20 October 2012

La Maison Bigot à Amboise

A couple of weeks ago France 2 television, the main public channel in France, ran a series of reports about the Loire Valley on its lunchtime news show. One day's report featured the Maison Bigot shop in Amboise. It's located near the château, on the pedestrian street called la rue Nationale.

A mixed fruit tart that we admired at the Maison Bigot

When we were over in Amboise (20 miles from Saint-Aignan) a few weeks ago, we took time to look around inside the Maison Bigot. The shop sells pastries and chocolates, and also has a little tearoom off the main space serving (mostly) hot drinks and pastries. I remember having tea and a pastry there back in 2003 with a friend from Rouen, when we were in the process of buying our house here.

On the right is a photo of Walt in front of the Maison Bigot that I posted a few days ago. Bigot is a common family name in this part of the Loire Valley region. It's pronounced [bee-GOH].

Amboise was the place we were most attracted to when we decided to look for a house in the Loire Valley back in 2002. I'm glad now that we didn't find a house we wanted to live in over there; the town is very busy, with buses bringing in loads of tourists to see the château and shop along the main street. From these photos, you can see that the town is very picturesque. It's worth a detour, as the Michelin Guide might say, to have a look around in Amboise, but living there... well, I'm not sure.

A selection of savory quiches on display in the windows at the Maison Bigot

Amboise also has one of biggest open-air markets in the Loire Valley. It sets up down by the river on Friday and Sunday mornings, and the market too is a sight to see — especially on Sundays, when there are dozens or scores of food vendors selling local specialties, and also many stalls selling housewares, furniture, clothing, and a wide assortment of merchandise of all kinds. If you go, plan to get there early, before it gets so crowded that you can hardly walk around or see anything because of the crush of tourists and shoppers.

Views along the main street in Amboise

Amboise is an old royal town, and it's right on the banks of the Loire. There are big levees to protect the town from flooding. Leonardo da Vinci's house — the one where he spent the last few years of his life as the guest of French king François Ier — is just down the street from the château. There are troglodyte houses along that street — "cave houses" built into the side of a cliff.

The Maison Bigot will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2013.

Macarons — cream-filled almond cookies — are all the rage these days.
These are available at the Maison Bigot in Amboise.

The Amboise area is a sub-appellation of the Touraine wine area, producing red, rosé, and still white wines. Just down the river is Vouvray, where some of the best white wines (of Chenin Blanc) in the Loire Valley are made. Amboise has a lot going for it, and it's a mainstay of the Loire Valley tourist circuit — deservedly.


  1. It's a good thing I don't live there. because if that tarte is even close to tasting as good as it looks, I would consume an evil amount of them.

  2. Hi Ken,

    The tart looks fantastic. Is the Sunday market open throughout the year?

  3. Yes, Gaynor, it's open year-round. The Friday market in Amboise is smaller than the Sunday market.

    Starman, bon appétit !

  4. Scrumptious... but pricey... however, I'm with Starman and Gaynor there... I think it would be a race to see who got there first. These shops are terrible for the waistline!

    And Amboise looks a little like York... we must do more visiting!
    Only not today... not with all this rain... mind you, we can make a jug of coffee by dipping a jug in the bief and microwaving it... comes from being near the confluence with 40 kilometres of agricultural land above us.

  5. I was not feeling hungry until I read your post........ Enjoy your weekend. Diane

  6. I really love hearing about these places you visit. It's the everyday things, like markets and pastry shops, and streets that just look so different from what I'm used to, that appeals to me.

    I'm teaching French I this year (first time in years), and so I'm having my first introductions to what our textbook puts out for level 1. Yesterday, I started showing a little Vignette Culturelle video, and they were telling the kids about La Touraine! I was pleased and surprised, because I never even learned of the Loire Valley until I was in Paris! (I remember Jim Helwig looking at me like I was nuts, because it had, apparently, been a big deal in his French classes in high school!)


  7. Thanks for this post of one of my favorite places in the Loire Valley. The bakery is so old- just imagine now many tart recipes they've made in 99 years!

  8. I wonder how they make that net-like top crust? It's so regular that there must be a form to roll it out on. I'd like to be able to do that.

    Ken, I think I'm set up to comment again.

  9. Carolyn, I just noticed that like us poor privacy freaks you gave up and joined Google. The bright side is it works! LOL

  10. Hi Carolyn, nice to "see" you again. I don't know how they make that top crust pattern. I'll ask Walt what he thinks.


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