Friday, December 16, 2005

from the vallée de la loire: lazy crazy days of winter

The goal was to do three things on Thursday: visit a renowned chateau, drive to a Renaissance town and then finally enter the city of Tours – virtually in the back yard of where I’m staying. So close and yet so far, for I’ve yet to see this provincial center, this cathedral city with an old heart and a new zesty feel to it (so say the books).

But it was a late start. Blog posting takes a while. The decision as to where breakfast should be eaten takes even longer. Finally the big one: is Ed game enough to do these outings or should I venture forth alone? Three hours shot, just to think all this through.

It’s close to noon by the time we (yes we: Ed’s there, with the map, picking the slow winding country roads to get us to our places) set out for the Chateau Azay-le-Rideau. In truth, there are rewards to being sluggish and unmotivated. Really. The day speaks for itself.

We arrive at the Chateau and it is closed. I get one of those peers over the glasses that says – you done your homework on this one? We drove an hour to find something closed?

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from the outside looking in: chateau azay-le-rideau

I look at the sign: Damn. It’s a siesta thing. Closed for a two and a half hour lunch break. Oh, the French.

Do we wait for it to reopen? No we do not. We’ve had our look. Nice. A walk along the river would be equally pleasing. The river, though French, does not take a two and a half hour lunch break (the rest of the town does. Everything but the bread store is shut tight, as if it were middle of the night, December 24th).

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along the river Indre

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the Indre, further from town

Here is an insert: what’s with Christmas in France anyway? Are they all ho ho ho about it? Sort of and with their own twist on familiar themes. There’s the matter of Santa. St. Nick already makes an appearance early in December here, so what sense is there in bringing in Mr. Claus at this late stage?

And why is Mr. Claus into windows here instead of chimneys? You have to think that a child or two would be frightened to have a fat old guy peering in through the window and yet they seem to love this concept of a peeping Tom in a red suit. Santas climbing the walls alongside buildings are everywhere.

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outside, looking in

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the pig is puzzled

Okay, back to this slow moving day. Our next stop is Chinon. We become obsessed with finding a tasty creperie for lunch (there were lots of them in town). Of course it has to be The Perfect Creperie. In the search for The Perfect Creperie, we found the perfect Renaissance town. Beautiful.

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(one of) the gems of Chinon

But by the time we settled on the Chosen One, it stopped serving food for the afternoon. In fact, they all closed by 3. It was a great idea foiled by incomprehensible and obtuse opening hours that fail to take into account the needs of two tourists with a slow moving pace and cravings for the perfect crepe.

And so Chinon remains the town with memories of old streets, climbing Santas, a glass of Chinon wine at the local café and a leisurely time spent in the car (say like two hours) watching people pass by. It was almost dark before we were motivated to leave.

So finally we set out for Tours. Tours is big. Tours at rush hour is no fun. Tours looks daunting and intimidating for people who have not stepped into a crowded urban scape for several days now. At the outskirts of Tours I do a totally crazy maneuver and we retreat. To our own little inn with the chef with the sexy derriere.

For indeed, instead of expanding our palate and subjecting ourselves to another dining experience, we decide to not budge for dinner and eat, once again, the dishes lovingly prepared by monsieur le chef Michel.

I wont do the usual photo run. I’ll just put up things that puffed out at me. That’s enough. They exemplify well the state of the stomach after the meal. Oh, let me throw in the cheese platter, where once again I selected 4. Because it was our last night here. I had to!

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an appetizing appetizer. inside: snails in garlic butter

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she's cutting my fourth selection; yes, that's right, fourth.

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crepes stuffed with Grand Marnier soufflé

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and on the side, a little soufflé, because I really needed even more dessert.