It is difficult to reconcile the knowledge that the small ,peaceful village of Blaison and its Church of St-Aubin owe their existence, in part, to the third count of Anjou Fulk 111 (970 -1040) He was known as Fulk Nerra “ the black”, both on account of his swarthy complexion and his dark and his barbaric reign of terror.
This warring feudal lord sought to do penance for his wickedness by undertaking several pilgrimages to Jerusalem - he was an ancestor of Richard the Lionheart - and attempted to show remorse by endowing the lands over which he ruled with a hundred or more abbeys, castles and other strongholds .
These did not eradicate memories among the people of his barbaric treatment of enemies and friends nor of his first wife Elizabeth of Vendome. … he had her publicly burnt alive when she failed to produce a male heir .
In Blaison he enhanced the status of the existing church by building and endowing a new Collegiate Church” and also provided property, land and rental income for 4 Canons and 10 chaplains ,all living and working in the community but undertaking the daily offices of worship…..which included regular celebration of the mass for the souls of the founders
Little now remains of the original Romanesque building but look out for the two low, short passages that connect the nave to the lower transept .
Today and for me the most interesting and the most beautiful part of the interior were the 15th Century misericords which have their own separate designation as “monuments historiques”.
When I load my automatic washing machine with a weekly wash I rarely stop to think how much harder washing day was for my mother and grandmother. So how much harder it must have been prior to those not so distant days.
We know that clothes were washed in streams, at the river and in wells, dashed against stones and rubbed hard with traditionally made "soaps" and spread over heges to dry.
Where underground water courses flowed close to the surface not only wells but communal wash houses - lavoirs - were created. As well as their practical use they also provided a meeting place where women could chat and gossip as they got on with their work.
Many of these were on quite a grand scale - there is an inpressive lavoir outside the ramparts in Vannes but in Blaison-Gohier the plentiful supply of underground water meant there were many wells and private wash houses, so less need for a large wash house.
In the garden of our holiday house there appeared to be a number of covered wells and a couple of yards down the road was the only Lavoir in the village with a well preserved shelter to cover it.
The beautifully carved solid oak misericords were a real find and a great pleasure to behold.
The fineness of the carving, the varied subjects from human heads, animals - domestic and foreign, fantastical figures and mermaids took my breath away.
From what sources, I wondered, did the craftsmen and artists who created them gain their inspiration?
I don't think I have ever before posted a negative review but this is one that I had to include.
After finding the guinguette in Blaison closed we headed east of the village to a nearby place for which we also had a recommendation.
We had passed it a couple of times so knew where to find it in St Remy la Varenne immediately before the bridge over the river to Saint Mathurin.
It was not a pleasant experience and for the first time in many years we met with a rude, unfriendly response that bordered on aggressive.
This is what happened when we arrived at 1.20pm.
As we drove into the car park we saw quite a few people eating on the terrace but no sign of any staff. The place had a rather down at heel, neglected look which was not impressive.
John went to look inside for a member of staff but quickly returned and we walked back to the car.
He had been told by the only woman inside the cafe that there was no food - said with more of a growl than an apologetic smile.
This was a particularly unfortunate experience in view of the fact that the tourist authorities of Western Loire, Normandie and Bretagne are currently mounting a campaign to entice back to the area British visitors whose numbers have declined in recent years.
We will of course return to France, but a first time visitor might not if received or rather rejected as we were .
Update - Since returning home I have found on several French websites many complaints about La Riviera and the unfriendliness of staff and lack of cleanliness. It seems that it once enjoyed a very high reputation but has been going downhill for some time.
We were looking forward to some fish and seafood lunches in the litlle makeshift cafes (known as guinguettes) to be found along the banks of the Loire.
This one had been specifically recommended but we had been given only vague directions and had no name or telephone number.
Eventually we found it - a bit off the beaten track down what looked like a lane for tractors.
It was a wet and grey Tuesday morning but there was no sign of life and the notice pinned to the door indicated service was mainly at weekends and in the evening. There was also a menu that looked interesting and reasonable, notices of live music with moules frites on Friday nights as well as a special Jacobins night on July 13th with a festive 37 euro menu.
Disappointed we left and sadly we did not get back there to sample what looked as though it would be another one to add to our list of the best meals we never had!
But I would definitely make a point of going there on a future visit - preferably on a sunny evening.
The little video on theAnjou tourist link below gives a good idea of the attractive location and "feel" of the place.
This attractive small restaurant also serves as the only village shop and stocks a useful range of local products so that you might never need, as a holiday maker, to visit a hypermarché!
The mid-day 11 euros50 Menu du jour offers very good value.
We walked up the road for an evening meal - minute from our village holiday house . The little restaurant became quite busy and seems popular with local people.
Our starters were excellent - a nicely presented fish terrine folllowed by a good lamb shank in jus - though for me too heavy a choice for an evening meal.
John chose excellent sorbets . Bread and water are included and wine is served at reasonable prices . We both had an apritif and a bottle of the local Chateau-Cheman. The bill came to 75euro50.