Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cucuron, Dijon and Paris (June 2009)

We were nearing our last couple of days in Lourmarin when we ventured out to explore some of the local villages near us, including Cucuron. We'd thought to have lunch in Amboise, a charming little village very near to Lourmarin, however the brasseries were already fast into their lunch hour when we arrived and no longer serving, even the patisserie and boulanger were closed. We decided to drive to Cucuron where our friend told us they have some good local restaurants and food artisans.

We found a corner cafe with a nice arbor offering us some cool shade and while they'd already served the busy lunch hour, they were willing to stay open and allow us to enjoy lunch on their terrace. They were especially nice to us and our young waitress even tried to speak English. I managed to relay our desired selections in French and between the two of us, we worked it out.

Doug ordered a salad that left me wishing I'd done the same. It consisted of fresh mixed greens, sweet firm tomato, fresh grilled figs, toast points with fresh goat cheese generously smeared on top and some fresh hard cheeses and dried smoked saucisson as well as a half of a cantaloupe. It was not only a feast for the eyes, but also for the stomach. I ordered their plat de jour, which was an appropriately tasty lasagna. We enjoyed the place so much that we asked our server to set us up for dinner about 9 p.m. She was pleased to see that we liked it enough to return, and the chef even came out to say hello to us. Our young server asked us which table we'd like to sit at, so we went ahead and selected one.

This was the night of a beautiful full moon. We returned for dinner and had a wonderful meal by candelight. I had a lovely sauteed fresh loup (a soft sweet white fish) in a creamy sauce with sauteed vegetables and Doug had beef with a nice rich mushroom sauce. The dessert was a decadent deep chocolate mousse with chantilly cream that would knock your socks off. We finished our meal off with a coffee, then about midnight strolled around the square. People were still dining and the moon was bright and high in the sky providing us with ample light to enjoy our stroll. The night air was balmy and warm. We could see candle lit tables of local cafes as we walked and we could hear the soft murmur of conversations. An amazing evening, for sure.

We spent the next day packing and doing up laundry in preparation for our trip to Dijon, or more correctly a small village just outside of Dijon called Couternon, where our friend from Hawaii moved to a few years earlier. We packed up the Peugeot and headed northeast on the Autoroute. Everything went well and I'd packed a picnic with our left over food so that we could stop along the way. We did stop for gas, then at a roadside stop. After getting gas, we began to experience some difficulty with the car missing and riding roughly. We thought little of it but it did seem to get worse as we drove. When we stopped to rest and picnic, the car refused to start again. We had no idea what to do and nobody around us spoke English. We felt stuck. I decided to walk to the bathroom several yards away, while Doug continued to ponder our dilemma. When I came out, there he was--car running and motioning for me to get in quickly. Apparently he gave it one more try and it did start, albeit with a groan. At any rate, we got back onto the Autoroute and hoped to make it to Couternon and then call Avis. Unfortunately, about 200 miles later, it got so bad that we were now worried. As we climbed into some foothills, we suddenly lost power. Semi-trucks were bearing down on us in the slow lane and we were in a construction zone with basically no place to go. Doug turned the wheel as much as possible and we limped into a small opening in the construction just enough to clear the lane. Whew! That was so scary! Our engine died right there, and luckily at a call box! In France, we found, the call boxes are also equipped with cameras, Our emergency technician not only spoke fairly good English but she could see us as well to make sure we weren't in harms way. She ordered a mechanic for us and about an hour later he showed up. He tried to start the engine, then shook his head at us and said "Non, monsier. C'est impossible!" He next worked quickly to load our broken car onto his truck and signaled for us to climb in (he spoke no English)

The mechanic drove us to a remote town about 30 minutes away. We had no choice in the matter. We had no idea where this place was and all we knew was that it was where he had a contract to tow. It was a Renault dealership and it was already nearing 7 p.m. and they were going to close by 8. We called our friend, Greg, and told him our big problem. He took the address of the place where we'd been towed and plugged it into his GPS and told us "no worry." Just as the place was closing, up drove our friend in his Deux Chevaux. We looked at one another wondering how on earth we'd get two suitcases and two carry-ons into the small car and still have room for ourselves. Greg alit from the car with a big smile on his face, four empty champagne glasses and a chilled bottle of French champagne. Voila! No more stress. We toasted, then waved good bye to the owner of the dealership and headed toward Couternon, about 30 minutes away. What a day!

The very next day we were escorted to a fabulous village in the Bourgogne called Mâmain where they were having a Renaissance fair. The villagers went all out with wild costumes of the period and many walked around on stilts. The local artisans displayed their wares and there were cookouts with delicious grilled meats and sausages, wine and cold beer. We had a wonderful time and the village was full of ancient history.

This was the week of my birthday, too. I was treated to a trip to the Burgundy wine country near Beaune where we enjoyed a five-star meal at a five-star chateau and a fine bottle of the best Burgundy of the region. In addition, our friend planned a huge party with ten of his best French friends. We barbequed, played Boules and drank delicious champagne. It was such fun. The French know how to enjoy life and friendship.

We stayed four days, touring the area and Dijon and then, when a rental car became available for us, we headed to Paris. We were looking forward to spending our last week in the 6e at the Hotel de Buci.

The hotel was just a block from the Avis car rental facility on Saint Sulpice, so Doug dropped me at the hotel, registered us, then drove the car to the agency and walked back. The hotel was a quaint boutique hotel right in the middle of a lively shopping neighborhood. We had fine restaurants at our fingertips and dined well.

We invited our Parisian friends to join us for dinner and they suggested that we take the Métro to the 15e and meet at their apartment where we could walk to a local creperie near Georges Brassen's parc. This we did and so enjoyed the evening with them. The crepes were delicious and the conversation enjoyable and lively.

It had been almost a month since we were home and with less than a week to go, we were beginning to look forward to it. We spent the next few days walking from arrondissement to arrondissement and finally took a long awaited BatoBus down the Seine to get a glimpe of Paris from a different perspective.

While living in a hotel was nice, we agreed that there is nothing quite like having a home exchange where we become part of a neighborhood, enjoying local foods and getting to know the artisans who provide them to us.

We return to Paris October 15, 2009 and will stay until November 15, 2009 in a home exchange apartment in the 15e, a place that is warm, friendly and just like home to us. Our travels and especially our home exchanges have left us with something we never expected and that is new friends worlds away from us here in Hawaii. What a wonderful bonus to being able to stay at no cost in a lovely home half way around the world.

Please enjoy the photos below and I look forward to writing my new blog beginning October 15. I hope you'll join me as we travel once more through the streets of Paris.

A Small Harbor Along The Seine. The Place de la Concorde In The Distance

We Found This Hidden Night Club Below A Bridge Along The Seine

A Bronze Tree In Tuilleries Commerating Fallen Trees During a 1970's Wind Storm That Uprooted Trees All Over France. It Looks Real! Another Surprise In Tuilleries!

It Costs Very Little To Rent These Velo (Bikes) To Travel From Place To Place

A Delicious Creperie In The 15e Near Georges Brassens Parc With Friends

The Gendarmes Line Up In Force For A Demonstration At Les Invalides

Lafayette In Full Gait On His Steed

The Pedestrian Bridge Filled With Artists And Easels, Quite A Site From The Seine

A View Of Notre Dame From The Seine

So Many Places To Dine, All You Need Is A Picnic And A Good Friend!

A Friendly Young Man Greets Us As We Float By On The Seine

Mural Painted On The Side Of The Police Station As Seen From The Seine

A Cool Place To Lounge With A Picnic On The Seine

A View Of Alexander III Bridge From The Seine BatoBus

The BatoBus, A Great Way To See Paris From The Seine

Bridges Look Different When You're On The Water

From The Eiffel We Walk To The BatoBus For A Ride On The Seine

A Show Of Force Near The Eiffel Tower

Too Many Generic Shots Of The Eiffel, Lead Us To Play With It A Bit. An Odd Perspective?

A Serious Game Of Boules At Champ de Mars

The French Celebrate In Style, eh? Fireworks!

A Party For My Birthday AND A Fabulous Meal At This Country Inn (Le Chef Coq)

Doug Plays Boules His Way. Mais, Non! Monsieur

We Try Our Hand At Boules

Greg Throws A French Fête For My Birthday At His Home In Couternon Near Dijon

Our Friend, Greg, Admires A Renaissance Witch At The Fête in Mâmain (Bourgogne) How Does She Walk On Those Stilts?

We Sport With Characters From The Rennaisance During An Ancient Village (Mâmain) Fête

Our Friend's Prized Deux Cheveau. They Create Quite A Stir When Out And About

Our Friend Drives A Deux Cheveau. We Cram Into It To Enjoy Some Bubbly On The Way To Dijon

Whew! A Trusty GPS Leads Them To Us Just As Closing Of The Lot Was Happening. Oh boy! No More Frowns--We've Got French Champagne. We Must Have Sounded Stressed!

We Wonder If Our Friends Will Be Able To Find Us And The Place Is Ready To Close

Late Evening And We're Towed To A Remote Village In The Bourgogne

An Unexpected Event Interrupts Our Trip From Lourmarin To Dijon To See Our Friends

Cucuron At Midnight

The Ancient Pond In The Middle Of Cucuron Reflects The Moon At Midnight

A Midnight Stroll Around Cucuron And Late Night Diners

Cucuron café. They Know How To Make Mousse au Chocolat With Chantilly Cream!

A Cool Oasis Kept Us There For A Noisette And Café au Lait, Cucuron café

Doug Ordered This Plate Of Salad, Melon, Saucisson, Croutons With Fresh Goat Cheese And Figs, Now You Can See Why We Returned. I Had Lasagna And It was Also Delicious

This Bistro Was So Delicious And The People So Nice, We Returned For Dinner

Road To Cucuron, Durance River Bottom Farmland

Next Post: Paris (October-November 2009)


  1. Hi -

    Can you tell me the name of the restaurant you ate at in Cucuron? We will be there in a few months & are making plans. Thanks, and thanks for your blog.


  2. Yes,the restaurant is called "La Cercle" just adjacent and opposite to the rectangular "pond" that sits in the middle of the street. It's very small and quite quaint, and they don't speak English, but are lovely people and the food was delicious. How I envy you your trek. We're planning a return next year (if we can wait that long) during autumn. Bon voyage and thank you for your kind words. L