On July 14, 1789, a mob of French citizens stormed the Bastille in Paris, an armoury and prison associated with the French monarch's rule, setting in motion the French Revolution.
On July 14, 2017, Nicole made cassoulet! Vive la France!
Nicole is an unabashed Franco-phile, and I am learning. We planned the first part of our overseas trip, two and a half months in lower cost Southeast Asian countries, so that we could spend ample time in higher cost France. Nonetheless, in order to cut down on the higher costs, we are predominately staying outside of Paris in smaller towns and villages.
We arrived in France just in time for la fête nationale, or as commonly referred to in English-speaking countries, Bastille Day. Even The Donald couldn't resist getting in on the fun.
Our first stop, two weeks in the village of Combleux (population 452) near Orleans, hasn't disappointed thus far. We are staying in a spacious Airbnb above the La Marine restaurant which is nestled on a cozy town square with the Loire river on one side and the Canal d'Orleans on the other. Beside both of these waterways are busy walking paths bustling at all hours with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.
On our first night in Combleux, after arriving around 9 p.m., we parked our little Kia hatchback rental car on the street, were shown to our room by an English-speaking waiter, then dined in the restaurant on buttered snails, foie gras, stuffed rabbit, and beef carpaccio, followed by a cheese plate, wherein Nicole entertained our waiter by declaring "this is a dream!" and finished with espressos. C'est magnifique!
Yesterday, we went wine exploring. Although not as well-known as Burgundy or Bordeaux, the Loire Valley is steeped in wine making tradition, which is the primary reason we chose to stay in this area. For our first wine visit, we headed off to the Loire's Chinon AOC, having booked a few winery reservations using the Rue de Vignerons phone app (unlike the U.S., wineries in France typically require advanced reservations). After driving two hours east, we arrived at Domaine de Pierre Sourdais in the village of Cravant-les-Coteaux (population 719) for our 10:00 a.m. tasting, and were the only car in their hay field parking lot.
We poked around the closed winery doors, couldn't find anyone, and were beginning to seriously question the reservation app, when we found a button near one of the doors with "sonne ici" printed in small letters underneath. According to Google Translate on my phone, this translated to "ring here" so we pushed the button. After a few moments:
Nicole: "Uh...Nous avons une reservation pour Meserve...Anglais?"
"Wait...I will be down"
Soon a middle aged French man in Addidas shorts and a t-shirt pedaled up on a bicycle, unlocked the doors, let us in. We sat down and he poured us three wines. Each were solid and under six euros (roughly $7) in price. We conversed almost entirely in French, although "conversed" is being generous. Nicole and I were able to use Google Translate to ask some basic questions and we spent a lot of time nodding along and saying "oui" or "d'accord" (translation: okay) to his French replies. Then we were back out to the hay field with a couple bottles in hand and on our way. C'est fantastique!
After spending the rest of the day touring in the neighboring areas of Saumur and Bourgueil (we're planning an entire post on wine tasting in the Loire so I won't spoil the fun), it was back to our Airbnb for a quick run along the Canal d'Orleans, before sitting down on our terrace for the beet and goat cheese salad I prepared for dinner. Around 10:45 p.m., as we were nearly finished with our second bottle of red wine (we're in France!), a pre-Bastille Day fireworks display began in the distance across the Loire. We walked down to the street and, for fifteen minutes or so, joined the others who had also spilled out to watch. Are you kidding me? If I could bottle this and sell it, I would.
Today, as I write this, the sun is shining and there is classic French music playing in our living room. Nicole's cassoulet, in celebration of Bastille Day, is in the oven (pro tip: the settings on French ovens are in Celsius, not Fahrenheit, as Nicole luckily discovered one hour in before any irreversible damage was done) and we can hear the sounds of children playing at the nearby park. We've already gone for our daily run along the canal and popped a bottle of local sparkling wine. If I could enjoy myself any more I would wear a beret. Maybe that will be in the next post. Vive la France!
Like this post? Want to read more about Travis and Nicole's travel adventures? Check out Our Overview And Observations From Travelling For Two Months Through Vietnam.
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