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On the Road Again - France First

April 9-14
Edited and done May 19

Dear Friends and Families,

Beaune (April 9 and 10)
d130408_02_TrackDown.jpgThe six-hour drive over was uneventful, but "stressy", due to intermittent heavy rain, not promising for tourism. And then there is the difficulty in traffic as we change countries.  Germany is fast, but orderly.  France is less fast and considerably less orderly.  Really, we need to explain that lines in the road are more than just suggestions.

d130408_02_Hotel.jpg Our hotel, La Villa Fleuire, is a repeat from a year ago and it was comfortable going somewhere nice and familiar, although the weather last time was much warmer.  After a damp 15 minute walk into town, we enjoyed a light meal of salad, wine, and cheese, all very French and tasty.  I'm sure the walk over and back were not enough to compensate for the calories, but that's what one goes to France for.

d130410_00_toChateau.jpgd130410_10_fields.jpg We had a whole day available on Wednesday, but we'd seem enough wine memorabilia on previous trips so we went north of town a bit. On a bright sunny day, we might have just continued a top-down drive through the miles and miles of vineyards, but it was definitely not top-down weather.  Instead we took in the eccentric attractions at Chateau de Savigny.

Part of the attraction at Savigny is normal (French) palace attractions; vineyards, massive stone buildings, a moat, and decorated rooms with fireplaces.
But beyond the expected were the unexpected.  Collections of various sorts that left us asking: "Why?".  We never learned an answer. Let me show you.
Abarth-Fiat race cars.  The signs said the largest such collection in the world.  I'm sure of it, but why?
Vineyard tractors, called "straddle tractors" since the machinery rides above the vines, straddling the rows.  Again, probably a world record collection (or only collection).  Why?
Motorcycles - and a few motor-less cycles.  Dozens.  Scores. Hundreds.  In various stages of restoration. Crammed in two or three buildings.  Why?
Model airplanes and airplane paraphernalia.  Display case after display case, filling several rooms in the towered palace.  I suppose it is one way to decorate large, drafty rooms, but you know the question.
A modest collection of fire trucks, most in quite good condition.  Here, we have seen better and bigger, although we still asked "w--?"
Finally, the most incongruous, fighter aircraft, nearly 80 of them according to the sign.  I have no idea how they were brought to this Burgundy wine chateau, much less "why".  Truly an eccentric collection.
There were two of these "things", but I have no idea what sort of aircraft they were.  No wings!

Since it was still gray and drizzly, we headed back to town for lunch and had a very nice meal at a restaurant called Le Grand Bleu.  Thier specialty is fish, but we opted for a regional specialty of ham-tourine, beef burgundy, and dessert.  Our best meal so far.

After lunch, we visited the "Dalienium", a small, private gallery of varied Salvador Dali works.  Maybe any collection of Dali would be "varied".  The man was an artistic genius, but had to be borderline insane.  We liked it.  (The gallery even allowed us to take pictures, so we can share some of the variety.)
And, what European town visit would be complete without a church?  Beaune's Notre Dame, while not as grand a that in Paris I suppose, seemed in the proper scale for the small city, with an exceptional display of tapestries.
All in all, another nice visit to Beaune.  I think we'll pass this way again.

Saint Germain des Pres (Dordogne) (April 11-14)

d130412_02_Tracks.jpgOn Thursday we headed south and west to Melissa's train station, another repeat stop from last July.  The six-hour drive was unpleasant because of the cold rain and smallish highways, although traffic was not as bad as it could have been.  Melissa had a warm fire and good dinner waiting for us when we arrived.  Appreciated.

d130412_12_local.jpg Friday offered more rain, so we limited our activities to nearby driving, eating, talking, and one game of Scrabble. (Marianne won.)  Lunch was at The Rustic in Exideuil, a very good pre-fixe (12.50 euros), three-course meal typical of  "ticket" lunches in France. Employers provide employees with tickets for lunch via this system and the meal is always a good deal for tourists as well.  In the evening, we went to the Ecole Superieure Internationale de Savignac, a hotel and restaurant management school that features student-prepared dinners as part of the course-work.  Another nice experience.

d130413_00_track.jpgSaturday weather did indeed improve.  On Saturday, we visited two outdoor markets to enjoy the sun.  The first was in Thiviers, where we bought cheese, fruit and flowers and generally enjoyed a walk around the small town.  After that, Melissa drove us down to Intriguers, the big city for the neighborhood.  We managed to stretch market time just enough for Marianne and Melissa to enjoy a dozen oysters fresh off the truck. I was happy with a sandwich and beer.

In the evening, we joined a few of Melissa's Saint Germain des Pres friends to celebrate a birthday.  It was fun to hear stories of a few more of the UK ex-pats who have settled here, trading cramped England for the open spaces and sun of Dordogne.  Then it was back to the Saint Germain des Pres train station, aka "Melissa's House".

Sunday morning dawned with a clear bright sky.  For the first time in a weeks, we looked forward to our outside excursions!  Our first stop was an antique sale organized by the local Rotary.  It was held in a wonderful chateau (name??) and the highlights included walking around the castle grounds and sipping coffee on the golf clubhouse terrace.

After that, we visited Melissa's friend Cecilia at her house, a wonderful old manor named St. Robert.  Cecelia, better known as "CC",  is slowly working her way through the renovation of the rooms, no small task and one with which we sympathize.

On the way home, we stopped for a couple of pictures of Dussac, a tiny village with a picture-perfect square, with church, city hall, and parish hall. I also noted the memorial to the war dead: one man from the Algerian war in the 60's, five men dead in World War II, and 44 dead in the War to End All Wars.  It is hard to imagine how a village so small could lose so many in a single war.

d130414_00_allTracks.jpgWe drove back on yet another set of side roads, completing a wonderful circular drive for the day (orange path in picture.)  I was struck with how profuse dandelions can be everywhere after just a day of sun.  Wonderful decoration.  Later, Marianne will help Melissa fix Sunday dinner and we all look forward to eating with the sun streaming in.


Tomorrow, we head for Spain and we have faith that the weather will remain wonderful.  Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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