Friday, June 19, 2015

No Wonder I Smile

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: April 18, 2015

Simply incredible! I enjoyed every minute of that wonderful day. We began with a trip to the produce farm to see just what might be available. As it was early in the growing season, we were expecting radishes, strawberries, and perhaps some early peas. When we arrived, we discovered that the only vegetables available for picking were the little red radishes. We picked quite a few of them and then purchased a few other items in the farm store, among them a bottle of delicious pear juice. We then drove over to Le Clerc to complete the weekly grocery shopping. After the groceries were unpacked and put away, the three of us set out for a day of adventure.

 We enjoyed picking these tiny radishes.

The farm has a nice selection of local produce.

Darcy and Mathieu were truly pampering me and were willing to do whatever I suggested. I was overwhelmed by their generosity. As we drove toward Bitry to visit Mathieu's parents, we made a stop in Gien. It's one of my favorite places along the Loire. We walked about in that lovely town and visited one of my favorite shops, Leonides, the Belgian chocolatier. I purchased some tasty pates des fruits, and we also enjoyed some of their fabulous ice cream. The crunchy hazelnut flavor I chose was excellent!

Our next stop was Sancerre, which sits high on a hill, overlooking a lovely valley planted with crops and many vineyards. The wide, blue Loire could be seen in the distance. The town itself is very hilly, with beautiful architecture and winding cobblestone streets which twist and turn through the village. After walking around for a bit, we found a table at a cafe on a hotel terrace overlooking the valley. We ordered some of the local white wine, which was delicious, and we also enjoyed a snack of sausage, bread, and tapenade. It was so wonderful being in this beautiful place with two of my loved ones. As usual when I visit France, I couldn't seem to stop smiling. Before leaving Sancerre, we popped into a wine shop to sample a few vintages before purchasing some to take home.

Enjoying a glass of wine in Sancerre, France.

 Darcy and Mathieu in Sancerre.

A beautiful view in Burgundy, France.

Soon, we continued on down the road and passed through a town where Mathieu had attended high school. I believe it was called St. Cyr en Loire. As we drove out of the village toward Burgundy, the scenery became even more beautiful. Gently rolling hills were softened even further by lush green fields and the large cultivated patches of colza, which has brilliant yellow flowers. It is a popular crop, grown for the oily seeds. Soon, Mathieu pulled the car over next to a crumbling ruin that he and Darcy had wanted to show me. I wish I could remember the details of when it was built and by whom, but I know it was ancient and yet lovely. The old tower is now in the process of being shored up and possibly restored. After a peaceful interlude spent exploring, we continued our little journey.

 An ancient ruin in Burgundy, France.

If walls could talk!

That was the first time I had been to Bitry while it was still fully light. We had arrived around 6:00 and were met boisterously by the two happily barking, wriggling Boxers, Roxy and Rouky. Muriel and Thierry greeted us warmly and welcomed us inside, where I knew we would soon be indulging in a delicious home-cooked meal. We began with glasses of Kir and lots of tasty accompaniments: pistachios, crackers, tiny cubes of cheese, sausage, and even sushi. We talked and laughed for a long time. Since I had never seen Thierry's greenhouse, a few of us went outside for a tour. There were approximately 2,000 plants, most of which were cactus, which Thierry hybridizes. He is also an excellent photographer and I truly enjoy looking at the beautiful photos of his cactus flowers. My mother, Ruby, enjoys them also and when I mentioned this to Thierry he said that he would create a hybrid in her name. I was very touched by that. At one point, I asked Thierry if he ever ate any of the cactus fruit. He got such a horrified look on his face and I just knew he was thinking, "My babies!". But be did manage to find a couple that were barely ripe and we sampled them when we returned to the house.

One of Theirry's beautiful blooms.

Our meal continued with a tasty salad of mache, which I believe is also known as lamb's lettuce, that was tossed with crisply fried lardons and a lemony dressing. Next came more wine and the main course. It was tender roasted pork and new potatoes in a savory sauce that was perfect for sopping up with hunks of crusty baguette. Then, more wine, and the cheese tray! There were five different kinds of cheese: a goat cheese, a mild blue cheese, Camembert, a mild, firm cheese flavored with toasted cumin seeds, and a white cheese which had a stripe of ash going through it. I wish I could remember the names of all of them. I sampled them all except for the goat cheese, as I was already familiar with that one. Soon, a beautiful apple tart was brought to the table and we were served glasses of Vouvray to go along with it. We ended that divine meal with tiny cups of espresso. Oh, my, what a memorable meal that was. We had lingered over it for hours, and had to leave for home shortly afterward. What a fantastic day! 

 Muriel, Theirry, and Roxy, our genial hosts.

 Fantastic roast pork and potatoes.

Last, but not least, a delightful apple tart.

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