Saturday, December 27, 2008
Yesterday we finally managed our first mini road trip, about half an hour away, to the town of Jumièges. We took a winding road along the Seine, going through a couple small towns along the way. Our destination was the Abbaye de Jumièges, originally built in the 8th century, rebuilt (after burning down) in the 11th century, culminating in its dedication in 1067 (with William the Conqueror among those present).
The abbey is now in ruins, which to my eye makes it all the more beautiful. We happened upon a cold but stunningly clear, blue day and the juxtaposition of the ruins with the sky and the green grass was so striking — rendering the difference between indoor and outdoor space obsolete.
Because it was the day after Christmas, we were pretty much the only people out and about, which was nice. After the abbey we decided to head back along the Seine to see if a charming little restaurant I spotted happened to be open. It was, and it turned out to be the most memorable meal we’ve had here.
We were greeted at La Pommeraie by Pascal, the owner (and only other person there) and the resident cat, Felix. There was a fire going, and our table was directly opposite the Seine. We were presented with mini toasts and the maison specialité, saumon fumé (smoked salmon mousse). When we ordered our meals, I asked if there was something simple he could prepare for Anna (this was not the kind of place with a kid’s menu). Pascal suggested a small piece of salmon, which sounded great. Little did I know we were dealing with a true, French chef. The plate that came out for Anna was so beautiful I photographed it. Of course, she wouldn’t touch the pureed pommes de terre with ongion which was presented in a carved out onion, the carrot and sweet potato mousse, or the parsnip terrine, but she did devour the entire piece of salmon, and then proceeded to eat some of mine.
By the time we finished our meal, Anna was beyond hyper and it was past nap time, but the experience of this place was so lovely we just couldn’t tear ourselves away. We ordered coffees but Pascal first brought us glasses of Calvados, the apple brandy that Normandy is known for. After our digestifs and coffees we tore ourselves away, but not before snapping some photos with Pascal and Anna, who by now had, of course, bonded.
On the drive home we kept pulling over to the side of the road to shoot pics of the houses built right on top of the carved-out, limestone ridge to our left, or the Seine to the right.
We are definitely hoping for at least one more excursion like this before we leave next week. It didn’t happen before because the weather was so miserable, and because we were either traveling to Paris or hosting guests. But now that we’ve had a taste of what that kind of meandering can offer, I’m definitely hungry for more!