely popular. In addition to this they also make a rich Black Forest Cherry cream liquor, a bit like a cherry eggnog, which is sure to go down a treat around Christmas time.

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Hiking trails in Baiersbronn

Ask at the tourist information centre next to the station in Baiersbronn and you can find out about the many hiking trails in the region. It’s a popular area for walking and the routes vary in difficulty, from the fairly easy which we did (bare in mind I walked this with a fractured ankle) to the more advanced for those used to much longer distances. Walks are tailored to the groups’ interests, and as well as the nature and scenic walks there are even foodie walks, including foraging and learning about the vegetation inside the forest.

We took the hiking tour along gourmand trail “Satteleisteig” to the cozy cabin
“Sattelei”. It’s a pleasant walk of around 4km that runs along the outside of the Black Forest with views over the valley. The region is famous for it’s incredibly clean area, and tourists often come from big cities all over the world to spend time in the country and detox/revitalise.

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The Cosy Cabin Sattelei  is clearly a popular lunch spot amongst hikers as well as locals. It is indeed a cosy spot, with fires, attentive staff, and at the time of writing, some lovely Christmas decorations.

The menu, whilst not having much for vegetarians as a big range of traditional food from the area including meat platters and a famous cottage cheese. All the portions were very generous and despite it being quite busy, we were served drinks within minutes of ordering.

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Solemar Bad Dürrheim

Bad Dürrheim is situated on the east of the Black Forest, it’s known as a spa and health area with a therapeutic climate. It’s a top destination for wellness due to it’s pleasant mountain climate, fresh air and the jewel in it’s crown, the Solemar spa and wellness centre.

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It’s a 13,500 m² area, including Black Forest saunas, warm salt water pools both inside and out, and a Dead Sea Salt Grotto. People travel from all over Germany for the treatment rooms here and for the physiotherapy rooms and fitness centre for rehabilitation after injuries. For those just interested in a relaxing day it’s a lovely environment with 13 indoor pools, many with hourly activities as well as a waterfall, loungers and in-pool massage nozzles.

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Menzenschwander Wasserfalle / Waterfall and The Black Forest itself

On the final day of our trip the snow we had been hoping for finally arrived. The beautiful forest transformed from the dark and dense wood we had been used to into a snow dusted fairytale. Starting in Hinterzarten, we drove towards Menzenschwander waterfall; a quiet, almost hidden spot with one of Germany’s top waterfalls.

The drive was one of the most scenic routes we took all week, the trees on either side of the road and looking like something from a movie, it’s easy to see how many fairytales originated in this area.
Luckily there were a lot of spots to stop and take in the views along the way and we took full advantage. There are a large number of well marked hiking trails to choose from as well, but it does get dark fairly easily in the forest so make sure to start out early and stick to marked paths.

 

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https://www.blackforest-tourism.com

Top Christmas Markets in The Black Forest | Black Forest Christmas Markets

Germany is famous for it’s Christmas Markets, even in the UK most of the major cities from London to Manchester claim to be hosting ‘German Christmas Markets’; so I’ve always been keen to see the real thing and find out what’s so good about them.

The Black Forest is a beautiful region at any time of the year, but in Winter it really does become particularly special as every town comes alive with lights and decorations and the markets pop up in the main squares drawing in tourists from all over the world. Considering how popular these markets are, I was pleased to find that they weren’t overly busy, walking round was a leisurely activity and you weren’t having to beat your way through crowds to reach the stalls.

Whilst the theme of romantically lit wooden stalls and festive lighting is common throughout the various markets in The Black Forest, they all manage to maintain individual charms with unique offerings. I’ve put together my top Black Forest Christmas Markets, with a recommendation as to who they suit the most…or do as we did and visit them all!

Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best for activities – Freiburg

Freiburg is in it’s 46th year of Christmas markets, and it is a really marvellous day out for all the family. Approaching the market the smell of the sausages sizzling and the Glühwein is a delight for all senses. The market extends along a number of streets and offers many gifts including knitwear, sweets & baked goods and jewellery, but one of the main attractions here is the option to see the creation of some of these gifts at a number of stalls.

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I loved the candle workshop on Franziskanerstraße. With the option to either decorate a candle or make your own from scratch, I opted for the latter and let me tell you it’s not as easy as it looks. The wick requires dipping around 500 times, by which time my candle was looking decidedly wonky, luckily the staff on hand helpfully suggested I could just decorate a ready made one. The dipping of the candles in coloured dyes was equally fun and we were able to come away with a more festive looking creation. There is a bakery on Kartoffelmarkt which allows children to make their own biscuits as well as a glassblower who, after demonstrations, is more than happy to let you have a chance to join in yourself.

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Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best for that something a little bit different – Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market

Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market takes the trophy for the most picturesque location for a Christmas Market. Located directly underneath a viaduct in a gorge in the south of the Black Forest, it’s a dreamy spot that’s hard to beat. It’s home to around 40 stalls with a fairylight lit entrance leading to the viaduct itself which shines from a distance in deep purple. There’s some great food on offer including pulled pork sandwiches served with sauerkraut of course, and selections of chocolate dipped fruit, as well as some great gifts including hand carved wooden kitchenware.

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Stunning location aside, what really sets this market apart from the others is the completely unique way to reach the viaduct. Starting at Kurhaus Hinterzarten from around 445pm, for a small fee you can join the delightful fire torch lit walk through the valley. Taking around an hour, and suitable for most walking abilities, it’s an atmospheric amble towards the market. As soon as the group were outside the built up area, we were given flame torches to guide the way, and there were a number of stops on the way for stories and even carol sing-a-longs. The path lit up by the torches really did look magical and made the already beautiful route to the viaduct even more enjoyable. The culmination of the walk is a bonfire made of all the torches before you’re able to go in and enjoy the stalls. It’s an incredibly unique experience and Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market is definitely one of the top Christmas Markets in the Black Forest.

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https://www.hochschwarzwald.de/weihnachtsmarkt

Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best For Young People – Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe Christmas Market is spread around the centre of town into a few main areas. The spread out nature gives it a relaxed atmosphere without feeling too crowded. Near the town hall is the pretty ferris wheel alongside pleasingly photogenic stalls, it’s a popular area for young people to enjoy a mulled wine and stays open fairly late into the evening.

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The second, and largest area of the market takes place on the market square and is a delightful illuminated area with a range of food and gift stalls. There’s a wonderful shop near the centre of the market selling every Christmas decoration imaginable; it’s like a proper Santa’s workshop complete with traditional wooden decorations and even a large sleigh display outside perfect for photo ops. It’s here that the crowds gather every evening to watch the main event and something that makes the Karlsruhe market unique, a full size Santa flying across the sky in his sleigh. Whilst he makes a few journeys throughout the evening, at around 530pm he makes his main journey complete with sounds and a story in the air to delight the young ones.

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Der Kirchplatz St. Stephan is the dedicated children’s area, with a floor made of wood chippings and life size models of characters dotted around the square. The highlights here however are the almost eerily lifelike models in glass boxes depicting fairy tales and stories inspired by the Black Forest; there’s Hansel & Gretel, Snow White & even a Sleeping Beauty, complete with a realistic chest going up and down as she breathes.

Finally in front of the beautiful palace is the ice rink. It’s an open air rink, with lovely views of the palace and it’s grounds, and it’s a great size meaning you won’t be getting in people’s ways if you’re not the best skater! It’s one of Germany’s largest open air rinks at over 1000m squared, and surely has one of the best backdrops, as the palace is lit up at night time meaning you’re able to skate in front of a piece of history.

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https://www.karlsruhe-tourismus.de/en/Media/Veranstaltungen/Karlsruhe-Christmas-Market

Hope you enjoyed my guide to the Black Forest Christmas Markets.

A French Feast with Eric Bichon | Wine Pairings & fine cuisine

L’Orée des Bois located in La Breille-les-Pins is the restaurant of celebrated chef Eric Bichon. I recently had the opportunity to try a menu of his creation, alongside thoughtfully paired wines inside one of the dining rooms at Chateau de Jalesnes in the Loire Valley.

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The dining area was laid out in a grand manner, with candelabras and foliage down the long tables. As the sun set over the gardens and pool area visible through the windows, it became a very atmospheric environment to dine in.

Around 20 people were dining together, with still gave off an intimate feel, and guests mingled and chatted together throughout the meal.

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Before every course, Chef Eric, softly spoken and humble in his mannerisms, came to the table to talk us through the dishes. The menu was unapologetically French, with fois gras and veal served, divisive socially but rather delicious. He regularly talked of getting certain items from his own personal garden, and his combination of the particularly sweet items on savoury dishes worked very well, such as the fresh figs served with the veal. The dishes also looked towards slightly more unusual textures such as the goat’s cheese mousse.


The Menu

Aperitif – Cremont de Loire – Ackerman Brut

Starter
Foie gras and braised beef cheek set in jelly, fresh mint flavoured broad bean puree and pickled red onions.
Served with Coteaux de Saumur – Domaine Lavigne 2015

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Main Course
Slow cooked veal, butternut squash cream, glazed shallots, fresh figs and orange sauce – Served with Traditional Saumur Champigny – Chateau de Targé 2015

 

Cheese
Ste Maure de Touraine goat’s cheese and chive mousse, assorted salads and chive & rosemary flavoured oil.
Served with St Nicholas de Bourgueil – Vieilles Vignes 2015

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Dessert
Soft lemon flavoured biscuit, rich lime flavoured cream, lemon verbena and cottage cheese flavoured sorbet.
Served with Saumur Rosé Ackerman

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The local wines served with each course complimented the dishes excellently. A particular favourite of the guests was the Saumur Rosé Ackerman, a popular sparkling rosé that not only went well with the lemon flavours in the dessert but also proved a popular option as a stand alone wine.

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Guests also seemed to thrive on the social aspect of the evening, with the chance to chat with other guests at Chateau de Jalesnes whilst enjoying the food. Many of the table had specifically chosen to visit that weekend to time it with the gastronomy evening, which is understandable as for many the chance to eat such fine French cooking in a picturesque environment is definitely worth the trip and rather better value than similar opportunities back in the UK.

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A weekend at Chateau de Jalesnes | Loire Valley

The Loire Valley in France is a stunning area. Quintessentially French, with sunflower fields and quaint villages including nearby Saumur with it’s popular weekend markets, it’s a delightful area to drive through. The drive from Tours airport to Chateau de Jalesnes is a little over an hour, meaning that with a flight time from Stansted of 1 hour 10 mins, it’s very easy to reach the location from London. Indeed it’s a popular location for weekend visits, as well as for larger groups who book the whole chateau for a enjoyable getaway.
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The exterior is exactly what you could hope for in a chateau design, grand and with sloping roofs, with a large moat and well kempt gardens. It’s Beauty & The Beast reincarnate, and it’s easy to see why couples choose to have it as the location of their wedding as it’s a fantastic backdrop for photos.After the refurbishment, the rooms were originally designed as separate apartments, meaning that you have all the facilities of a self catering apartment for your use. The kitchen is fully fitted, and with a Super U supermarket nearby (but not within sight don’t worry) if you wanted to cook a meal and dine in your room while admiring the window views it would be very comfortable.

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All the rooms have different layouts and designs, whilst still keeping a theme throughout. The room interiors are fairly modern with a hint of old school grandeur, including leather sofas, chesterfields, candelabras and chandeliers. There are some great unsual features including a double bath bathroom in the bridal suite. Side by side and facing each other they are ideal to relax in with your partner whilst sipping on some local sparkling wine. Equally the delightful clock tower with it’s four floors and splendid views of the chateau, has a giant in room hot tub. It’s large and luxurious, next to fully opening windows and surrounded by candles, an extremely decadent way to bathe with a view. The clock tower is a wonderful choice to stay in if you’re visiting with other couples or as a family. 3 separate bedrooms, 2 kitchen areas and a suave living area with a grand dining table and classic fireplace/heater makes it very homely, and every window gives great views back onto the main building.

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If you’re wanting to stay on the grounds for lunch times, it’s possible to arrange picnics and there is a picturesque dedicated picnic area in the woodland area just past the moat. I was served a selection of French cheeses and cold cuts, with pickles, olives and onion chutney, with baskets of fresh baguettes of course. The red checkered table cloths made for a picture perfect picnic and I was delighted to see they had sent over a bottle of Ackerman sparkling rosé. It’s a popular local wine, sweet and fruity, and one of the rooms inside the chateau is named after the wine maker himself so that probably hints at how tasty it is.

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Breakfast is also a lovely affair. You can opt to eat inside one of the main dining rooms, or as I did on both mornings, out on the ground floor terrace overlooking the clock tower. Freshly baked crossiants and other buttery pastries are served of course, with local preserves and fresh juices, as well as coffees, eggs and brioche toast. The sun hits the terrace in the morning so you couldn’t really ask for a nicer place to enjoy your breakfast.

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There is a large pool with multicoloured sun loungers at the very bottom of the gardens. The area keeps the sun until the late evening meaning you can soak up the rays until dinner time if you’re feeling in need of some relaxation. For those wishing to be a bit more active, there is a boules area, and I enjoyed playing a few games in the early evening. There are also bikes to hire and wine tours can be arranged, even the nearest village, is only a 15 minute walk and with it’s two steeple churches it is quite a pretty sight. If you’re wanting to explore the chateau and grounds a little more, there’s a pretty little chapel that weddings can take place in, and interestingly a number of caves near the front moat area.

With it being in such easy reach of the UK it’s a smart choice for those wanting a little taste of the finer things in life, with great weather and a beautiful backdrop to boot.

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