Published: September 18th 2012September 14th 2012
Bienvenue a la France!
Wendy and Ed's arrival
Monday, September 10 - We got up and packed to leave Paris, as we had to go pick up our little cube, and our friends at the airport. On the train to the airport, with our luggage, I was sad leaving Paris, but knew that the fun was about to begin. The Ipad was charged, I had the car connector cords and the GPS had been programmed with the new “home” address. We were ready!
Wendy and Ed popped out of the Customs area looking for us, but couldn’t see us even with a sign! Mind you, they had been up about 36 hours from Auckland - they were forgiven. First things first - on the road to stop for a coffee and pain au chocolat. YUM! On the motorway, flying down it about 110Kmh with the speed limit 130kmh. Rolled into our house-swap just outside of Tours in the Loire Valley about 5:30 PM, being met by the owner’s sister. Had lots of wine, cheese, bread, juice, other yummy things. Then dinner came - homemade spaghetti with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. That hit the spot! Cheese and fruit for dessert. The cheeses here are wonderful - AND THE
Look at these wonderful buildings - 15th century
VARIETY! Along with the necessary camembert, bleu and other cheeses, there was a wonderful one that tasted like cheddar but with walnuts. It made a very nice dessert cheese. Pears are in season this time of year as are grapes, and both are ripe and sweet. Perfect with a camembert. We were finally shown our rooms and went to bed.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 - Off to Tours to get the lay of the land. The Loire Valley is long with LOTS of chateaux to see, and one needs to be organized. I had done a lot of prep work beforehand, but we still needed to check on a few things, so headed in to the Information Center. After Ballooning bookings (not for me, thanks….) chateau pamphlets, and souvenirs, we went off to a wonderful lunch in a little café/brasserie around the corner from the I center. Kevin and I had Pasta with smoked and poached salmon, Wendy had a quiche and salad, and Ed had pasta with scallops. The pasta was fresh and the salmon was beautiful. Wendy’s salad was just what she had wanted. Ed was amused that they remove the scallop roe up here. We then
went off for a walk around Old Tours, to work off the pasta and the (oh, I forgot to mention) pastries we had in Amboise when we stopped for morning coffee. I have discovered Pate de chocolat, which I had never heard of before, and I think I will have to learn how to make it. It leaves a pain au chocolat for dust.
That evening on the way home we stopped at the local supermarche (supermarket) for roast chicken, salads, cheese, fruit, etc, all the fixings of a great dinner for our host and ourselves. It’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good…
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 - This is a big day for Kevin and me, and really the purpose of the trip - the celebration of 25 years of wedness. That’s what I meant - wedness. Hard to believe, actually…The day was to be spent in Blois (pronounced Blue - wah), with touring the castle, where Mary Queen of Scots spent her childhood, having lunch, touring the countryside, having a small dinner then back in to see the Sound and Light in English at the Castle.
The lunch we had was wonderful. Kevin
found the restaurant online through the Michelin Guide and we got a booking. The name of the restaurant is Cote Loire Auberge Ligerienne on the Place de la Greve (Phone 33-2-54-78-07-86) and I highly recommend it.
Our entrees included Local pate from the owner’s grandmother’s recipe and a goat cheese salad with tomato confit. Raves were found for both. I had the goat cheese salad, because I wanted to stay away from the bread. Main courses were beautiful local sausages made with red wine and mushrooms and veal Marengo. The sausages were a treat, sweet and very moist. Perfectly cooked. The sauce with the mushrooms was a perfect accompaniment to the mashed potatoes. I know, you are saying “Bangers and Mash”, but oh what bangers! Ed was pleased with his veal. He must have been, because he was quiet for quite a while. Dessert consisted of poached figs with caramel sauce, nougat glace and “chaud et froid fe fruits rouge”. We still aren’t sure what was meant by the “Chaud et froid” though we know the translation, but it was really nice. I think there was a marengue involved which always works for me.
After visits driving by a
Quiche and salad
Perfect for lunch
couple of chateaus, we stopped and had a mediocre dinner which I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that, except for a couple of friends we have, the French really can’t cook a steak. And I have never seen gray crème brulee before.
The day was wonderful, the weather was wonderful, the food was wonderful and the friends were wonderful….It will be remembered a long time!
THURSDAY, SEPT 13, 2012 - Now comes the hard work - visiting all those chateaux! Today was Villandry, a chateau renowned for its gardens. The chateau was purchased in 1906 by a Spaniard who had married a very wealthy American woman, and they took on the job of renovation based on old records and plant archeology. The result is incredible and justice can only be done by pictures from above, so I bought a couple of postcards. We stopped for a late lunch, and it was nothing fancy (I had a tomato salad, and what we would call Cottage Pie) but I am always amazed at the flavors of the simplest foods. Tomatoes have no acidity here - they are so sweet! And the color - check out my previous
Francis I staircase in the center of the chateau
blog for that one….
We also did a bit of driving around again, and went to a small privately owned chateau, which is more of a ruin, but very interesting all the same. They can’t all be grand, but they all have a lot of history attached. We are learning a lot about Francis I, Henry II-IV, Catherine de Medici, and numerous other people who figure in to the area’s development.
FRIDAY, SEPT 14, 2012 - Today we hit the ground running. Chenonceau Castle during the day, and they all went ballooning tonight… Chenonceau is a wonderful chateau when there aren’t a bazillion people - today wasn’t like that. There were plus de people, and it was hard to get around. But, that aside, it was absolutely stunning and worth it. It is called the “Ladies’ Castle” because 5 women lived there, including Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici (who kicked Diane out after Henry II’s death). We went on a little tiki-tour around the area and found a couple of drive-by chateaux before heading back to Chenonceau to drop the three off. Kevin can tell you HIS side of that in his blog… I had dinner
Our 25th Anniversary
The official picture.
in town by myself, with a galette (pancake) with ham, onions, cheese and mushrooms, followed by a chocolate fondant that is better than (sorry, guys) the Duke of Marlborough in Russell.
Now that they all have come safely back to earth, it’s time to go home and bed…
There are more photos below