We arrived in the city of Troyes yesterday evening and I was enthralled by all of the medieval buildings still in pretty good nick as my English friends always say. There were a number of impressive churches and a marvelous cathedral with flying buttresses and glowering gargoyles, too! The center of town was latticed with channels of water with the occasional sculpture that I found very pretty. Our hotel was in a very old building that had been repurposed and we had quite a time maneuvering the car through the narrow cobblestone streets.
The town was brimming with photo ops so I suggested we change our schedule a little and spend a few hours in the morning walking around and photographing the town's wonderful architecture before we head south to Nimes. After we dropped off our luggage in our rooms we headed down the street looking for someplace to eat dinner. I tried to urge my friends to try a place that specialized in crepes but my friends said they were looking for a bit more than crepes. We ended up at a place across the street and at the urging of my friends I ordered a dish that included shoestring potatoes, bacon and onions baked in a cheese sauce spiced with white wine served with a green salad and fresh bread. I was surprised that the French don't put anything on their bread - not even olive oil like the Italians but it was still good. For dessert I ordered an apple crumble with a tiny scoop of a very rich caramel ice cream.
As I had a lot to do before bedtime including charging both cameras and my laptop and backing up all of my images from Fontainebleau I went back to my room while my friends finished off a bottle of wine and sipped brandy with their after dinner coffees. I finally got to bed about midnight.
In the morning we went downstairs and found a beautiful spread of fresh fruits, yogurts, a variety of rolls, flan and beverages. We watched the news laughing at our efforts to translate for the French announcers. Then we repacked the car and headed off on foot to photograph what we could within walking distance. I tried to spot various gargoyles and get closeups of them and got a couple of nice panoramas of the town square and fountain area. Carousels seem to be very popular here and they are quite ornate. Troyes had one in the town center and yesterday I had photographed one across the street from the entrance to Fontainebleau. As it turned out the cathedral was being rennovated so we couldn't go inside but I tried to get some nice shots of the exterior.
As it was getting on towards mid-morning, we hustled back to the hotel and struck out for the southbound motorway. The countryside I had seen so far was a gently undulating patchwork of green pastures and bright yellow fields of flowering rapeseed sprinkled with wind turbines but as we neared the Burgundy region the land became much more hilly and the forests were punctuated by occasional patches of evergreen trees. Soon I began seeing fat Charlois cattle grazing in the fields and the freeway was lined by wine bottling plants. My friends told me that the evergreen trees were not native to that part of France but imported. Now they are viewed as an invasive species.
The motorway rest areas here are very extensive with both DariMart-like convenience stores and full sit down restaurants. Some even have developed playgrounds for the children. The French must also enjoy camping as you see lots of signs depicting camp trailers and picnic tables for camping areas. I wished we would have had more time to explore some of the historical sites along the way as well. I eagerly looked for the iconic brown heritage signs as the French put pictures of the structures on the directional signs. There might be a castle, a chateau or even a Roman bridge depicted. But we were due in Nimes tonight so we really couldn't stop as we had to drive over 400 miles today.
As we neared Orange we spotted a crenalated fortress high up on a rock formation. I think we must add it to our must visit list!
We finally turned off to head for our vacation cottage just outside of the village of Sauve. We stopped at a pretty good sized supermarket to buy some Toulouse sausages and couscous for dinner. It was my first visit to a French supermarket and it looked very similar to ours although they had some really delicious items that we don't ever see - at least not in Eugene/Springfield. Of course the French love breads and pastries so the bread section was quite extensive and there were so many choices of cheese it was almost overwhelming. I was actually looking for east European-style farmer's cheese though and couldn't find any so I settled for a wedge of chaumes.
The terrain here is much more Mediterranean looking with umbrella pines, junipers and yellowish rocky outcroppings. Tomorrow after taking care of a few more housekeeping chores we're off to explore the Roman amphitheater at Nimes. There is also a Roman temple and a museum of gladiator armor. I also saw an ad for a bullfighting museum with matador costumes that might be interesting but I have no plans to attend a real bull fight as this is one of the last places in France where the bull is tormented and killed for the crowd.