Learning to pootle

Something I’ve always thought we’d do in France is suddenly drive through a town or village where a few tables and chairs are set up on the side of the road outside and where we could just pull in across the quiet country road, leaving the roof down on the car and stroll across for a coffee. Then we’d sit at one of the tables, sip our grand cafe cremes, then wait for the madame to finish her cigarette before paying and leaving. All very leisurely and all very typical…or so we thought.

This romantic ideal had never happened to us. For various reasons like the towns and villages we’ve driven through are either by-passed or no longer have any shops. Or there’s just nowhere to park, the cafe is shut and the madame is an old crone waving a dismembered head in the air grinning with toothless glee.

But then, as if out of a 1950’s romantic movie starring Cary Grant and Audry Hepburn, we turned a medieval corner, our top down, our hats a flutter in the breeze and there it was. The perfect little cafe and across the road, the perfect place to pull up. And we did all the things we’d always thought we would. It was glorious. It was the little village of Commarin.

The coffee view

The coffee view

And it couldn’t have been more needed. Dijon doesn’t do cafe culture of a Sunday morning. Well, to be fair, it might down in the centre of town but from the big square up, the coffee is but a promise and breakfast an oft remembered dream. We could have had breakfast at the hotel, I suppose, but we prefer the leisurely approach to eating when we’re on holiday. Sadly this doesn’t always work with set times for food delivery.

So, having eaten a pain au chocolate and half a baguette, Mirinda managed to drive Coco out of the horrendous parking garage just in time for us to hit every single red light out of Dijon. Still, it was a very pretty stop start journey to the freeway.

Last night I’d emailed Les Roches (our next accommodation) about check-in times. Tobias replied telling us it was 4pm. We left Dijon at just gone 12 and Les Roche was only an hour away. Tobias had recommended we go to a place called Chateauneauf-en-Auxois, a pretty hilltop medieval village – just the kind we like. We decided to visit it, especially given there was a chateau there as well.

What a gorgeous place! A stunning location with plenty of places to eat at and full of French…well except for our waitress who was, I think, from Kent.


There wasn’t a lot left of the chateau apart from walls and a few paintings painted directly on them but it was in an amazing location. It looks down across the Auxois Valley, the Burgundy Canal dominating the view like a bright, cool slice of man-made heaven. There’s also white dots sprinkled around the green fields which could be Charolais cattle or sheep (according to Mirinda).

The town was the perfect antidote to being early and a place we’d recommend to anyone wanting to experience a perfectly beautiful French medieval town. And the chateau isn’t bad either.

The sky really was that blue

The sky really was that blue

Eventually we left for Les Roches and, after driving by the house, backed up and pulled into the grounds of what, at first, appeared to be 1313 Mockingbird Lane…except the house was too bright. Apparently it was built by an eccentric doctor for his mistress.

Anyway, we settled in then settled down to wait for the arrival of Lisa, Jack, Anna, Max and Maggie. Which duly happened at about 6:30.

The poor things had driven down from Paris following a trip on Eurostar from London. Jack drove from the heart (almost) of Paris. Even for a Sunday, it was pretty awful. Still, he soon cheered up and we had a lovely dinner and catch up on the terrace.

Lisa ordered snails and two of the kids (and Jack) tried one. When asked how they tasted, Maggie said “Like mushrooms but slimy.” Anna claimed it was “Snailly.” Sam being the smart one regarded the eating of snails as disgusting and he refused to take part.

We sat after dinner, making plans for tomorrow. They might be doing those sort of awful energetic things that people with children indulge in. We will more than likely try another day of pootling around the countryside in Coco.

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1 Response to Learning to pootle

  1. hankyoyu says:

    Well that was a very romantic blog, lovely!. Your getting old Gary moaning about kids that is my age not yours. I loved all the history in the photos you cant beat Europe for history.
    Love mum xx

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