By Margaret Webb -August 2016
On a trip to France in 2003, my friend Kathy and I had reservations at a Bed & Breakfast called Château de l’Hérissaudière. It was owned by Mme Claudine Détilluex and it was her family home where she had spent her childhood. This beautiful home is located north of Villandry, in the Loire Valley. After visiting the gardens of Villandry, I called Mme Détilluex to get directions to her place. Parts of her directions were a little sketchy and hard to follow, and we wound up driving a bit out of our way, but that turned out to be a good thing because we saw ruins of a Roman aqueduct near Fondettes. Several of the arches were still standing and it was an amazing sight. After a few more wrong turns and one stop to ask directions, we finally made it to the little town of Pernay and on to the Château de l”Hérissaudière. It is surrounded by huge trees and is not visible from the road. We had arrived in a magic little kingdom, removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. We parked our car and were greeted by the Queen of the little kingdom, Claudine Détilleux. We instantly became friends. She helped us with our luggage and showed us to our room. Her little Chihuahua-type watchdog Sipio greeted us, too.
Our room, La Chambre Montlouis,was fabulous, with tall stained glass windows, a stone fireplace, and a gorgeous bathroom that also had stained glass windows. Outside our room was a frog pond and les grenouilles were singing and singing to one another. Claudine said they were in love. It was dinner time and Claudine suggested a cozy restaurant in Pernay, Le Relais de l’Ecu. We went there, and yes, it was cozy….we were the only people in the dining room! We received excellent service and attention, and the food was fantastic. It was a family run place. The father was the chef, the mother was the hostess, and the daughter was the server. We had an entrée that could have sufficed for dinner because it was so filling and so delicious.
It was a baked dish of escargots et moules au gratin. Then we had sorbets made with pear and apple liquor. The main dish was Plat de St. Jacques, ….. scallops, leeks, potatoes and rice! Fabulous, fabulous. And then we had a soufflé for dessert, chocolate, of course.
The next day, Claudine invited us to eat dinner that evening with her and her friend Jean. She said she sometimes invites guests to dine with her if she discovers that they are sympathiques, likable. Translated: “I like you and would like for you to dine
with me this evening for only 15 euros each.” We rested during the afternoon. Each day Claudine had encouraged us to take a dip in her beautiful pool, but we told her we didn’t bring bathing suits. She said we could swim nues if we wanted to, but we didn’t want to. Thank you. Non, merci. And wouldn’t you know that on this second afternoon, at just about the time we would have been in the pool, nues, Jean drove up. We would have been caught.
Our dinner with Claudine and Jean was delightful. We ate outside on the terrasse in the presence of hundreds of beautiful pink roses. It was a lovely, lovely evening. The dinner was delicious. It started with an omelet and a salad. I made the faux pas of putting potatoes on my plate too soon, when we were eating the omelet and salad. Yikes! But the potatoes were in a serving dish next to me so I thought I was supposed to serve myself. “Non, madame, the potatoes go with the fish.” Ah, the fish. Herring in oil with pickles. Different, but very good. And we had beans and cheese and bread and fresh cherries from her cherry trees. I do believe the dinner was worth the 15 euros per person that it cost us. The fellowship and ambiance were worth that much by themselves. That night we slept with the tall, stained glass windows swung open and listened to the frogs singing their love songs to each other.