I can’t complain about the start of my trip, in fact I was thrilled. While checking in at the Air France counter an unfortunate computer error caused us to have to wait an extra fifteen minutes resulting in an upgrade to business class. Pas mal!
I had a lovely meal with plenty of champagne and immediately fell asleep only to be woken up by the smell of breakfast – short flight indeed!
Baggage collected, rental car procured (more on that later) we headed to our destination for the evening. Knowing we would be tired after an 11-hour flight and that driving all the way to Normandy might be a little too aggressive, my husband selected a hotel that was an hour away from the airport. Well that was the plan in any case.
I think this is a good time to point out a few things when traveling by rental car in France. First you need to be able to drive a stick, automatics are extremely rare. This wasn’t a problem for us, but wanted to note it, as I think there are less and less Americans who can drive sticks.
Secondly, have a GPS. Even if you rent a car with a GPS, bring your own as back-up. Borrow one from a friend or rent one, making sure it has European maps. But, have a GPS.
We rented a car with a GPS, but the language was set to German. The car came with a language disc that would support English and French, but the German disc was stuck in the CD player.
Always having a Plan B. We had our Garmin with us, which saved the day. Throughout the trip we used both referring to the rental car’s as “that German lady!”
The other thing to note is that nothing is an “hour away.” You would have to have absolutely perfect conditions and the road to yourself to make it within that time-frame. In this case we needed to go to the north of Paris which meant that from the airport we had to first drive towards Paris and sit in traffic before we could catch the highway we would need to go north. Factor in that is was rush hour and our one-hour trip turned into two.
But first we had to figure out the address. For some reason hotel addresses are secret. A lot of hotels will put the city they are in (or near!) and assume you can figure it out when you arrive or in many cases they say, “give us a call.” But if you have not brought a phone because you don’t want to pay overseas rates or roaming costs, then you have a little problem. Reason number two to have a GPS – nine times out of ten the hotel will be listed in the GPS. Garmin saved the day again!
It was all worth it when we arrived at our lodging for the night, Les jardins d’epicure, a lovely chateau in Bray-et-Lu (interestingly enough their website now has their address, hmm, did they pick up on my annoyed vibe?).
Despite being tired we had not had a real meal the entire day so we decided to take dinner in the hotel’s restaurant prior to heading to bed. It would keep us up a couple of more hours, which would help with jetlag.
The meal was absolutely divine. Amuse-bouches that consisted of mini croque-mousiers, mini-cheese puffs and an olive tapenade with parmesan (I think) sticks.
This followed by a cepes mushroom soup with a cream foam with a slice of procuitto on top – it tasted like heaven.
Next was my starter, a scallop and citron salad. The scallops were sliced so thin it was like carpaccio. The citron came from an exotic fruit called Kawabaga. My husband had escargot with ravioli of foir gras. We shared bites and his was excellent as well.
Our main courses were good, but nothing spectacular, the exception being the accompaniment that came with my fish…lentils with coquillage – small clams and petit gris (a sea snail) – I would have never in a million years but those two together, but it was utterly amazing and I am going to get my husband to try that at home the next time he makes lentils.
We skipped dessert and took cheese instead. But the meal still ended with sweetness. We were provided a plate of delices to cap our evening: whipped cream with fresh fruit, pate de fruit and a crazy glass with strawberry cream with pop rocks! I thought that was too weird, but apparently my husband did not, as he finished mine for me!
Fully satiated and tired to boot, we headed back to our room and quickly fell asleep. When we woke the next morning we finished our stay with a wonderful breakfast and headed out to start a vacation in Normandy.