Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I napped in the gardens of a chateau in France. Enough said.

June 24, 2012

Today we went for a bike ride! We travelled approximately 26km north to a Chateau where we had a picnic and toured the Chateau. It was a beautiful day and I was very excited for such a leisurely, yet engaging activity.

I woke up a slightly early to go to the bakery in the morning with some of the other students to get a quick coffee and bread for our picnic. Why didn’t I go to the bakery every morning? No. Why didn’t I live in the bakery? This place smelled like heaven. The baker was shaping baguette after baguette to be put into the oven after taking several out. the walls and display cases were filled with pastries and fresh loaves of all different shapes and sizes.
Upon checkout, I decided to purchase a small French donut—the equivalent of what looked like a munchkin. We took a seat outside with our coffees and I bit into my donut. This is exactly why I DON’T live at the bakery. I think I died, this thing was glorious. The small donut was rolled in sugar, and what oozed from the center wasn’t any syrupy, or waxy pudding-like substance which can be found inside American donuts. No, what oozed from the center was real, luscious milk chocolate. How do these not exist in America? Who’s responsible to ruling out the sinfully delicious cheeses, ice cream, and now donuts, too? It’s really probably a good thing I don’t have regular access to those little nuggets of bliss.
After coming back down to the streets of Cluny from my brief stay in heaven, we finished our coffees and headed back to the hostel to divide up the picnic supplies for our bike ride. Originally, I had the cheese bag in my backpack, which had the dreadful potential on a warm afternoon to leave the lingering smell of cheese as a souvenir for my backpack. Luckily, though, we were able to acquire cargo baskets for our bicycles. And we were off!

The bikeride was beautiful. We passed through several farms and saw field after field of grazing white (Charolay) beef cattle. After about an hour ride, around 12pm, we arrived at the picnic site just outside the town where the chateau was located. Once again, by means of a great deal of leftovers from yesterday’s picnic feast, we enjoyed a delicious picnic including a few more cucumber, tomato, avocado lettuce wraps, a very tasty baguette from the bakery that morning, white peaches and cherries. For cheeses we had an aged goat cheese (which always seems to go to quickly) boquefort, and the emmental and citoux which seem to be never ending. We also had some leftover cranberry cheese and herb cheese from the Fromagerie Delin which we’d visited on Friday. That is, until I clumsily knocked the herb cheese onto the ground. 

We finished up 2 bottles of wine and our picnic around 1:35, and we headed into town. Unfortunately, we were within that 2 hour window during which everything in town closes for lunch, including the Chateau. So to kill a bit of time, we popped into a café for some espressos and to refuel our dessert stomachs. Also in the café, I came across what looked like a candy dispenser, with little 2 ounce cans. But the cans weren’t candy, some were peanuts, some mixed, others olives! I couldn’t resist buying one.

I wasn't kidding about the moat.
After our coffee/dessert break we headed into the Chateau. Walking to the entry we crossed a moat which surrounded the Chateau. A real moat?! Hello, fairytale! 

Our tour guide, who spoke French, provided us with typed guides in English. The Chateau was beautiful and incredibly ornate. Even the ceilings were intricately decorated with carvings and paintings. This was a clear reflection of the tremendous wealth of the original family that lived there.
Living the life.
On top of the building I noted a giant nest in which sat 2 tremendous birds (storks maybe?). Those animals had it made! If I were a bird, I’d totally post up at a chateau or castle. Why not?

We next toured the gardens located just over the moat on the right side of the Chateau. Our walk around the gardens ended in a brief nap in the gardens surrounded by rose bushes, lavender, and the carved bushes of various plump little animals.
Around 5pm we awoke from our slumber and realized that one of the keys to the bike locks was missing. Together, we search the grounds of the garden and the Chateau, but came up empty handed. As it turned out, one of the chateau guides had the key in his pocket the entire time! Luckily we retrieved it from him and departed for our bike ride back to Cluny. The return went by much more quickly than the morning’s ride.
We had dinner tonight at Brasserie du Nord (where I’d had the unfortunate meat experience during our first lunch). Well, this restaurant seems to always put me at a loss as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian. Seemingly every dish on the menu is entirely cheese or graced by meat of some kind. The past two times I’d been here, I resorted to just telling the server I was vegetarian and that I’d be happy with anything the chef sent me. Unfortunately, I arrived at dinner this night slightly later than the rest of the group and was left with very little time to find something I could eat on the menu. Exhausted from the long day, I once more told the server I was vegetarian but would eat fish, and would be satisfied with anything. After rolling his eyes at the vegetarian comment, he nodded and left our table. Well, at that rate, I had no idea what I was going to receive as my meal.
I really should tell them to send me anything tasty that I can eat more often. What was soon delivered to me was a plate of pan-seared salmon dressed with a creamy seafood sauce, a small bowl of wild rice, and a light green salad with walnuts and the French Dijon vinaigrette that I can’t get enough of. I really couldn’t have asked for something better.
Sufficiently full, I once again made my way to the bar for yet another Eurocup game. Tonight, it was England versus Italy (my ancestry!). I was initially disappointed when I arrived at the 90 minute mark, which would technically be the end of the game. However, I next made note of the score which was zero-zero! I was just in time for overtime. This is when it gets intense. Just five minutes before the end of overtime, Italy scored! Except it didn’t count. So the game went on to penalty kicks. Now, here, this is where watching becomes unbearably nerve-wracking. But, alas, just as in the 2006 World Cup, Italy claimed victory over penalty kicks. Viva Italia! Wednesday will be the Spain-Portugal, and I can’t wait!
Tomorrow, after a very fun weekend, we’ll be back in the classroom to talk about wine which I’ve been much anticipating, especially after taking the Rutgers Wine Course this past spring. 

- Adrianne Speranza

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