We arranged for my sister and her husband to pet sit for us while we were gone. They didn't seem to mind having a week at the beach in exchange for pet sitting.
We had planned to take a 1PM flight on Wednesday from Jacksonville to Atlanta to connect with the flight to Stuttgart. I checked the flights one more time Tuesday night and decided we'd better take an earlier flight to make sure to get to Atlanta.
We got to the airport in time for the 9:30AM flight which put us in Atlanta at 10:30ish. Our Stuttgart flight didn't leave until 5:45PM so that gave us plenty of time to do something I'd been planning for awhile - a Sky Club Crawl! There are 9 Sky Clubs in the Atlanta Airport so if we were going to hit them all, we'd have to stick to a schedule of 2 clubs per hour. Our Jacksonville flight came into A concourse and our Stuttgart flight was scheduled to go out of T concourse so we decided to start at the F concourse Sky Club and work our way back to T Concourse.
We elected to get some exercise and walk from Concourse A to Concourse F (more than a mile). When we checked in at the F Sky Club, we discovered that our departure gate had been changed to F Concourse so we decided to change our strategy. After a snack at the F Club, we took the train back to T Concourse. We visited the Sky Clubs in T, A (2 clubs), B, C, D (2 clubs) and E. When we got to the second club on D concourse, we were joined by our friend Kyle who finished the crawl with us. Friends Kyle and Sandy had decided to tag along on our Atlanta to Stuttgart to Strasbourg to Noyers adventure. We found Sandy and visited the F concourse Sky Club one more time before heading to the gate. The Sky Club Crawl was a success! It made the layover time in Atlanta go by quickly.
We got to our departure gate in plenty of time to hear our names called and receive our Delta One seats!
The flight was very pleasant. We had dinner and watched a couple of movies before settling in for a nap. When we awoke, breakfast was being served and shortly thereafter, we landed in Stuttgart.
The car rental cost turned out to be more than double what we were quoted on Travelocity. There was a fee for an extra driver, a fee for driving the car into France and some obligatory insurance fees that were not disclosed in the original quote. Thankfully, we would splitting the cost of the car with our friends! The rental car agent tried to talk us into a larger car for another 110 Euros but we stuck with our little economy car. Our luggage barely fit and we were quite cozy in our little car!
We made the drive to Strasbourg and found the Hilton. One room was ready so we dropped our luggage and went to the Executive Lounge to wait for the other room. After we got into our rooms, Sandy, Kyle and I decided to walk into town. Tony wanted some alone time so he stayed at the hotel to read his kindle and relax.
It was a 20 minute walk to town. The concierge recommended taking public transportation which stops very near the hotel but we were ready for a walk after the flight. The street in front of the hotel took us directly to the Place De La Republic.
From there, we wanted to walk to the Petite France area for lunch. We were going to walk along the river, but we saw the St. Piere church and took a detour.
There were lots of beautiful sights on our detour!
A very nice lady saw us holding our map and pointed us toward Petite France but somehow we got turned around and ended up backtracking across the same area twice.
We finally got out the phone and used the GPS to get us there. We stopped for lunch on the way at La Stub. Sandy and I ordered Tart Flambee - sort of like a cross between a pizza crust and a tortilla with creamy cheese spread on top and various toppings. Kyle had a burger. We ordered wine and it was served in tiny thimble sized glasses.
Petite France was very picturesque!
It was an easy walk to the Cathedral because we could see it from anywhere in the city! Sandy and I sat at a café in front of the Cathedral and ordered some more thimbles full of wine while Kyle went inside to light a candle.
We walked back to the hotel along the river past the Parc Du Contades. We found Tony and headed to the Executive Lounge to enjoy some snacks and play bananagrams and cards. We enjoyed the complimentary hors doevers and cocktails from 6 until 8 while we monitored the flights that some of the rest of our group were standing by for. Zaine and Kevin were standing by for an impossible looking flight from Atlanta to Paris. Their back-up plan was Atlanta to Brussels. Nancy, Kristi and Kelly were trying for the New York to Paris flight. Zaine and Kevin's flight was a nail-biter but at the last minute, they were assigned seats. We thought they were home free until we noticed the flight was delayed from 3:15PM until 6:30PM. We were hoping the flight wouldn't cancel!
We were surprised to still be feeling awake after the lounge closed so we decided to head down to the hotel bar for a night-cap. Back in our room, we continued to check on our friends' flights until we saw that they all had seats and their flights had taken off, then we could go to sleep.
After a leisurely morning at the hotel, we met at the car at 10AM to begin the long drive to Noyers. Sandy wanted to be sure to get there in plenty of time to inspect our accommodations and do some grocery shopping before check-in time at 6:00PM. We figured we had time for a leisurely lunch stop and could still make it to Noyers by 4:00PM. Wrong!
We chose the little town of Besançon for lunch. The GPS said it would only take us 10 minutes off of our route. It was a lovely little village with a market where we bought some melons and radishes.
We had lunch at Pizzeria le Vesontio where the service was PAINFULLY slow! By the time we got back on the road, we were at least an hour behind schedule, leaving us no time to do our grocery shopping for dinner that night. Sandy sent a text to the group to say dinner would be "on-your-own" this evening but got a response from her daughter, Claire, that they had groceries and dinner was covered for the group!
We made it to town around 5:15PM and met Lionel, the owner of our beautiful chateau. He gave us an extensive tour of the house with instructions about the electricity, lighting, hot water (wait for it), stove... It went on for about 2 hours! Meanwhile the group had started to arrive wanting to know where their rooms were. Even though we had been on a tour, the architecture was so chopped up, we couldn't find our way back to some of the rooms!
There are so many sections to this place! There is the "La Chapelle" section which has 4 levels. The main level has a large dining area with tables to seat 16, a piano, a sitting area with 2 sofas & several chairs, and a reception desk. Outside the dining area is a patio with tables and chairs to seat 24. Off of the patio is a kitchen consisting of 2 rooms with 3 refrigerators, a large stove, 2 dishwashers, cookware and china to serve an unlimited amount of guests. Upstairs are 4 bedrooms named La Dauphine, L'Heritiere (Tony and I shared this room), Favorite and Pigeonnier. Down one level is one more bedroom called Courtine. There is also a small terrasse on this level. Down one more level is a garden with a petanque court.
There are two towers. The Tower Cachee has 3 levels. On the lowest level is a large meeting room with a big screen for presentations and a karaoke machine (no microphone). This room opens at street level behind the chateau. Up one level are 2 bedrooms, The Caline and the Sereine. One more level up are 3 more bedrooms, the Galerie, the Garde and the Secrete.
The other tower, Madame, has a terrace, a sitting area and a bedroom. We took this picture of Tony in the tower while Lionel was showing us the kayaks and canoes that were behind the fence along the river.
While everyone was finding their way to their rooms, Margo busied herself putting together a dinner buffet of breads, cheeses, white and green asparagus, green beans and other delights. Over dinner, we visited and everyone recounted their travel experiences getting here. Sandy read everyone the rules of the house.
Breakfast was delicious french breads and cheeses. Our destination for the day, planned by Dave & Jackie, was Auxerre. Tony planned to stay in Noyers so I decided to ride with Bill, John and Kirsten since we were assigned dinner duty together and would need to do our shopping. We parked near a church.
We started walking toward the river, stopping for refreshments along the way at Bistrot des Amis.
When we got to the river, we found a wonderful market with incredible smells. There were samples everywhere enticing us to purchase wines, meats and cheese!
One booth was roasting some piggies. I felt kind of bad for them, but they smelled really good!
Lunch was ham and cheese sandwiches from the Le Grand Saloir Brasserie booth. The cheese was melted on a raclette and scraped onto the sandwiches.
On the way back through the market, we picked up some wine, meats, cheeses and foie gras.
Bar Le St Pierre Auxerre called out to us so we made a stop there for refreshments.
After a bit of shopping, it was time to switch to wine. We found a lovely little place on a cobblestone street called L'horloge. Beside us was a building with a fake window painted on it. We saw the rest of our group pass by doing their sightseeing.
We wandered around a bit and enjoyed the scenery.
We made one last stop at La Poste before heading to the grocery store to get the supplies for our dinner.
Saturday night would be our only dinner out. We had a reservation for 20 at Les Granges de Noyers. When we arrived, we were guided to the garden where we were served a flute of rosé and some appetizers. While we were milling around, we noticed sage growing in one corner of the garden so John procured us a few leaves.
Dinner was a specialty of the region, Beef Bourguignon accompanied by local wines. Dessert was a decadent chocolate cake.
At dusk, we made our way back through the town gate to our chateau.
We had a rousing game of Left/Right/Center which was won by David.
Everyone started drifting off to bed after the game one at a time. I think everyone had turned in by 2AM.
Some of the group got up early to go biking. They had been warned not to be late or they would lose their reservation. The rest of us got a slow start as everyone drifted down for breakfast. An antique market was set up behind our chateau.
We took a leisurely stroll down the sunny street looking at everyone's wares. Around 12:30, we started toward Vézelay, hoping to have lunch in town. Vézelay is a small town with one main street that is straight uphill with a church at the top.
There were only about 4 restaurants and lots of people in town so every restaurant was "complet" (full). We found a wine shop and a sandwich shop and made ourselves a little picnic at the bottom of the hill.
Some of our group ran into Lionel, the owner of our chateau, and he recommended we stop at La Croix MontJoie winery on our way back. We tasted their white wines and admired the view of their beautiful vineyards.
Tonight was our night to cook, so when we got back to the chateau, Tony, Kirsten, John and I busied ourselves making gnocchi, sausages, sauteed mushrooms and a salad.
I wanted to make a dish that we had enjoyed once on a trip to Nice called "merde de chien".
We decided to set our "restaurant" up on the patio and decorated the tables with flowers from the garden. We thought we set the bar pretty high for the remaining cooks on the trip!
After dinner, the order of business was to play Petanque in the garden until darkness overtook us. Zaine and I teamed up against a couple of other teams and beat them! Kyle and Tony were the judges.
The Left Right Center game got a little rowdy with everyone beating on the table for each roll when it got down to two coins left. The winner for the evening was Bill!
Karaoke was the next activity, which continued well into the early morning hours.
Our destination for the day was Dijon. Margo put together some highlights for our trip.
Surprisingly all of us arrived at the park within a few moments of each other. Sandy and Kyle even made a stop at the train station to pick up Sandy's nephew Davis, who would be joining us for a day or two. It was a beautiful little park with a fountain and playground.
At the beginning of the park was a statue of L'Ours Blanc (the White bear), a sculpture by François Pompon. Of course I had to have a photo to add to my Facebook Posing Like Statues Album.
We started up Liberty Avenue, through the Arc de Triomphe.
Moutarde Maille was the first mustard shop we saw. Several folks purchased some mustard and other souvenirs.
The next stop was lunch at Le Central Grill. We had a wobbly table and after a spill or two and some broken glasses, we finished our lunch and headed out to sightsee.
We found a less expensive mustard shop and did some more shopping.
Of course we had to rub our left hand on the owl on the outside of the church for luck.
Another beautiful church...
Kids will be kids... Playing in the fountain! :)
We made one more stop at Café Gourmand for a glass of wine before making the drive back to Noyers.
Dinner was complements of Kristi, Kelly, Vinny and Claire. They outdid us! We had french onion soup, pork loin, broccoli and asparagus. They made tortellini for the vegetarians. Dessert was a buttery flaky french cake.
After dinner, Zaine and I defended our Petanque title, winning by a narrow margin. We attribute our success to the stretching we did between each round. It was so dark we were playing by flashlight!
We gathered back in the dining room for Left Right Center. Davis beat Kristi in an exciting showdown.
Kevin acted as Disc Jockey and lots of singing and dancing ensued. I think the last person went to bed around 3. I made it up until 2AM!
No tour was planned, so everyone decided to do their own thing. Some folks went to a winery, some folks went to the store and a few of us took a hike up to the top of the hill (300+ steps) to the ruins of the castle.
There was a great view of the town of Noyers from the top of the hill.
On the way back down the hill, we ran into a man walking his dog who wanted to show us the other gate to the city that many tourists miss.
We had lunch at the house and then Tony, Bill, Kirsten, Kyle, Kevin and I took an afternoon kayak ride down the river until the rain drove us inside. The youngsters took their kayaks the opposite direction on the river.
We got back from our kayak trip before the rain but some of the group was not so lucky. Once everyone got back and got dry, we had a wine tasting with wines from the region on the patio. John told us about unfiltered Chardonnay and old vine Chardonnay and then let us taste the difference. Our next tasting had us comparing Petit Chablis which is grown on the hilltops, and regular Chablis. Last, we compared a Pinot Noir with an old vine Pinot Noir.
While we were tasting, Bill was getting a fire going for dinner. The veggies, salmon and steaks prepared by Bill, Kyle and Sandy smelled so good sizzling on the grill!
Sandy has a rule on her trips that everyone must sit beside a different person at dinner each night so we could get to know each other better. We went around the table and each person had to tell something that they knew about the person to their left.
We played Petanque after dinner. Zaine and I teamed up against several others and just couldn't lose, again!
We opened a creaky old door to the tower where Vinny and Claire were staying and discovered a ladder leading to some stairs. Of course, we had to explore! All we found was a dirty old room with some bat poop!
Left Right Center got rowdier by the night with lots of banging on the table as it came down to the last few coins. Nancy was the winner.
We decided to try out the game room. Vincent, Claire, Daniel, Davis, Kyle and Bill were playing Texas Hold 'Em while others played Foosball. I joined the Texas Hold 'Em table as Kyle's "coach" and one by one, we took the others out until only Daniel was left. It was late, so Kyle and Daniel split the pot and I went to bed (around 2AM).
John had used his connections to get us a private tour of the William Fevre winery in Chablis. We were early for the tour, so the proprietor told us about one of the town's sights. We thought he said it was a 500 year old grape vine or a 15th century building but we couldn't find anything that resembled either. We later learned he was talking about a 500 year old wine press.
Jean Baptiste (JB) took us through the winery. He talked about everything from growing the grapes to the harvest to bottling the wine. One of the interesting facts about the vineyards is that they plant roses at the beginning of the vineyard because whatever diseases affect the roses will hit the grape vines about 2 weeks after so it gives them time to try to protect the vines.
In the Vinotec, we learned another interesting tidbit of information. Each bottle has a laser serial number. If a consumer gets a bad bottle, they are able to determine the purchaser and if it was purchased from the winery, they will replace it.
In the tasting room, we tried seven wines: Saint Bris, Petit Chablis, Chablis Domaine, Vaillons, Fourchaume, Bougros Domaine and Bougros Cote Bouguerots Domain.
We left the winery in search of lunch.
We found the wine press that we had been looking for before the tour.
We found one restaurant that could take six of us so we decided to split up. The rest of us found a table at Chablis Bar and enjoyed a variety of sandwiches.
Kyle, Jackie and I took a round-about route to get back to Noyers that took us through some pasture land and past some fishermen. We got back to Noyers and found Tony, nicknamed the Mayor of Noyers in position at the Vival where he spent most of his time on the trip.
The weather was beautiful so when we got back to the chateau so we enjoyed the afternoon sitting on the deck until we were called to dinner.
Our hosts for the evening were Bailey, Daniel, Margo and Loretta. We had a wonderful Moroccan Stew with apricot Chicken.
Zaine and I were finally unseated at the nightly Petanque game. Kirsten just could not lose! Finally, just before it was too dark to see, Kelly and Kristi were able to beat Bill & Kirsten by 1 point.
Left Right Center was won by Kevin. I was exhausted so I went to bed.
Our destination for the day would be Beaune, the heart of Burgandy. Margo put together some touring notes for us and arranged a tour of a mustard factory.
I rode with Kelly, Kristi and Nancy. We noticed the interestingly tiled roofs as we walked around town.
Of course, there was an ornate church.
We found the beautiful sidewalk café Chez Louis for lunch. Kristi and I had the menu of the day. Nancy and Kelly wanted to split a pizza but the server sternly told them no, so they each got a pizza and could only eat half.
Lunch took so long we didn't have time to tour the Hospice.
At the Moutarderie Fallot mustard factory, we met up with the rest of the group. The tour was interesting. We tasted mustard seeds and learned about how they grow and are harvested. Most of the mustard seeds used in French production surprisingly come from Canada. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the factory. I didn't realize this and was about to take a picture when the guide said "no photos". Then I noticed the sign in front of what I was about to photograph which had a picture of a camera with a line through it.
After the tour, we went to the shop and there was a mustard bar where we could taste many different flavors. Almost all of it was hot. I was surprised that the heat comes from the mustard seeds and not from added horseradish. The guide said that the Fallot factory cold presses their mustard seeds which preserves the hot flavor.
It was Nancy's night to cook so we had to get back to Noyers since it was an hour and a half drive. When we got back to Noyers, I decided to take one last walk around town. I had missed seeing some of the sights earlier in the week.
Tony did not take any of the excursions and chose to spend the week in Noyers. He would have a leisurely morning at the house and then wander down to the Vival for lunch. He became known by our group as the Mayor of Noyers. While we were in Beaune and Tony was at the Vival, he met an interesting couple, Michele and Isabelle, who live nearby and invited all of us to dinner but we already had plans.
Our hosts for dinner, Dave, Jackie and Nancy, began the meal with a sparkling wine toast to Sandy for arranging this wonderful trip.
The main course was Spaghetti Bolognese.
After dinner, we sat in the sitting room adjacent to the dining room and reflected on our week. Daniel and Bailey climbed the hill to the old castle ruins to watch the sunset. Kyle said he suspected that Daniel snuck her up there to propose to her but when they came back down, she wasn't wearing a ring.
We played our last game of Left, Right, Center and Kyle won. Several of the gang stayed up until midnight so they could sing Happy Birthday to Daniel.
Everyone packed and said their goodbyes. Jackie and Dave would be taking the Friday afternoon flight out of Paris to Atlanta. Zaine, Kevin, Bailey and Daniel rode together back to Paris with plans to spend the day and take the Saturday afternoon Paris-Atlanta flight. Margo, Loretta, Claire and Vince would also have a day in Paris before flying home. Bill, Kirsten and John set out to go to Notre Dame and Sacre Coure. Sandy, Kyle, Tony and I started our drive back to Stuttgart.
We put Sandy in charge of finding a spot for our lunch about halfway back to Stuttgart. She found a neat town called Belfort that had a huge lion monument symbolizing the heroism of the soldiers that fought the Prussian army 1870–71.
We found the square surrounding the church. There were several restaurants to choose from. We ate at Aux Trois Maillets in the courtyard.
We arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn Stuttgart NeckarPark around 6:30PM, dropped our bags and headed out in search of dinner. We found the Sportrestaurant im Nekarpark nearby and had a lovely dinner of Wienerschnitzel. While we were eating, we got a message from Claire with a picture of the engagement ring she found on Bailey's hand. Kyle had been right!
The owner of the restaurant insisted on buying us an after dinner drink.
We headed back to the hotel and played cards in the hotel bar until it was time to hit the hay.
We checked out of the hotel and made our way to the airport. We turned the car in, found the Delta check-in kiosk and got through security. Kyle and Sandy went to the duty free shop while Tony and I went to the Chill Out Lounge. We were pleased that our Priority Card got us in. The Chill Out Lounge had a variety of drinks and snacks.
When we got to the gate, we found that our former neighbor Lorene would be one of the flight attendants on our flight home! It was awfully good to see her!
We got "good" seats on the flight back to Atlanta and landed early. We had plenty of time to clear customs and make the 4PM flight to Jacksonville, but we didn't get a seat so we had to wait for the 5:25PM flight. We were so happy to get home to our pets! This was the longest we had ever been away from them!
If you have time, take a look at the video tour I made of the place where we stayed. You can watch the long version (24 minutes) in which my narration is a bit breathless from climbing all of the stairs, or the short version which is sped up and I sound like a chipmunk.