Friday, June 11, 2010

Mayenne who?

Tearing ourselves away from the fairytale land of Dordogne, the Engineer and I spent nearly seven hours on the road for the Loire Valley/Mayenne.  I think I expected the entire Loire Valley to be just like Dordoge.  ROLLING hills dotted with chateaux and cute medieval villages – but was surprised to find our next location looked a lot like where I come from in Alberta. 

Gentle rolling fields of canola and wheat and happy cows munching on grass.  Of course the similarities end there.  Our next gite, Gite du Moulin, was not only the site of a mill thought to date back to ancient Rome, but it also housed the Resistance during World War 2. 


The best I have in Alberta is a Tim Horton’s and a butcher shop called ‘Crossfield Meats’ whose slogan is ‘The Place to Buy Meat’ (how original).

This country never ceases to amaze me.  It’s as if we are not only traveling through amazing countryside, but we are traveling through history.  It’s just normal to live in a house built in the 14th century.  It’s a regular thing to see remains of the Roman Empire in your backyard.  Kids now fly kites on what once was a gory battlefield that claimed so many lives but also created thousands of heroes. 

As like every place I had chosen for this trip, Gite du Moulin did not disappoint.  Set on a lovely piece of land by a babbling brook, our house was a converted barn (I think) and we were met by yet another lovely host, Sylvaine.  She showed us through our little home that already felt like a home.  I just love these French farmhouses!  Bright, airy, perfect for writing.  Well, more perfect for eating cheese.

Sylvaine has been reading my blog so she knows I love cheese.  Therefore she stocked our fridge with cheese!  Oh God, I can taste it right now.  It’s delicious.  Smokey and fresh goat cheese,  ridiculously ripe camembert that made me realize I clearly do not know what camembert should actually taste like and therefore now am forever ruined.  I had become accustomed to opening the fridge and being met with the smell of the Engineer's dirty socks.

The best touch at this place was the hen Cocotte, who I called Henrietta, stomping around.  Sylvaine has three hens, who lay really yummy eggs, in a coop, but Henrietta prefers to hop the coop and explore her surroundings.  We were warned that she might try to get into our house when we are eating – much to the Engineer’s chagrin.  Sylvaine also had three cats that would like to come into the house.  The Engineer promptly shut the windows.  I quite liked the idea of a hen and cat at dinner. 

You know what I loved about this place?  Drinking rose on the little bridge above the brook.  While eating cheese.  I swear, does life get any better?  One of the cats seemed to want to sit with us, so I went over and picked him up.  He was so happy and cuddly, but when I brought him to the table he went wild, screeching and flew out of my arms leaving claw marks.  I found out later he had an electrical collar on.  Whoops.

The other thing I loved about this home was Sylvaine’s husband, Bob.  As I was still singing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and finding parts of the movie everywhere, I was thrilled when Bob told us he was an inventor.  AN INVENTOR!  And he had wild white hair just like Maurice!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

We sipped Blanquette and munched on hummus with Sylvaine and Bob, letting the water flow past us.  Turns out that Bob was one of the men who invented the difibulator!  AAAAAAAH!  This was also when we found out that the old mill (now the couple’s enormous house) was once where members of the Resistance gathered in the dark of night to await instructions from London to trick the Germans for D-Day.  When dawn broke, they would hide the radio back under the grain and sneak back off to thwart the Nazis. 

I thought it would be fun to play 'hide from the Nazis' but even 60 years later it is still wrong.  And really weird.  The Engineer would rather build fires anyways, and I sat it our kitchen, sipping wine (theme) watching the flames crackle and roar.  The fireplace had two sides to it, so he sat in the other room and waved at me through the glass.  

Ahhh, separation.  Best Honeymoon ever.

Okay, let's go back to the cheese again.  Have you ever tasted goat cheese so fresh you can practically hear them chewing your socks?  Probably not.  Sadly, the thought of returning to Canada where we do not have a cheese course nor do we devote entire grocery aisles to cheese was starting to get me down.

I decided to go for a walk.  First to the manor house next door.  I was told they were away so happily explored their property - peeking in windows to check out the manor lord's decor scheme and eating stuff from their garden.

I then hopped to the field across the road where some cows were roaming.  I felt I should get back in touch with my farm girl roots so I delicately marched through a field of stubble and cow patties only to find a stream separated me from the vaches.  I tried to jump the stream, which as you can guess did not go well.  When I recovered with mild wet feet, I noticed three French men smoking and fishing.  I waved to them, said 'Bonjour' and pretended I was normal.  I'm pretty sure they muttered 'Stupide Americain' under their smoky breath.

I later found out that (A) the Manor house was indeed occupied and the lady of the house watched me peer into her living room and (B) one is not supposed to trespass on farmer's field when said farmer in fishing.


Needless to say, the Engineer and I stayed put from then on in, enjoying our two sided fire, separate living rooms, and copious amounts of rose.

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