In the morning, we found our train to Laval. When we arrived, we walked outside and the bus was already waiting. We boarded without incident, putting our luggage in the hold under the bus.
We drove about forty kilometers out into the French countryside. Most of the places we had been were actually cities. It was refreshing to be out in wide-open spaces.
When we arrived in Fougeres, we were let off at a bus station. I remembered when we listened to French lessons in the car on another trip. Gare Routieire. We went inside and Jane attempted to speak French to a young woman behind the desk, who did not speak any English. What we determined was that we could not buy tickets for the bus right then. She gave us a schedule and showed which ones would be running the next morning, and told us that we had to buy the tickets then.
We went outside, and we were kind of in a neighborhood. We had no idea where we actually were. So, once again, I pulled out the rented cell phone. We called the hotel, and asked the desk to send us a cab big enough for five and luggage.
It took a while for the cab to show up. In the cities they came within minutes. We probably waited about a half hour. I joked that they probably had to send one out from Paris.
When the cab arrived, we loaded the luggage and Casey sat on Jane’s lap. I showed the cab driver the map to the Hotel Les Voyageurs. I was really happy we took a cab this time, because it was up a very steep hill.
When we got there, the driver helped us with our luggage. Again, I rounded up the fair to include a tip. He appreciated it, and when we went inside, I heard him tell the girl at the desk in French that when we were ready to leave to call him only.
The girl behind the desk looked young, maybe Erin’s age. She spoke very good English. This town was so far off the path that I think she might have been the only person living there that I ran into that spoke English. Fougeres seemed to attract tourists, but not ones from far away.
The hotel was charming. Smallish rooms, but nicely decorated. It had a restaurant, which was only open for dinner.
We were hungry, and once again, had missed lunch. We decided to try and find food.
Being from Texas, love of outdoor cooking is something burned into my heritage. I spent a considerable amount of time over the last few years learning how to really do it right. From the window of my room, I knew that someone was grilling. I even knew that they were using wood instead of charcoal. I could tell by the smell of fat hitting glowing coals that they weren’t barbecuing (cooking with indirect heat), they were grilling (cooking over hot coals). This was the first time I smelled this kind of thing since we left the US. I knew I wanted some, and I hoped it wasn’t some French guy just cooking in his back yard.
We came into a town square. I’m not sure what they call that in France. In Italy it would be a Piazza. Off to one side, there was a big trailer, and they were grilling great big sausages.
Erin watches the Saucisse grilling over wood coals
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by this. We Texicans believe we invented the process, but there are those who say that the word Barbecue comes from the French "Barbe ŕ queue" which means "beard-to-tail", i.e., cooking a whole animal on a spit over a fire.
Jane and Casey had gone off exploring. Christian went to go find something without meat. This left me and Erin, the two Francophobes to try and figure out how to order.
I watched for a while. They had this big flat grill inside the wagon. They would pour batter on the grill and make a very thin crepe. Then place the sausage in the middle, squirt mustard on it, then roll it up. It looked and smelled delicious.
I finally worked up my nerve, and went up to the man in the wagon and said:
Me: (holding up one finger) Sausage?
Him: (looking back at me with wide eyes)
Me: (Looking at the sign on the wagon that said “SANDWICHS”) Sandwich?
Me: Oui! Saucisse! Saucisse!
I was thinking that it was funny that all they sold there was sausage, and with sausage and saucisse sounding so much alike, that it was that difficult to get my point across. Of course, being a dang foreigner, I was lucky that I could get anything to work.
He stuck a sausage in a baguette, instead of a crepe. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t sure how to tell them to do it the other way. Probably when I said “sandwich” that blew the crepe out of the water.
He held up a big squirt bottle of mustard, and showed it to me. “Oui!”, I said. He put a liberal portion of mustard up and down the saucisse. I said, “deux frites s'il vous plait?”. They bagged up two orders of French fries. “et deux coca colas?”. He got me two cokes. “Viola”, he said. “Merci”, I answered. Erin looked at me like I must have been kidnapped by aliens. Holy, Joe… I was speaking French!
I was pretty amazed at my having survived that. I took a big bite out of my saucisse. Now I love hot food, but WOW! was that mustard hot! It was great, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. My nose started to run, and my eyes became teary. Erin asked me if I was okay.
A bit later, Jane caught up with us and I told her she had to have one of the sausages but, she needed to figure out how to get one on a crepe so I could try a bite. She had less of a challenge that I did, and ended up with the sausage in a crepe. It was really good.
Jane, Erin and Casey stand in line for Sauccise and Frites
Jane was very excited because she discovered that the place she used to live at in Fougeres 26 years ago was right around the corner from our hotel. The bottom floor, where she used to live had been turned into an antique shop. But, it was definitely the place.
Jane standing in front of the place where she lived in Fougeres in the 70’s.
We went inside and looked around at the antiques. Jane explained to Christian that this is where she had lived with his natural Father. Being of a curious nature, and not understanding the chronology of events, I asked, “Okay…could it be that Christian was conceived in this very room?”. Jane rolled her eyes and said, “No. It was before we were married, and back then that kind of thing didn’t go on in our group”.
Jane had celebrated her birthday while we were traveling, and I had told her I would buy her something along the way. I bought her an antique foot warmer from that shop.
She spoke French with the owner for a while. She learned that he had opened the store not long after Jane and her missionary friends left. I think he said he had been there for twenty five years.
Next, we went over to the Château. This is a castle built in medieval times for defense. Is completely walled in, and has a moat. There is even a dungeon. Even better, as our dumb luck would have it, we arrived in Fougeres on a day where they were celebrating the architecture of the area. Admission to the Chateau was free!
Jane and Casey with the Fougeres Chateau in the background
We spent a lot of time walking along the wall. You would see these horizontal openings that I was pretty sure were there so archers could shoot arrows at advancing enemies. There were also grated over holes in along the floor of the wall where one could pour a bit of boiling oil on someone trying to climb up.
Erin and I went into one room, and there was a huge table with chairs. I sat down and she took my picture.
Joseph sitting at a long table inside the castle at Fougeres
On the way out, we passed a large group of British school girls, probably about 13-15 years old getting a tour in English. I really wanted to turn around and follow them on their tour so I could learn more about the Chateau. But, I thought better of that.
We returned back to the hotel to rest a bit. I turned on the TV and started flipping channels. There was some kind of movie on that looked like it was from the 60’s. There were a bunch of “mod” types dancing in a Go-Go. It was all in French, but it was the only thing I could find that I could follow.
All of a sudden a couple of them went into a room, and started making out. Next thing I knew they were nude, and then they started having sex on camera. I had heard that TV in Europe was a bit different than in the US, but this kind of surprised me. Right in the middle of the day, right on broadcast TV.
When dinner time came, we went down to the hotel restaurant. It was full. I guess in Fougeres, when the tables are full, they don’t take anyone else for the rest of the night. We talked to the girl at the desk, and she recommended another restaurant in town called Restaurant Le Saint Leonard.
When we arrived there, we were the only people in the place. I was afraid that might be a bad sign. But, it was a small town, and we didn’t have a lot of choices.
The waitress did not speak any English. Jane spoke with her a bit in French. She brought us a menu, and we figured out that it was another one of those all inclusive meal deals where you order three or four courses.
I had no idea what to do. I’m not big on salads, so I pointed at the only thing that looked like it could be soup to start with. Then, I found “Boeuf”, which I figured was “Beef”. For desert I ordered something with Ice Cream.
I was kind of worried about what I might get. Especially the soup, because all I knew was that it said a bunch of French stuff and the word “soupe”. I was imagining that I would be brought a big steaming bowl of fish heads, or perhaps some snails. I just didn’t know what to expect, but I was making myself kind of nauseous.
The soup came, and it was kind of reddish in color. I stuck my spoon in and felt something lying on the bottom of the bowl. I held my breath and brought it up. It was a big piece of boiled bacon. It didn’t look like something you should eat, probably put there for flavor. I let it sink back to the bottom. Then I took some of the soup from the top and tasted it.
It was probably the single best soup I’ve ever tasted I my life. I have no idea what was in it, other than the bacon. But, whatever it is, I’d love to have it again. I just don’t know what it could possibly be called.
The place started to fill up with customers. I felt a bit better.
Next, I saw the waitress walk over to the fireplace. There was a nice wood fire going. She took a steak and put it on a grill inside the fireplace. It smelled great. I was hoping that was the “Boeuf” I had ordered. It was. In a few minutes she served it up rare with some vegetables. It was delicious.
At the end of the meal, the kids got really tired and walked back to the hotel, leaving Jane and I alone to enjoy desert. This was definitely one of the best meals on the trip.
NEXT: We have a few challenges as we try to return back to Paris for one last day and night before we return home!
But first… One more photo. Jane Chateau in Fougeres. This place is probably mostly unknown to international tourists. If you are going to France, try to work it in. You won’t be sorry.