Tuesday, July 18, 2006

France Oizon Day 10

Monday and Tuesday were planned as one night stops. We got up and had breakfast in the hotel. We sat along the terrace and enjoyed a great view. Along the way, we have come to realize that no matter where you go, the breakfast is roughly the same. The typical breakfast is a basket of rolls, some coffee and some fruit. You can get an American breakfast with some eggs and bacon in some places. The hotels seem to offer a better variety of fruit. As result, we tended to have breakfast at the hotel more often than not.

We started off and found a Casino Market (toothpaste, water and playing cards) and an ATM in the larger town below Sancerre. We have been carrying only a moderate amount of cash and stopping every day or so to get more cash from ATMs.

The guidebook had a wine and cheese tour in the region surrounding Sancerre. We set the GPS for the first little town on the tour and started off. Our experience was similar to last week while we were Champagne testing. Although there were not as many wineries in this area as near Reims, every little town had signs for a couple of wineries. Trying to figure out where the tasting rooms were and whether they were open was an interesting game. We ended up tasting at two different wineries: one in Sancerre and another in Bue. We brought one bottle of wine at the second winery. I am probably going to try and carry it and the bottle of champagne from last week all the way home.

We tried to stop at the largest cheese factory in Chavignol, but it was closed. A lot of the wineries and cheese places close from roughly 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. We did not do a very good job of planning our day around this schedule.

We still wanted to buy some local cheese. A little later in the middle of nowhere, we stopped at a small farm that indicated that it was selling cheese and bought three different kinds of cheese from an older woman. Given that neither Sharon or I speak any France, this was a very interesting experience. Sharon initially thought that you would be able to taste the cheese first, but it was only for sale.

At this point, we set the GPS for the hotel and started west. Passing through one of the little towns on the way, Sharon and Jack saw the Tour de France on television in a little bar. We turned around and parked the car. In spite of the fact that the barman spoke English and we spoke no French, we successfully ordered something to eat, a beer and some wine. The guy was actually very patient with us which probably had something to do with the fact that the place was essentially empty and we were paying customers.

We rolled up to the hotel--Chateau de la Verrerie--about 3:00 p.m. This chateau was built in the 15th and 16th century. After checking in, we took a guided tour of the castle: part of the castle includes about 12 guest rooms, another section is where the current owners live and part of the castle is used for organized tours. The tour included the library, the dining room and a very cool chapel.

After the tour, we took a rowboat out on the lake and then hiked around the lake on a trail. Getting cleaned up, we went to the study to have a drink. When we checked in, they had put the cheese that Sharon had bought in a refrigerator in the game room. Sharon sent me to get the cheese, but it was gone. This kicked off a flurry of activity. It turned out that one of the maids had thrown the cheese away. At the this point, the owner of the chateau wandered into the study/bar. He sent someone to the adjoining restaurant to get some cheese to replace what had gotten thrown away.

Talking to the owner briefly was interesting. It made me realize that the chateau was essentially a giant 600 year old bed and breakfast.

In a random note, I read a book earlier this year about Nell Gywn who was a mistress to Charles II in the late 1600s. Charles II gave this chateau to Louise de Penancoët de Keroualle, a rival to Nell Gywn and another major character in the book.

Much to Sharon's disappointment the restaurant on the property was closed on Tuesday nights. The staff made a restaurant reservation for us in the nearby town of Aubigny-sur-nere. We had a nice dinner at the La Chaumiere and then wandered a little up and down the main street.

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