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Welcome to our extended weekend cooking course - a mixture of cooking, open markets, laughter, good food, and good times. At La Vie du Château you will learn to make some of the basics of French cooking - coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, cheese soufflé, ratatouille, gratin dauphinois, tarte-tatin, chocolat mousse and more! We will always look to the market for seasonal inspiration. We will enjoy meals in the château along with some very fun excursions.
The rooms in the château are simply but elegantly furnished, with shared or private bath or shower and WC facilities and views overlooking the garden.
Our extensive grounds and gardens are there for you to wander, and you are welcome to relax in the library, the salon, outdoors on the terrasse, or by the fountain. You are our guest and we want you to feel at home during your stay.
Meals will be taken in various locations in the château. Our formal dinner will take place in the formal dining room. More casual meals may be served in the dining room, our sunny foyer, or on the terrasse.
Arrival for lunch.
After getting settled and acquainted, enjoy a relaxing lunch on the terrace looking out over the fountain and fields beyond.
Afterwards we will get our aprons on and get cooking to prepare a delicious dinner.
Today after breakfast we head straight to the kitchen.
After a leisurely lunch, you will have time to wander and discover the hidden treasures on the estate, relax by the fountain, or rest in your nice spacious room.
Then we will put our aprons back on and continue preparations for a four-course dinner.
Before dinner we will head down to the Orangerie for a cheese party with an abundant choice of cheeses and discussions about all the different varieties accompanied by a variety of local wines.
We drive to the outdoor market in our nearby town to buy the freshest meats, seafood, and produce one can get.
We will take the scenic road that goes through the apple orchards that our region is well known for and pass by a beautiful chateau or two, or three!
Back home, with our baskets full, we will begin preparations for lunch and dinner, and have fun and interesting conversations about food, cooking and whatever else comes to our minds, sometimes with glass of wine in hand.
With all the best ingredients and inspiration from yesterday’s market we will spend a short morning in the kitchen preparing a delightful picnic lunch.
We will then head out to have a guided tour of a local wine producer and their troglodyte cellars.
Afterwards, we will enjoy our picnic in a beautiful setting, in the middle of the vineyards.
Departure after lunch.
Dinners are followed by after-dinner drinks, infusions, and chocolates in the grand salon, which guests are invited to enjoy. Program specifics may vary due to weather, current and evolving inspirations, and to take advantage of seasonal products.
We drive to the outdoor market in our nearby town taking the scenic road that goes through the apple orchards and pass by a beautiful château or two, or three!
We will also have a guided tour of a local wine producer and their troglodyte cellars. Afterwards we will enjoy our picnic in a beautiful setting, in the middle of the vineyards (weather permitting).
This cooking holiday takes place at Château de La Barbée, an 18th century castle in the Loire Valley.
What you’ll be cooking:
Menus depend on market availability, freshness and current inspiration. Lunches and dinners are served with baguettes and wine.
An optional 5th day is available upon request. This includes dinner, morning breakfast, an excursion to one of the grand Loire Valley chateaux, lunch in a medieval village or the Cointreau distillery. Please contact us for pricing.
There are direct flights from London to local Angers airport.
High speed trains operate directly from Paris and the Charles de Gaulle airport to Le Mans.
We can arrange for transfers to the château.
Car rentals are available at various locations.
"Firstly, I’d give the location, food, hospitality and overall experience a 10 (more if I could!). While it took us a train and bus trip to get to the chateau, the route was easy and scenic. And it was well worth it once we got there. The chateau itself is everything we’d hoped for and more. The rooms and exterior were beautifully presented, clean and inviting. Mary and Xavier our hosts made us feel at home straight away, and what was even better was that we got to start cooking within an hour of arriving! Three courses for lunch and dinner, plus the most amazing wines, breads and cheeses kept us busy, full and content during our stay. Mary’s laid back demeanor and expertise helped to relax us as we learnt some tricks of the French trade. Our excursions were also fantastic; we got to see a distillery, a chateau, a traditional castle, and wander through sleepy French towns and markets, living like the locals. Our favorite part though was actually sitting down to our meals; the table dressings were spectacular, thanks to the chateau’s helper Ella, and the conversation was always vibrant and interesting. There is plenty of down time and the schedule was flexible depending on what we wanted on the day. We honestly cannot speak highly enough of this experience and have recommended it to all our family and friends. We can’t wait to go back!"
BookCulinaryVacations.com website, edited
"What a fantastic experience! I had good fortune to attend a 5-day cooking course at the lovely Chateau de La Barbee this summer. "
"We arrived after lunch, were shown to our beautiful rooms and invited to proceed to the Orangerie for an al fresco wine and cheese tasting and to get acquainted with our hosts, Mary and Xavier, the owner residents of the Chateau."
"We fell in to an easy daily routine. After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, croissants, milk from the farm, homemade jams, local honey, we hit the kitchen "Aprons on!" around 9. We cooked, tasted, tested and tried lots of recipes all in preparation for our lunches and dinners."
"One of the things I loved most was Mary's ease in the kitchen. We did not stick strictly to planned menus. On any given day, dependent on what was freshest, most available, etc. we would adjust our menu accordingly. For example, Xavier came home one day with mussels fresh from the sea. He steeped them in a delicious broth and they became the 1st course of our lunch that day."
"Each day we would go on at least one outing to see and enjoy the local markets and sights. After lunch it was back to the kitchen "Aprons on!" for another lesson and more preparations for our next meal. Evenings would end in one of the many comfortable parlors, a glass of Armagnac in hand listening to Xavier's great stories. The Chateau has been in his family since the days of Napoleon and he is an expert on French history in general and the Chateau and surrounding area in particular."
"Everything was so special and well run it is hard to pick favorites, but two highlights for me were learning how to make an ice bowl and our final formal dinner in the grand dining room. Mary and Xavier invited 4 friends, we set a beautiful table, dressed for the occasion and feasted on lamb shanks, duck breast and the many dishes and desserts we had prepared earlier."
"A very rewarding and enjoyable 5-day experience. Completely immersed in the french lifestyle in a fabulous setting with attentive, knowledgeable and gracious hosts."
"What a fabulous way to celebrate a milestone birthday! Never dreamed that I would be celebrating "60" with 5 of my dearest friends in France! We started off in Paris and then headed to the beautiful Loire Valley for our amazing stay at Chateau de La Barbee. When got to the end of the road and entered the driveway we were in awe of the beautiful building with a huge fountain standing before us. This was our "home" for the next 5 days. The adventure started with getting settled in our rooms and then a quick stroll through the rose gardens to the Orangerie where we ate exquisite cheese and drank fine wine. I knew we were in for a treat of a lifetime. "
"Our chateau hosts were Mary (cooking teacher extraordinaire) and Xavier (wine connoisseur) who were so gracious and welcoming that we immediately felt at home. I was a bit nervous about taking a French cooking class (I saw Julie and Julia) but Mary put us at ease from the get-go. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen on recipes that I would definitely cook at home. We prepared lunch and dinner courses, shopped in the outdoor market in La Fleche went on a variety of excursions (Abbey of St. Peter, Chateau de Lude, Chateau of Angers and Domaine de la Tuffiere for wine tasting and a picnic). The table was beautifully set each night and our meals were fabulous. In addition to the recipes, we came away with a number of new useful cooking tips. I would go back in a heartbeat! Merci Mary and Xavier!"
TripAdvisor website, edited
"I recently spent a totally delightful stay at the Chateau de La Barbee, cooking, eating, and sightseeing under the wonderful direction of Mary Pochez. We were a group of 6 women friends celebrating the 60th birthday of one with a 2-day stay in Paris and a 5-night stay at the chateau. The chateau itself is incredibly beautiful and charming, filled with antiques and lovely art and portraits, but also very lived in and comfortable. You don't feel that you are in a museum, but rather in a home that has been loved and cared for by many generations of Mary's husband's family. Xavier is a very charming co-host with lots of knowledge about French history, the chateau, and local wines. Everywhere you look, both inside and out the windows, you see beauty. "
"The French cooking classes were fantastic - so much fun and so well taught. Mary is a very knowledgeable and casual cook and makes you feel that you can make the dishes with ease. She instills confidence along with all her recipes and tips. Every single dish we prepared (and ate!) was mouthwatering delicious, from the fish baked in salt to the beef Bourguignon to the cheese souffle to the potato dishes to the baked peaches and chocolate cake. We all had fun cooking in her wonderful kitchen with walls of copper pots and and fresh cut flowers and produce everywhere. We learned a lot of dishes and loved them all! "
"And the program of excursions was wonderful too - the drives through the charming villages to visit other chateaux, the evening at an ancient abbey listening to monks sing Gregorian chants, the local farmers' market, the 14th century tapestries displayed in the chateau in Angers. "
"This is a trip I will remember, in detail, my whole life. It was educational, fun, and lovely in every way. Get together a group of friends and go! Or go with your partner! You will love it too!"
"Thank you for sharing your home and your vast knowledge of all things French, Mary and Xavier!"
"I convinced a group of friends to company me, to celebrate my 50th birthday. Chateau de La Barbée was the perfect setting. Mary and Xavier welcomed us into their home (home for them is a Chateau!), and Mary's program of cooking and sightseeing was the perfect combination of education mixed with touring mixed with relaxation and fun. And the food was fantastic. Can't recommend this more to anyone interested in a very special vacation. The countryside is gorgeous, and off the beaten track, not too touristy. Such a nice change of pace! Highly recommended!"
"Mary and Xavier was the most gracious hosts. Not only was the Chateau beautiful but also the surrounding with the refreshing river close by. Mary made the cooking fun and all the fancy dishes we made seemed easy. I will make them all for sure back home!"
"We really got to see the French countryside at its best and I wish to go there again and again and again."
"It's a beautiful and incredible place, I totally recommended for holidays, or a weekend."
La Vie Du Château Facebook, edited
"I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a night here over the weekend before Thanksgiving with a group of other American exchange students currently living in Angers, France and I can't think of a more rewarding and special way that we could have spent that time! Mary was amazing and her cooking direction was superb. Our food for both lunch and dinner was absolutely mouthwatering! I loved being able to stay in her chteau. The culture and history surrounding me was absolutely phenomenal. If you have the chance before you leave, I absolutely suggest walking the grounds of her chteau if you get the chance. Her rose gardens and the back path are absolutely gorgeous! And her pets are pretty cute too!"
La Vie Du Chateau Facebook, edited
"The warm welcome and relaxing pleasure of staying with a real family is the best experience one could have when traveling. The hosts at La Barbee were terrific. They were so down to earth, wonderfully friendly, kind and generous in sharing their beautiful home with us. I could spend days in their fabulous garden wandering amongst the fruit trees and the rose bushes. This is the perfect escape from the intensity and rush-rush of Paris."
La Vie Due Facebook, edited
"Chateau de La Barbe was the highlight of our visit in France. There is something completely different about a stay in a foreign country when you experience day to day life. Mary is an amazing cook and Xavier is completely entertaining. It's such a fun time. "
La Vie Due Chateau Facebook, edited