|Subject: Part II Return from France trip....|
Still in Paris....
Tuesday morning the guys went to the Hertz place in Montparnasse on the Metro to get the car. They said the Metro was packed. It wasn't at all the day before because of the holiday. No trouble at all getting the car. They showed up around ten and we were off to Chambord in the Val de Loire. Beautiful, sunny day...stopped for lunch in Meung on the Loire River. It is a cute little town with a small chateau and church. There was a cafe on the town square where we ate with the locals .....everyone having wine, so we had a glass each too....un terre vin rouge or blanc......learned a little French along the way...mostly road signs and menu items. I cannot for the life of me pronounce French, at least with German every syllable is pronounced so I can picture it in my mind. Fun first lunch on the road! Arrived at Chambord soon after lunch and spent the afternoon there. A good first chateau....we got the headsets (at Rick Steves' suggestion) and learned alot. Little or no explanation in English along the way. It's a big place, glad we allowed several hours.
Spent the night in Chenenceaux at La Roseraie hotel which has a very good restaurant which we ate at both nights. They had the best onion soup I've ever had! And Jon said the duck he had was outstanding. The owners are delightful and the whole hotel is relaxing, a patio with lots of flowers, a pool, separate breakfast room. Our room was off the jarden. Our friends had a smaller room upstairs on the 3rd floor which was much bigger than the one in Paris. Cheneceaux, the chateau, is two blocks away....we toured there early the next morning. It was a good time to be in France because the season doesn't really start until June 15 so there were no crowds at these places. Rained a little at the Chateau...I think my photos will come out anyway....with digital you can lighten and even add sun! my favorite trick!
We went to Amboise for lunch which is about 20 minutes away. I had my first crepe and it was yummy....egg, ham and cheese. Ate in a cafe below the castle....very touristy area but we liked the chateau...they give english tours throughout the day and we got in close to the beginning of one. Did you know that they didn't have tables in the middle ages...just set up boards and took them down when finished. So all tables you see are after the middle ages. We walked the guys up to Leonardo da Vinci's home for the last three years of his life....up a small road lined with houses....a good feel for the town. There were trogladyte houses built into the cliffs behind these houses. Much discussion about these.....I think it means people living in caves...the word has something to do with caving. There are many in the Loire Valley. We left them there to shop for awhile. They thought the da Vinci house was OK....IBM has a set up of his discoveries built there from his plans...they loved that. We probably would have liked the house part. Had coffee on the square and went back for dinner at Chenenceax. (I could get used to coffee at cafes...)
On Thursday we piled back in the car and headed for Dinan in Brittany. Took the scenic route along the river....the real reason to have a car....travelled through many, many little towns....then lunched in Angers in the city. Weather getting cooler and looking stormy but we still ate outside. The rain started after we hit the highway for Rennes and it really rained! We were staying at a B&B outside of Dinan....I had forgotten to print the directions so after trying the post office (it was closed) and trying to call (the next day we discovered you needed a phone card )....a nice pharmacist helped us with directions. We stayed at La Tarais, a restored 17th century farmhouse, a charming place in the country. We actually found them on the web and booked without any recommendations. We were pleasantly surprised at what a nice place it was.....300 and 275 FF per night including breakfast. The owners are Dutch and Endlish and most welcoming. They have been there for 10 years and do all the renovations themselves. Our first night was fairly depressing because it did rain and Dinan was deserted. It's a small medieval town, very pleasant to walk around. Lot's of creperies (52) and other restaurants to chose from. I enjoyed walking down the road before breakfast each day as the sun was out by the next morning.
Friday we drove first thing to Mont St. Michel....the first view you get from the road was breathtaking. Again, not too many people.....but I can imagine what July and August are like. We walked to the top and got in on the english tour.....then backtracked to take photos. The view again was breathtaking...this was one spot that Jeannie and I had always wanted to see. High tide wasn't until 8 PM so didn't see it. The mudflats are awe-inspiring from the top esp. if you know how fast the tides come in. Stayed till about noon and lunched in St. Malo where we got thoroughly lost and never found the fortress...too much traffic. Had crepes again....not everyone was hoappy with theirs...I was. Tried the hard cider, the specialty of the region. Not sweet like apple cider but didn't win over the beer and wine fans. Worked our way back to Dinan to walk the town now that the sun was out. Much more activity than the night before...cobble stone streets, half timbered houses, part of the wall can be accessed for a fine view of the town but also looking down of gardens and backyards, several churches to tour.
At our hosts suggestion we had dinner in the Port area of Dinan which we had not walked too.....very good place again...we never had a bad meal....pork cheeks in Chenenceax didn't go over well, or potted pork either....decided not to order pork after that. I had fish every night. Oysters and shrimp (with heads etc.), moule (mussels)...lots of salmon. Wish I had tried skate...had bad visions of what it looked like but should have tried it anyway...seems to be a specialty of the region.
On Saturday, our last whole day, we drove to Normandy to Le Memorial, the WWII museum. This was a last minute decision and we were so glad we went. It's a beautiful presentation with some very good, dramatic films of D-Day and The Battle of Normandy. I don't really known much about that war or had much interest in it....never got to it in history classes. Learned about the French resistance and the collaborators and the German occupation of France. After spending three hours or more there we drove out to Omaha beach and the American cemetery, very moving....especially the graves marked An unknown soldier, only God knows the identity .
Continued along the coast to Honfluer, a very picturesque fishing town...mostly for tourists now but charming. Stayed at LeChat in the old town. A three star hotel that is an old building across from St. Catherine's church. It was nice but the Muguet in Paris was nicer and a two star hotel! Ate dinner at a cafe on the Vieux Bassin, the old waterfront....surrounded on three sides by tall, skinny houses, many covered with slate. Started with moules marinierre (which I thought was marinated mussels on greens. Turned out it was a huge bowl of mussels in the shell, which I love! Everyone was eating them....learned to use the empty shell of one to pinch out the next mussel! A great idea....then you eat the broth with a spoon. Too good!
Can you tell...we love to eat?
Well, it was time to go the next morning....Sunday....as we were waiting for the car the church was having its ten AM service. It must have been confirmation day because about 20 young kids around 12 -14 starting arriving in long white robes. The families were all taking photos in front of the church. Then jsut after ten they all processed with the priests outside from the other side of the church into the front doors.
Drove back to Paris with a few detours for not reading the map right or missing a sign....got really lost in Rouen but made it to the airport for our 4:40 flight to DC. Scariest part was driving the Peripherique (The Beltway around Paris). The speed was 70-80 mph and motorcycles and cars whiped in and out! I was in the back seat and couldn't watch.) The highlight of that flight was we had three seats for two of us, no one came and filled the middle seats! What a difference that makes.....
We are already trying to decide where to go next! England? (the food isn't as good) (south of France, maybe)....must go read up on my french history too....
Ellie in Maryland