We reluctantly left the Hotel de France to travel down to Chateaugay, just before Clarmont-Ferrand, former home of the French Grand Prix. Allan was excited and hopeful. Maybe we would be able to see and ride this track. It was not to be. And driving into the hotel parking lot, right next to the freeway solidified another realization. Where we had come to think of the Hotel de France as one of our best finds, this next hotel might be our worst. Of course, after being at Normandy, one should not complain, should one?
I was prepared to hunker down and try and upload some pictures. Allan spotted a castle and village on the hill and was eager to explore. The village set in the hill had a different feeling than the valley villages. There were the same twists and narrow spaces between buildings, but now you also had to concern yourself about not driving down a staircase or off a cliff.
The girl at the castle let us into the connecting church. It was built in the 14th century with an addition built in the 17th century. It seemed an ironic juxtaposition of the piousness of the church above and the brutality of the dungeons below.
When we went into the castle itself, we found to our surprise, an exhibition of artwork. We’ll talk more about that in another blog.
The castle also housed a little wine shop and restaurant. It was very difficult to find anywhere to eat on a Sunday night but the French woman who ran the wine shop opened the restaurant at 8 if there were guests who reserved in advance. When we arrived, we would be the 2nd and last table to be served. It was quiet and very romantic in this room inside the castle. And I had my next surprise about French food. It’s not all about small and delicate food. Since I couldn’t interpret all the French on the menu, I thought I would surprise myself with the 3 course meal. Our dinner was hearty, had lots of meat (ham in the first course and duck in the second) and a local potato gratin recipe. A variety of desserts completed the meal. (Make sure to eat all 3 desserts on your plate!) We tried to give her a tip but she graciously and insistently would not accept it. When we were finished, she closed up shop behind us and led us out. The day that I was going to write off ended at the top of a mountain with the light of the reddest moon shining on us.