Monday, November 7, 2016

At the Zoo

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, May 27 2016

For quite some time, Darcy had been eager to show us the ZooParc de Beauval. It's a world class zoo located about an hour and a half south of Orleans. We had heard many good things about the zoo and were looking forward to our visit.

The drive south was pleasant and uneventful. When we arrived at the zoo, the parking lot was beginning to fill up. People were streaming into the gates of the zoo; little ones excitedly jumping up and down in a frenzy to visit their favorite animals. 

The Beauval Zoo is built atop hilly terrain and is beautifully landscaped. It was definitely one of the prettiest zoos I have ever had the pleasure to visit. We wound up and around to the crest of a small hill to join a line for entry into the bird show. Darcy especially wanted us to view this exciting exhibition. She and Mathieu had seen the show several times and knew exactly where to sit for the best view. 

Waiting for the bird show to begin
 at the Beauval Zoo in France.

Bald eagles swoop down to feed from the pond.
We had no trouble finding our seats and enjoyed a beautiful view over the crowd to the small woods beyond. Darcy had told me that many of the birds would come flying straight at us out of the trees. That show simply took my breath away! It was so incredible that it alone was worth the price of admission to the zoo. The beautiful, ethereal music was a perfect background for the amazing antics of the birds. 

Coming in for a landing!

Many of the birds perched just behind us.
There were many varieties of feathered flyers swooping, banking, and performing right in front of us. Birds of all kinds, from vultures, to eagles, owls to parrots. All had something to contribute to the spectacle before us. Many of them landed on perches just behind our seats. The narrative was all in French, so we weren't really able to follow it, but I didn't feel as if Craig and I were missing much. 

After the show, we began to tour the grounds, viewing the animals that lived in these lovely surroundings. Naturally, the pandas were one of my favorite sights. It was the first time I had ever seen a panda in real life. The male was quite a ham. He seemed to be posing for pictures and enjoying all of the attention he received. 

The panda was hamming it up  after a snack of bamboo.
We had lunch at a restaurant in the center of the zoo, which served food cafeteria-style. It was reasonably priced and very tasty. We dined outside in the shade and had a view of the primates from where we sat. I read that the upper floor of the restaurant overlooked the sea lion exhibit.

The animal enclosures are nicely landscaped. 

Nap time for Kangaroos!

These two seemed to get along quite well
 by completely ignoring each other.
There were many sights to see, and as the day grew warm we stopped at a little stand and ordered ice cream. When it was time to leave, we were all pretty tired. The drive home refreshed us, however, and we enjoyed an evening with Arno, who had insisted that we stop by for supper. It was our last night in Orleans and Arno had made beef Bourguignon. It was delicious! It was hard to say goodbye to our friend as we headed out the door, knowing it would probably be at least a year before we returned.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Little Celebration

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Thursday, May 26 2016

After our morning coffee and pastries, Darcy headed off to work. Craig, Mathieu, and I had decided to do some shopping to find a gift to celebrate Darcy's second Master's degree. I convinced the men that she would really appreciate some kitchen cabinets to add to what little she had. That would give her additional storage and prep space, which was desperately needed in her tiny kitchen. 

I just had to get a photo
of the variety of breads at our nearby bakery.
Mathieu drove us to a large hardware store, something I would compare to a home center back home. With measurements in hand, we looked over several different styles of cabinetry and eventually decided on a nice white set with pewter grey countertop and handles. It had drawers and cupboards, and we even added a pull-out spice rack. The guys drove me back to the apartment and then set out again to stuff the unassembled cabinets into the back of the car and bring them home. Just as they were lugging the heavy boxes up the stairs, Darcy returned home unexpectedly and we were busted! She was at first curious and then delighted when she found out what we had done.

We broke for lunch before tackling the assembly of the new cabinets. At a little cafe on Rue Jeanne D'arc, sitting in the open air, we enjoyed delicious crocque monsieur sandwiches and crisp fries along with a lovely view of the cathedral. Then, back we went to assemble the cabinets, while Darcy returned to the university. It was a much more lengthy and difficult task than we had anticipated, but we managed to put together everything except the spice rack before Darcy returned home again. 

Lunch at a sidewalk cafe always tastes better!
Darcy was very pleased with the gift we had chosen. We were in a celebratory mood, and it was made more festive with the addition of fresh, hot gougeres and kir royale. Mathieu had whipped up the savory gougeres as Craig and I finished the assembly of the cabinetry. By the time we had finished the wonderful apero, we were ready for the short drive to La Ferté de St Aubin.

Apero to toast Darcy's accomplishment!
We had originally planned to visit the Chateau de la Ferte St Aubin, also known as the castle of toys, and then have dinner at La Sauvagine. However, the cabinet assembly had taken a while, and we were too late to be admitted to the Chateau. Instead, we wandered the streets of the village and popped into a few of the shops there. 

Chateau de la Ferte St Aubin, a castle of games and toys.

The unassuming exterior of La Sauvagine. 
Dinner at La Sauvagine was everything we had hoped it would be. The menu is limited, but the food is delicious. We were seated at a table near the window, where we began our meal with ewe's milk cheese spread on slices of fresh baguette. I had chosen a rabbit terrine as my appetizer. It was served with more crusty bread, a dark red onion jam, and crunchy pickles. My main course was a dish of tender pork cheeks in a mushroom cream sauce, accompanied by thick-cut fries, pureed carrots, and tiny green beans. It was wonderful! I passed on the cheese tray and enjoyed a dessert of pear cake with caramel sauce and a scoop of caramel ice cream. We were all very happy with the delightful restaurant and went home feeling quite satisfied. 

I could have made a meal from just the appetizer!

A delightful main course at la Sauvagine.