Saturday, September 19, 2009

Driving Through the French Countryside

September 18, 2009, Partly Cloudy

By Claire
We had a leisurely morning getting ready to leave our Paris campsite (Maisons-Laffitte) and had breakfast one last time watching the Seine, eating fresh croissants from the campground shop.

Our trip was supposed to take just over an hour to a free spot from the “France Passion” book. We were looking forward to a day of relaxation in a beautiful site. However, even after finding the tell tale “France Passion” logo and arrow, driving past it several times, backing, turning and driving past again until I got out of Homer and walked several blocks in all directions, we gave up. We decided to head in the direction of our planned destination on the coast of Normandy but would try yet another “France Passion” site, only about 25 minutes away. After a total driving day of 5 hours, we finally found Les Tonneaux Pére Magloire in Pont-l’evêque. Not exactly what we had in mind, just a restaurant with a parking lot, but decided to stay, use their parking lot as a free campsite for the night, and enjoy a traditional meal from Normandy. I think the France Passion people are going to hear from me. Their directions are minimal and we really thought this place would be someone’s home who could offer a home cooked meal, as described in the book. We won’t give up on this and plan to try others but it’s been a bit discouraging.

Free Camping--Chuck perusing the menu in advance of our dinner

Back to our road trip, we were fortunate to find a grocery store just after leaving the campground. I love the fact that you put a €1 coin into the shopping cart, it releases, still holding your coin, and off you go to shop. When you return, you simply hook the chain back to the cart and out pops your coin. Brilliant! Why don’t we do that in the U.S. and keep the carts off the streets? I now keep a €1 coin in a convenient spot in my purse for next time. We loaded up with plenty of food and feel prepared for anything. I was thrilled that our route took us through small towns and villages with beautiful farmland on either side. The road was a good one with not too much traffic and easy driving. (Easy for me to say). One town, Forgettes, was so small—one block long—we’ve already forgotten it. Another one, Darnetal, was quite confusing, darn it all, and we almost got lost. But, Suzette came to the rescue once again. No matter what we do, she gets us out of there and onto the right track. How anyone could drive through Europe without a GPS is beyond me. It’s also nice to be able to program in a location and choose whether to take the toll roads or not based on the distance and time involved. Then again, we really were picturing ourselves relaxing with our books within an hour or two…..

Dinner was exquisite. We started with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, a nice dry red table wine. Our waiter was wonderful, was dressed in a traditional costume of Normandy with peaked cap, brim to the eyes and a blousy black jacket much like a painter's smock. Best of all, he spoke passable English. After he explained the menu, we told him we were interested in trying some traditional dishes of Normandy. I kind of understood him—communication is always a challenge! He brought us an appetizer of several samples of paté, tomatoes in some kind of delicious marinade, pickles, and 2 little pots: one with a fish spread and another of a very creamy rochefort. Also included were a couple of spreads from vegetables that had been jellied and a basket of fantastic bread to spread all these wonderful things on. One curiosity was the way our waiter presented the wine. He uncorked the wine very elaborately, placed it on the table, and walked away. We looked at each other for a moment then figured it was up to us to pour our own wine. Then I suddenly panicked thinking he was letting it breath and would be back to pour. How to get it back in the bottle?

Next came our main course of chicken, potatoes and apples on a puff pastry with a kind of reduced apple spread as the sauce. It was like nothing I have ever eaten (does it show that I’m still reading Julia Child?).

For dessert, we each chose the café with 5 or 6 tiny desserts that were each unique and delicious. What a treat!

We rolled home, stuffed to the gills, about 50 feet away. Even though it was a long day, it ended quite well, we saw some beautiful countryside and what the heck, we’re inside Homer and for all we know, we’re in a gorgeous setting and it’s free! Tomorrow we are off for Normandy, 300 meters from the beach with hiking and biking trails leading out of the campground.

Camping, €0.00
Baguette, €.95
2 Croissants, €2
Groceries, €42.16
Diesel, €52.23
LPG Gas for stove and fridge, €5.91
Toll, €7.30
Dinner, €54.20

Total: €157.45

The journey, not the arrival matters. ~ T.S. Eliot


Pat in Santa Cruz said...

Oh how wonderful to have new postings! I had never heard of France Passion camping so "googled" it. Sure hope you find one. Looks fantastic.
Loved hearing about your Versailles tour. I was one of the "mass" people and would have preferred your way. I, too, enjoyed Sophia's Marie. Love the contrast of your Seine campsite and the parking lot! What an interesting dinner. Thanks for those photos. I especially like the ones of the two of you. You guys look GREAT!
I keep sharing with friends and family how enjoyable my "vicarious" year in Europe is! :-)
Love, Pat

Chuck and Claire said...

We intend to keep trying with France Passion. Still have visions of staying in a vineyard somewhere...

Carol said...

Yum, LOVE the pictures and food descriptions!!!


Carina in Davis said...

Your photos and decriptions of food and wine make me hungry!

It is such a treat to read your blog and imagine....

Carina in Davis

mmpotters said...

Thinking of you and enjoying all the photos of the countryside. Despite the little glitches, you sound so relaxed. Hugs to you both from the other side of the world. -Merlyn

Chuck and Claire said...

Thanks to all of you for your nice comments. It's nice to know someone is reading this!