History and a famous drink

Chateau de Brissac in Angers

Chateau de Brissac in Angers

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My childhood memories of France consist of endless sleepless nights in a family tent on a sprawling Haven campsite.

Roughing it in a field was never my idea of a good time.

But those flashbacks of tent pegs, damp sleeping bags and tinned food were soon forgotten when I visited the picturesque city of Angers.

My accommodation on my trip to western France was the plush Hotel d’Anjou – a stunning vintage-style hotel located just a short walk from Angers train station.

It comes with its own restaurant offering a selection of seafood, meats and wines.

My trip began with a visit to The Carre Cointreau, a distillery and museum which gives visitors an insight into the history and present production of the famous orange liqueur.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the premises are on an industrial estate on the outskirts – this is the only place in the world where the internationally-renowned Cointreau is made.

White flowers, orange peel, spices and essential oils from sweet and bitter oranges are all blended to make this sophisticated drink.

The distillery was first set up in 1849 by famous master confectioners Adolphe and Edouard-Jean Cointreau when they began making spirits with local fruits.

Then in 1875 Edouard-Jean’s son Edouard decided to make an orange liqueur in an amber bottle – and the rest is history.

Pictures of Cointreau adverts over time and glass cabinets containing different-sized Cointreau bottles fill the walls of the buildings.

After being given an extensive tour I got to sample a glass or two of the drink over ice and got a master class in making Margarita and Cosmopolitan cocktails – the most popular way to enjoy Cointreau.

My next stop was Giffard – a distillery made famous for its production of a peppermint liqueur called Menthe Pastille.

The distillery does a fabulous selection of spirits and cocktails and once again visitors get the chance to tour the production line and sample some of the company’s creations.

For something more family-orientated there is Terra Botanica, a huge plant and wildlife park just a short drive away from the main centre of Angers.

Dubbed The Garden of France, it was unveiled to the public two years ago and to me it looked like a remarkable take on Cornwall’s Eden Project.

For kids who like creepy-crawlies there is a robotic spider and families get an aerial tour of the park on board a walnut ride.

Angers is also steeped in history.

In the centre of Angers stands its oldest remaining building, the Collegiate Church of Saint-Martin.

The historic building dates back to the 5th century. Remarkably, underneath the church lies a Roman road which dates back to the time of Christ. Much of the place of worship had to be rebuilt in the 19th century after it was destroyed by fire.

If you fancy a spiritual experience then Angers’ medieval fortress is a must-see.

It houses a spectacular tapestry dating back to the 15th century which recounts the tales in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

Perhaps the most impressive landmark in Angers is Chateau de Brissac – the tallest chateau in the Loire Valley.

The gigantic estate holds 204 rooms over seven floors – and it even has its own theatre which local drama groups and musicians use.

ESSENTIALS

Miles stayed at Hotel d’Anjou, a 3-star Best Western hotel in Angers. Last-minute deals start at 63.50 Euros per night. For more information, got to hoteldanjou.fr

By Direct TGV fast train it takes 35 minutes to get to Angers from Nantes, one hour and 20 minutes from Paris Montparnasse and two hours and 10 minutes from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Rail Europe return fares from St Pancras International, London to Angers start at £89 in standard class.

All prices are per person and subject to availability. For bookings visit raileurope.co.uk or call 0844 848 4070.

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