Friday, July 18, 2008

The Incredible Journey

Bee and I had a hankering to get out of town for a spell. Bless that girl, she has inherited my love of tootling around the French countryside.

So I rented a car, we assembled maps, and headed south from Paris for an overnight road trip. Her job was to navigate, and in short order she learned that getting where you're going in France is not the same as in the US, especially if you're travelling only on the backroads, the routes départementales. Knowing la direction means not the compass direction or the road name, but the next town that you're heading for. She is now a crackerjack co-pilot and maneuvered us through golden wheatfields, past troglodyte houses, and found clever shortcuts through a few zones industrielles to keep us from the traffic fray in smaller cities.

Favoring spontaneity and serendipity, by early evening we still hadn't made reservations for the night's lodging. We parked in the shade in Vouvray and I called a few numbers of B&Bs I had scribbled down hastily prior to departure, after having googled the keywords hotels - charme - vouvray. The first place, in Amboise, was full. Second number, bingo! They had a suite with a little kitchenette available for one night. Sounded perfect. It was on the other side of Tours, about half an hour away.

Getting there, on a périphérique north of Tours, we began having second thoughts. The area was looking very industrial, not exactly the French countryside we had hoped for. Then as if by magic, the tacky commercial road simply vanished and we were again in the middle of serene fields and small villages. We found the quaint village of Mettray, and the tree-lined driveway to La Cornillière.

We instantly cooed with awe and delight as we drove through the stone gates. There could be no more ideal spot for us than this! A compound of ancient stone buildings, perfectly restored with just the right feel, the right patina. The jovial host greeted us and gave us a tour of the grounds while his wife finished preparing the rooms. The fields, the paths in the fragrant woods, his potager. The yet-to-be-renovated dependencies, a pigeonnier, and a rustic barn.

We were in heaven. Our cottage was sublime and simple, with antique tile floors and panels of Toile de Jouy on the walls. Comme il faut, not over-the-top. The entire place was authentic and charming; we knew already that we would want to return to La Cornillière when we had more time to spend.

Making the usual small talk, the owner asked where we were from. "Ah, oui, the East Coast of the US?" he said. "Yes, I go there often. In fact, we are spending two weeks in August in Maine," he continued, naming a small remote island.

My jaw dropped. "You -- are -- Didier!" I gasped. "I don't believe it."

His jaw dropped. "Vous êtes la soeur de Mag!" Eight years ago, he and I had met for about 10 minutes, right on this porch, one sunny afternoon, when he stopped by with his island hostess, my sister's best friend.

I will believe in the Fates, kismet, and the gods of serendipity for the rest of my life.



Catherine Espinassou
La Cornillière
Mettray
Indre-et-Loire
02 47 51 12 69

catherine@lacornilliere.com.fr









6 comments:

The Late Bloomer said...

Wow, what an amazing story, Polly! And what a beautiful place... I'll have to try to keep that address for future reference -- you never know, it's always great to have some good B&B addresses, especially not too far from Paris...

Sounds like you must have had a wonderful short road trip away!

misschris said...

Wow that's funny! Isn't life odd? I used to live in that area for a few years and it's really pretty. I remember taking the train to work and watching the sun rise over all those chateaus...and getting lost in the countryside and not caring!

Evelyn said...

Every time I hear one of these 'it's a small world' stories I'm amazed! What a pretty place! I recently fell in love with a white wine from France named Vouvray...is it from this place?

Polly-Vous Francais said...

It was such a random, impromptu trip -- we were not sure we'd be able to go at all, then deciding whether to go to Normandy or Burgundy or Champagne, then finally deicded to head south in search of perhaps more sun. Then just following our noses, figuratively, from town to town til we got somehwere near Vouvray, where I had spent 2 weeks many moons ago. And there are hundreds of lovely B&Bs in the area to choose from. How could we end up there? It was a connection that was meant to be. It's odd to think that Didier & Catherine will see my sister in Maine, long before I do!

The remote island in Maine is so small -- everyone waves to each other from their cars. That's how I knew immediately. I'm still shaking my head is wonder and disbelief.

And yes, Evelyn, Vouvray wine is from the region. There are three varieties, still, demi-sec, and brut; they served us a few happy glasses (!) of the sparkling version,a brut from Chateau Moncontour. It was so delicious that we bought a case at the nearby hypermarche. A great champagne substitute for less than €5 per bottle.

wrecklessgirl said...

gorgeous ... and what a tale. i thoroughly enjoy reading your blog :)

Shelli and Gene said...

Oh my gawd!

This is on a par with the friend who was dropped off for the day on a remote island in the Seychelles and ran into her high school prom date on the beach.

A small world indeed.

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