Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trip to France Day 3: Chartres-Versailles-Pauillac II

Grapes in PaulliacDay 3, Part 2. Because I'm long winded. HA!

After we left Versailles we had about a 6 hour drive down to Pauillac, which is on the Medoc peninsula above Bordeaux. This was a our longest stretch in the car and we were dreading finding out what the tolls would cost.

The tolls changed from here on. On the highways in and out of Paris we passed toll booths every several kilometers. On the other highways we would get a ticket after passing through a city, then pay the toll before we got to the next city. The parts of the highway right around the city were free.

Let’s see, we passed Orleans, Tours, Poiters, and Niort. We got off south of Saintes and north of Bordeaux. The only receipt I have is on at Allainville and off at Tours and it cost E 16.50.

Our goal was a little town called Blaye, which doesn’t rate a mention in Fodor’s. On the Michelin map the road ends and there is a B in the space over the water. But the passage is narrow, so the B filled the whole space. We figured it must be a ferry, and thought we’d seen that on some other map online. We figured a bridge would just be shown.

The problem was we were running out of cash since our credit cards were locked down.

Blaye seemed to be a cute little town. Classic stone buildings with slate roofs on narrow roads. There was a really neat looking fort on the riverbank, but we didn’t know anything about it and didn’t have time to explore. We were trying to figure out were the ferry was, since the signs were severely lacking. There was actually a map of the town at the fort, which I was able to use to figure out which direction the water—and ferry landing—was.

Then we saw an ATM. It was very exciting. I ran across the street and tried to get out E100. But the machine said my institution didn’t allow it and spit my card out. I tried for E60, only to be rejected again. I went back to Hubby. We said, “OMG we’re trapped in a foreign country, running low on cash and without credit cards. We’re going to have to start washing dishes!”

I'm On a Boat!
We found our way to the ferry and were very excited to see it was still there, because that meant it was still running. It would have taken about two hours to continue on the highway down to Bordeaux and back up again. An option we really wanted to avoid, especially since we didn’t know how much the tolls would cost.

Happily, the ferry was ready to load up and depart shortly after we arrived. We figured we'd get on because they probably wouldn't kick us out mid-stream. We could sort out payment on the other shore. Also happily, the fare was E19.50, which we had, although it just about cleaned us out.

Once we were on the ferry we relaxed a little. We knew we’d make it to our B&B and we’d be able to sort out the credit cards.

We were staying at the Lou Bercail, which is a B&B run by an American woman named Dany who has lived in France since the 70s. So about the only thing American about her now is her accent!

We found the place, which was exciting, and Hubby got out and knocked on the door. And he knocked again. And again. And we were like “aaaahh! Where are they?!” I took another look at the little map she had e-mailed us and realized the little X she had made was on the other side of the block. We found our way around to the back of the house to a metal gate.

Hubby just waltzed into the back yard and then Dany appeared because she had heard the gate opening. They were in the backyard (which was quite large), so hadn’t heard us knocking. She said when we didn’t show up by 6 pm, and didn't call, she figured we had flaked on her.

And I mean it was a big back yard. She has a swimming pool as well as some open green spaces. There are lavender bushes and a massive fig tree that looked as big as my house. It was quite a nice view from our second story room. Oh, and beyond her yard was a vineyard, so we had the complete picture.

Cashflow Restored

She showed us to our room. Then dialed the number for the credit card for me. I blasted right through the security questions and didn’t mess around with the normal customer service rep. (“I’m sorry for the inconvenience, ma’am, let me transfer you.” Yeah, you’ll be sorry, alright.)

When I got to the security person I told her what was going on. She said they flagged my account because there was a charge overseas at 4 am. I was like, “Yeah! That was me! I’m in France!” She unlocked my account. Then I was like, Listen, WTF, I called you people two weeks ago? And she said she can’t see the notes from the other department. Which sounded wicked stupid, if you ask me, but the account was unlocked and that was all that mattered.

Dany sent us to a place called La Salamandre for dinner. It Street in Paulliacwas down by the water. We’d been driving through town wondering were everyone was. Turns out they were all at the restaurants down by the water, too.

Seriously. When we did manage to get off the highway and into one of the little towns, they always seemed deserted. Ghost towns, everyone of them. With no people or cars in sight. It made us feel like we were in a Medal of Honor game. We wanted to start shooting Nazis. Of course, I probably would have ended up walking into a wall, or getting stuck in a corner. My avatar control skills aren't always the best.


It was a nice restaurant. We had a table on the terrace. There was a dock, then a parking area, then some seating, a sidewalk, and more seating against the front of the building, which is where we were. One couple had a black Lab passed out under their table. There was also a pair of scrawny black cats wandering around. Just like the cats in the French poster ads you can buy. Black cats with the one white flash at their throats.

We skipped appetizers. I was still full from the dinner the night before, so I just ordered a pizza margarita. In Connecticut, these pizzas have slices of tomato and mozzarella. In France, it was like a normal cheese pizza. But it had a really thin, crispy crust, and lots of cheese and a few black olives scattered over it. And it wasn’t cut, which blew my mind. It still tasted good.

Hubby must not have been thinking straight, because he ordered a duck dish. We did our best to devastate the duck population while we were in France. Take that, canard! He said it was good, but didn’t blow him away. He must have still been full too, because he ended up stealing slices of my pizza instead of focusing on his own meal. Which wasn't a problem because it's not like I'm going to eat an entire pizza by myself.

Poor Hubby tried to order a glass of wine, but they were out of each one he selected. He finally just asked for a glass of local red. It was kind of funny. For me, at least.

For dessert Hubby had a collection like mine from the previous night. There was a shot of coffee and a crème brulee and one or two other things I don’t remember.

Mine was a dollop of chocolate mousse sandwiched between two crispy lace cookies. It was all sitting in a puddle of crème anglese. Have I mentioned I think the world needs more crème anglese?

A big thunderstorm whipped through while we were eating. We could see the lightening approaching and then the rain came thundering down. People, and the two cats, ran for cover. But it didn’t last long. We were under an awning, so we didn’t get wet. Although the fringe on my Carnival Shawl got a little wet. Either it wasn't fully under the awning or it was on the ground without me realizing. No harm done, however, I just left it on the chair in our room to dry out.

Then we went back to the room and passed out.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Thank goodness you got your credit back!

    You passed right by my mother's home town of Poiters! Cool!!!