Come for the chateaux, be surprised by the windmills
Unexpected treasures dot Anjou, an ancient province in northwest France, where windmills break the flat horizon. Many continue to turn in the mild maritime breeze, grinding grain just as they have for centuries.
In the middle of the 19th century windmills were at the height of their popularity in Anjou. 1,200 of them spread across the landscape. Today over 200 remain, many of which open their doors to visitors.
The Epinay windmill offers perhaps the most thorough visit—an hour and a half—during which a miller guides guests through the mechanics of a working windmill, guests enjoy a documentary and enchanting cartoon on windmills, and a more traditional but interactive museum section.
Driving over the ribbons of road that cross Anjou, you’ll begin to notice something. The mills of La Possonnière and des Basses Terres remind you of the picturesque Dutch windmills. That of Louresse-Rochemenier and Varennes sur Loire piques your curiosity. How does the wood cabin balance on top of the brick cone and turn with the wind?
In fact, there are three types of windmills in Anjou. The smock, or Dutch windmills are built of brick or stone, with a fixed body and pivoting roof. The post mill, made of wood, rotates as the wind changes direction. The cavern mill looks like a tiny house perched on the point of pencil-shaped tower, on which it turns.
For a more unusual windmill encounter there’s Le Cavier in Avrillé. Imagine savoring escargot-parmesan crumble followed by slow cooked goose breast as the blades wade through the wind above. Dining in the windmill’s cellar feels like being welcomed onto a fertile farm from a few centuries back, with an extra dose of rural refinement
The Web site for the Association (yes, it really does exist, and they actually do a fantastic job of preserving and promoting Anjou’s mills) has a bilingual Web site with addresses, opening conditions, and admission prices for many wind and water mills in the area.
Text acknowledgement French Culture and Travel Examiner Christina Rebuffet-Broadus
Have you any stories to share with other members about these windmills or this area?