Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Colin Churcher - France 2004

Trip to France May 2004

Tuesday 18th May.

We arrived at 0940 right on time and managed a very quick exit from the airport. Took RER into Gare du Nord, then metro with one transfer to the Hotel Royal Fromentin. The room was ready and I washed socks and underpants before going out for lunch at the Villa des Abbesses. We started with a coupe de Champagne Taitinger. Mary had a Salade Perigourdine and I had the Confit de Canard. We had a half bottle of Chinon. Good start. We walked around the area and also found the Hotel Citadine that we will likely try next time. It is right close to the Montmartre cemetery. For supper we had take out stuffed tomato, kidney and a Cabecou de Rocamadour.

Wednesday 19th May

Slept well but got up early and took the bus to Gare du Nord where we caught a train to Gare du Lyon. Took the train to Fontainebleau and the bus to the chateau. We decided to walk through the grounds. There were many trees in bloom which made good display, especially the rhododendrons. Very pleasant but very hot. We caught the 12:15 train back which was delayed at Melun because the doors were not working in our car.
Lunch was at Le Train Bleu.

Wine aperatif
We both started with the Saucisson de Lyons
Mary - salmon
Colin - duck breast with raspberry sauce.
Desert was an incredible cheese tray.
Sainte Maure - cendre and plain
Brie - excellent
Saint Nectaire
Pouligny St. Pierre
Bleu D'Auvergne
Took the RER to Chatelet Les Halles and went to Paul's. Mary had a millefeuille while Colin had a lemon tartelette. Very ordinary and the place was run by a bunch of kids and it was very hot.
We noticed a bus at Hotel de Ville going to Place Clichy and took it. There was a diversion because of a fire but we made it back in good time.

Thursday 20th May

Today was a holiday so things were very much quieter than normal. We walked to the Gare St. Lazare and validated the France Railpass that we will be using tomorrow. There is some construction going on and it took some looking to find the information office but ascertained that there was a train leaving for Vernon with a connecting bus to Giverny in 15 minutes. We went to the Transilian window but he told us to go to the Grandes Lignes window. There was not much time left to composter the ticket and climb aboard.
The bus, driven by a very pleasant lady, was waiting and we paid our fare and sat down, followed by several Americans who had followed us because they thought we knew where we were going - all it took was to follow the sign posts.
There were a lot of people in the Monet grounds and house. The house was nothing special, except for an interesting kitchen, but the grounds were spectacular with the spring blossom. It must be good at any time but was tremendous with wisteria, rhododendrons, tulips etc., all in bloom. The lily ponds were the most impressive, one bright red lily had come out but there would be many more shortly.
We had lunch in a restaurant that was, unsurprisingly, very busy. We each had a salad accompanied by a half bottle of AC Saumure which was very good.
We caught the 14:30 bus back to the station and had time to sit in a cafe with cider and a calvados.
The trip back was uneventful. Visited Les Galleries Lafayette and had a drink near the Citadine by the Montmartre Cemetery. Supper was oriental take out.
The weather was very hot but forecast is for cooler weather tomorrow.

Friday 21st May.

Travelled to Nantes in the morning from Gare Montparnasse. There was initially some confusion over the platform number but we left on time. The hotel in Nantes is alright but a chain. It is very close to the station.
We decided to go to Pornic in the afternoon, it didn't cost us anything as we could use the Eurail Pass that we used to get to Nantes. Pornic is a small place that was originally a fishing village, now it makes its money from the tourists. The lower town has a row of fish restaurants and ice cream parlours while the upper town has the higher end stores. We caught the 16:52 train back to Nantes - two sunburned girls opposite.

We ate at La Cigalle, an old established brasserie in the art deco style. It is heavily decorated with attractive tile work.
A four year old girl at the next table ate six oysters - it was her first time.

Saturday 22nd May

We decided to ride the trams today. First we rode line one out east then straight back to the western terminus. The buildings, particularly at the western end, are uninspiring although they house a lot of people. Stopped at the centre and went through an open air market where we bought and consumed some very good brebis d'Auvergne.
Picked up some hay fever medication for Colin then lunch, Mary omelette and lettuce, Colin - magret de canard and pate de foie gras.
After lunch we found a wonderful cheese shop where Colin took some pictures and bought a Valençay and half a Cammembert. We then took the tram line 2 to both north and southern termini. The northern end is in a pleasant, wooded area but the south part is working class.
Had dinner at L'Huitre where we started with three different types of oyster:
bretagne, prat and mareng
After this, Mary had soupe de poisson and Colin marinaded sardines. We had a pichet of muscadet and a saumur champigny.

Sunday 23rd May

We managed to get a good deal to go to La Baule today - 13 euros freedom between Nantes and Le Croisic so while we had intended to visit just La Baule, we went first to Le Croisic. This is a fishing port which is now heavily into tourism. Nothing much of interest but we only had an hour anyway. La Baule is a seaside resort. The sun was very hot but there was a very strong, cold wind.
Had a seafood lunch and walked along the front in the afternoon.

Monday 24th May

Took the train to Angers and had trouble waiting for the bus to the Cointreau museum. Walked through the town and found a good place for lunch La Ferme. The white Chinon was remarkable with a nose of molasses and honey. Had a forced march in the afternoon to get some sanitary napkins. Pity we were unable to visit the Cointreau museum as that was the only reason we went to Angers at all.

Tuesday 25th May

Travel day today. We caught the electric train from Nantes to Rennes and then the TGV to Morlaix. The walk into town and the hotel was down many flights of stairs but didn't take very long. The hotel is quite good.

Had lunch in a brasserie, fish soup and magret de canard with raspberry sauce. Walked along the marina and then back to the room. Had dinner in Creperie Hermine. Mary had galette with fried egg, cheese and lardons while Colin had a galette with different types of mushrooms. We had crepes for desert {Belle Helene for Mary and chocolate with hazel nuts for Colin}. The whole was washed down with some dry cider.

Wednesday 26th May

Today we went to Roscoff on the Channel coast - out by SNCF bus and back by train. We passed through many fields of artichokes and St. Pol de Leon, the only intermediate station, is known as the artichoke centre, Roscoff has an excellent exotic garden.
Fish soup, good and well spiced, canette and gateau Breton/cheese for lunch.
We walked around the place after lunch including part of the foreshore. There seem to be a lot of retirement homes and sanitoria. The station had several SNCF employees even though it did very little business. Two boys got on at St Pol de Leon and asked to go up with the driver.
We were pretty tired when we got back to the hotel.
Found a good place for supper, a two person place. Colin had Morlaix Bay scallops which was the special - fresh that day.

Thursday 27th May

Took the TGV to Guingamp and a four wheeled railcar to Paimpol. This was a very pleasant trip through green countryside. At Paimpol an ex-SNCF 231K was waiting to leave with an excursion. We found the tourist office and got a map. Walked around the town and found a fish restaurant for lunch - oysters then petoncles/langoustines with mayonnaise.
In the afternoon we walked along the beach then made our way back to the station. Our train left just after the arrival back of the steam excursion to Visieux?
There was an hour and a half at Guingamp and we went around this pleasant town.
Dinner in the evening was not an inspired choice - canard and salmon.

Friday 28th May

Received a phone call from Sandra at one o'clock in the morning to the effect that Mary’s father had died so we came straight back to Paris and returned to Montreal.