Our Journey Through France
The Final Leg.
We set off from Chinon after breakfast and decided to visit a wine cave before leaving the Chinon region. We had a few bottles already from the day before but had heard that Chinon had some lovely wines.
After about half an hour we came across a cave. It was still only 11.30am and quite early to be tasting wine but we would soon be out of the region. We pulled into the yard and entered the large hangar type building. The owner and another person were busy bottling and labeling wines and he duly stopped what he was doing, washed his hands and although he was not open at this time for tasting, he took us down into the cave. It was dark and cold, and we moved off into the tasting room. We were obviously too early as he had to clear the glasses from last nights tastings, but he was very friendly, and happy to be telling us about his wines. We tasted four reds, from 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. The same grape, just different years and it was amazing at the difference in each one. We liked all of them except 2016 so we bought four bottles of each and some Rose.
Back on the road we headed for Poitiers. Here we stopped for lunch at a very nice restaurant, sitting outside in the street. It was still chilly, and the waiter brought several blankets out for people who were shivering, which was a very nice gesture. We walked around the city for a short while to stretch our legs before heading out.
Driving south through beautiful countryside, we drove through Angouleme. The city was very attractive and vibrant, and we would have stopped, but we needed to head further south for our overnight stay. This city is perched on a ridge and is known as the ‘balcony of the southwest’. It hosts over 40 animation and video game studios that produce many of France’s animated films. We promised ourselves to stop there on the way back if possible.
Continuing, we finally came to the small town of Aubeterre Sur Dronne. This pretty little village has been voted one of the most beautiful villages in France since 1993. We found a ‘hostellerie’ – the Logis Hostellerie du Perigord and entered the foyer to see if they had rooms. Surprisingly, on entering it appeared to be very contemporary and this logis also had a ‘restaurant gastronomique’ so we knew we were good for dinner.
The receptionist greeted us and to our surprise she was English, having moved there 14 years ago. She showed us the room, which again, was sparse but clean and comfortable. We agreed and asked her to book us for dinner that night. We rested for a half an hour or so and then took a walk up to the top part of the village. There were narrow, winding, cobbled streets and a lovely little creperie with a glorious view over the town from their terrace. Unfortunately, this was closed, as was the church. Still not quite tourist season here so once again, another place to return to. We walked across the bridge and saw places where, in the summer, kayaks were for rent, this area being a great walking and outdoor activity area.
We returned to the hotel, rested and went to the restaurant for dinner. There were only two other guests in the hotel, a Thai couple here on business. We sat and had aperitifs on the patio, the pool was not open – too cold. Our meal was outstanding once again. The menu was presented to us at the table on a large chalkboard and easel and we both chose something different so we could try everything. Marcel had a fish starter, pates and slices of different fish. I had the veal trotter terrine, which may sound rather unappetizing, but was very tasty. For main course, Marcel had the chicken with potatoes and a beautiful madeira sauce. I had some type of fish with risotto and a souffle of vegetables. And to finish off, lemon tart and Crème brulee. Wine and coffee too – perfect! As the Thai couple were about to leave we called them over for a chat. They were there on business, visiting their ‘plant’ so we assumed there was some industrial area close by. We chatted about Thailand and our experiences there and they were very pleased to have met someone in rural France who had an experience of Thailand.
After yet another good night’s sleep, we had a wonderful breakfast. As we were now in Cognac country, the owner of the hostellerie had tried to arrange for us to visit a local distillery, but we were too early in the day and too early in the tourist season and he would not open for us. The owner was not happy about that, and apologized but we were not worried, we were eager to get going as today we would be at our destination.
As we travelled south, once again, we were beginning to get excited about reaching our home for the next five months. What would it be like? Small, large, comfortable? We decided to stop off for lunch and visit a supermarket to stock up on some things for the next few days, so that we didn’t have to immediately turn around and head out shopping, once we had arrived.
We stopped at Eauze and found a café (Cafe de France) where we had a lovely lunch of smoked salmon salad and a goat’s cheese and duck salad. Sitting in the middle of the square, still a little chilly, but enjoying the wine and outside dining. We didn’t know at the time, but this would be one of our weekly market towns to visit for fresh food. On our way through France we had managed to speak some French, get by with hand gestures and understood most of what was being said, but I realized my French, although good enough when reading, really needed some work when it came to speaking and listening. Every time we sat at a café or restaurant, I would try to eavesdrop and understand what was being said, but sadly only a few words were recognizable. Oh well, surely after five months I would be fluent???
We found the supermarket, stocked up on water, milk, coffee and basic supplies to keep us going for a couple of days and headed off again. Almost there….
Looking out of the car, the scenery was beautiful – rolling green hills, church steeples on the hills in the distance, small cobblestone hamlets and houses dotting the hilltops and valleys. Pretty pastel colored shutters decorated the very old stone houses and roses and lilies were abundant in the gardens and around the doors and windows. Sheep and cows were munching their way through green meadows and ducks were sitting guzzling their food. We were in Fois Gras country where the ducks are raised simply for their livers. We encountered crazy drivers on the narrow roads and a fair amount of farm machinery, some of it looking quite vicious and not something you’d like to get tangled up in. There were many water towers servicing the villages and hamlets for miles and there in the distance were the majestic Pyrenees. There had been a snowfall in recent days, and with the sun shining on them, they looked pristine and perfect in the distance.
Our last right turn took us down a long cobbly driveway, our bottles of wine rattling noisily, announcing our arrival. I was glad the owners house was quite a way off down another driveway so they couldn’t hear us! I noticed on one side there was an immaculate green lawn, all the way down, plus two more further down towards the gate, plus more after we entered the gate and even more behind the barn and around the house that we were going to be staying in. I turned to Marcel and said “You are going to be busy!”
We parked the car, stood looking at our new temporary home and smelled the beautiful roses that grew profusely around the gardens. Finally, we had arrived…
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