Monday evening, Gabby and Margaret had dinner at the Grand Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, where they were staying. Walt and I stayed in and ate our chicken tarragon leftovers.
Tuesday morning, Gabby called and said she and M. had decided to go do some laundry at Saint-Aignan's new laundromat. It went really well, they said, even though it was a little complicated. You have to put your clothes and soap in the washer and then go to a central pay station to put in your coins. If you accidentally press the wrong button, you start the wrong washer and then you are in a pickle. But our friends said they had no trouble.
Another woman came in to do a big load of laundry in a machine that cost 15 euros to run. That's a lot of laundry. She put her clothes and soap in, went to the pay station and deposited her coins, pressed the button, and ... nothing happened. She asked Gabby and Margaret for help and advice, but there was nothing they could do. The woman finally had to call the phone number posted in the laundromat and ask an attendent to come figure it all out. After a while, somebody showed up and got the machine to work.
Another customer came in. It was an older gentleman that Gabby and Margaret had seen walk by the hotel earlier in the morning. He was carrying a little squeaky toy in his hand and squeezing it to make it squeak. Our friends looked to see if he was walking a dog, but there was no canine in sight. The man seemed just slightly eccentric. And now here he was in the laundromat.
He asked Gabby if she could help him figure out the machines, and she did. Another woman, this one with a small child, came in and was waiting for a washing machine. The man had the squeaky toy in his pocket, but every once in a while he would put his hand in there and squeeze the toy. The child was fascinated, Gabby said.
Soon the laundry was done and Gabby and Margaret took their clean clothes back to the hotel. For lunch they went to a restaurant just down the street on the riverfront, L'Embarcadère, and had an omelette.
Meanwhile, Walt and I spent the morning at home catching up on our reading and blogging. The plan was to go out to dinner with Gabby and Margaret that evening. We wanted to go to what is probably the nicest restaurant in Saint-Aignan, Le Mange-Grenouille (The Frog-Eater). Walt looked up the restaurant's web site and learned that it is closed on Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday. We were out of luck.
Now we already knew that two of our favorite Saint-Aignan restaurants, Le Crêpiot and L'Amaréna, were closed for most of September (fermeture annuelle). The owners take their vacation after the busy tourist season (July and August) is over.
Our next idea was L'Embarcadère, but then I talked to Gabby and found out they had just had lunch there. And they had had dinner the night before at the Grand Hôtel's restaurant. So we decided to find another place. I called a restaurant called Le Relais de Chasse and got a man on the phone who said it was closed for good — he had retired. We looked up the local restaurant called Chez Constant on the Internet, and it too is closed on Tuesdays.
I guess it is not a good idea to try to go out for dinner in Saint-Aignan on Tuesdays, at least in September.
Finally I called a place over in the village of Thésée, about five miles from Saint-Aignan. It's called Le Moulin de la Renne (Reindeer Mill) and it's a Logis de France address. It was open Tuesday night.
And it was a little bit of a disappointment, I thought. The main menu included three main dishes: coq au vin, aile de raie (skate wing), and andouillette (a sausage made with pigs' intestines). The coq au vin would have been, to a person, our choice for dinner, but the restaurant had run out. Walt ended up having the skate wing, and I think it was pretty good. The other three of us dropped back to the less expensive menu touristique, which featured truite au gratin (trout with a broiled cheese topping) and a pièce de bœuf (a steak).
I had the steak and it was fine. Gabby and Margaret had the trout, and they said it was OK. That was faint praise. Our appetizers and desserts were fine but not spectacular. G. and M. each had a crème brûlée, I remember.
The restaurant was featuring wines from the winemaker next door, and those were very good. We had a Touraine Cabernet 2004 (12 euros for a bottle) and a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (11 euros).
There were three other people having dinner in the restaurant that night. Two older men were at one table. They left before we did, and they took their half-empty bottle of sparkling mineral water with them when they exited. A younger woman was dining alone and reading a magazine. She left without my noticing. The place was very quiet.
The walls of the dining room were covered with dark, shiny, fairly primitive paintings by local artists, some of which had a distinct nautical theme (though we are far from the coast). One large canvas over a fireplace featured a very busty topless woman. And one painting was a portrait of the restaurant owner's dog, an enormous, very friendly Bernese mountain dog (bouvier bernais).
The owner himself was a fairly disheveled middle-aged man who definitely looked rural. His fingernails were not very clean. But he was friendly and the service was fine. At dessert time, a woman chef came to the table to set the crème brûlée desserts alight with a match and some citrus-flavored liqueur. She was probably the waiter's wife.