Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Tale of Three Cities

With deference to Charles Dickens

We have a rental car today after making reservations yesterday. We took the Metro to
Gare d’Lyons and picked it up at Hertz where a very nice lady served us. From the station we began the tale. It was the best of times and the worst of times.

To leave the City one should take the Periphique. This is the highway that circles Paris and let’s you get out. Uh huh. Anyone who has driven LA or NYC freeways knows that it’s an absolute necessity to have a pretty good idea of where you are going first. Diana, as usual, is driving. She has two navigators today; myself and Peggy in the backseat. We are looking for signs that point us to the A1 and the A16.

Getting out of town is a mixture of uncertainty, fear and hope. Peggy has nicknamed the Periphique the “Circle of Doom.” After a few lessons in compass points, we did get out of Paris and headed off to our first Village northwest of the City, LaRoche Guyon . From there we have the entire day to drive to the other two; Lyons-La-Foret and Gerberoy which are in fairly close proximity to each other.

As we drove we kept waiting on the expected sun and 70 degrees predicted by the weather channel on our computers. It never arrived.

We finally made it to LaRoche Guyon after several leg stretching stops and I must say the Village is well worth the visit. As you drive into the center of the village you are presented with what, in my mind, is typically French. Now understand I have no experience in what a typical French Village is but this is it.

La Roche Guyon is so quaint (and there is no other word for it) that, except for the modern cars including a pink Fiat, you would think you were in a Victor Hugo novel. It is quiet, picturesque and simple.

We found a Café (La Cancalaise) that serves Crepes and we all decided to try La Fleur de France.

Oh. My. God.

A banana sliced length wise inside a perfect crepe. This doused in shaved cocoa and chocolate. Topped off with rosettes of whipped cream. These are to die for.
The coffee was the best we have had so far in France.

I told the chef and waitress in my best broken French which is very broken that the crepes and coffee was the best in France and they seemed to understand that. The three of us headed to the huge centerpiece of LaRoche Guyon which is the castle. We passed a fruit and vegetable stand that had the most beautiful collection of local produce imaginable.

We were simply amazed not only by the structure but where and how it was built. It almost grows out of the pure white limestone. The homes also have built storage and garages directly out of the pure rock. (That makes them the first rock Jacques), Ha.

As we strolled through the main square, we made a detour to the back of one building where two men were renovating a home that is (we later found out) about 400 years old.

After quick introductions, the gentleman asked if we wanted to see his home. Up three flights of windy stairs, we arrived in an obviously gutted out room with a view of the square. Diana remarked about the tiles and he gave her one as a souvenir. She prizes this little piece of 17th Century France.

We hopped back in the car and headed off to Lyons de Foret. “Do we want the D-13 or the N-1?”

“Is the D123 alright?”

“Someone look for a sign.”

“Let’s pull over.”

“Let’s look at the map…again.”

And as the adventure continued, we happened upon a Chateau that Peggy has dibbed for her wedding. Another couple of “Oh my God’s.” In Paris, the trees are still mostly green with a few shades of yellows here and there. In the countryside the trees are exploding with fall color. Even with the dull overcast sky it is tres magnifique.

This area is obviously farm country and so many of the towns appear deserted. Deserted but tranquil and beautiful. We remarked that it’s as if their only worries here is if a cat strays into someone’s backyard.

It took most of the daylight to find de Foret. But, Diana being slightly obsessive determined we would get to Gerberoy and after a “few” “anyone see a sign?” we entered another quiet little town.

I should mention that the reason Diana chose these Villages is it seems a writer from the early 20th Century (Les plus beaux villages de France…the most beautiful villages in France) wrote about what he considered the “must see” villages of France and the 3 Diana chose were on his list with La Roche Guyon was his top pick.

The French government designated these little towns as particular areas to visit. The book, written by Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges la-Rouge, was written to protect what was close to his heart, the beautiful towns of France.

As the light died around 6 p.m. we had to head back to Paris.

“Do we want the A1 or A6?”

“I think we should get off here.”

We finally found the Parking Garage for Hertz…so we thought, but ended up in the Avis garage. Now there is no way to describe lost in these underground parking centers that are not marked well at all.

Diana asked an attendant for directions. He tried to explain (in French) how to do it and finally he said for us to wait. The man actually got in his car and led us out of the Avis garage into the Hertz garage. No one I know is the States would have done this but here we are being led to our parking return by a Parisian. What an incredible gesture!

We went back to Le Petit Pont for dinner (lamb chops pour la Femme and lamb tangine pour mois). We were absolutely worn out. Peggy remarked that we should have buns of steel by now. Mais oui!

We are soooo ready to crash for tomorrow.




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