(Including today, I have 11 full days without guests between today and flying home. Only 11. And now this day is almost over so I guess it’s ten. My point being that the blog entries could become short-and-sweet or absent all together. And since I’m preparing for guests to arrive tomorrow morning, today’s blog will be a short-and-sweet version. You all would rather see pictures than hear from me anyway, right?)
Last Thursday I had the kids out the door by 7:45, on our way to Gare de L’Est to meet up with the rest of the American Cathedral youth for a retreat in Germany. I’m hoping to get them to write their own blog entry on that experience but I will tell you they had a great time from Thursday through Sunday with their Paris friends and new friends from Germany. Julian hung out with someone who is living in Berlin but from Green Bay. Yep…Wisconsin!
This retreat gave Tom and I a few days to play ourselves so after much deliberation we decided to rent a car and head to Bordeaux. We didn’t leave until early Friday morning so it also gave us the rest of Thursday to enjoy Paris together. We have a favorite Italian restaurant so on Thursday evening we enjoyed a walk to the Saint Germain des Pres area for dinner and then home again. We even ordered our own desserts versus sharing (a rare treat!). It’s so strange how far north we are and how late the light remains. And we still have five weeks of longer days ahead!
We left very early Friday morning and we wanted to take the time to enjoy the drive through the Loire Valley. We stopped to see several chateaus and then took pictures of many others as we passed them along the way (as well as the beautiful little villages we meandered through).
We were in Saint Emilion, the heart of the Bordeaux region, buy mid-afternoon, sun high in the sky. This was to be kind of our home base for the next couple of days. It’s a village surrounded by, and known for, it’s 850 different vineyards and dates back to the 2nd century. It’s called Saint Emilion for the monk, Emilion, who came to the area and dug a hermitage in the rock below what is now the village. We toured the hermitage as well as the chapel he also dug out of the rock and the, yes, full-size church that is completely below ground. Amazing. We checked out the key from the Office of Tourism to climb to the top of the church steeple, we lunched outside, wandered the very steep cobble-stone streets, and our inn hosts scheduled a tour for us at their favorite, family winery where we were invited into their home and then the caves of their wine and personal reserves from generations of wine-growers in their family.
We also spent a quick morning in the city of Bordeaux; not much time for exploring but what we saw gave us a glimpse of a very young and vibrant town. Young as in university town.
But one of the things we loved the most was our reminder of why we love inns and bed-and-breakfasts: the hosts. Maureen and Jon were so gracious to us. It was everything you would hope and expect from the experience. We dined with them on Friday night as well as a couple from Australia, both school teachers on their 10-week sabbatical (yes, you heard that right!), and two couples from Quebec. It was a great evening. We took in a nice walk before dinner and were up the next morning to get in a little run through the vineyards before they served breakfast. They are English, so we also had tea every afternoon (as well as wine and coffee and biscuits). On Saturday night, after our trip to Bordeaux and our tours in Saint Emilion, Maureen had made reservations for us at their favorite restaurant. Tom and I have a list of favorite restaurants from over the years and some of the characteristics they have in common include being located in remote locations (really remote) and typically in repurposed homes. This restaurant rose to the occasion. 25 minutes in the middle of the countryside where you would never find it. A small farmhouse tucked away from the road. And the owner serving every single table herself. Surprise apertifs you didn’t know you were going to get and a dessert that was so good it had to be eaten even when you thought you were full two courses earlier. So, so good. We love a good dining “experience” and that’s exactly what it was. Yeah, us!
The next morning Maureen and Jon were kind enough to serve our breakfast a bit early as we knew we had a long drive on traffic-filled roads due to everyone returning to Paris from the two-week holiday. But we made it home in time for Tom to return the rental car and me to get the kids at the train station, all greeting me with Mother’s Day gifts they purchased for me in Germany. We ended our night in a low key, but perfect, way: taco salads and the finale of The Amazing Race. We did comment that it felt like we had been on a little Amazing Race of our own recently: “2 continents, three countries and who knows how many miles…Engles, you are the winners of the Amazing Race! Just no million dollars. 🙂
I’ll let the kids blog about their own adventure in Germany. But we’re back in the swing of things now and ready for our first of many guests to arrive in about 10 hours. Better get to bed.