day 7 & 8: off to the val de loire!

2/6/13:

I slept in again and relaxed during the day while we waited for Margaret to finish teaching so we could head off to our next destination. For lunch, Justin made me a white bean mash burrito with veggies and samurai sauce. Tasted like a burrito and mashed potatoes had a baby – delicious.

We picked Margaret up from school as well as another carpooler that was headed for Troyes – a stop along the way to Sens. The car ride was long and cramped, and we got lost, but eventually we dropped off our carpooler and made it to the house in Sense that were couch surfing at. My first time couch surfing! Our hosts – Ali & Aisha – were surfers as well, and said they were honored to be my first hosts. They’re Moroccan (I believe) and are fairly new to the couch surfing scene, but have found that they really enjoy the culture. They both spoke enough English that I was actually able to talk to them – though, I stayed pretty quiet anyway. (Again, people cannot believe that I don’t speak French, even though I was only visiting for less than two weeks. Sorry, I’m not that devoted!)

We were given slippers to wear as soon as we walked in and had to leave our wine out in the garage – no alcohol in the house, ever. They had dinner ready for us, despite our 9:30 arrival and we started with a salad made mostly of endives, tomatoes and avocado. Can you guess which part I enjoyed most? Honestly, endives aren’t my thing – this was my first time trying them and they’re just too bitter for me. The main dish was a tajine – made with chicken, potatoes, green olives (first time trying, not my fave), and herbs. Simple, but filling. As usual, I felt as though I wasn’t eating enough. I can’t sit down and eat 3 large courses at every meal!

We took a break for conversation, mostly J&M and A&A sharing travel stories. Naturally, there was dessert to be had. Justin baked a pear pound cake, which was delicious. A&A had some pastries with a cutout in the middle shaped like an eye and filled with peach jam & cream. It was super sweet and flaky, so of course I loved it. We had some tea as well – sort of minty and naturally sweet – the kind where you pour the hot water onto the flower and it blooms inside the pot.

I slept on a type of bench/couch that is apparently popular in Morocco.  It was pretty comfortable and I had a nice fluffy blanket too.

2/7/13:

Our goal today was to get an early start so we could have a quick tour of Sens and then head off to Tours by 9:30. Instead we had a slow start and (after a delicious breakfast of coffee and more of those eye-pastries) headed to town at 9:30. It was a little ironic, because Ali mentioned how relaxed people are in Africa and how little time means to them. He felt it was too relaxed, but then it was difficult to get him going in the morning for our tour. Again – the French lead a different lifestyle, it seems they somehow have more time on their hands.

Ali kept remarking on how well he knows the town – and it’s history – and that he really should have been giving us a three-hour tour. Instead, he had to settled for the abbreviated 1-hour version. We saw the Cathedral and the town hall (and Ali gave some history about the battle between church and state that I don’t remember), as well as some examples of rich houses (made with stone) and poor houses (made with carved wood – looked pretty sweet to me!) The statues of the saints decorating the front of the church all had their heads removed, for some historical reason that I – again – don’t remember.

After fond goodbyes from Ali, we crammed back into the teeny-mobile and headed for Tours to meet our next guests, who we would be spending two nights with. Jeanne and Jann are the perfect image of cute, little French grandparents (though I’m not sure if their daughter has kids yet) and their house is beautiful and filled with a collection of eclectic and worldly knick-knacks. They even have a library! They have a black cat named Baghira, and she is actually from the jungle – their daughter adopted her somewhere in Africa and ended up giving her to her parents. She was totally immune to my cat-love though, and wanted nothing to do with me :[

We made excellent time heading to Tours though (and paid 30 Euros in tolls! X_X) and ended up arriving at 1 PM like we’d planned. J&J had lunch ready for us: local red wine, and a dish made with lentils, onions, ham & sausage. Very hearty, though I would have preferred it with some herbs. There was also salad with home-made dressing, and a cheese course. I tried Brie, a Chez (goat cheese, my fave), and local one that I don’t remember (something that starts with a C maybe). Jeanne had made a strawberry and apricot tart for dessert and it was the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had! I drank black coffee with dessert – for the first time – and really enjoyed it.

We relaxed and let our food digest while Jeanne suggested places for us to visit downtown. We ended up just moseying around the city. First we stopped at this market building that had several different butchers, bakers, cheese shops, and veggie stands, as well as seafood stalls, and of course, a wine shop. We bought cheese and steaks for the dinner Justin planned to make and sampled cheeses and breads. I got bored pretty quickly though, since I’m so intimidated by cooking, raw ingredients don’t really whip me into a frenzy.

8.13

8.14

We stopped in at the Tourist Office and I picked up a bunch of random brochures because they had cool imagery. J&M got some info and maps about castles and bought some tickets to castles we planned to see, to save money. Margaret and I had to use the bathroom, but they apparently don’t allow that, so we were told to go to the train station across the street. We had to pay 50 cents each just to pee! Lame. Margaret and I both wondered how much the bathroom attendant gets paid for that job.

After drifting around various side streets, we made it to the main cathedral in town. This one felt like the tallest one I’d seen yet (not sure if it actually was or not) and it was very…pointy and intimidating. This one had entire statues missing, instead of just heads.

8.15

8.16

8.17

Nearby there was a massive tree and a random taxidermied elephant, which I guess was a gift to the town from Barnum & Bailey after it rampaged and was put down. Strange gift, eh? There was a little garden behind some building (which I think was a kind of school or something), which I imagine would be cute during Spring.

8.18

8.19

8.20

It was Justin’s turn to prepare dinner, so he cooked while Margaret and I chatted with our hosts and drank wine. He made steaks and then a baked mac and cheese, with like 9 cheeses, bacon, broccoli, mushrooms, and tomatoes, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping and a side of jalapeño cream sauce, and it was HEAVEN. Best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, and I doubt I’ll ever have anything that comes close again. I listened while everyone talked more of their travels and after dinner we had some delicious tea called rooibos – something I keep meaning to look into getting back at home. I really loved it.

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