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Cocktail of the Week | French 75

During our recent trip to France we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in some of the delights that comes from France, mainly the food and drink.   We indulged in the delights of fresh croissants, cheese, daily baguettes, ratatouille and the many wines! In one of the towns we visited, Saumur, they produce a sparking wine known as Cremant du Loire. They also have a sparking red sparkling that is a very interesting and, if you ever get the chance, you should try it! We found a particular favourite Cremant du Loire from the Ackerman Winery on a previous trip and got the opportunity to visit their caves (pronounced like calves). The winery started in 1811 by a self-taught Belgian man called Jean-Baptise Ackerman, who found that the soil in the area great for growing grapes and the caves carved out for the building stone to be perfect for making and storing the sparkling wine.

Given we were experiencing all things French, we decided that our cocktail of the week should be inspired by this trip and settled on a French 75, or in French; a Soixante Quinze! (Yes, the French have a very odd numbering system!). The drink is known to date back to World War I and was created at the New York Bar in Paris. It was further developed into the drink we know today over the 1920s. The drinks original combination included calvados, gin, grenadine and absinthe, as well as the champagne, and was said to have such a kick that it felt like you had been shelled by the French 75 field gun! I think I will give that experience a miss! It became popular in the 1940s after appearing in in a few films, most notably Casablanca.

For this weeks cocktail, you will need:

  • Champagne Flute
  • Measure of gin
  • ½ measure of lemon juice
  • Your choice of sparking white/champagne
  • Tsp of sugar

To prepare the cocktail, place the glasses in the fridge to cool them down. Take the gin, lemon juice and teaspoon of sugar and put them in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well before straining the mix into the cooled champagne glasses. Fill the rest of the glass with the sparkling wine and stir gently.

There you have the soixante qunize! A simple and refreshing drink that is perfect as an aperitif!

French 75

Orchard Blog | French 75
23rd June 2016

12 of the Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley

Posted in Explore by
Châteaux Loire Valley

We recently spent a week’s holiday in the Loire Valley, it is a beautiful part of France and home to some of the best Châteaux.  They span centuries of French history in a multitude of different architectural styles.  We visited a dozen of the best and here are our thoughts. If you have any questions or suggestions please let us know in the comments.

Château de Villandry

Best for impressive gardens

Château de Villandry

A late renaissance chateau mostly famous for its stunning gardens. The gardens were created in 1906 using 16th century designs. They are by far the most impressive of any of the gardens in the Loire and a must visit of any garden enthusiasts. Discover more…

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Best for a peaceful retreat

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Whilst not the grandest or most historical, Château de Azay-le-Rideau wins out with its graceful architecture and peaceful setting on an island in the river Indre. Discover more…

Château d’Ussé

Best for fairytale escapism

Château d'Ussé

If you are looking for a fairy book Château d’Usse is the one for you. The chateau has countless turrets, romantic gardens and is said to have been the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty. The interiors are beautiful if a bit tired around the edges. Discover more…

Forteresse royale de Chinon

Best for military history

Forteresse royale de Chinon

An impressive fortress overlooking the town, now mostly in ruins but was once the home to medieval kings and has links to Joan of Arc. It has a good multimedia exhibition on the history of the kings that built the fortress. Discover more…

Château de Chambord

Best for majestic grandness

Château de Chambord

The largest and grandest of all the Loire chateaux with stunning renaissance architecture and a stately presence.  Built by François I as a royal hunting lodge, albeit one with over 400 rooms. In the centre is the chateau’s famous double helix staircase, reputably designed by Leonardo di Vinci. Discover more…

Château Royal de Blois

Best for gory history     

Château Royal de Blois

In the center of Blois the Château Royal has a bit of a split personality architectural speaking, with medieval, renaissance and classical wings.  It has been the site of some important events in French royal history, including a bloody murder sanctioned by King Henri III whilst he hid behind the tapestries. Discover more…

Château de Cheverny

Best for classical beauty

Château de Cheverny

A practically perfect proportioned chateau. Built in the 1630s in the French classical style, Cheverny is the epitome of elegance. Famously it was also the inspiration for Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin comics, it has an exhibition to this link in the grounds. Make sure you visit the kennels in the grounds, Cheverny hunt’s 70 fox hounds live here and are a joy to behold. Discover More…

Château d’Angers

Best for medieval history

Château d'Angers

A foreboding city center fortress was once home to the powerful Dukes of Anjou. Built overlooking the river Maine the chateaux was strategically very important in the early medieval period. It is also home to the awe inspiring Apocalypse Tapestries house in purpose built galleries added in the 1950s. Discover more…

Château de Chenonceau

Best for feminine elegance

Château de Chenonceau

Known as the Ladies’ Château due to the prominent women that built and looked after the place.  It is an extremely elegant Château that gracefully spans over the river Cher.  It has a fascinating history from medieval kings’ mistresses right up to WWII, the château spanned the border between occupied and free France. Surrounded by beautiful gardens make this one of the most enjoyable in all of the Loire valley to visit. Discover more…

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Best for inspiring gardens

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Seemingly a perfect medieval château, Chaumont-sur-Loire was built as a defensive fortress in the 14th Century, although it was quickly developed into the renaissance style and was significantly renovated in the 19th Century. It has gorgeous views over the Loire, and wonderful gardens that are well worth exploring.  Each summer the International Garden Festival is held in the grounds, worth a visit.  The château and grounds also houses some excellent contemporary art. Discover more…

Château Royal d’Amboise

Best for impressive views

Château Royal d'Amboise

Majestically located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the charming town of Amboise.  Not much is left of the once impressive château but in the remaining rooms you still get a sense of the royal splendour from the 15th and 16th centuries. Make sure to visit the chapel of Saint-Hubert where Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the nearby Clos Lucé, is buried. Discover more…

Château de Saumur

Best for storybook silhouette 

Château de Saumur

Situated high above the genteel town is the fairytale Château de Saumur, mostly built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier fortification it has a graceful silhouette with plenty of towers, pinnacles and chimney stacks. Discover more…

We've been discovering the best Châteaux of the Loire Valley.
22nd June 2016

Top Five | Return from our Holidays

Posted in Top Five by
Top Five

We are back from France after having an amazing holiday in The Loire Valley. It is such a beautiful part of the world, we will share our adventures in some further posts but in the mean time lets look at this weeks top five!


Top Five | Cocktails

The reason we started our Cocktail of the Week feature was because we found ourselves with far too many bottles of obscure spirits lurking in the back of the cupboard.  We have started to make a dent in these supplies so we thought we should start to replenishes them.  We have brought home, Cointreau (an Orange flavoured liqueur), Crème de Cassis (Blackberry liqueur) and Crème de Violette (Violet liqueur). We are excited to see what cocktails we can make with these new ingredients!


Top Five | Souvenirs

Finding souvenirs when we are on our travels is always a tricky endeavour. One one hand we always like to have a reminder of the places we visit but on the other hand most souvenirs are just not very good. That is why we were excited to find these Gien plates of a couple of the chateaux we visited. We have recently started collecting blue patented plates for an interior design idea we are working on.


Top Five | Elizabeth David

Staying in self catering accommodation in a tiny village meant we stayed in most nights and enjoyed cooking with local ingredients  to make lovely traditional french dishes. To help with the recipes we packed a second hand copy of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking which despite being over 50 years old is still a fantastic resource. Needless to say we had some fantastic meals accompanied by some lovely wines.


Top Five | Rosa 'Eden'

Whilst wandering around the grand gardens and the quite little towns of the Loire Valley we kept on noticing the same climbing rose again and again. These beautiful old-fashioned flowers are pink on the inside fading to a cream on the outside. Being suitably charmed by this flower we had to find it’s name, after a bit of searching (and a visit to a garden centre in Tours) we discovered it is Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ also known in the UK as the Rosa ‘Eden 88’.


Top Five | Inspiration

Every time we come back from holiday we are full of ideas and inspiration. Whilst we were in France Rich was inspired but the gardens, Calum inspired by the food and drink and we were both inspired by the property and interiors. Seeing as Rich has a love of magazines he decided to bring back Campagne Décoration to keep the ideas flowing!

20th June 2016