Malte & Elisabeth & I had decided to get on the road fairly early because of the threat of rain in the afternoon, so we were on our bikes and underway in the morning fog shortly before 9. The fog cleared away fairly quickly and the first stretch was on the levee road where we had a lovely view of the river on our right and the hilly farm landscape to our left, where occasionally one could see the outlines of a village atop a neighboring hill.
Some parts of this ride were not so scenic – a few kilometers were with train tracks on one side and a dusty forest on the left and on a gravel trail to boot. And yet another few kilometers were on better-traveled roads, so we had to put up with cars zipping past us, which doesn’t make for a relaxing ride.
We crossed the Loire at Ancenis and made a coffee stop and relaxed for a few minutes. Somehow I was still feeling weary from the day before (or perhaps it had something to do with the half-bottle of wine the previous evening…), so by this point my inner little sissy voice had won out and I decided to skip the big hill that was described in the tour materials and take the train from Oudon into Nantes, thus saving 25Km and a big hill.
We reached Oudon at noon and there was an hour to kill before the train so we split up and I did a boulangerie run and had a lovely picnic sitting on a dock near some punting boats on a little river.
My early arrival in Nantes meant that I had the better part of the afternoon to explore a bit of the old town. The hotel was located right across the street from the castle and within sight of the tall, light gothic cathedral. I got bit by a shopping bug and had to buy a shirt at Galeries Lafayette.
By the time I got back to the hotel it was starting to drizzle and at dinner time it was pouring so I decided to go to the restaurant next door which looked good from the outside.
Oooooeeee… what an experience! The food was actually pretty good, but the décor – talk about over the top! The walls were bordello-red, with lots of velvet and paintings of 19th century diva-types (looked like scenes from La Traviata). There was a big crystal chandelier, a hanging arrangement of small mirror balls and lots of candelabra. In the background Edith Piaf – type chansons were playing. Now as if that all weren’t enough, the rest of the available surfaces were covered with … teddy bears of all shapes and sizes. Oh my God!
So how was the food?
First course: Feuilletés chaude de la mer – lots of little seafoodies (shrimp, mussels, clams, etc.) in a creamy sauce topped with puff pastry. A good idea that could have been excellent but was merely slightly above average. The puff pastry was not quite crispy enough (I suspect out of a package and not home made), the sauce had a nice texture but not enough distinctive flavor and the shellfish were fresh and not cooked to death.
Main course: Cocotte de joue de boeuf aux morilles- well, I learned what a “cocotte” is: stew. That’s what I get for not asking, but sometimes I just like to take a chance. At any rate the dish was flavorful, a stew of beef cheeks with carrots, potatoes and one or two of the aforementioned morilles. Good flavor and tender meat but nothing that I couldn’t have done as well or better.
Dessert: Plain and simple fresh fruit salad. Nectarine, melon, berries. Good.