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Report 2068: Going for the Gold in France. Part 3: Dawdling in the Dordogne

By Roz from California, Summer 2013

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Page 2 of 12: Saturday June 22, 2013: La Rochelle to Monpazier, via St Emilion

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Anniversary Lunch Party

Weather cool and partly cloudy.

Today was the golden day that had inspired this whole trip -- our 50th wedding anniversary. Since the date fell on a Saturday, which is the start day for vacation rentals, we had to spend a good part of it driving to the villa in Monpazier, about four hours away from La Rochelle, where we had been staying, along with our son and his wife.

Rather than try to figure out an anniversary dinner when we arrived in the Dordogne, and would be unpacking, getting settled, etc., I decided to scope out a nice restaurant along the way to book for lunch. The Auberge Saint Jean, just outside St Emilion, had some great reviews and was in a beautiful location right on the Dordogne River. We enjoyed an excellent lunch there, although I think the food was a bit more memorable in its presentation than in its flavors. Everything was exquisite on the plate and tasted very good, but not over-the-top fabulous, as some of the reviews had led me to expect.

There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and after their meal, they sat down with the owners and staff and (as far as we could tell from our limited French) gave them a serious critique. They might have been asked to consult, or they might have been simply offering advice. They did seem to be very sure of their opinions, and the owners did not seem very happy with what they heard. In fact, the young man who had been serving us was practically in tears when they left.

Our verdict was that the meal was a bit expensive but not exorbitantly priced for the caliber they aspired to (€43 for the day's three-course menu). The service was good, the setting was quite beautiful, and the wine was reasonably priced. We were not at all disappointed in our lunch, but strictly for the quality of the food, we preferred several other less expensive meals we had on this trip. The chef at Auberge Saint Jean seemed to be trying a bit too hard for the gourmet experience, and his reach slightly exceeded his grasp. But all in all, we did have a lovely family meal, and want to go on record here to thank our wonderful son, who completely surprised us by insisting on picking up the tab.

We drove on to the site of our rental house for the next week, Maison La Fontaine just outside Monpazier. We had seen the house before, so knew what to expect, but it even exceeded our memories and expectations. It's a wonderfully equipped house in a beautiful spot and easily walkable to the village. (See my review in Web Resources.) It was so nice to be settled in one spot and back to the slow travel mode.

We had picked up a few provisions at a nearby supermarket before arriving at the villa. After our blow-out lunch, we really only wanted to have a glass of bubbly on the patio by the pool, with a little bread and cheese.

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