Open-air feast has British theme

The feast outside the mairie has become an annual tradition

An outdoor meal for 3,000 this year pays homage to the UK – and King Richard III

A GIANT outdoor feast in the Loire Valley wine growing area has a British theme this year – and will launch a campaign to create a special monument to King Richard III in the local abbey church.

The Grandes-Tablées de Saumur-Champigny will involve a meal for 3,000 on each of two nights next month with some 2km of tables installed in front of the hôtel de ville.

It is in its 15th year and honours a different country each time, but on August 5 and 6 organisers say they will be serving British-style food made with local produce, such as mushroom pie, pork pie and red berry crumble. The food will be washed down by 4,000 bottles of the local red wine served at 20 ‘tasting points’.

This time however, the occasion also marks the start of a campaign to raise money to have a top artist create a reclining statue of Richard III which will join medieval ones of his fellow Plantagenets, many of whom were buried nearby in the crypt at the church at Fontevraud Abbey.

Remaining statues at the abbey, which was ransacked at the time of the Revolution, include those of Richard I ‘the Lionheart’, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the founder of the dynasty, Henry II. However Richard III never had one – after he died in Battle of Bosworth Field he was buried in Leicester, where his remains were rediscovered under a car park in 2012.

A spokesman for the Grandes Tablées, Patrick Robert, said the wine growers and abbey had decided to honour the British by having an artist create a new statue “so the king can join his ancestors”.

“Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart did a lot for wine in Anjou [the old province centred on the modern department of Maine-et-Loire] and Bordeaux, so the wine growers had the idea of paying their respects to the family by offering a statue to Richard III in a few years’ time.”

During the meal they will launch a crowdfunding campaign towards it, which will also include the chance to obtain bottles of a future Cuvée Richard III de Fontevraud and holiday stays at a four star hotel situated in part of abbey complex.

Five bands will perform British pop hits, from 19.00 to 1.00.

The event is the first to obtain a new Agriculture Ministry label La Grande Tablée – Les Rabelaisiennes, aimed at encouraging similar large-scale open-air meals. Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll is to attend.

It is on August 5 and 6 from 19.00 in Place de la République, Saumur and tickets are €12, including an engraved tasting glass to fill up at the tasting points, or €5 just for the tasting glass. Reservations are at the tourist office at Quai Carnot, on 02 41 40 20 60 and online at Saumur Tourist Office.

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