‘The French don’t resent expats in the Loire Valley’

For the latest instalment in our My France series we take a trip down the Loire Valley to find out what its like to live and work in this idyllic region of France, best known for the splendour of the chateaux and quality of the its wines.

'The French don't resent expats in the Loire Valley'
Tha magnificent Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley and restaurant manager Jon Scorse with his two children Sasha and Gabriel.

Jon Scorse, aged 38, manages the Italian restaurant Stratto in the town of Blois in the heart of the picturesque Loire Valley. He lives there with his wife and two children Sasha and Gabriel.

How did you end up in Blois?

My wife is a schoolteacher and she got posted here so we did not have much choice. We did not know anything about the place but we are pretty happy with where we ended up.

Have you integrated into French life?

Yes I think so. In this region it’s quite easy to do so. I have plenty of French friends here. I know in Brittany or Dordogne for example there are so many Anglos that people have found it difficult to integrate. But in the Loire Valley there are not that many so the French here are really keen to talk to me about England and they don’t resent the expats like I have heard they do in other parts of the country.

How did you end up running a restaurant?

I became friends with the owner and had worked with him for four years before he asked me to take over the restaurant in Blois.

What about when you first came over?

When I first arrived here I worked at the Chateau Chambord in the restaurant. I had worked as a hotel manager before and because I did not speak French the restaurant trade was the easiest place for me to find work. Most of the visitors to the Chateau were international guests so I did not actually need to speak French.

After being a hotel manager in England, how did it feel stepping down a level or two?

Obviously it was different, but here I had a different challenge. Whereas in England I had had the challenge of the responsibility, in France the test was to try to learn the new language and new culture and get used to living in a different country, so that made up for the change in position.

What is different about working in France compared to back home?

Well the language is obviously the main thing but working conditions are adhered to a lot more over here. For example in France when someone says they are working nine until six, they will finish at six on the dot. They will not do more than their set hours. And they always take a break here at the precise time they are supposed to. I think in Anglo countries they are more flexible and will often work through a break and take it another time.

Where are the best places to visit in the Loire Valley?

The good thing about living here is that we are in the heart of Chateau country. There are so many around here. Chateau Chambord is probably the most famous one and then there is Chateau Amboise, which is where Leonardo de Vinci lived for a time, and the Chateau in Blois. There is a big museum dedicated to him there. They are all fairly close and that’s the main reason people come here. Tours is the big city near here if you want to go shopping et cetera, and there’s plenty of things to do in Blois as well.

What’s the worst thing about living in the Loire Valley?

The problem living in central France is that you are so far from the sea. It’s about three and a half hours drive either north or west so that’s a real downside of the area. It’s not like we can swim in the Loire river instead. It’s too big and the current is too strong.

And what about the wine?

The wine is a big part of the culture here. The big vineyards are all around us and they are becoming more and more popular. There’s some great wines from the area and a lot of visitors come here to do wine tasting. We try to visit as many as possible and go to the tastings, it's one of the great things about living in this region. Although the wines here are quite regionalized so sometimes it's hard to find ones that are not from the Loire Valley.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts