Another fine sailing saw us arrive in St Malo early Saturday morning.
Getting our stuff together we set off for the self service for my essential coffee. While sitting charging my phone using my egg, we were joined by a curious chap who goes by the name of Maurice J Kirk. I don’t mean he was ‘curious’ per se, rather he was curious about my egg, wondering what it was doing.
This was enough of an introduction for him to then tell us that he was a pilot who had flown from London to Sydney in a race about 13 years ago. He told us about how much he loved Sydney and…well just about everywhere in Australia.
When he left us, he handed us his card which claims he is a ‘Bon Vivant, Chronic Litigant and Aviateur.’ I’ve never met an actual Bon Vivant before so this was wonderfully unexpected. This was not the only unexpected thing to happen today.
Given we’ve been making this trip almost every year since 2003, it came as a big surprise to find that Europcar are no longer at the station where they have always been. They have relocated to across the road. So, not a problem, especially given our luggage is on wheels. The really weird thing is that they appear to have been evicted from the station carpark where their cars are usually picked up from and delivered to.
The chap who handed us the key and documentation, also took great pains to hand us a map showing us where the car could be found. He even highlighted the route then took me outside to show me where the first roundabout was. Mystified, we set off.
It was about a five minute walk and there the car was, parked on the side of the road. Not that it was the expected Fiat 500. Still, we loaded it up and set off, after Mirinda had assured herself she knew how to turn on the wipers and sound the horn and I’d worked out how to use the onboard SatNav.
Incidentally, the SatNav (who we’ve christened Doreen) has an Australia accent and is really rather good. Naturally we have Linda with us and, to be fair, she was a lot better at getting us to our first accommodation at Les Chat Courand in Villandry. Not that we reached Villandry without a bit of an unexpected adventure.
We were happily pootling along when I realised the road to Angers was on diversion and we were going the wrong way. It called for a quick reversal, sending both SatNav ladies into a spin of recalculations as we followed the deviation signs to Angers. The lovely outcome of this diversion was the discovery of Chateaubriant, a lovely town which we’d otherwise never have stopped in for a coffee and delicious pastry.
Obviously, there’s a chateau in Chateaubriant…
Chateaubriant also features a child who has a love of rattling toilet door handles when someone is occupying the facilities, a fact that Mirinda was not best pleased to discover as we left the bar where we’d had our coffee. It was rather disconcerting but not a major problem. Of course, it did mean I had to position myself outside the door and guard it from any handle twiddling.
Leaving Chateaubriant we eventually and successfully completed the 500 mile diversion to rejoin our original route and make both Linda and Doreen happy.
Our next stop was Villandry where the Chambres d’Hote into which we’d booked is advertised as being ‘just across the road’ from the Chateau. Strictly speaking this is sort of true however there is a river in between and the bridge is about 10 miles away…in both directions. Not that it mattered. The house and garden are both stunning and the bed very welcome for a post-drive nap. Furthermore, it’s only a short drive into the town on the other bank.
On the recommendation of our host, Eric, we went to dinner at l’Etape Gourmande up the hill in Villandry. Well, what an amazing place to eat. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the wine was, as the sommelier said “A delight!”
Just for the record we had slow cooked egg in a sort of creamy soup with truffle croutons (me) and three types of fois gras (Mirinda) for entree, crispy duck on sweet potato mash with cubes of various root vegetables (me) and beef faggot in broth (Mirinda) and, finally, local cheese with chutney for dessert. It was fabulous and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
In fact, we liked it so much we made a booking for our return visit on Friday.