Whew! Getting there wasn't easy, but we finally arrived in Orléans Friday afternoon. Our flight out of Wichita was repeatedly delayed (four hours!), which caused us to miss our connection in Chicago. We were put onto a flight to London, and because we sat on the tarmac for an hour, we nearly missed our connection at Heathrow. We had to make a mad dash to the British Airways terminal, where we boarded a flight at the last minute and then, at last - we were in Paris! Of course, we still had the long taxi ride to the train station, and then the hour-long train ride to Orléans. After almost 24 hours of travel, Craig and I were very glad to see Darcy and Mathieu! After an early dinner at an Indian restaurant, we were welcomed to the little apartment we had rented just across the Loire in Orléans.
It had been two years since our last visit. Things were wonderfully familiar to us. It felt as if we were coming home. Speaking of home - the cozy apartment we rented through HomeAway was perfect! It had everything we could possibly need. The living/kitchen area had lots of storage and the tiny kitchen was well equipped. There was a large bathroom with a fantastic shower. The roomy bedroom contained a dresser, an armoire, and a desk, in addition to the very comfortable bed. Our hosts, Pascal and Nathalie, were warm and friendly, and provided us with instructions on how to operate the washer and dryer (how convenient!) and the other appliances. In the kitchen, we found coffee, sugar, tea, hot chocolate, and some candy. Darcy had brought us a carton of cream and a couple of her homemade muffins, so we were all set for the morning.
We met up with Darcy and Mathieu first thing in the morning and had breakfast at Paul, near the market where we needed to do a bit of shopping. By the time we had finished our shopping and put our purchases away in our temporary home, it was midday. We walked around a bit, until we spotted a brasserie, and there we had lunch. The croque monsieur I ordered was very good (it's a French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and Mathieu seemed to enjoy his croque madame, which was like my sandwich, but with the addition of an egg over the top. Craig ate a delicious ham and cheese omelet with fries, and Darcy ordered the plat du jour, which turned out to be golden-brown roast chicken, fries, and a salad.
After lunch, we caught a bus into Olivet, where we located the Promenade des Moulins, which is a trail along the Loiret (a river which feeds into the Loire) that still has many old watermills alongside. Most of them seemed to be inhabited and looked as if they were well cared for. The riverbanks are thick with trees. There are many old, beautiful homes along the river, though they are mostly hidden in the foliage. Many of the homes had elaborate boathouses as well. At one point along the trail, we came upon a breathtakingly beautiful meadow. The sloping ground was thickly carpeted with grass and tiny wildflowers. It resembled a fairyland.
The weather had turned cool and overcast, and as we continued our walk, a slight breeze sprung up. We turned a corner and were delighted to discover a rustic little building housing a snack bar offering coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and pastries. There were bright, lime green canvas chairs scattered about, but we chose to sit at a log-hewn table with stumps for seating. We rested our feet while we enjoyed the warmth of the hot drinks. A pretty little wooden bridge spanned the river before us, and alongside was another beautiful, old stone mill. We continued our explorations, and saw a large flock of swans floating serenely on the river. Though we had not walked the entire length of the Promenade, we had to call it quits soon after stopping for refreshments, for we were to meet with Mathieu's parents that evening.
When we all returned to Darcy and Mathieu's apartment, Muriel and Thierry treated us to a delicious strawberry tart and a glass of Vouvray, which is a delightful wine from the Loire valley. It was a delectable ending to a lovely day. Darcy and Mathieu drove us to the tram and we found our way home easily. I could get used to this!