- The Readiness is All: Southern France, Days 0-1
- This is not an exciting post: Southern France, Day 2
- Èze You Is or Èze You Ain’t My Baby?: Southern France, Day 3
- Life’s a Beach, Then You Nap: Southern France, Days 4-8
- Sic transit gloria Nice: Southern France, Days 9-10
- Roll Up For the Mystery Tours: Southern France, Day 11
- Finding the Sources of It All: Southern France, Day 12
- Chamwow? More Like Chambord: Southern France, Day 13
- There Was A House in Old Orleans: Southern France, Day 14
- A Down Day, and a Look at Les Sources: Southern France, Day 15
- There Are Gardens…: Southern France, Day 16
The time came for us to pack up our belongings and make our way to an entirely different kind of trip; thus passes the glory of the beach. The first portion of the trip was to be all about the French Riviera and the beach-time celebration that was integral to Lisa’s birthday. Hey, I got to go to Pompeii for my birthday, who was I to say “no”? (Besides, I got to go too, it was hardly a sacrifice.) After this part of the trip, however, it was time to make good on some plans we had from back in January. As I already mentioned back in Day 0-1 of this series, we had planned to include the Loire in our last trip to France. Since it didn’t pan out then, by golly we were going to pan it the #I*&@ out this time. And so, Friday morning we moved our things back into our rental car and went to meet a friendly lady named Mrs. Airport. Wait… sorry, that’s the Marseille Provence Airport, IATA-code “MRS”. That makes more sense.
We made good time to MRS and were homing in on the car rental when we hit a snag – the gas station was out of diesel, which our car needed. So, we hopped in to GPS and plotted another station location. THAT station only took French credit cards and, being unattended, had no way to accept cash. Long story short, we consumed all of the “cush” in our schedule hunting down fuel. It turned out to be ok, if only barely. One short flight later we were on the outskirts of Paris at Orly airport. We picked up a new car there and began our exciting foray into… traffic. Lots of traffic. Not a huge problem, but it was arterial roads for the first hour or so. When you drive in a new country, you pick up the common things pretty quickly: this is a yield sign, that’s a “speed zone ends here” sign, etc… But down in the guts of the transit system is where you see all the little signs for how to navigate narrow roads, who yields to whom at a given intersection… all sorts of little things that are inscrutable on first inspection. At least once, I pissed off somebody behind me as we waited to turn left at a “T” intersection that he zipped around me and into traffic; to this day I don’t see how I was in the wrong, but he had pretty strong opinions on the subject so I suspect it had something to do with one of those signs. Alors…
A couple of hours later we snuggled into Amboise and our little boutique hotel that was literally across the street from the castle. Soooo that’s neat. Our proprietor had done us the courtesy of making a dinner reservation at Le Lion d’Or. What is it with the French and golden animals? We were initially afraid we would bounce off the menu, but while it was arty it was also quite tasty and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We made the 2 minute walk back to our place and flopped into bed.
Our next day began with an abortive attempt to replace my phone. (Mercury is retrograde if you’re into that sort of thing… actually it is either way, but you get the idea.) Short version – it was either a bait-and-switch or a painfully under-informed salesclerk, but whatever. We ordered a phone that evening, but when Amazon wants to text you a two-factor code to the phone that is no longer in your possession and will happily show you how to fix this once you log in (as in, with two-factor authentication), it can be a trying situation. But I digress. (Yes, John, you should rename the blog to this.) After a detour to Tours (woo!) we made for the Château Gaillard; the one in Amboise, that is, not the (frankly much cooler looking, see picture) one in Normandy. This Château Gaillard is notable mostly because it became the home of tremendous horticultural experimentation including adapting the orange tree for the French climate. So, you have Amboise to thank for Orangina I think…? The house itself was lovely, but we run into our (ok, mostly my) bias against restoration. The whole place was apparently a run-down pile of stone as late as the 1980s and has been almost completely rebuilt since then. It’s an impressive job, and clearly the result of many craftspeople laboring for years, but it’s kinda like visiting Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. It’s neat and all, but you don’t kid yourself that you’re living a historical dream. Anyway, it was fine.
Back in the center of town we wandered the streets in full tourist mode, then made for dinner at Le Parvis, a delightful little spot that once again has the courage of a small menu. They book up fast so if you’re ever in town I’d plan ahead for this one. You walk past their wood-fired grill on your way upstairs to the dining area, and pretty much everything they’ll serve a person for dinner is going on top of that grill first. Both my medium rare steak and Lisa’s pork loin brochette were delightful; fun story, apparently in this region of France (which I specify because we’ve never experienced this anywhere else) they are perfectly at home referring to “pork filet mignon”. In fact, it’s so common that it is understood that “filet mignon” means pork. We did not understand this, so Lisa kind of fell into her dinner selection; fortunately, it was num-num enough to be forgiven.
This brought a pleasant day to an end. Tomorrow, we tour Tours.
And you thought the Nice puns were going to be painful…