I’m breaking the silence! I find it extremely daunting to think about blogging about our trip. Because I have it broken up into different blog post categories in my mind:
3. Honfleur/D-Day Beaches
4. Eating at Le Chateaubriand
5. Adventures with Angela
6. Dinner at Spring
7. Lunch at Aux Lyonnais, Chez Janou
8. Dinner at Chez Dumonet Josephine
10. All other food adventures
11. Eiffel Tower/Notre Dame
And perhaps others. Oh yes, these will all be individual blog posts. So much so that you will grow to hate my blog. I care not. As everyone does with their blogs, I’m going to treat this like my journal. I kept a real journal on our trip, writing with a pen on paper and everything! It was quite abbreviated and I wrote a LOT about how horrendous actually getting to France turned out to be, so I’ll spare you those details. Here we go – Day One, Beynac and Sarlat:
We arrived at the train station in Paris after a very long flight and had to wait a couple hours for the next train out of the Montparnasse line to Bordeaux, and so we got our very first French snacks.
an apricot tart with creme anglaise (sorry, we ate it before we could take a pic) and a lemon tart
After a loooong and crazy train ride, we found our way to the rental car station in filthy Bordeaux. Bordeaux might be nice and wonderful, but the downtown area was, as we both said at one point and pardon my French(!), a s@%# hole. It just was. It was like a third world country and they made us walk about a half mile with all our luggage to find the place where the cars were parked, and once we found the garage, we spent the better part of an hour trying to find our way OUT of Bordeaux. Correction – a better part of an hour trying to find our way off the SAME STREET as the rental car place
We finally found our way to the highway and yay, saw the signs for St. Emilion, a town that our friends, Craig and Ann told us to go because Craig had been stationed there in the 50’s and said that it was charming and not much had changed. He was right, it was gorgeous:
Then…about 15km outside of St. Emilion, we took a wrong turn. We corrected, turned around, came to a stop sign and STOPPED, and seeing no one coming around an 8ft stone wall, we pulled out into the intersection, and a lady in a mini-van with her two kids and dog plowed right into us, going at least 50mph, throwing us off the road. She was way more bashed up than we were because thankfully, her van just clipped our front side and pushed us off the road. So glad no one was hurt. I can’t even imagine the trouble we would have had to deal with had we had injuries on her, her kids, or us.
Apparently every car in France comes with this packet that includes a folding road cone and a yellow jacket (like she’s wearing.) See, that’s how bad the driving is in France. Every car has to have a crash packet. We first thought she must have been a crossing guard in her spare time when we saw her put on her vest…
So this all happened around 7:45p.m. The rental car sent a taxi to take us from the crash site to our hotel in Beynac, almost 100km away! So we waited till almost 10pm when a crazed taxi driver in a Mercedes pulled up and loaded our stuff into his car. If we hadn’t been so beyond exhausted, up for 24 hours and in shock from the wreck, we might have been a little more concerned at his going 90mph around Pike’s Peak type turns the entire way. He even mentioned the Pike’s Peak race at one point. We had a hard time communicating with him as our French is terrible and his English wasn’t much better, but we both spoke the language of food and so we asked him his favorite dishes and suggestions. That got him really excited. So for an hour he told us about the regional specialties: walnuts, walnut oil, duck confit, foie gras, etc. We really enjoyed talking to this madman, but were happy when we arrived (alive) in Beynac at our beautiful hotel (with a funny name: Hotel Restaurant du Chateau) and didn’t have to pay the $250 cab fare!
Beynac is gorgeous. A town of only about 500 people, it’s quiet, relatively untouched by tourism, and really friendly (the French are really nice, honestly!) I wish we had taken a pic of our first breakfast – a wonderful reminder that we were in France, waking up our weary bodies to the fact that we were no longer traveling or wrecking our rental car, or being driven at midnight by a madman. We were instead eating baguettes with prosciutto and brie, croissants with butter and jam and pain au chocolat (yes, bread wrapped around dark chocolate)
After breakfast, another taxi (still crazy, but a lady this time) came to take us to a nearby city to pick up a new rental car. Once we got there, we drove back and stopped in a little town called Sarlat (sar-lah) and found a market going on downtown. So of course, we made our first stop for one of France’s obsessions: glace
It was time for our first official lunch in France. So we stopped in the market at a place called La Practice. Here’s the menu:
We headed back to Beynac (bay-nock) a couple hours before sunset, so we decided to hike up the hill to the top to see the castle and the view from on top, looking down into the Dordogne valley. Along the way up the hill, we marveled that people actually lived in the side of this mountain, on streets that were several hundred years old.
Dinner was great at this restaurant. We didn’t take pics of each dish because we were probably just enjoying the view too much and the sunset. But I remember our dessert of ice cream and walnut liqueur and fresh whipped cream.
And the next day, we just walked around the town a bit more before heading off to our next town of Amboise. I had to snap this little guy, sitting outside his mother’s store, watching tourists go by. What a magical place. I’m so glad we began our trip in these sleepy towns.
Next blog: Amboise, castles and D-Day beaches. Stay tuned!