Monday, June 22, 2015

France Day Three: Adventures in Volkswagoneering

Remember yesterday when we mentioned how difficult it was to drag our luggage up a cobblestone mountain? Turns out that was cake, compared to this morning. It was raining when we left our little hotel. So we had to trudge down the cobblestones, while getting soaked and dodging about 5,000 French summer camp students who were making their way up the narrow lane. We finally made it off the island, down the pier and to the shuttle stop, only to have the driver tell us, “Non!” and point to the very far end of the pier.  So we ran, in the rain, dragging suitcases, only to have that very same bus driver turn around and pick us up at the far end of the pier. We finally made it to the car, only to discover the “low tire” indicator was on. Let’s just say I was practicing French swear words.

The day improved from there. After a quick tea and croissant, we drove to Dinard, on the Brittany coast. I wanted to see the belle époque mansions I had recently read about in “Empty Mansions.” (GREAT book!)  They were worth the detour, but there wasn’t much else to Dinard.

Next up was Dinan, an amazing medieval town that was untouched during WWII, so it’s historic core is intact. We wandered around looking at the old half- timbered buildings, and both said we felt like this was the exact village from Beauty And The Beast. 

We stopped for lunch, and M tried her first ever strawberry meringue, which she described as “Just like Astronaut Ice Cream!”  

But we had a chateau to visit, so we hit the road. Suddenly, I felt like we were in Hotel California – you know, “you can check in, but you can never leave.”  All the roads out of town were closed!  I thought I finally found a way, and followed an Audi down a narrow one way street, only to round a bend and find out we were going the wrong way because we were face to face with a line of cars coming our way. A French man walked up to my window and started yelling at me that this road was closed. I again pretended not to understand and spoke to him in English, but he kept right on yelling and gesturing in French. C’est la vie. We backed all the way out and FINALLY found a way out of town. I figured that we better check that tire, so we hit a gas station and put air in it. Figuring out how to do that in French and the metric system was not easy.  I have no idea how many liters of air should go into a small VW tire, but I guessed it was about 5 or 6, since that is what the other tires were reading. (For the record, none of them looked flat, we just guessed it was the front left tire that needed air because it looked a tiny bit low.)  But we did it! Our egos inflated (tee hee), we jumped back into the car, started it, and the light was still on. Oh well – looks like will be driving around France with a tire indicator on.

We made it to Chateau Villandry in the late afternoon and wandered its 7 amazing gardens. M proclaimed this was by far her favorite site so far. She loved the vegetable gardens, where everything was edible, but also ornamental and “so organized!”

We also did the maze, and took selfies when we reached the top of the tower (that was the goal) to prove we had made it.

There was so much to explore, we could have stayed a few more hours. It was breathtaking!

By now we were starving, so we headed to Chateau Vallagon, our home for the night.  In today's WWII lesson, German soldiers occupied this chateau during the war. The family stayed too, refusing to leave, and was forced to care for the soldiers. 

We had our first gourmet dinner of the trip. M had beef rillettes, with cauliflower, pickles and lentil pancakes, followed by braised steak, fried gnocchi, local mushrooms and meat sauce. I had ravioli with poultry, parmesan, pea shoots, parsnips and walnuts, followed by cockerel with carrot crème, vegetables and tarragon sauce. We both had the cheese course of 3 goat cheeses from a local farm, apple/plum compote, nuts and bread.  I’m not sure how we made it to our third floor suite (2 separate bedrooms!), since we were so stuffed!

We both agreed it was a good day.

Tomorrow: More Chateaux, one of les plus beaux villages de France (the 2013 winner for most beautiful village) and a long road trip south.

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