Friday, July 07, 2006

Stop 2: Condrieu

Stop 2: Condrieu : Wherin we experience an abominable Sunday Lunch and a Beautiful Excursion into the Vines that produce the Cote Roti

We had 15 minutes to get to the station and as we cruised on our bikes across the square in front of Perrache station in Lyon, I saw on the clock that the train would be just pulling away from the track. We’d missed the train! Since there wasn’t one leaving soon afterwards, I decided not to get too worked up about it and began thinking about a new plan. This has happened to me more than once in my traveling days. Since we had all of Sunday spread before us and we were at the station, my suggestion was to head on up anyway and get a ticket going somewhere. Who cares?

Let me note that this is not Loïc’s way of doing things. He is a set your sights kind of guy, he likes to know where he is going before he even steps foot out the door. Plan A, perhaps a Plan B, but always a plan. I am just the opposite – I thrive on the unexpected. I love to be the one reading the map because they show all those little places we can discover off to the side – when we’re out driving, sometimes he gets mad because I tell him to take a turn just because the road is a small one and I want to see what it looks like. For people like Loïc, the scientists who love to rigorously follow the rules, he gets to a certain level in his discoveries and that’s when people like me who push his limits by daring him to take risks are a good thing. I keep telling myself this anyway.

We got up to the ticket kiosk and Loïc, who was smart enough to check the departures board while I was scrolling through our future possibilities, saw that the train we had initially planned on taking was delayed by 17 minutes! Back to plan A! The day is saved! Hoorah! We quickly got our tickets and were off to Condrieu.

Pretty little town, Condrieu, and the town where we got off at the stationon the other side from the river, called Les Roches de Condrieu. We decided after all to eat somewhere. In the town near the station a boulangerie was open. It must have seemed strange to the lady when I went in and said: “we’re looking for a place to eat – can you guide us to someplace open?” For some reason I failed to see the delicious looking focaccia and quiches she had on display (Loic described them to me later). Despite the fact that she had things we could have eaten for lunch, she guided us anyway, to either the restaurant La Plaisance (which means sailing) and the bar down the road, which serves food. She repeated twice that the bar serves food on Sundays, and repeating things sometimes being my only criteria for making a decision about where to go, we went there. We found a seat on the terrace and took a gander at the menu, which had run of the mill salads in the Lyonnais city style, nothing out of the ordinary. When the girl arrived, I ordered my salad, and she got a frightened look on her face and apologized, they forgot to get food that morning. So we bid the bar adieu, and headed to the second choice.

Restaurant La Plaisance. My first impression upon entering the place was that we were entering a dark and stifling hot cave. Then as my eyes adjusted, I saw that this place had the feel of a well lived in house. Papers stacked haphazardly in the corners, various neatened areas which had been brought to our attention with the use of spot lamps placed in corners, lots of kitsch and souvenir type items placed here and there. There seemed to be an attempt to place the visitor in the history of a family. This was not just a family restaurant, but perhaps the restaurant of a large family with a tired mother who didn’t clean the house much and a father who didn’t think much of home repairs. Cozy in a haphazard neglectful kind of way.

The proprietress all the same liked to keep appearances and took some pride in her establishment, therefore, she greeted us with an icy cold glare. The reason for this was that we were not dressed to her liking. Me being in bike shorts and a tee shirt, and Loic dressed slightly like Linus and carrying a knapsack. She seated us at a dark table inside as opposed to the popular terrace meant for the fashionable Sunday people that overlooked the boat harbor.

We’d taken the train to Condrieu to take in the glory of the terroir by bicycle, after all, and the weather was sunny and beautiful, so instead of hooking ourselves into this dark cave-like lived-in family nest by ordering the ridiculously expensive menus on offer, we ordered one dish each à la carte. I ordered a lamb terrine that looked as if somehow maybe it could be promising, considering it was from the ultra-expensive menu. Loic, gearing himself up for biking, ordered some ravioli, in one of those strange menu departures from the norm : restaurants that offer meals two ways: “family style” or “gastronomique”. (note to self: avoid at all costs)

Disgusted that we didn’t order wine from the list or any of the expensive bottled water, the proprietress eventually slammed a carafe of warm cloudy water on the table and disappeared to her Sunday clients on the terrace. After we poured the water into our glasses, we noticed a bubbly slime on the inside of the bottle and clustering along the top of our glasses. I refused to drink it. I was imagining mosquito egg colonies taking root in my gut, and Loïc and I proceeded to get into a quiet spat about whether it was appropriate for us to bring out our own bottle of tap water we trusted from the back pack. At that moment, the food arrived. Here, in all it’s glory, was my lamb terrine, priced at about $13.50 for the plate alone. I will let the presentation speak for itself.

Canned baby corn after all, is quite rare in these parts. The sauce was a reduction of Dijon ‘moutarde à l’ancienne’ and balsamic vinegar with no other discernable seasoning, and I attempted tastes with both the meat and gelatin in my dish and it was complimentary to neither. In the end, I left the sauce uneaten, as well as all of the ganishes, which I actually did taste in order to give credit where it is due. In all, I think I got about one ounce of meat and 8 ounces of gelatin. If you are working on your hair and nail health, perhaps this would please you to eat daily.

No dessert or coffee for us! We had to get back on the road! After a long wait, we tactfully presented ourselves to the hostesses stand near the door and waited until she distainfully ceased to ignore us and checked us out. Freedom at last!
The biker in this photo just happened to speed by as I aimed my camera at the bridge into the town of Condrieu and in an instant, we were reminded of how athletic and fit we will be by the end of the series of bike tours of the towns from Vienne to Valence. I took it as a premonition.

Loïc is ready to go ahead and follow whatever I am up to in terms of physical activity, and I surprised him with my proclamation that I wanted to bike uphill into the vines. We decided on the D30, which was very steep and curvy and full of beautiful things to see. The ride through the vines was really glorious and the photos don't do the scenery justice.
In this region, the vines are trained onto triangular supports all in rows on the hills in order to maximize exposure to the sun as it moves on its trajectory through the valley.

Once near the top of the collines, we were rewarded with a beautiful view.

Being a Sunday, the wineries were closed. I did however profoundly enjoy a stale cola flavored popsicle treat once we'd reached the town again. I will be taking a trip during the week to taste the wine in due time. My next visit on the Vienne to Valence discovery tour will be an adventure to see a producer of the local goat Cheese, the Rigotte de Condrieu.

This is installment two of what started as a short project called Vienne to Valence but which has expanded into something bigger. My bike tours of the upper Cotes du Rhône region continue as weather permits, and I will once again be including some of these installments on the blog.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I happened upon this, and it was so charming, I wanted you to know it was a lovely part of my afternoon.

My Chris my own twin, in that he is willing to take that little road, to stop for a rock or a flower, just to see it, venture into a town or a byroad or someone's pasture, just to be there. Or if I want to be there. We lead a serendipitous life, for old settled married folks, but we, too, like to see over the hill. That's what attracted me to your prose in the first place.

Your curiousity and eager embrace of whatever may be waiting just beyond are infectious, as is your way of expressing the joys of what you find.

I hope you are well and sharing other marvelous adventures, which you will write about in your own elegant, evocative way. This one made me want to catch that train--any train, to go riding up into the vines!


But biker pants??!! What color of kid gloves goes with BIKERPANTS??

11:57 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear Rahcel, thank you very much for your comment. Many kinds of kid gloves go with biker pants, they come in all colors! What am I supposed to wear during athletic activity? Most of the time I wear black knee length leggings or one of my many pairs of yoga pants.

7:38 PM, August 18, 2006  
Blogger christine said...

It's a very pretty village but too bad the restaurant was such a disappointment. My husband and I explored there in one of our treks outside Lyon. We'll go back but we definitely won't put La Plaisance on the list of future visits!

I really enjoy your blog and your unabashed love of food. Your pictures are beautiful and your enthusiasm really inspires me to search for the best ingredients!

12:58 PM, September 09, 2006  

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