Our memories of France 2024:

It had been a while since we traveled in France.  This trip was originally planned as our 40th anniversary (2020) but was delayed due to Covid.  While the weather was mixed (and one reason we more often travel to Spain and Italy) the places we stayed were top notch, with great hosts.  We enjoyed a number of excellent meals.  We have a number of wonderful memories (in no particular order), including:

  • feeling like a princess and knight while staying in two 15th century chateaus (Ternay and Vauloges)
  • the candlelight breakfasts at Chateau Vauloges
  • being served breakfast by Count Loic de Ternay
  • the extensive breakfasts enjoyed outdoors at Le Manoir de Nabinaud
  • the always fresh breakfast croissants
  • discussing living in France with Tina at Chevalier Noir
  • conversations with the guests (Gail, John, Carsten, Lela and the Greek lady) at La Barde de Montfort
  • our 'anniversary' dinner at Chateau de Vauloge, including the 'sparkling' tiramisu for dessert
  • the owl butterflies in Chateau de Ternay's woodsy park
  • the frogs at La Barde de Montfort and Chateau de Vauloge
  • our 'picnic dinners' at Le Manoir de Nabinaud, Chateau de Ternay and our Gite at Les Bruhasses
  • visiting Hans and Sam, and reconnecting (via Messenger) with Miranda
  • owners sharing their personal stories of how they came to become proprietors of their lodgings
  • the generations of Loic's family history at Ternay
  • the restoration of the ruins and church of the 9th century Abbaye Saint-Pierre in Marchilac-sur-Cele
  • the popularity and crowds at the Monet Gardens resulting in us deciding not to visit
  • dinners cooked for us by Florence (Maison Ardure); Paul (Chevalier Noir) and Micol (Chateau Vauloges)
  • the beautiful river valleys - the Lot; the Tern; the Gers; the Dordogne; the Cele; the Sarthe
  • Gayle's girls - the free range chickens at Le Manoir de Nabinaud
  • being invited to an apero / informal Argentinian tango performance
  • desserts off our list - creme brule, chocolate mouse and profiteroles, crepes
  • typical French dishes - cassoulet, duck, crepes / galettes, escargots, grenouilles, omelette, quiche
  • apertifs, especially Kir peche and Kir cassis
  • the mediocre weather
  • Joanne taking Gayle on a tour of her gardens
  • the fortified village of Larressingle
  • ice cream and sorbet stops
  • the dog at Ternay falling asleep on Gayle's lap
  • the beautiful rolling French countryside
  • the many small, quaint, pretty villages
  • Gayle's burrata dish at La Cabane
  • the absence of sunflowers in bloom
  • a new appreciation for rose wine
  • the tree canopied rural roads
  • our wonderful hosts - too many to mention
  • apertifs, especially Kir peche and Kir cassis
  • the impressive fortified medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel
  • the gardens we visited - Coursiana; Marqueyssac and Chateau de Rivau
  • the town of Romieu, the stone cats and the legend of Angeline
  • the poorly signed roads in the French countryside
  • the flowers everywhere - gardens, formal and informal; villages; homes; roadside ditches

Expenses (based on average exchange rate 1 euro = $1.4783 Cdn):


Here are the costs of our 24 day trip:


$ 2,116           airfare to / from France; seat selection

$ 5,492           lodging ($229 Cdn $ per night)

$ 2,548           food ($106 Cdn $ per day for dinner etc. including wine; breakfasts are included in lodging)

$ 1,914           vehicle ($1,412 or $59 per day for the vehicle, incl. one way drop-off; fuel and tolls of $502)

$        0           souvenirs

$    147           entrance - gardens and Roman ruins

$    212           miscellaneous

$12,429          for 24 days


The total cost excluding airfare and souvenirs (i.e. lodging, food, entrances, vehicle and miscellaneous) was $10,313 or $430 per day. 


Following are the average costs of this and a number of previous trips:


                       Total                 Lodging                              Food                                 Vehicle

Spain

2017               $ 408              160 euros / $ 250               63 euros / $ 93                  $ 28

2018               $ 380              146 euros / $ 229               60 euros / $ 93                  $ 26

2019               $ 375              146 euros / $ 227               68 euros / $104                 $ 22

2023               $ 423              180 euros / $ 266               79 euros / $115                 $ 28

2024               $ 527              204 euros / $ 300               77 euros / $113                 $ 68 

Italy

2018               $ 348              127 euros / $ 197               60 euros / $93                   $ 23

2022               $ 408              138 euros / $ 195               60 euros / $85                   $101

France

2024               $ 430              155 euros / $ 229               72 euros / $106                 $ 59    


The cost of this trip was more in line with previous trips to Italy and Spain (except Spain 2024 where our lodging costs were considerably higher).  We do tend to choose more expensive (although not the most) rooms, and this trip we stayed in three chateaus - Ternay, Vauloges and Rapee, each of which come with a price.   Food - essentially dinner with wine - costs have been reasonably consistent over the years, increasing more or less with inflation.  The one spike is the huge increase in car rentals post Covid (except Spain 2023).  The cost did include a one-way charge accounting for $10 of the total daily cost.

Our lodging ranged from a low of 100 euros to a high of 221 euros.  All included excellent breakfasts.

Here is where we stayed, the amount we paid (in euros) the range of room rates and links to websites.  


159 euros (139 to 179)        Maison Ardure                    Terraube                  www.maisonardure.com

133* euros (105 to 115)       Les Bruhasses                   Condom                   www.lesbruhasses.com

170 euros (130 to 170)        Chevalier Noir                    Cordes-sur-Ciel       www.lechevaliernoir.com

150 euros (140 to 155)        Mas Garrigue                     Calvignac                 www.masdegarrigue.com

100 euros (100 to 135)        La Barde de Montfort         Vitrac                       www.lebardedemontfort.com

125 euros (125 to 125)        Le Manoir de Nabinaud     Nabinaud                  www.manoirdenabinaud.com

160 euros (150 to 160)        Chateau de Ternay            Ternay                      www.chateaudeternay.com

221 euros (196 to 221)**     Chateau de Vauloge          Ferce-sur-Sarthe      www.chateaudevauloge.com

180 euros (140 to 180)        Chateau de la Rapee        Gisors                       www.chateaudelarapee.com

*  115 euro for Gite plus 18 euro (9 euro each) for breakfast

** includes 15% discount for three night stay


July 08, 2024 - Chateau de la Rapee to Charles de Gaulle airport                                                           to Toronto to Halifax

With the early light of the season we had no problem getting up and on the road at 7:30 am as planned.  Although we got twisted coming out of Gisors, causing us to head east to the A16 rather than the A15 as planned the highway took us directly to the N104 and on to Charles de Gaulle.  Traffic was light with directions to the car rental return well marked.  The confusion cost us a bit of time but we still arrived three hours before our flight, in plenty of time for a relaxed check in.  

With the upcoming Olympics we expected to see considerably more security, both accessing the airport and inside the terminal.  But somewhat surprisingly there was none evident.


An on-time departure, on-time arrival in Toronto, four hours in the Maple Leaf lounge followed by an on-time departure to and arrival in Halifax, and we were home.


July 07, 2024 - Chateau de la Rapee with a
                             drive to Giverny (Monet Gardens)

Our last full day in France.  

With breakfast not included in our room rate and it generally difficult to find an open restaurant on Sunday evening, rather than have breakfast we decided to skip it and head into the nearby town of Gisors for lunch.  We found a creperie that we thought would be a fitting end to our French culinary journey.

Gayle started with a Kir peche while Norm went with the Cuisses de grenouilles flambees au pastis, ail et fines herbes et champignons.  Escargots / snails last night and frog's legs today - can it get any more French than this?  We then each had a Galette (aka crepe).  From the extensive options Gayle chose the three fromages - Emmental, Chevre and Roquefort while Norm had the Raclette of Emmental, pommes vapeur and jambon.  There was a wide selection of interesting, reasonably priced desserts but as much as we wanted to order something we were both too full.

After lunch we headed off on what was supposed to be a 40 minute drive to Giverny to see the Monet Gardens.  Unfortunately it took somewhat longer as we took a rather circuitous route, albeit we did drive through some beautiful rolling countryside and quaint villages.  Unfortunately it took some time to arrive in Giverny, find parking and then stroll into the village and find the garden entrance.  By then it was 4:15 pm and the line (which did not appear to be moving) was considerable.  We guessed it would be at least half an hour before we would be able to enter.  Although Gayle really wanted to see the Gardens (apparently they are the #2 tourist destination in Normandy, after Mont St. Michel) we concluded a visit would be very rushed given the closing time and therefore not worthwhile.  As a result, sadly, we bailed and returned to the Chateau de la Rapee.

Still full from lunch as we expected there was no need for dinner.  We did stop at a patisserie on the way back where we purchased a baguette and a couple of tarts that tided us over.  We enjoyed a quiet evening, turning in reasonably early given the long day, including the time changes, we will be facing tomorrow - getting to Charles de Gaulle airport, flying to Toronto and then to Halifax.


Quite the sky we woke up to this morning.


The entrance to the Chateau de la Rapee.


A very different style of Chateau from Ternay and Vauloges, but elegant just the same.


The interior staircase and first floor landing area.


The breakfast room.                                         The interior dining room.                         The exterior dining area.


We ate lunch at L'Ecrin des Saveurs in Gisors.



Where I started with grenouilles, or frogs legs, in a broth of butter, garlic and parsley.


Then we each had a crepe - Gayle a very filling three cheese (Emmental, Chevre and Roquefort) and Norm the Raclette - cheese, ham and potato.


After lunch we drove to Giverny and the Monet Gardens where the lineups, even late in the day were extensive.



In the end we did not go into the gardens but rather enjoyed the beauty of the village and the many gardens therein.


Including Russian sage and roses.




July 06, 2024 - Chateau de Vauloge to Chateau de la Rapee

Our last morning at Chateau de Vauloge.  Without a doubt this is one of the nicest places we have ever stayed.  History, class, a wonderful host (merci Micol), elegant, excellent food, wonderful small touches (candlelight; fresh flowers), all at a very reasonable price for the experience. 

In some ways it would have been nice if there were other guests staying but on the other hand it was somewhat special to essentially have a private castle at our disposal, and the full attention of Micol. 

The breakfasts were superb and the dinner excellent and memorable, especially the sparkling tiramisu.

We are so thankful we came upon Chateau de Vauloge when planning our 40th anniversary back in 2020, and while four years deferred so so happy we stuck with this part of our itinerary and experienced staying at Chateau de Vauloge.  It did not disappoint!

After a number of photos with Micol we left the chateau on what was our longest driving day of the trip - 252 kms and nearly 3 1/2 hours per google.maps - to Chateau de la Rapee in Normandy north-west of Paris.  

Of course it took us considerably longer but beyond some challenges finding our way through Vernon and the last few kms near Saint-Paer we did find out way to the chateau. 

The Chateau, built in the early part of the 19th century has a very different appearance and feel than Ternay or Vauloge.  Rather than being a boutique B&B with only five rooms de la Rapee is much more a 'hotel' with 12 rooms.  The Chateau was built in 1825 on a huge estate.  The architecture is characteristic of the Anglo-Norman style with the name of the Castle recognizing the owners' business as major coal traders on the Quai de la Rapee in Paris.

One of the appealing aspects of la Rapee was the opportunity for dinner.  We enjoyed a nice meal accompanied by an excellent bottle of Sancerre white wine.  Certainly more than we usually pay for wine but we were very happy with our choice.  Gayle started with a Croustillant de neufchâtel (Neufchatel cheese wrapped in a phyllo type pastry shell) along with a pays de Bay salad.  Norm could not resist going full French, ordering the escargots, nicely served in butter, garlic and parsley.  With prior arrangement the chef provided Gayle with a mushroom risotto while Norm ordered the Double Côte de cochon cuite doucement en sautoir, gratin normand.  The serving of pork was huge and the sauce tasty.  Our dessert choice was easy as we had yet to check off profiteroles on our list of French desserts to have on the trip.  They were excellent, especially the rich chocolate.  The meal was quite expensive at 152 euros ($224 Cdn) albeit that did include a 50 euro bottle of wine.  It is nice to treat oneself every once in a while. 


Our last morning at the chateau.


Gayle and Micol.


One final view of the stunning Chateau de Vauloge.


The 17th century La Chapelle de St-Roch, patron saint of dogs, invalids, falsely accused people and bachelors at the entrance to the property.
 

And with that we were off, leaving certainly one of the nicest and most memorable places we have ever stayed.


French garden art.                                                                                              An ivy covered building.


We always enjoy seeing animals during our travels, as we did today.





The Chateau de la Rapee dating from the 19th century is very different than the 15th century Chateaus de Ternay and Vauloge.


The facade of the chateau.               A short video of our Terrace room.             The Terrace room.


Immediately behind the chateau is a riding school with pastures and horses beyond that.  Then open space for as far as one can see.


For us an expensive bottle of wine with dinner tonight - a Sancerre at 50 euros ($74 Cdn) but we chose well - it was excellent!


Croustillant de neufchâtel with a pays de Bay salad.          Escargots.


Mushroom risotto.                                                               Double cote de cochon.


Traditional French desserts - creme brule - check; chocolate mousse - check; and profiteroles with ice cream - now check.



July 05, 2024 - Chateau de Vauloge

While it no doubt seems strange we started the day again admiring our ceiling.  Then the enjoyment of another over-the-top breakfast, today including avocado which very much pleased Gayle.  We thought about going for a drive in the area but in the end concluded one does not have that many opportunities to spend their time at a 15th Century chateau so we stayed put. 

Gayle walked the grounds, we listened to the frogs, relaxed by the pool and in the gardens and took lots of photos.

Chateau History - Part 2 

In 1831 a new castle came into being at Vauloge.  The ancient residence provided the core around which the new residence was built - an isolated pavilion bounded at its two extremities by two voluminous towers with conical tops.  Henri-Jean-Baptiste Picot then began construction of a neo-gothic wing in order to close the floor between the old castle and the chapel to create a main courtyard.  Designed by the same architect who restored the nearby Le Mans cathedral, the new troubadour-style building was enhanced by a decorative alchemy.  All windows are surmounted of small geometrical patterns in the romantic style of the time.  The entrance became more majestic with both towers having a door led by a staircase divided in two to form on each side a small entrance balcony.  The chateau de Vauloge is a fine example of the troubadour style of the 19th century.

The other interesting piece of history is how this castle happened to fall into the hands of an Italian family.  In the late 1980s the family had their villa in Tuscany expropriated for the building of a highway.  The family then began to search out another spot to place their roots.  After unsuccessfully looking in Province they eventually came upon the Chateau de Vauloge, which they purchase in 1990.  

The chateau is very tastefully decorated from attractive colour schemes to beautiful rugs to paintings to art work and furniture, some of which came from the villa in Tuscany with others purchased at auctions.

Originally managed by Marisa Radini the chateau is now managed and run by her daughter Micol Tassan Din.  Micol was the perfect host, treating us like the royalty a guest of a classic chateau deserve.  We could not have chosen any better.
____________________

For dinner we decided to return to La Cabane, in part because we knew where it was and in part because of the excellent food (Gayle really wanted the burrata dish again) and in part because of the reasonable prices.  The weather was nice enough that we could eat outdoors, as opposed to inside as we did the other night.

Again we each had a Kir as an apertif.  Gayle then had the Fraicheur de tomates, burrata et pesto basilic (surprise - it was soooo good) and Norm the Tartere de saumon in citrus.  Both delicious.  Gayle, wanting to save room for dessert then had an 'assiette' de pommes frites while Norm enjoyed the filette de canette with flans de legumes (both zucchini and carrot).  We had seen Cafe Gourmand on many dessert menus so decided to give it a try.  A Cafe Gourmand is a selection (we had four) of small deserts, in this case creme brule, a meringue, a scoop of raspberry ice cream and one other, along with a cup of espresso.

Another excellent meal after which we easily made our way back to the chateau to face the 55 steps!


It never gets old waking up to this fascinating ceiling in our room Casanova.


Our room - Casanova.


A video of the dining room.                                   Avocado this morning along with Norm's breakfast plate.


The beautiful bouquet of flowers that greeted us each morning at breakfast.


The entrance to the chateau.                                                                            Reflections as seen from the gate.


Chateau Vauloge - simply awesome!                                  That's our room in the turret top right.


The adjacent moat provides stunning reflections.       A video of the exterior of the chateau.


No paparazzi!                                       The prison.                                           More reflections of the chateau.


Happily enjoying a stroll on the grounds.


The barn / stables.  

   

Unique brown spotted cows who have a home at Chateau Vauloge.


A return to Restaurant La Cabane.


Nice weather had us eating outdoors, starting with Kir apertifs.


Fraicheur de tomates, burrata et pesto basilic.                   Tartare de saumon in citrus.


Filette de canette with flans de legumes.                            Cafe Gourmand.



July 04, 2024 - Chateau de Vauloge

We spent the entire day here at the Chateau starting with a delicious breakfast accentuated by fresh flowers and candlelight.  Me thinks the Princess has found her happy place.  Although there were guests the night before we arrived and then the day after we leave for these three days we are the only guests here at the Chateau.  Essentially we have our own 'private' castle. 

Let's back up a bit.  In 1980 when trying to decide where to go on our honeymoon we ended up taking some extended time and spending two and a half weeks in each of France (where Norm wanted to go) and two and a half weeks in Greece (where Gayle wanted to go).  Isn't compromise great?  Fast forward 40 years to 2020 when we thought it would be great to more or less replicate the trip - spending time in both France and Greece.  Although the hotel we stayed at in Paris still exists we found a chateau near the city of Le Mans that looked spectacular.  With everything booked Covid then took over and the trip was cancelled.  Fast forward another four years and we have finally made it to France and Chateau Vauloge.  While not actually on our anniversary as planned we enjoyed a fantastic stay.

"In a romantic and enchanting setting, the chateau rises surrounded by wide moats where wild ducks, herons and swans are masters.  Built in the 15th century and protected by crenelated walls and a prison, the castle with its tower and turrets was extended in the 19th century in neo-gothic style.  The charm and refinement of its living rooms and five bedrooms provide guests peace and serenity in the romantic countryside where one can enjoy peaceful walks by the water or in the park." 

Breakfast was extensive with yoghurt, croissants, bread and jams, lots of fresh fruit, including fruit salad, tomatoes, cheese, meat and salmon, eggs (laid by castle chickens), an apple tart, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee.  Way way too much - not that we're complaining.

A bit of history - Part 1.  

At the beginning of the 15th century in the heart of a small valley near a small river, Jean III de Vauloge built the original castle.  It's defenses were enhanced in the early 17th century by broad moats fed by the arms of the river, and crenelated walls.  The basse cour (inner courtyard of a fortified castle) included an ensemble of barns, olive-mills, stable and hay stacks, essentially creating a small self sustaining farm.  There were extensive gardens where performances were held.  The moats, as seen in a photo below, provided mirror-like pools reflecting the image of the facade.

Since 1462 the lords of Vauloge had the authority to mete out justice (feudal rights that they maintained until the Revolution).  As a result a two story prison was built at the edges of the moat.  

Since the 16th century Vauloge has owned its chapel (dedicated to St. Henry), also built at the edge of the moat.  After being restored in the early 19th century it was consecrated in 1832 for weddings and baptisms.  A 1580 bell and a statue of the Pieta, damaged during the Revolution, were discovered in the alter.  Another small chapel, dedicated to St Roch, the patron saint of dogs, invalids, falsely accused persons and bachelors, sits at the edge of the Ferce-Noyen road on the path leading to the castle.  It was the place of pilgrimages until the 19th century where miracles of healing against pestilence, epidemics, cholera, diseases and certain fevers were performed.

In the late 18th century Rene-Charles-Joseph de Vahais, page of the king's stable, lieutenant of the French Guard and distinguished lord of Vauloge transformed his father's castle into a splendid country residence. [Part 2 tomorrow]
________________________

We spent the afternoon enjoying the property - the gardens, lounging by the pool, checking out the animals.  Until it was time for dinner. 

While at Chateau de Ternay it was haying season with a tractor starting early in the morning (7:00 am).  It was loud and un-affectionately called a Dragon.  Gayle was worried about her allergies but in the end the cutting did not cause her any problems.  Here at Vauloge a (smaller, quieter) tractor was cutting the grass during the day.  We called it a Baby Dragon. 

Chateau de Vauloge does not have a restaurant per se but with advance arrangements dinner can be provided.  Before our meal we spent some time with Micol with an aperitif - a glass of champagne near the moat, chatting about how she came to own / manage the chateau (more tomorrow).  

For us dinner at 140 euros was somewhat more expensive than we normally pay but did include three amuse bouchers, four courses and a nice bottle of Loire wine.  The three amuse buches were broad beans with parmesan, a cold courgettes (zucchini) veloute or cold soup, and a pastry of mustard seeds and grains, presented with an edible flower.  The entree (in France a starter or appetizer) were a number of delicious spinach balls / bouchee epinards.  For the main course / plats Gayle had Pasta alla norma with eggplant and ricotta while Norm had canard filet with a shallot confit and oranges along with three types of carrots with potato.  We were then served a cheese course for which we chose a Comte, Etorki - a sheep cheese from the Pyrenees and a couple of chevre / goat cheeses, including a Rocamadour (a village we drove through while in the Lot).  Finally for dessert we were treated to Tiramisu, presented with an impressive sparkler to recognize our anniversary.  Worth every euro!

A relaxing private, candlelight dinner in an elegant dining room prepared and served by the owner - most memorable, and certainly fit for a Princess and her Knight.


Fresh flowers.                                                                         Candlelight.                      Sitting down to breakfast.


Yoghurt and lots of fruit.                                                                                       A large apple tart.


Strawberries, tomatoes and cheese, and of course there were eggs (laid daily by the chateau's chickens).


Breakfast choices included cheese, meats and salmon.


About to enjoy the tarts we purchased at the patisserie yesterday.


The main lounge area.




Classic interior design and colour scheme.


Welcome to this historic XVth Century chateau.


The front gate and entrance to the Chateau.                    The stables, gardens and pool as seen from our room.


The west wing.   



The east side with our room in the turret in the top right.


Gayle poking her head out of one of our many small turret windows.


The front of the Chateau.


The chapel.


Reflections of Chateau de Vauloge in the castle's moat.


Ternay had a very large dragon.  Here at Vauloge the dragon was smaller and much friendlier, and we got a photo!


Some of the gardens behind the chateau.



The moat.                                                         Benches in the gardens.                                And life size statues.


The chateau still includes a barnyard with a number of animals.  


Fresh eggs at breakfast - thanks to these girls.



The chateau's pool experiencing a chemical imbalance resulting in the unusual green colour. 


Gayle's book for the trip - Finding Me in France.



Enjoying a glass of champagne with Micol before dinner.


Salut!


Dressed for dinner.                               Our set table.                                        And a bottle of nice Loire wine.


We started with a triple amuse bouche.  First there were broad beans with parmesan,  Then a cold courgettes (zucchini) veloute, or cold soup.  And next a pastry of mustard seeds and grains.  Presented with an edible borage flower.


Our 'entree' was Bouchee epinard, or spinach balls in cheese. 


Gayle had 'pasta alla norma' with eggplant and ricotta for her plat / main course.


For Norm canard (duck), carrots and potatoes.                   With a selection of cheese before dessert.


Perhaps not the most flattering photo of Gayle but it really does capture her surprise and excitement with her sparkling dessert.


A super easy way to get Gayle to smile - give her tiramisu for dessert.  Note she was so keen she had a spoonful (left photo) before I could even take a picture.



July 03, 2024 - Chateau de Ternay to Chateau de Vauloge

Another moving day as we leave Chateau de Ternay and continue north to our next chateau - the Chateau de Vauloge, also built in the 15th century.

Before leaving we took a stroll through the dry moat to see the caves behind the chateau.  The caves were created to provide the limestone to construct the castle.  During the 1800s they housed a community of 220.  The moat was essentially a commercial street with bakers, coppersmiths, seamstresses, candlestick makers, wineries and all kinds of other providers of services.  A number of items of the existence of this community, such as cooking pots, wine casks etc. are still present.

Afterwards Gayle enjoyed another tranquil walk through the castle park, listening to the birds, watching the flittering butterflies and thinking thoughts of those days walking Toledo.  Upon returning she sat on the bench in front of the chateau.  There are two outdoor dogs on the property with whom we didn't interact much during our days at de Ternay.  But as Gayle sat on the bench one of the dogs jumped up and laid his head on her lap while the other one stood attentively at their side.  It was as if they knew what Gayle had been thinking during her walk, wanting to provide her some companionship. 

One of our memories of traveling through the vineyards and wine regions of France on our honeymoon was that of seeing rose bushes at the end of the rows of vines.

Shortly (less than 10 kms) after leaving Ternay we were driving through the small village of Pouancy when we came upon a couple of vineyards, one with a nice chateau behind and one with beautiful in full bloom roses both on the property and, as we had remembered it, at the end of each row of vines.  Simply stunning.

The drive to Chateau de Vauloge was relatively easy, west of Saumur and over the Loire River, then due north.  Along the way we saw the strangest thing - a baguette vending machine.  What is the world coming to?  What is happening to French boulangeries that there is a market for a baguette vending machine?  Sacre bleu!  But during the two minutes we stopped to take a photo someone actually drove up, put money in and out popped a baguette.  Progress?  

As we approached Chateau de Vauloge we passed an open patisserie.  We dropped in and picked up three different tartes that we planned to enjoy at the castle.

The Chateau de Vauloge, our next stop was built in the 15th century by Jean III de Vauloge.  In the late 18th century René-Charles-Joseph de Vahais, a descendant of the original owner, renovated the original castle into a country house.  The current owners purchased the castle in 1990.

We were met by one of the owners Micol, an Italian, who showed us to our second floor room.  Unfortunately there is no lift requiring one to climb 55 steps (albeit up a beautiful circular staircase) to get to our room - Casanova located in the one of the turrets.  Fortunately Micol helped with the luggage.  Our room is large, with a spacious feeling due to the high ceiling of the turret, and unique with wood beams throughout.  Although the windows are small there is a 270 degree view of the property.  

Micol had made us a reservation at La Cabane a nearby (15 minutes if driven directly) restaurant.  We very much enjoyed our meal, perhaps the best value for the price of our trip.  Gayle started with a sparkling Kir Peche while Norm and a dry Kir Mure.  For her starter Gayle very much enjoyed a Fraicheur de Tomates, Burrata et Pesto basilic maison.  Include 'burrata' in the dish and Gayle will always be happy.  Norm had a very nice Tartelette d'ete with poivrons, chorizo and tomates.  Gayle then ordered the Pad Thai without the poulet / chicken as she mentioned she was a vegetarian.  There was no chicken but instead the chef added shrimp!  Fortunately the shrimp went well with Norm's Pave de boeuf Marine with a sauce Bearnaise essentially creating a Surf and Turf.  For dessert we shared a Moelleux au chocolat with a scoop of tasty glace framboise (raspberry).

The drive back to the chateau was easy but upon returning to our room we could most definitely hear the frogs Micol had warned us about - she actually provides ear plugs.  While we didn't use the ear plugs we were certainly serenaded by what we could only assume were the mating calls of the frogs below in the (in this case not dry) moat.



Our room Tourlandry, named after the first wife of Bertrand de Beauvau, who built the castle. 


A video of our room.


The lounge area between the entrance to the castle and our room.


Antique (and very delicate) chairs.                                                                      Wood paneling and mirror.


Loic, Count de Ternay. 

    

A portrait of Loic's grandmother painted by his great grandfather.


A  painting, including the rampart walls  and photo of the chateau.


Views out our room's window.  Note the tree on the right of the photo in the middle - that was the original entrance to the castle, with ramparts reaching to that distance as seen in the first photo above.


The limestone caves and dry moat behind the castle.


Inside the caves, some of which stretched back a considerable distance.
                

Wall carvings found in one of the caves.


More images of the interiors of some of the caves including wine casks and cooking facilities.


A portion of the front of the chateau.                                                                   The steps to the entrance.


The stables, behind which is the swimming pool.                A corner balcony.


Roses line the entrance staircase.


There are two dogs at the chateau, both of whom took a shine to Gayle just after she finished a walk in the 
woods during which she had many thoughts about Toledo.  It is strange how they seem to know.


This way to Chateau de Ternay, one of France's Monument Historiques.


Sad to leave Chateau de Ternay.  Merci Loic for the opportunity to stay in an authentic 15th century chateau, steeped with history.


Our drive out of Ternay took us along a portion of the Route du vignoble en Pays Loudunais.


Rows of vines.                                                                                                      Grapes starting to form.


Another of our vivid memories of our honeymoon with red rose bushes at a winery.
 

We came across these in the nearby village of Pouancay.


More flowers along our route.


Along with many wheat fields.                                                Necessary for the famous French baguette.


While driving through Parce-sur-Sarthe, in addition to this beautiful wisteria, we found a wonderful patisserie where we treated ourselves to a number of tartes.


A few first photos of our very unique room Casanova in one of the turrets of Chateau de Vauloges.


Distinctive wood beams covered the walls and ceiling.      A very large room with a couch and working table.
 

The only windows were a number of these small ones encircling the room.  Here a view of the moat.
 

The large bathroom that was down a hall included a large tub in addition to the shower.


The one issue is going to be the 55 steps up (and 55 steps back down) in that our room is on the second floor.  But we did ask for this room for the uniqueness of being in the turret.  As can be seen the trips up and down are via a  beautiful spiral staircase.


We had dinner at a restaurant, La Cabane about 15 minutes from the Chateau.  Kirs to start and a Tartelette d'ete for a entree for Norm.
 

Gayle started with a Fraicheur de Tomates, Burrata et Pesto basilic Maison. 


Followed by Pad Thai Nouilles Sautees a la Thailandaise (shrimp removed).


While Norm enjoyed the Pave de boeuf Marine, with sauce Bearnaise and Frites maison - plus shrimp!


Dessert to share was a Moelleux au chocolat with glace framboise.



July 02, 2024 - Ternay with a visit to the Chateau du Rivau

After a relaxing morning, including Gayle taking a walk through the grounds of our Chateau where she enjoyed seeing a number of butterflies, we went out in the afternoon to drive through the French countryside with an ultimate destination of the Chateau du Rivau to tour their gardens.  

The Chateau has a square shape reminiscent of 13th Century fortified castles.  It was one of the first ornamental castles to be built beginning in 1420, by Pierre de Beauvau, Grand Chamberlain of Charles VII.  The Beauvau family, including Pierre's brother Bertrand who built the Chateau de Ternay served the Kings of France.

The area and castle have always been associated with horses.  In 1429, towards the end of the Hundred Years' War Joan of Arc and her followers came to fetch horses at Le Rivau.  In 1510 Francois de Beauvau, captain of King Francis 1 constructed the stable in the outbuildings' courtyard, supplying the royal stallions.  The stable later became the royal stables of Henry III.

In 1918 the Chateau du Rivau was listed among the Historical Monuments of France.  Then towards the end of the 20th century it underwent an 18 year restoration project to preserve the castle and associated winery.  A fire in 2010 caused considerable damage that fortunately has been restored.

The primary reason we went to Rivau was to tour the gardens.  The Loir Valley is known as the Garden of France, with its fertile soil and pleasant climate conducive to the development of beautiful gardens.  The Chateau du Rivau is comprised of 15 different gardens, with different botanical collections in bloom every month.  The gardens, designed by owner Patricia Laigneau, are such that at least two gardens are always at the height of their flowering season.  They include The Kitchen Garden, Rapunzel's Garden, The Enchanted Forest, The Thumbling Garden, Alice's Maze, The Secret Gardens, The Love Potion Garden, Orchid of Paradise, The Fairy's Way, The Lavender Garden, The Running Forest and Edible Flowers.

Many flowers were indeed in bloom during our visit with considerable colour present.  The stroll through the fairyland was quiet, peaceful and relaxing.  On top of that Gayle made it through Alice's Maze!  Perhaps her navigational skills have improved.

Any drive in this region will inevitably take one near one of the many chateaus.  Passing the Chateau du Coudray Montpensier, surrounded by fields and vineyards, we took a short detour to get a closer look. 

The history of the castle dates back to the middle ages (11th century).  The current castle was built in the 14th century and considerably embellished in the 15th century.  It is listed as a Historic Monument by decrees of 1995 and 1999.  Although we of course could only view the chateau through the gates what we saw was impressive.

Rather than eating out we decided to again pick up a baguette, a tomato, some cheese and meat and a bottle of wine.  As we had done in 1980 we made ourselves a baguette sandwich of tomato, Boursin cheese, and for Norm ham, to eat with a wheel of camembert and a nice bottle of local Chinon red wine.  We enjoyed a simple, informal, meal that brought back memories of doing much the same 24 years ago.  In 1980 we titled one photo 'Eating at A 4* Hotel' being the only way we could afford to do so back then.  Now we are eating a similar meal in our room while staying in a beautiful historic 15th century castle / chateau.  We have come a long way. 


Fresh croissants and rolls for breakfast.                             Orange juice and a nice selection of jams.


Loic with the warm milk for the coffee.  How often does one get served by a Count.


 Again sitting down to a nice breakfast in the chateau.



Beautiful wood ceilings. in both the dining room and throughout other salons of the chateau.


The walls were adorned with many paintings, of both family members and other subjects.


One of the lounge rooms.                                                    A large tapestry over a fire place.


Caves in the limestone behind Chateau de Ternay.



On the bridge before her walk.
 

A portion of the exterior of the chateau.


The Chateau du Coudray Montpensier, built in the 11th century was an example of another of the many chateaus we saw along the way.




Our destination for the day was the Chateau du Rivau, and in particular it's gardens, including the Lavender Garden.


The Chateau du Rivau and its gardens.


The Chateau du Rivau.



Relaxing time in a hammock is always something to look forward to and enjoy.


The princess did find her way out of the fairytale maze.


A red admiral butterfly (at Chateau du Rivau). 



And an Owl's species of butterfly (at Chateau de Ternay).


A selection of colourful flowers in the gardens.



Verbena in front of the Chateau.                                         An artichoke flower.


Focused on the flowers.



The drawbridge.                                  The well.                                                The armour.


Our 'picnic' dinner in our room back at Chateau de Ternay.


              Dinner 1980 - a baguette sandwich.                                    Dinner 2024 - a baguette sandwich.



July 01, 2024 - Ternay (Chateau de Ternay)

There is so much to say today.  

We started with a simple (no meat, no cheese, no salmon, no eggs) breakfast of excellent croissants and bread, a nice selection of tasty jams, wonderful orange juice, coffee and fresh fruit.

After breakfast Loic (Count de Ternay), owner of the chateau built back in the 15th Century provided us with a tour.  

Some history.  Construction on the castle and chapel began in 1439, lasting 13 years.  Bertrand de Beauvau brought Ternay Venetian artists to the site to carve the decorations of the chapel.  Upon his death in 1474 (at the age of 93, quite old in the day) Beauvau's toddler son (Bertrand had 21 children from three wives but all his other son's pre-deceased him.  A fourth wife, whom he married at 83 bore him no children).  In 1574 a descendent Claude de Beauvau murdered his neighbour Jacques Arsac.  After 24 years of trials the widow of Jacques Arsac confiscated the property.  The castle thus passed into the hands of Arsac in 1606.  

Then in the late 17th century the lords undertook important work constructing a main building.  In 1792 the castle was sold as national property and bought in 1804 by Marie-Adelaide Cantineau of Commacre, widow of Gabrial Arsac, former Marquis de Ternay who died in 1796.  Their only son, Charles Gabriel then died in 1813 with the castle then falling into the hands of Charles Marie Aviau of Piolan.  The new lord undertook significant work beginning in 1864, constructing stables and changing the west wings, both north and south.  The present castle remains much as it did in 1880. 

Loic's tour was extensive, mostly in French (for another couple of guests) but with each section then followed by a version in English.  We started in the inner courtyard where renovations to the facades have been ongoing for ten months were explained.  Unfortunately the scaffolding (and noise) did detract from the view of the north side of the castle but we understand this is important work.  We then moved to the receiving room where the numerous paintings and photos of family members were identified and explained.  Then across the courtyard to the original kitchen and finally the chapel.  A most interesting tour.

The castle became one of the first chateau accommodations in 1980 when Loic's mother opened it to guests.  Loic then took over with his daughter about to do the same when he retires in the next few years.  No doubt his daughter will do the chateau justice but Loic's knowledge and passion for the property will be difficult to replicate.  

Later in the afternoon we headed out on a drive as far as Chinon, on the Loire river.  Chinon links to our honeymoon as we also passed through the city back in 1980.  We then continued on to Fontevraud where although we did not have time to visit the Abbey we did have a dinner reservation at supposedly an excellent restaurant.  Unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case.  While elegant the food and service were certainly lacking.  We felt ignored, alone in a separate room (presumably because of our late reservation).  The meal was expensive and the service terrible.  Furthermore the food was mediocre at best.  Gayle had a vegetable dish that while well presented was a hodge podge of too many things and Norm's lamb, apparently cooked for over 12 hours, while tender was somewhat tasteless.  We left without having our dessert.  To the head server's credit she did not charge us for the dessert that had been ordered at the beginning of the meal.  Still very rare we would be so dissatisfied as to leave.

It was about a 30 minute drive back to Chateau de Ternay where we finally experienced a colourful sunset - the first of the trip.


A nice breakfast of breads, croissants, jams, orange juice and fruit..                  One of the chandeliers.



Beautiful woodwork in the dining room.                          Chairs, wood paneling and a gorgeous floor in the entry.



Loic was funny, animated and certainly passionate about his family's history and that of the chateau.  A wealth of information.



Photos of the chateau and the restoration, with Loic explaining the work to the other guest, who actually is a restoration architect who does similar type of work.



The chateau as seen from the inner courtyard.



Left:  Just barely able to fit though.  The French must have been            smaller back in the day.


Below: not sure what this was but Loic spent a great deal of time              describing it to the other fellow on the tour.



La toupie Hollandaise - a game dating back to the 17th century way way before pinball was a thing.



An oven for use by children.                                                Lot of copper pots.


The kitchen in the original part of the chateau.



The chapel in Chateau de Ternay.


Some of the ceilings in the Chateau.


Beautiful detail.


Intricate stonework.




Beautiful intricate woodwork.


                                So regal.                                                                  And yes he can smile!


A sword on a wall.




Two very old beautifully upholstered chairs - so delicate we were not allowed to sit on them.



Some of the stained glass in the chateau.


There are numerous limestone caves behind the Chateau from which the stone for the construction was sourced.


The Chateau de Ternay pool, next to the limestone cliffs.


The bridge crossing the dry moat - notice the limestone caves and our outdoor area top right.


Another windmill.                                  Another field of poppies.


While walking into Fontevraud we passed this Eglise originally dating from the 12th century. 


Very nice plates and table setting.



Our amuse bouche - cucumber gazpacho.


A nice half bottle of local Chinon wine.


Clafoutis de champignons.



Very tender but somewhat tasteless (no doubt due to the > 12 hours of cooking) lamb.


Right:   We have not experienced any                     sunsets this trip until this one as                 we returned to Chateau de Ternay.

Below:  Countryside near Fontevraud.


Chateau de Ternay in the setting sun.



June 30, 2024 - Nabinaud to Ternay (Chateau de Ternay)

After three wonderful days at Le Manoir de Nabinaud it was time to move on, although not before another wonderful breakfast.  We said our goodbyes to Joanne and Hayden, and their dogs Indie and Yankee and made our way pretty much due north to the first of three chateaus on our itinerary - the Chateau de Ternay.

It was a fairly long drive - over three hours direct but more like five with our map checks and photo stops.

Although there were moments, overall the drive was less attractive than others further south.

We were however fortunate to pass some beautiful fields of poppies.

Eventually we made it to the Loire Valley and the village of Ternay, just outside of which is the Chateau de Ternay.  The chateau is owned and managed by Loic, Count de Ternay, a descendent of Bertrand de Beauvau who built the castle / chateau in the mid 1400s.

Our room, Tourlandry (the first wife of Bertrand and bearer of seven children) is a large room on the ground floor with paintings no doubt hundreds of years old adorning the walls, a very high ceiling creating a very spacious feeling and a small outdoor area next to the dry moat. 

As the Chateau does not serve dinners and Ternay itself does not have any places to eat Loic made us a reservation in the nearby town (about 20 minutes away) of Montreiul-Bellay at Restaurante La Rencontre.  It turned out to be excellent as we enjoyed a wonderful meal eating outdoors.  Gayle started with another peche kir and then had a beautifully presented and absolutely delicious Plat Vegetarian.  Norm started with smoked trout (also outstanding) followed by Tagliata de Boeuf, Rocquette et jus reduit, with tyme and savory (again outstanding).  Although there was a large cheese tray we passed and settled for the Financien fruits rouge et chocolate for dessert, an excellent choice.

The drive back was easy as even at 10:00 pm it is light here, after which we settled into our chateau.


A video of the grounds as seen from our room at Le Manoir de Nabinaud.


Set for breakfast.                 Breakfast being served.     Croissants et pain.


Morning breakfast for the Girls.                                           And here they come.


The Girls know what they want.


Indie and Yankee.                                Joanne and Hayden.



A sunflower field before blooming.                                   Two of the only half dozen or so blooms we have seen.


As unlucky as we were with sunflowers we did come across some beautiful poppy fields.




A couple of sights on today's drive - a large church in the countryside, and a wine-press in a ditch (why we do not know).


Our first views of Chateau de Ternay, including our room Tourlandry.  Many more to come in the days ahead.


Restaurant La Rencontre.                       Amuse bouche - not sure what.         Ready for dinner.


A wonderful starter for Norm - trout smoked in the house - delicious.


Gayle had the Plat Vegetarien and Norm the Tagliata de Boeuf - both 10s.


While we did not have the cheese there certainly was quite the selection.


Our spectacularly presented dessert - Financien fruits rouge et chocolate.



June 29, 2024 - Nabinaud with a visit to Hans in Issac

With the many chateaus in the area weddings are a big thing.  The other four rooms are occupied this weekend by guests attending a wedding in one of the nearby chateaus - an international group from Columbia, Spain, Italy and France.  After breakfast we ended up chatting with a very nice Spanish couple - Jesus and Ines, away on their own for the first time since having their two children.  Jesus actually learned English while living in Vancouver for four months years ago. 

After breakfast Gayle went on a garden tour with Joanne, a landscape architect.  In theory only a '5 minute tour' it was an hour and a half before Gayle returned.  Of course she found it very interesting.

Recall that on our drive to Nabinaud we tried to find Hans and Miranda's place as we passed though Issac.  We actually were very close but the old train station they have renovated is not visible from the road.  We exchanged emails later that day only to discover that Miranda headed back to the Netherlands yesterday.  Being a 45 minute drive (each way) we hummed and hawed whether to go or not but in the end felt we would regret it if we did not, especially after the nice voicemail we received from Miranda.  For those reading this who might be wondering who Hans and Miranda are they are the former owners of Cortijo El Guarda, a beautiful cortijo in Alcala del Valla, Andalucia, Spain where we stayed four times (2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019).  For some reason we just connected.  Of course in retrospect we were so thankful we made the effort.  We had a very nice visit with Hans and Sam, their Swiss Shepherd.  They have done a beautiful job renovating the old train station, decommissioned many years ago.  It was just a shame we had missed Miranda by one day.  We left with two emotions - the first very thankful we made the effort and visited, and the other some sorrow in realizing this may very well be the last time we will see Hans and Sam (and Miranda) who we have gotten to know over the years.

We returned to Nabinaud just in time to freshen up and head over to the Tango presentation we were invited to by Grant and Theresa.  A small gathering of six dancers and a similar number of guests.  The dancers rent this home on a somewhat regular basis and have come together in their love of Argentinian Tango.  We were welcomed with an apero.  What is an apero you ask?  It is a French tradition of pre-lunch/dinner snacks and drink.  After a welcome champagne and charcuterie we watched, and were somewhat educated in Argentinian tango.  It is apparently slower and more sensual, with the man always leading, then other tangos.  Howard was successful in getting Gayle up and dancing while Norm was content to take photos.  Not something we ever expected to be doing on the trip but it was kind of fun and certainly interesting and educational.  

It was then off to dinner.   Hayden had made a reservation for us at a traditional French restaurant, even arranging for a vegetarian plat for Gayle.  However upon entering we knew it was not going to work.  Not only was the menu very limiting for Norm but the smell of meat was over-powering for Gayle.  In the end we left, finding a cafe on the main square of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne where we had a very nice, more low key meal.  Norm started with shrimp cooked in garlic with chili and parsley.  Then Camembert au Four - a heated wheel of camembert with a confiture of apricots and pistachios along with sauteed potatoes, cured ham and a salad.  Gayle was very happy with her Quiche Vegetarienne of red peppers, tyme, oregano, red onions and feta served with cole slaw and sauteed potatoes with parmesan.  A very good decision to leave the first restaurant for La Source Cafe.



Jesus and Ines.                                                                   The four of us.


A bike on the wall just outside our room.                                Joanne and Gayle.               One of the pigeonners.


Welcome to the village of Issac.  



The centre of the village.


Identification on the (former) train station.



Isaac's old  train station - now Hans and Miranda's home.
 

With beautiful gardens throughout.



We first met Sam, a Swiss Shepherd, way back in 2013 when he was young and rambunctious.  Now 13 1/2 he
has slowed down a bit but still loves to play with his ball and toys.  It was very nice to see him again.





A reunion of Hans, Norm and Gayle.


Left:  the beautiful tree canopied road just outside Aubuterre-sur-Dronne.  

Note the single lane in the middle and bike lanes on both sides.

Below:  in order to avoid confusion there is signage in order that one knows where to drive when encountering a cyclist or another vehicle.  Got it?  Basically just don't hit anything!


Grant, who gave us directions and invited us to the tango event.


The food and drink of the apero.



Our co-host Theresa and Gayle chatting about Argentinian tango.


The farmer, who was born in this house, and his wife watching the dancing.


Apparently it's all about the foot work.


Hey I give Gayle lots of credit for trying.


Chilly - yes!                 View over the roof tiles from our table.            Crevettes a l'ail.


Quiche Vegetarienne.                                                          Camembert au Four.



June 28, 2024 - Nabinaud (le Manoir de Nabinaud)


The first day after a somewhat lengthy drive is often a relaxing 'catch-up' day.  Catch up on our travel blogs and catch up on our sleep, aka take a nap.  Today was exactly that.  

Breakfast was fabulous with meat and cheese, a fresh fruit salad, juice (orange or apple), croissants and breads with excellent jams, and scrambled eggs, with salmon if one chose.  The eggs are fresh each day from the free-range chickens that roam the property, affectionately known by Joanne, and now Gayle, as the 'Girls'.

The weather was warm enough that in the afternoon we made use of the pool.  The water was actually a very nice temperature, over 25 C.  We also sat down to finish off the wine and cherries we had with dinner last night - a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Hayden suggested Restaurant Le Taverne in nearby Aubeterre-sur-Dronne for dinner.  An excellent recommendation.  We each had an appertif - a Kir.  Kir is a French cocktail usually made with creme de cassis although other flavours are common, topped up with a white wine.  Norm had the cassis (black currant) while Gayle the peche (peach).  Both très agréable.  We were then offered an amuse bouche of black garlic with nuts in Marscapone cheese.  Also good.  Gayle had the Curry Vert de Legumes (vegetable curry) with a glass of Sancerre wine from the Loire.  In all honesty the curry was very disappointing with overcooked vegetables.  On the other hand Norm enjoyed a superb Filet de Boeuf with Buerre maitre d'hotel and legumes.  Beautifully presented and delicious it was enjoyed with a half bottle of Pecharmant Comte de Saint Laurent from nearby Bergerac.  Dessert was also excellent - Mousse Chocolat '2.0' with pistachio.  With the exception of the curry an excellent meal in a very nice outdoor setting with excellent service.

There was one strange thing that happened during our meal.  Recall that we mentioned we asked for directions yesterday.  As we were searching for Le Manoir de Nabinaud we stopped to ask three people walking the road.  Fortunately they did know where the Manoir was (one rural country road to the west). We then found it with no trouble.  Anyway, at the restaurant we recognized the gentleman from whom we received the directions, smiled and said bonjour.  Later in the evening, just before dessert he came over to our table and asked (he is Scottish) if we would like to come over for an hour tomorrow evening for an aperatif and a demonstration of Argentinian Tango.  Apparently they have a group who were putting on a brief 'show' for a few locals.  We said sure - more tomorrow.

With the restaurant only 3 km away it was a quick return to Le Manoir de Nabinaud where we called it a night.


Ham and cheese.                Juice and fresh fruit.            Croissants and bread for breakfast.


Tasty jams for the baguettes.                                                  Finishing off breakfast.


Scrambled eggs with salmon.


Next to the seating area are these beautiful bright flower baskets.


During the afternoon we finished the wine and the cherries.


The manicured gardens looking from the pool to the Manoir, and approaching the pool.


Enjoying some time in the pool.  We needed to make the most of those reasonably hot days when they came along.





Le Manoir de Nabinaud.                                                        Our room - Cerise - is on the top right.



Affectionately known as one of the 'Girls'.                           Seating area outside the Manoir.


The Charcuterie and town square (actually an oblong) in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne.


We started with an apertif - Kir Peche for Gayle; Kir Cassis for Norm, followed by a half bottle of wine from nearby Bergerac.


Tonight we ate at Restaurant La Taverne in  Aubeterre-sur-Dronne.


Gayle had a vegetable curry over a bed of rice.



Part of the menu.                                                                  From which Norm did order the Filet de Boeuf.


La Taverne was packed full tonight.                                    Excellent Mousse Chocolat '2.0' for dessert.



June 27, 2024 - Montfort to Nabinaud (le Manoir de Nabinaud)


After a nice three-night stay here at La Bard Montfort it was time to pack up and continue our journey on to Sarlat and through the Dordogne into the Charente region.  The gorgeous / hot weather of the past few days was no more - still decent mid 20s temperatures but with a chance of rain today.  But first there was breakfast, a few photos (I regretted not getting a photo of the German family at dinner last night) and pinning the world map.  Virginie and Eric have this world map for guests to 'pin' their hometown.  We added Halifax / Dartmouth, the first to do so and actually the first from anywhere in Nova Scotia.

Having fond memories of our stop for an evening in Sarlat on our honeymoon we wanted to return.  Sarlat-la-Caneda, or Sarlat as it is more commonly known, is a medieval town in southwest France's Dordogne department.  Its central Sainte-Marie Church hosts a daily indoor food market known for selling local delicacies such as foie gras and cheese.

The town dates back to 1081 when the abbey appeared in records as one of the few in the region not raided by the Vikings.  Because modern history largely passed it by Sarlat has remained preserved and one of the best representations of 14th century France.  Its historic centre has no less than 77 protected monuments, contains impeccably restored stone buildings and is largely car-free.

We stopped in Sarlat for a few hours, wandering through the narrow alleys to the church and town squares, both of which were bustling with people.  Sarlat is certainly a pedestrian friendly town.  After enjoying time admiring the various local products in the market we stopped for lunch.  An uncommon thing for us to do but with a few rain drops we thought it best to get under some cover, and people watch over a light lunch.  Gayle had a cheese omelette while Norm a Croque Monsieur, a hot sandwich of ham and cheese, both with a salad and some pommes frites (French fries).  Having seen lots of walnuts for sale we decided to share a walnut cake for dessert.  Reminding us of a Greek Karydopita cake we very much enjoyed it.

It was nice to return to an interesting town for which we had such nice memories so many years ago.

As usual our drive again took us longer than indicated with photo stops and a brief search for Hans and Miranda's (whom we stayed with on four occasions in Spain) home in Isaac.  After selling Cortijo el Guarda in Spain they purchased and remodeled Isaac's old train station.  As our route took us nearby we decided to drive through the village and see if we could find their home.  Although we were very very close unfortunately we were unsuccessful.  But we did return in a couple of days (more later).  We continued on through Mussidan to Riberac and Aubeterre-sur-Dronne until we reached le Manoir Nabinaud, although not until after asking directions (more on that later too).

We were greeted by Joanne and Hayden who showed us their beautiful property.  Out in the country with vistas over wheat fields this is our kind of place.  While in Riberac we stopped in a grocery store where we picked up a bottle of rose wine as well as some cheese, meat, bread, olives and cherries for a 'picnic' dinner.  Where we had had lunch we did not see a need to eat out.  Joanne, the perfect host, washed our cherries and provided plates and cutlery after setting up a table outdoors for us.  It was a nice relaxing way to eat / spend our evening after a day of driving.


La Barde Montfort.                                  The evening dining area.                    Meats and cheeses for breakfast.


The German family - Greta ( bit camera shy), Lela, Pippa and Carsten.


The visitor map, with Halifax now pinned.                           Our pleasant hosts Virginie and Eric.


A small sampling of the beautiful stone architecture and streetscapes of the centre of Sarlat.




More stone buildings.


Sarlat's main square - very busy.


The covered market.
              

More of the architecture of Sarlat.


A couple of musicians playing in front of Sarlat's church.


A charcuterie stand on the street.                                         A creperie.


Tourtiere Pomme - in four sizes - for two, four or eight.


Cheese.                                                                               Cherries.


Walnuts.                                                                              Chanterelle mushrooms.


We have seen routes of wine, routes of castles and other routes but this is the first Route du foie gras, a delicacy in this area.


It is very rare for us to have lunch.  With the significant breakfasts provided at the places we stay there is no need.

But with less than great weather - it actually drizzled a bit of rain - a long drive ahead and a Brasserie in the square (actually there were many) we decided to sit down and have a bite to eat.

Gayle is happy even with just a glass of water!
 

Gayle had a cheese omelette.                                             While Norm had a Croque Monsieur.


With walnuts being a big thing in the region we had a piece of walnut cake, drizzled with caramel, for dessert, reminding us of the Greek Karydopita cake.


Again, there were lots of flowers along the drive.





The Manoir de Nabinaud, 'only' 200 years old has some very nice wood beams and our room Cerise being spacious.


The view from our room window.


Joanne provided plates and cutlery for our 'picnic' dinner that included wine, cherries, bread, ham, cheese and olives.


Remember that Tourtiere Pomme back in the Sarlat covered market?  Well we did buy one, nicely wrapped that we enjoyed after 'dinner'.



June 26, 2024 - Montfort (La Barde Montfort)


Today was hot!  Well into the mid 30s and actually 46 C when we first got into the car.  A perfect day for some pool time.

But first another animated and enjoyable breakfast with other guests.  There was John and Gail (from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) who were off to their son's wedding celebration, the couple from Athens with whom we chatted a lot about the islands each of us have been too - we concluded we have actually been to more - and Carsten and Greta, half the German family. 


Our original plan was to go to Sarlat but given it was market day during which we expected it to be very crowded with parking near impossible combined with the heat we decided to defer our stop in Sarlat until tomorrow.  Rather we decided to visit the nearby Marqueyssac Gardens.  The gardens, listed as a National Historical Monument surround a stone-tiled chateau from the end of the 17th C.  It was built by Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac, Counselor to Louis XIV.  The romantic and picturesque gardens offer over 6 km of pathways surrounded by over 150,000 hand pruned boxwoods, with viewpoints, rockeries and stone cabins.  Situated on a rocky spur, the viewpoint offers one of the most impressive panoramic views of the valley and its many chateaus.  Since 1997 the gardens have been classified amongst the 'Notable Gardens in France' by the Committee of Parks and Gardens of the French Ministry of Culture.  Marqueyssac is the most visited garden in the South-West of France.

Not your typical gardens - there were virtually no flowers and therefore little colour other than the beautiful peacock.  It was nice to slowly meander under the shade of the trees on this very hot afternoon.  We returned from the far end of the gardens on the complimentary shuttle to enjoy very tasty sherbet in a seating area being sprayed by light mist - very welcome.  After our stroll we toured a few rooms of the chateau, with period decorations and paintings.


We returned to La Barde Montfort where we took advantage of the pool.  In just one day it did seem warmer than it was yesterday.  It was fun watching Greta and Pippa playing with their dad in the pool.  We also ordered a bottle of rose wine that we enjoyed both before and with dinner. 

We again had dinner at La Barde, tonight with the Germans - Lela, Carsten, Greta (5) and Pippa (3 1/2) from Hamburg near the Baltic Sea. Thanks to their very good English we chatted extensively during the meal.  The girls were particularly good throughout.  We started with an amuse-bouche of avocado and something (not sure what) on toast.  For a starter Norm had an excellent ceviche of truite followed by pork filet mignon with a zucchini wrapped roll of vegetables and the creamiest mashed potatoes.  Gayle had a poached egg and mushroom in herbs dish in place of the pork.  For dessert simple but tasty strawberries with ice cream.  So  good.  Another very enjoyable dinner that spanned a number of hours.



The frog pond with colourful pond lilies, in the garden just outside our room.


And of course what's a frog pond without a frog.


John and Gail before they headed off to the wedding festivities.
  

To say it was hot when we got in the car would be a huge understatement.


There have been sheep and donkeys - and now cows.       Roses with vineyards in the distance.





The peacock's plumage.


Very colourful.



Vistas of the French countryside as seen from the summit of Marqueyssac.


A portion of the gardens. 



Gayle having some swing time.



After our walk we cooled off with an 'off the vine' peach (for Gayle) and cherry (for Norm) sorbet.


Some of the HUGE boxwoods here at Marqueyssac Gardens.



... and more.



The chateau.                                                                       The view out one of the windows of the chateau.



Another view of the relatively small Chateau de Marqueyssac.



Some of the rooms inside.



And a couple of paintings displayed.



The nearby village of La Roque-Gageac, including the Fort on the banks of the Dordogne River.



Dinner back at La Barde Montfort staring with an amuse-bouche of avocado and something on toast.



For a starter Norm had a delicious and very nicely presented 'ceviche' of trout. 



Gayle's poached egg and veggies wrapped in zucchini with the creamiest mashed potatoes.



For Norm filet mignon of pork.



Dessert was strawberries with ice cream with an anxious onlooker waiting to enjoy.




June 25, 2024 - Montfort (La Barde Montfort)


A quiet pretty much do nothing day.

By the time we got down for breakfast the French couple with whom we had had dinner last night had come and gone - out for another day of activities.  However we met a couple (Gail and John) from Niagara Falls who were staying at La Barde de Montfort for a couple of days before off to a nearby chateau for one of their son's wedding celebration.  We also met a German couple with their two little girls and a couple from Athens.  It was nice to interact with others from various countries.  

Breakfast was nice with a good selection of meat and cheese in addition to all the standard items.

After a relaxing morning, including time spent sitting at the nearby frog pond watching the cute little fellows / gals, we strolled into the nearby (only 250 metres) village of Montfort to check out the village and the castle.  The village of Montfort has always been a strategic place throughout the centuries.  The castle was first mentioned in 1214 with its first owner being the terrible Catharine Bernard de Casnac, who ran away in front of invading troops who then demolished the castle.  Over the years the castle was demolished and rebuilt several times.  There have been many owners with the castle still being privately owned.  As such it cannot be visited by the general public, but rather only admired from the outside.

We returned to La Barde de Montfort where we had our first swim of the trip.  Perhaps a bit chilly but on a day where temperatures soared to over 30 we welcomed the opportunity to cool off.  We also spent some time chatting with Carsten, the German fellow and enjoyed his girls (Greta and Pippa) playing in the pool, including taking their job of saving the ladybugs very seriously.

For dinner we went to the nearby village of Vitrac where we found a restaurant, the Cafe des Arts in the old schoolhouse (and patio outside where we ate) that served crepes or Galette de Ble Noir.  Perfect!  Gayle had a champignons, emmental and creme fraiche crepe with a salade verte and a glass of vin rose while Norm had the La Forestiere - champignons, emmental, jambon de pays and creme fraiche with an 'upgraded' salad including tomate, cabecou (goat cheese) and basilic with a glass of Citron fraise presse.  For dessert we shared a crepe of hot homemade chocolate.

Before the short drive back we saw a number of air balloons floating over the Dordogne river and nearby countryside.



When we woke up.                    (Both photos taken from the door of our room)                          30 minutes later.
 

Our room Josephine.                                                          The frog pond.


A couple of residents of the nearby frog pond.


La Barde Montfort with its pool.


On our short (only 250 metre) walk into the village we came across a number of beautiful gardens / flowers.



In the village of Montfort.


To the right - a couple views of the exterior of the castle.

Below - the massive exterior wall.


The castle of Montfort from about half way back to La Barde Montfort.


Yes, more colourful flowers.


On our short drive to Vitrac we passed this fellow, clearly interested in us.


Dinner at Cafe des Arts, associated with L'Ecole Buissonniere, the village's old school, now an art school.


Norm's ham and cheese crepe with upgraded salad, including cabecou / goat cheese.

 
The inside of Norm's crepe.



Gayle's mushroom and cheese crepe.                               The hot chocolate dessert crepe we shared.


At somewhat of a distance (even with my telephoto lens) but still a couple of photos of the hot air balloons floating in the sky.


The church in Vitrac dates back to the 12th century, being built in Romanesque and Gothic styles. It has an interesting doorway with a stone leopard and lion carved above the door.


The castle of Montfort, highlighted by the setting sun as seen from the D703 on our return from Vitrac.



June 24, 2024 - Lagarrigue to Montfort (La Barde Montfort)


After a short two night stay we packed up and left Mas de Garrigue.  What a wonderful stop at a gorgeous property with very friendly owners.

Rather than take the same road up the plateau we drove on to Tour-de-Faure and on to the Cele river and  Cabrerets.  Having left relatively early and being unable to check in until 5:00 pm we decided to while away some time having a baguette sandwich in the village at a nice patisserie Du Moulin au Fournil.  A very nice break during which we caught up on some emails.


We then continued north along the Cele until we intersected with yesterday's drive.  At Marchilhac-sur-Cele we headed north to Gramat and then into Rocamadour, another picturesque town on the Dordogne river.  But again too many parking lots from which there was too much walking so we continued on, passing a number of massive / impressive chateaus on our way through Souillac and then east along the river to Montfort where we will be staying the next three nights.  We timed the day perfectly, arriving within a couple of minutes of 5:00 pm. 

As seen in the photo below we have seen, more times than not, upside down village signs.  Quite perplexing.  Well it turns out that, as we guessed, this is a form of protest started by young farmers in the Tarn region where we started our trip.  The protests have now spread throughout France with similar 'upside-down' signs from the Mediterranean coast to Normandy and Brittany in the north.  The protests are accompanied by the slogan "Nous marchons sur la tete" (we're walking on our heads) to signal a world turned upside down or a policy that makes no sense.  It is theorized many communes' local authorities have decided to leave the upside down signs as a mark of solidarity, or perhaps reverting them is simply not a priority.

We arrived at La Barde de Montfort where we were welcomed by Virginie et Eric.  Virginie (with Eric's help) provides meals a few nights a week, including tonight.  We of course took advantage of the opportunity to not have to go out and enjoyed dinner here.  Our meal started with an amuse-bouche of a basilica tartlet along with a skewer of vegetables, cheese and an olive.  Norm then had a salad including the local goat cheese cabecou, along with a few slices of delicious smoked canard.  Gayle had a similar salad for her main dish, with the canard being replaced with fruit.  Norm enjoyed a delicious dish of duck breast in a flavourful sauce, along with pasta and a fritter.  Dessert was a piece of walnut pie, common locally, with caramel ice cream and strawberries. 

We ate dinner with a French couple who had driven up from Carcassonne during the day.  He could not speak any English but hers was fortunately respectably decent allowing us to interact.  

No need to drive 'home'; rather simply walk the 20 to 30 feet to our room.



The tower of Mas Garrigue, likely pre 15th century.            This way to the Mas.



The 18th century barn, now a couple of guest rooms.



Steve and Sarah.


More colourful plates at breakfast this morning.


A few more photos of our room - Marchilac.

The river Lot and directions to Cajarc and other nearby villages or historical / tourist sights.

To the right another small village on the banks of the Lot.


A tunnel beneath the rocks near the village of Tour de Faure.


Homes built into the limestone cliffs.


In the village of Cabrerets on the Cele river.


We appreciate some may be tired of so many flowers but they are literally everywhere.


Where we were unable to check in until 5:00 pm today and only had a one and a half hour drive (plus of course photo stops but still) when we saw a patisserie (Du Moulin au Fournil in the village of Cabrerets) with sandwiches we decided to stop and have a little lunch to pass some time.  We were greeted with a wonderful display of pastries and selection of breads.
 

Including this strawberry tarte.


And as mentioned a selection of breads and the local specialty of walnut and raison buns.


Jana made us baguette sandwiches of tomato lettuce and egg for Gayle; jambon in place of the egg for Norm.


One of the inverted protest town signs. 

 

 'Sheep art' and a hut in a roundabout just outside 
Gramat.


More ditch poppies.                                                             One of a number of chateaus seen along the way.
 

Wall art and flowers at La Barde de Montfort.


An amuse-bouche of pastry with pesto / basilica, along with a kebab. 

 
A cabecou (goat cheese) salad with smoked duck.

    

Gayle's main - also a salad with cheese and fruit.



Duck breast with pasta and a fritter.                                   Walnut pie with caramel ice cream and strawberries.



June 23, 2024 - Mas de Garrigue and the countryside


After a quality, albeit perhaps not as extensive as some, breakfast we spent time taking photos of this stunning property.  The weather improved today with the sun peeking out.  Yet the morning was still somewhat cool.  It was nice to sit around the pool but absolutely no thought of going in.  Early afternoon we headed out to tour the countryside and take in some of Sarah's suggestions. 

Our circular route took us most of the afternoon with a large number of photo stops.

We crossed the River Lot and then drove west until we reached Sant-Martin-Lavouval at which time we headed north across the plateau to Sauliac-sur Cele.  From there it was north-east along the Cele river to Marchilac-sur-Cele, through Saint-Sulpice and eventually Espagnac Sainte-Eulalie.  Each are very small, quaint rural villages.

We particularly enjoyed views of the Lot, a noticeable size river winding its way through the valley, with villages scattered along its sides.  Further inland on the Cele river the pretty village of Marchilhac-sur-Cele is dominated by the ruined Abbaye of Saint Pierre.  Located on the Way of St. James the adjacent church has retained its beauty, set in a village exuding tranquility on the banks of the Cele, dwarfed by the adjacent limestone cliffs.

The abbey, completed at the end of the 12th century was the owner of Rocamadour prior to the time when pilgrimage began.  From the outset it welcomed pilgrims on the Way of St. James.   Although one's first impression is nothing more than ruins, upon entering the cathedral itself one is struck by the magnitude of the structure in this rural nowhere land.

The abbey of Marcilhac sur Célé endured a tumultuous history, marked by repeated destruction and reconstruction over the centuries.  By the time of the French Revolution the abbey was already in a state of decline. Today, only a square bell tower from the 10th century Romanesque structures remains, likely fortified in the 14th century, while the other buildings lie open to the elements.

However, the attached Gothic church underwent restoration efforts and stands as a testament to the abbey’s former glory.  Adorned with beautiful religious statues the 15th-century wall has a number of frescoes.  During times of conflict, such as the Hundred Years War the church provided protection to the local populace.  Today, the church hosts monthly Mass and special musical events, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of history and spirituality that defines Marcilhac sur Cele.

We returned to Mas Garrigue for a short while before heading out again - to Saint-Cirq-Lopopie, a village of only 200.  Perched on a cliff overlooking the Lot the medieval village is dominated by the fortified church, houses with sloping roofs covered with brown tiles lining picturesque cobblestone streets.  The village, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France won the 'Preferred village in France' competition in 2012.  No doubt Saint-Cirq-Lopopie is an interesting, pretty village but somewhat destroyed by the six large parking lots on the outskirts.  While not busy when we were there we can't imagine how crowded the village must be in the summer.

We ate dinner at one of the very few restaurants open on a Sunday night - Le Gourmet Quercynois.  It was nice to eat outdoors on a terrace overlooking a cobblestone street.  We started with an amuse-bouche of a small cup of gazpacho.  As a start to his complete meal Norm had a Salad de Cabecou (a local chevre / goat cheese) followed by a traditional dish of southern France - cassoulet that included canard (duck) confit, poitrine de porc, saucisse fraiche, saucisson a l'ail and haricots - lots and lots and lots of white beans.  Meanwhile Gayle enjoyed an omelette aux cepes (mushrooms) with a gratin de pomme de terre and a salad.  For dessert we shared a Poire Williams - poached in wine of Cahors with cannelle (cinammon) and sorbet poire (pear).  Very nice.

Admittedly I took a wrong turn on the drive back detouring 7 km out of our way.  There was good and bad to having done so.  The good:  we ended up in the small village of Lugagnac with its beautifully restored windmill next to a small church.  The bad:  we missed what looked like a spectacular sunset that no doubt would have been very picturesque over the river.  



Some of breakfast on colourful, quirky plates.                     A very unique chandelier.


One of the massive fireplaces.                                              A lounge in the original 15th century hunting lodge.


The stone work is something else.                                      Here an old stone sink in the shape of a heart.


Original ovens - the one on the right is still used to bake pizzas.                         A comfy seating area.


The tower, believed to pre-date the 15th century original hunting lodge.


A soothing fountain.


The pool overlooking the countryside.                                 Better weather but still long sleeves in the morning.


Lavender.                                                            Shuttered windows.                                    Rock framed window.

Stone roof slates. 
 


The old barn, with a wall covered in jasmine.  Our room Marchilac was located at the far end.


Daily fix of colourful flowers around Mas de Garrigue.


The nearby village of Calvignac set on a rocky outcrop.


The village of Saint-Martin-Lavouval on the edge of the river Lot.


Tranquil French countryside.


We actually have not seem many sheep (or goats) so far but this one took an interest in me. 


Ditch and field flowers.






A section of our drive must have been abnormally damp in order to have this amount of moss adhering to the trees.


Even in a very small village of 196 inhabitants (2015) there is a prominent statue in honour of the way too many lives lost during the wars.  This one in the village of Marchilac-sur-Cele.


Stone homes and lots of flowers predominate the cute village.


Some of the ruins of 9th century Abbaye Saint-Pierre in Marchilac-sur-Cele. 


The interior of the church of Saint-Pierre.


There were a number of stained glass windows in the cathedral.


More of the ruins of the Abbaye, including the 10th century bell tower.


A few buildings in the cute village of Espagnac Ste-Eulalie.





The river Lot winding through the region.


Sain-Cirq-Lapopie.


The cathedral and a few buildings in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.


Cobblestones throughout the steep streets.                        Arriving at our restaurant where we ate outdoors.


Sarah made us a dinner reservation at Le Gourmet Quercynois, in part because it was one of the few restaurants open on Sunday and in part because it gave us a chance to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.  It turned out to be another very good recommendation / choice.

Right - our amuse-bouche of gazpacho.

To start a Cabecou salad.
For Gayle an omelette aux cepes (mushrooms) with scalloped potatoes and a salad.


Traditional French dishes - first Cassoulet and then for dessert Poire Williams.


A couple of final photos of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie with buildings highlighted by the setting sun.



I admit it - I got too confident and made a quick right turn on the return from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie without checking the sign and ended up driving 7 km in the wrong direction.  The saving grace was that when we arrived in Lugagnac we came upon this cute little church on the roadside and a beautifully restored windmill.  Just as I had planned - ya right.

Our photos are below; the one to the right from the France-Voyages.com website.




June 22, 2024 - Cordes-sur-Ciel to Mas de Garrigue


A short driving / moving day today but first a relaxing morning with Paul and Tina.  Paul was in no hurry to have us leave so we worked on our blogs and took our time, knowing we had a relatively short drive north.  Unfortunately the day weather-wise was our worst yet with a steady rain throughout the day.

We enjoyed a wonderful stay at Le Chevalier Noir thanks to Paul's hospitality and the friendliness and helpfulness of Tina.  Another winning choice.

 




Our route first took us to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a village both Paul and Tina highly recommended visiting.  Unfortunately when we arrived it was still raining and as such we continued without stopping.

We then wound our way through some pretty countryside and small villages north to the Lot and our next stop the Mas de Garrigue.  We were not originally planning to include this in our itinerary but rather than the full drive to Vitrac decided to split it up.

Upon discovering this very old - 15th century for sure and perhaps older - guest house we decided to add a short two-night stay here.

Sarah and Steve, a couple from Ireland who love good food, wine, architecture, history, art and the peaceful quality of life the Lot offers stumbled upon a 15th century hunting lodge and fortified farm in 2007.  Needing considerable restorations it took seven years to transform the property while retaining features such as the vast stone fireplaces, ancient stone sinks, gun slits, original beams and stone floors.  After years of hard work, much humour (and the odd disagreement) they succeeded in achieving a quiet luxury boutique hotel rated as the best accommodation in the Lot and Midi Pyrenees - and we can certainly see why!  

Situated in the heart of the Lot region, Occitanie, south-west France, in beautiful natural bucolic countryside Mas de Garrigue is a quiet luxury boutique hotel with  pool.  Just outside Calvignac, half way between the historic towns of Cahors and Figeac on the banks of the river Lot, this chambre d'hotes de charme is surrounded by Beaux Villages such as Saint Cirq Lapopie (voted most beautiful village in France), Cajarc, St Sulpice, Marcillhac-sur-Cele, and Espagnac St Eulalie.  The Pre-historic caves of Pech Merle are nearby upriver.

For dinner Sarah made a reservation for us at Jeu de Quilles in nearby (6 km) Cajarc.  A very nice restaurant we started with an amuse bouche of a sardine rolled over rice - ok Gayle had to pass while I had to have both.  We then had some tempura battered courgette flowers along with a 50 cl bottle of rose wine.  We don't often order rose but after Gayle had a nice glass yesterday decided to do so.  Gayle then enjoyed an aubergine dish topped with burrata accompanied by Kalamata olives while Norm had perfectly done pork over a squash 'puddle' along with other vegetables.  For dessert Norm had a citron tart while Gayle checked off another box on her dessert list with a chocolate mousse. 

The restaurant was full, something we had not yet experienced, and we know why.  The food and service were wonderful.


We both had eggs this morning - fried for Norm and 'Paul's Egg' - hardboiled for Gayle.


Paul and Tina.


A field of wheat.                                                                   A field of poppies.


Even on a dreary day there was colour in one of the small villages along our route.


While driving in the countryside we encountered these geese, one of whom actually started to chase our vehicle.


Gorgeous stone walls; timbered ceiling of the old 18th century barn and our bed area in our room.


Not only could we get wet in the large bathtub but the pool as well - if we wanted to swim in the rain!


Tonight's restaurant.       Rose wine this evening.        Tempura courgette flowers.


Amuse bouche - a rice stuffed sardine.


Caponata d'aubergine, burrata, and olives Kalamata.        Travers de cochon fermier frottes au poivre fume.


"Conme" une tarta citron maringuee et inversee.                Mousse au chocolat et arabica, orange amere.



June 21, 2024 - Cordes-sur-Ciel with a trip into Albi


The weather, while still not warm (see Tina's jacket) was nice enough to eat outdoors today.  During breakfast we again had a very nice chat with Tina and Paul.  Both suggested we head to Albi, 25 kms or so away, to visit the largest brick cathedral in the world and the adjacent Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

The drive to Albi was easy; the parking much less so.  It was very busy with every spot occupied until we found one a kilometer away.

From where ever one arrives - the road from Toulouse, Rodez, Millau or Cordes-sur-Ciel the Sainte-Cecile cathedral is dominant.  The massive structure is the largest brick cathedral in the world, having the appearance of a fortified castle.  It dominates the landscape of the city in a style of southern Gothic (13th century).  Its military aspects distinguishe it from contemporary cathedrals in Chartres, Reims and Amiens.  Inside is a striking vision of colours, paintings, sculptures and statutes - the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Tarn region.