Yesterday friends from the U.S. arrived for a four-day visit. Both are former U.S. State Department employees (like me, in case you're wondering how I know them) who have lived in Europe before, both in Geneva and one in Paris as well.
(Clarification: OK, I worked for the U.S. Information Agency, which at the time was independent of the State Department, but it has now been "absorbed"... USIA did what is now called "public diplomacy" — and no, it wasn't a spy agency. I was a writer, editor, and translator then.)
Gabby and Margaret spent four days in Paris before taking the train to Saint-Aignan yesterday. They enjoyed Paris, they said; they walked all over the city and enjoyed food and wine in restaurants. But their hotel room was small, a little noisy, and pretty expensive. With the low dollar these days, Paris really is expensive. Prices are already high in euros, and then you have to add 30% to everything to get the price in dollars.
G. & M. are staying at the Grand Hôtel de Saint-Aignan. I have never seen the rooms at the Grand Hôtel, but I know the hotel restaurant is good, as is the location. It's right on the river, and just five minutes' walk from "downtown" Saint-Aignan. And it's part of the Logis de France organization, which is a good recommendation.
Well, the reports from our friends are that the room is very big and very comfortable, and spotlessly clean. The price: 60 euros a night, about one-third what the Paris hotel charges for a much smaller room.
When G. & M. arrived yesterday, we went to lunch across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher at the restaurant I call The Truckstop. It's official name is Le Grill des Nouettes. I've been there a few times, and the food has always been good.
We had the 22-euro menu, which includes all you can eat at the hors-d'œuvre buffet (we exercised restraint); a main course (yesterday, the choices were roast leg of lamb or colombo of pork, which is a West-Indian (as in Caribbean) curry served with baked apples; cheese with salad; dessert. We had a bottle of Touraine Cabernet red wine produced by a grower in Noyers itself (ten euros for the bottle and it was excellent).
This morning we're going over to Amboise for the big outdoor market. The weather is supposed to be sunny with temperatures in the 70s. I think we might end up in Vouvray this afternoon. It's time to buy some Vouvray wine chez Aubert, our favorite place.
Walt is staying home to cook dinner: poulet à l'estragon (tarragon chicken) with polenta and salad, and tartes aux figues — fig tarts — for dessert. We bought the chicken, the lettuce, and the fresh figs at the farmers' market in Saint-Aignan yesterday morning. The tarragon is growing in our herb garden. As an hors-d'œuvre, we'll have roasted red peppers and local fresh goat cheese. With the salad, we'll have some aged goat cheese from the farm just up the road.
OK, time for a shower. I'm picking Gabby and Margaret up at the hotel at 9:00. It's about a 40-minute drive up to Amboise. We'll take the scenic route, of course.