After R finished his program, we headed South for the "real vacation" portion of our trip. We took a train to Bordeaux and headed straight to Europcar to pick up our means of transportation for the next 8 days.
First order of business: figure out how to use a round-about. I didn't know the name for "roundabout" in French, so when I started to describe what it was and asked how to use it, the man at the rental place opened up the trunk to show me the tire. I guess saying "how do we drive with the circle in the road?" (in French) could just as feasibly be a tire as a roundabout. For future reference: people on the left take priority.
Next order of business: how do we get the car out of park? I wonder how many daft foreigners this guy has to deal with on a daily basis. After a bit of practice (and releasing the emergency break), we were ready to go.
First stop: Puisseguin
The directions we had were: "Libourne, Pomerol, Montagne, Puisseguin. I wasn't sure what that meant. In Canada, pretty much everywhere you want to go is directly off of the highway. So, I figured that was the list of cities that I would see as we went along the highway. After going about 20 minutes past Libourne on the highway and realizing that our destination was getting further and further away on the map, I figured that my first theory was incorrect.
We headed back to Libourne. After this initial mis-step, I discovered that getting around France is pretty easy, if you see the sign indicating where to turn. The roads are about 3/4 the width of what we're used to in North America.
Pretty much as soon as you get off of the main highway into Libourne, you are right in the middle of wine country. Every where you look are vinyards and views like this:
We eventually made it to Puisseguin and searched for our B&B, a house that was 50m in front of the church with a red door. After circling the town (which is probably no more than a couple hundred of people), a man sitting in by the church started to eye us and walk toward the car. We soon figured out that he was waiting for us. We were a couple of hours late (due to previous directional issues...I'll just call it that) -- I hope he wasn't waiting for two hours by the church. When I asked him how long he was waiting, he said: "It's a beautiful day, it's no problem", which is probably code for "all afternoon".
We brought our stuff into our room for the next three nights.
It was exactly what I had been looking for. A nice French country-style B&B, with a bouquet of lavender sitting on my pillow.
BTW - why don't we grow more lavender in Canada? The only time I've really seen lavender in Canada was while visiting this farm during our trip to Salt Spring Island, last summer.
We spent some time in their beautiful backyard, chatting and drinking red wine. R knew I was in heaven.
Mr. Lesueurs (sort of pronounced: Leswere) laughed at my accent, saying that I was using French-Canadian pronunciations for several of my words. I've had to think a bit more about word choice. For example, the polite form of addressing someone (i.e., "you", in English): "vous" is the norm in France whereas "tu" is used much more freely in Quebec. French in France seems to use more English words like "parking, hotdog, ticket, mail (or e-mail), etc" whereas these words would be "stationnement, chien chaud, billet and courriel" to a French-Canadian.
After a short break, we headed out for dinner in nearby town, Montagne. The Lesueurs recommended Les Marronniers. Like all restaurants in France, you can order from the menu (or what is referred to as table d'hôte in Quebec; appetizer, main, dessert) or à la carte (single dish from the menu). This was a bit of an area of confusion because table d'hôte, in France, seems to refer to a meal
that you can have prepared for you at your chambre d'hote (B&B).
Being that this is a wine region, the wine choices are not from different parts of a country or different countries, they're from different communities, all within about 30 minutes of the restaurant. We chose to go with a "local" wine (one from that very community).
For an appetizer, I got a pork terrine. Don't worry, I didn't eat the whole terrine - it came to me like this:
R had a salad with duck, prepared a couple of ways (maybe confit and foie gras) on top. Finding food that isn't comprised of some portion of a duck is a challenge in this area.
For the main, I had beef with fries:
R had duck confit with tagliatelle noodles:
I had a chocolate dessert:
R had, I believe, a nougat ice cream with a berry sauce:
Overall, the meal was good. There were some parts of the meal that I wasn't crazy about (the fries were quite oily and the vegetables were mushy -- I tend to prefer more crunch in my cooked veggies), but I was happy with the meal. The dessert itself shows a good effort. This is something I find of the food in France. Even if you get a meal that isn't great tasting, it is presented with effort. Nothing is just slapped on to a plate. It makes picture taking much easier.
So, I've probably written your ear off by this point. I still have several more posts to come. For now, I need to rest up for the Saturday market in Sarlat.