We host our courses in France at a property located in the small farming commune of Missé in the most southern part of the Loire Valley, the house rests on the verdant banks of the Thouet River, a tributary of the Loire. Ancient Gallic for “tranquil,” the Thouet forms an oxbow (circles back on itself) here, forming the Cirque de Missé (Circle of Misse), the inspiration for our name. The property offers fantastic views of farmland, cows and pheasants. Further down the road you’ll find vineyards as we’re part of the Anjou wine region. Learn how to get here.
This location provides dozens of pleasant walks along the river and outstanding hilltop views of the Thouet Valley. Comfortably off the tourist trail—though the châteaus and castles of the Loire Valley including Chinon and Saumur are less than a half hour away—the Thouet Valley exudes peace, relaxation and contemplation. It’s the perfect place to write and paint. Add to that the medal-garnering vineyards encircling the area, the beautiful and abundant produce, award-winning goat cheeses and other renowned culinary specialties, and you have the perfect place to eat, cook, and feast the senses.
Built on the grounds of a 12th century abbey, the house stands next to the Church of Saint-Pierre, on the trail used by Breton and Norman pilgrims enroute to Santiago de Compostela. The original bell cote, sitting in the shadow of the more modern 17th Century bell tower, is visible from the lane leading to the house. The pilgrims route, now part of the Thouet valley bicycle trail and the French national hiking route, GR36, runs from Ouistreham on the Norman coast to Bourge-Madame on the Spanish border.
Just down the road, the medieval market town of Thouars, perches high above the Thouet river. It hosts a magnificent farmer’s market on Tuesdays and Fridays. The Friday market in particular is the largest in the area and is not targeted at tourists like those in many French towns. A genuine working farmer’s market, locals come from miles around to buy and sell. A staggering variety of produce, fish, seafood, meat, honey, cheese, regional specialities, arts, crafts and household goods spill out of the market hall into the town square.
The beautiful château of the Dukes of Tremoille, one the largest Lousis XIII style châteaus in France dominates the cityscape, where blue-tinted slates mingle with Roman pantiles. From this vantage point the city’s long-standing dual identity as a Loire town in the Poitou region is evident in the architecture and its strategic position on one of the Loire’s main tributaries.
Sites worth a visit: 11th century Eglise St. Medard; 12th century Abbatiale St. Laon; 13th century Prince of Wales tower; and the Joan of Arc Chapel, now a centre for modern art installations.
The biggest megalithic burial site in the region, consisting of seven dolmens, lies just up the road from Circle of Misse at Taizé.
Just a little further on, sits the beautifully quirky Chateau of Oiron. Now a contemporary art museum, it served as the inspiration for several scenes in the fairy tale Puss in Boots and was home to an eccentric who collected many strange items to fill his cabinet of curiosities. The church at Oiron, also worth a visit, is a jewel of gothic and renaissance architecture.
A half-hour from Circle of Misse, the historic city of Saumur dominates the Loire with its imposing Castle, offering the visitor a true taste of Loire architecture, fine wines and culture.
Chinon, home of the French author Rabelais, the ruins of Chinon castle, and a prized red wine is also half an hour away. A stroll down the wonderful tiny streets of Chinon reveals a wealth of restaurants, cafes and smart shops. In the 15th century Chinon castle was the residence of Charles VII, the dauphin of France. It is the place where Joan of Arc came on March 8, 1429 to recognize the dauphin and to urge him to declare himself king and raise an army to liberate France.
In the 11th century it was the primary residence of Henry II. He, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their son King Richard I “The Lionheart” and Isabelle of Angouleme, wife of King John “Lackland”, were buried at the nearby Fontevraud l’Abbaye. Snugly in château country, Fontrevraud l’Abbaye serves as a perfect jumping-off point to many of the most famous châteaus and vineyards of the Loire region. Châteaus include: Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Ussé, Langeais, Montreuil-Bellay, Villandry, and their accompanying towns and cities. Vineyards include those of: Bourgueil, Saumur, Anjou, Chinon, Thouarsais, Vouvray, Savennières, Touraine, and Haut-Poitou.