Sunday, August 29, 2004

Chilling the Wine

When we got back to the hotel with our (unopened) bottle of wine, I walked up to the desk and asked if they could chill it for us. I struggled with the words and proceeded very slowly. The woman behind the desk smiled broadly, evidently glad of my attempt and happy to wait.

I explained that our wine wasn't cold and asked if we could leave it with her.

Est-ce que nous pourrions laisser notre bouteille de vin ici? Ce n'est pas froid.

Of course, leaving it with her left out the most important part of the question -- did they have a refrigerator, and would they put our bottle in it?

Est-ce que vous avez un re-fri-gé-ra-teur?

I struggled with that last word, laboring greatly to hit every syllable without tripping, paying particular attention to the vowel sounds. And I pulled it off, happy just to complete the sentence without botching the syllables, not knowing how badly I might have botched the rest of it.

The woman's eyes lit up. She smiled even more broadly than before. She was evidently quite impressed that I had mastered refigérateur. Frankly, so was I.

Bien sur! she said, and she took the bottle gently from the counter and walked thru a doorway behind her.

When she came back, she said that she might not be there later but someone would and if no one was we could always call the desk on the telephone. Someone would get us our wine, she reassured us.

Later, when we came to get the wine, a man was at the desk. I told him that we had left some wine in the back, and the woman looked around the corner thru the doorway and smiled. She left to get the bottle, and the man asked us if we had a cork-screw. Of course, I didn't know the word for cork-screw and so didn't know what he was asking, but it was obvious when he held one up for us to see. I rolled my eyes and laughed and said that we didn't, so he handed me theirs just as the woman came back with the bottle and three glasses.

In the end, we only drank half.

Trip to France - Day 11

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Coming Home from Chenonceau

It was sunny when we arrived at Chenonceau, and we were happy to find a cool, shady place to lock the bikes and eat our lunch. The sun cast a green glow around us, filtering thru the canopy of the Sycamore trees that line the main drive to the grounds.

We ended up hanging around for a very long time. We took the long audio tour inside and then took our time in the gardens and on the grounds. (We did not, however, rent a boat to row on the river, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.)

Given the amount of time we stayed, it was quickly clear that our initial plans to follow the bicycle circuit were not going to come to pass. We were less than one-third of the way around, yet we had spent many hours in this one place.

As it turned out, had we not dallied at Chenonceau and instead hopped back on the bikes to continue the circuit that Jean-Francois had mapped out for us (which included two other lesser chateaux), our trip would have been miserable. For it clouded up quickly, and the sky that had been blue suddenly turned black, and we could smell rain in the air.

So instead of risking getting soaked and risking returning in the dark on the least marked portion of the route, we opted for the same (well-marked) route back that we had taken on the way to Chenonceau.

As we took our last photographs and searched for the bathrooms and waited for each other to reassemble at the appointed place, the sky got darker. When Ben and I finally found Trudy walking down the main lane between the Sycamore trees, I was nervously looking over my shoulder at the black clouds that seemed closer by the minute.

So we hurriedly unlocked our bikes and started the ride back. We crossed the railroad tracks at the entrance. We passed the fruit stand, where we found those marvellous raspberries. And we climbed the hills thru the villages and fields and the Forest of Amboise that we had ridden thru just several hours ago.

As we peddled, the clouds seems to fall behind us. The sky grew lighter. It seemed safe for a while. Although the clouds still seemed to be coming our way, we seemed somehow to be outpacing them.

And so with a feeling of relief, we crossed the crest of highland the lies between Chenonceau on the Cher and Amboise on the Loire. And we coasted downhill into Amboise and arrived at our hotel just as the first drops from those black clouds (which had now caught up with us) began to fall. We locked the bikes outside and took refuge in our room.

The rain came down hard for a while, but it soon let up, and so we decided to take the bikes back to Jean-Francois before he closed up for the night.

When we got to the store, he was still there. We chatted with him for a while, and he let us taste his wine, a bottle of which we bought, although it must be said that Trudy and I neither know anything about wine nor drink it all that often. Still, we were happy to buy his wine, since he had given us such a wonderful day.

So although the three-chateau bicycle tour that we originally planned was cut short by our dallying at Chenonceau and the advance of bad weather, we came out ok in the end.

Trip to France - Day 11
Chenonceau / Amboise

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