Nothing’s Better Than Spending Time With Friends – Return to Lorraine

It’s been three years since we’ve seen Regis, Marie, Justin, Timo and Jade. Justin was fifteen and the twins, Timo and Jade were 5. We were so looking forward to seeing them that we had no trouble rousing ourselves early, getting a quick run in and were on the road by 9:30. They were expecting us in Blainville sur l’eau at 12:30 for lunch.

The ride was mostly highway and the GPS had us arriving right at 12:30. Perfect for Phil as his preference is to be very, very punctual. All was going according to schedule, (What could go wrong?) until we actually arrived in Blainville sur l’eau. There was a street fair happening and we needed to turn right but it was blocked off, now what? We snaked our way around and the GPS finally said we had arrived, Phil thought we needed to make one more left, I wasn’t sure and as I got out of the car I could see Regis and Marie sitting at their patio table. We had actually arrived. The street fair, which we later found out is an annual event, started just two doors down from their home. Fortunately for us they were outside the perimeter.

Regis and Marie have done a lot of work on the house and garden. It looks even better than it did the last time we were there. We were so happy to see them. And the kids, oh my Justin has grown up, he is eighteen, driving and getting ready to hopefully go to Medical School. It’s different in France from the US, here you go straight to medical training, no undergraduate degree first. The twins, are just adorable – still adorable but more in an 8ish sort of way as opposed to a 5ish sort of way. We got our kisses on each cheek from everyone, a quick tour of the work they had done in the house since the last time we were here. There were also presents for my birthday something that was totally unexpected. I was thrilled. Immediately upon our arrival Marie asked for our laundry. It was so nice of her. She knew how long we had been on the road and knew it would help us out to do a load at their house. So very considerate of her.

Portuguese Feast

We felt so honored to be invited to Sunday dinner at Regis and Marie’s house. Our experience is that the Sunday meal is for family. The table was all set when we arrived and once again, Marie out did herself. We were having a Portuguese feast. Marie is of Portuguese decent. Regis had asked us weeks ago if we wanted French or Portuguese. We figured a change of pace would do us good this far into the trip. Everything was great and I’m hoping I can remember everything because I’m certain Regis and Marie will be reading this.

They were waiting for us to arrive

We started with olives and cherry tomatoes. There were also bean like things (nothing like being articulate) – a sort of cross between a butter bean and edamame, the color of butter beans, the consistency of edamame and the taste may have been a cross of the two. Fun to eat and tasty – just like edamame. There were also two varieties of empanadas: pulled baby pork and fish. Both were great. Last but not least Marie had purchased a fish pate; If my memory serves me right it was made from sardines. I could be making this up. But I shared a tin of it with Phil and we both liked it on bread.

That’s Marie and Regis

All of the wines today would be Portuguese, because that’s what one drinks with a Portuguese meal. There was a bit of a discussion over who makes the best wine; we agreed this was the best wine for this meal.  We started with a White Port. I’ve never had White Port before, I sure hope I get to have it again. It was the perfect aperitif, it paired perfectly with the appetizers, and it was easy drinking on a hot afternoon.

Marie had enough food to feed a small army. We thought this was dinner. Next thing we know, she’s bringing out an enormous casserole.

It’s as big as it looks

It was absolutely delicious. The perfect brunch food. I don’t know the name in Portuguese, I don’t think I asked. It was shredded potatoes and fish, with scrambled eggs on top and cured black olives. All baked in the oven. Incredibly filling and just as delicious. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We added a little salt, Regis added some vinegar, it was just great.

The perfect brunch food

For everyone out there who is born around the span of years that Phil and I were born, you are not going to believe the wine we had with the main course.   Take a look at the bottle, you’ll all know it right away. It’s probably the first wine you ever drank and you were probably under age.

That’s Justin and No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you – it’s Mateus

Yes, it is Mateus and as the bottle indicates Mateus, The Original. It’s not the same stuff we drank as teenagers, but it’s from the same maker.   It was flavorful and light and paired well with the casserole. Another really easy drinking wine. That’s Justin opening the wine for us. While he is 18 and could drink in France, he is choosing not to. You ask, “why?”. Well it seems it costs a ton of money to get your driver’s license in France. It’s not like in the States and Justin is a good kid and he recognizes the sacrifices that Marie and Regis have made for him. They take drinking and driving very seriously here and he doesn’t want to mess it up for himself so he’s has decided not to drink. Very mature, he should make an excellent physician.

Regis remembered that “Phil loves cheese”. There was a cheese course. I love cheese too, but we were stuffed. There’s always room for some cheese and some dessert.

Phil loves cheese

The dessert was a real treat. It was similar to a flan. It was delicious. I had a not too big of a piece and thinking back on it now wish I could have another piece. The meal was just great. I actually think we had another bottle of wine, a red wine but I’m just not sure.

Good Friends

It was as if we had seen Regis and Marie three weeks ago, not three years ago. We so love being with them. The conversation is easy. More French, a little less English this time. Last time we had to rely on some Spanish as well (Marie speaks Spanish), but not this time. I hope that is partially because my French has improved. We talked about world events, politics in both France and the United States, surprising decision of the UK to leave the EU and the defeat of Le Pen in France. The kids were at the table sometimes, Justin joined in when he had something to add. He has a fascination with the United States. He believes “everything is better in the US”, I hope we can live up to his belief. We talked about the difference between going to Medical School in the US and in France. He was completely blown away by how much it costs in the US to go to Medical School compared to France. He might have a better appreciation for at least the education system in his home country.

That’s Jade (“Jaahd”)

Regis’ parents stopped by. They had gone to the street fair. Regis grew up no too far from Blainville sur l’eau. Both his parents are very warm and engaging. The Regis apple didn’t fall from the tree. We enjoyed talking with Regis’ parents; they really don’t speak English and we were alone with them for a while so I got a work on speaking and concurrent translation.

As it turns out the street fair is an annual community sponsored event. It sort of a cross between a flea market, carnival, farmer’s market and food festival – all wrapped up into one. I think the twins had been waiting all day to go. Among the first of the neighbors we ran into was the security officer at the twins elementary school. All the kids were thrilled to see him. Turns out he runs the summer program that many of the neighborhood kids attend. His appearance is “a little out there” but the kids were swarming him as if he were a rock star.

The kids were just swarming him

Timo and Jade wanted to go on one of the rides. It was a trampoline like contraption. Timo was first up and was fearless.

Jade was a little more timid at the start but really got the hang of it. They had a great time. We took a gazillion photos and videos of them. It was hard not to they were having such a wonderful time. It wasn’t clear to me exactly how long the ride would last, as it turns out I think it lasts until someone else pays to ride. The twins were flying high a good long time.

Just give her a second
Having Fun

We walked the full length of the fair. The kids including Regis had a slushy. They played a shoot the dart gun and pop the balloon game. Both kids won a prize. They were ecstatic.

Regis pointed out the neighborhood craft brewery, making and selling traditional beers of Lorraine just doors from their home.

It was disturbing and comforting at the same time, to see that the Neighborhood Association was concerned with security. This tiny town street fair took precautions with barriers to keep vehicles from plowing into the festivities.

Our world has certainly changed

Dinner anyone?

Back from the street fair, we enjoyed their backyard. We watched Olaf their cat hunt butterflies in the garden.

Phil getting some pointers from Justin

Marie gave us a few French pronunciation lessons. Jade gave a little concert. And we just kept talking and looking at photos. Marie wants us to visit Portugal. She did a great job convincing us that we need to go to Northern Portugal – from Porto north as Southern Portugal isn’t really Portugal — “too many foreigners”. We had some more wine and snacks. We looked at more photos and Marie made recommendations for places we should visit on our trip.

Let It Go from Frozen as Performed by Jade

Phil and Regis had a “Desperado” – a bottled tequila flavored beer. We were so surprised to see a “French tequila flavored beer”.   This warrants a little beersplanation. This beer was originally made by the French brewing company Fischer Brewery, it is now produced by a Croatian producer Karlovacko Brewery which is majority owned by Heineken International. The beer is a pale lager beer with 5.9% alcohol and is tequila favored. There’s clearly a market for it in France; we’ve seen it around. Phil assures me that Tecate, Corona, Pacifica, Dos Equis…and Patron, Casa Dragones, Don Julio, Casamigos probably won’t be introducing any line extensions.

Marie kept asking if we wanted dinner. They’d barbecue. We were still stuffed. We finally agreed to revisit the food from lunch. The tradition in their house is to give Marie Sunday night off from cooking. The kids had prepared their own dinners. All of them were eating cereal and watching TV. After all, tomorrow was a school day. Everything was great a second time including the cheese. “Phil loves cheese.’ They were so gracious. I think for all of us dinner just prolonged the day. Marie had one last Portuguese dish up her sleeve.   She had these little custard pies. We had seen photos of them earlier when she was doing her Portugal sales pitch. As full as we were, they were quite tasty.

We were so stuffed, they were so good

Right after we said our hellos this afternoon, we drove our car to the Chambre d’Hotes in Lunéville that we would be staying at. The plan was for Regis to drive us back to his house for the afternoon and then take a cab back after dinner. Fortunately, Regis hadn’t had anything to drink at dinner. He couldn’t get a cab for us and he ended up taking us back. It was a good plan, we just didn’t execute it well. We stayed at the same place last time – La Condamine. We had the same big beautiful room in this magnificent house right in town. According to their website, this is a former royal residence from the 18th century. The château had one of the most “brilliant courtyards” in Europe and that it is a typical château of the period. I can’t speak for the “most brilliant courtyards” but I can tell you that we feel as if we have been transported back in time when we stay here.

It’s a regal residence, the room is charming, the bed is comfortable and our bathroom is huge. This time we met the lady of the house, Madame Strazielle. She was welcoming when we arrived. She was so excited. Not because we had come back but because there was a cigogne (stork) in her tree. She explained to us that these birds don’t typically spend any time in Lunéville, I explained to her that perhaps he was scouting out a vacation spot for the family and her tree looked good.

Hunting for a Nest and Breakfast for the Family Vacation

My run through Lunéville was a tad chilly, but it was worth it to see the sun just up and shining o the Chateau de Lunéville. After breakfast, our first stop, was the tourist office. We explained to the agent we wanted to walk. She provided us with more options than we could ever do in a week. We choose one that required no driving and took us out of the village/city center. We strolled through little forests and meadows. We saw farm animals and horses.

We ended up back at the Chateau and decided it was time for lunch. It was getting late and if we didn’t get seated by 2PM – there’d be “No lunch for you”. On the main street through town there was a restaurant with inviting seating on a patio in front of the restaurant, it was so inviting that it was full. 2PM was fast approaching, so we opted to eat inside. From a décor perspective, the restaurant was kinda hip, modern and old world French rolled into one. I was hoping for something light. They were offering a citrus marinated salmon that Phil insisted was “right up my alley”. He convinced me to order it. They were out of it, the woman at the table across from us snagged the last piece. Oh well, we both started with Quiche – after all we are in Lorraine. So it was in fact authentic Quiche Lorraine with a green salad. It was really good, the lardons were rich and bacony (yes, it’s word) and the custard was creamy.

Quiche Lorraine – The real deal

Phil had a hankering for a burger, so it was a “Burger lorrain” for him. I was thrown off a bit when there was no salmon, so I asked for the vegetarian plate. It was good, but not what I expected: pasta and rice, white asparagus, stewed tomatoes and sautéed red and green peppers. The vegetables were terrific, all fresh probably locally grown. The rice was light and fluffy and the pasta was pasta.   The asparagus is in season, the tomatoes were rich and the peppers spicy.   I finished my veggies not the other stuff. Phil reported that the burger was good, the cheese a little too strong for his taste (remember it was a “Burger lorrain”) and the frites were plentiful and delicious. Even the ketchup was good.

Looks good!

After lunch we took in a few more sights in town and I tried to get a manicure. It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve had one. Gel is wonderful but has it’s limits. Well guess what?  You can’t just walk in and get a manicure, every shop (all 2) were fully booked for the day. Lesson learned, where ever I decide I’m going to try again, be prepared to make an appointment. I’m thinking Cologne next week, we’re there for 3 days.

Nancy

Regis and Marie just gush with pride over Nancy. We visited the city when we first met Regis years ago but didn’t return last time. We agreed that seeing the city in the evening would be spectacular. So, Phil and I took a cab from Lunéville to Nancy to meet Regis, Marie, Timo and Jade for dinner. Regis would try to make reservations, for Italian.

The cab ride took about 35 minutes we were expecting a 15 minute ride. We might have driven had we realized that, but the good news was we didn’t have to worry about driving home after dinner. We arrived around 6:45 PM and were stunned by the beauty of the city. Neither one of us had remembered how beautiful it was. We walked through quaint streets and then strolled through the public park.

Fairy tale city

People were out just enjoying the spectacular evening. Teenagers on the lawns, having a picnic. Families out with bicycles and scooters. Couples walking hand in hand and older folks sitting on the park benches. I almost tripped on a bird just hanging out.\\

Just lounging in the park

At first we didn’t realize it was a male peacock. And then we got quite a show.  You’ve got to watch this.

It was time for dinner after the show. We met the family at the statue of King Stanislaus and proceeded to look for a place to eat. All the places Regis knew for Italian were closed, “it’s Monday”. Up and down the little streets we went until we found a place were we could sit outside and get pizza and a salad. It was just perfect, being together again and sharing a meal and more stories.

We started with an aperitif. Timo knew exactly what he wanted. It was a mint concoction. Jade concurred and had one as well. Phil, Regis and I had the traditional aperitif of the region – sparkling wine with mirabelle; Marie had framboise in hers.

Timo and his pizza
Jade, her pizza and aperitif
Good food, great friends

The pizzas were great. We needed the salad. We walked around the square at night; it was even more beautiful illuminated. Marie says the light show in the summer is just amazing. Something we’ll need to see.

The square at night

The company was terrific and I just didn’t want the night to end. Fortunately, the twins had no school the next day (holiday commemorating the end on WW2) and Regis and Marie were on vacation, but unfortunately it did have to end. We were having trouble finding a cab, so we walked to where Regis and Marie had parked. Marie works for Accor. One of her sister properties let her park at their hotel. They called us a cab and took this photo for us.

A bientôt

It was really hard to say goodbye. We can’t wait to see them again.

Before we head out to Germany, there are a few more photos that you should see::

This one is just too pretty
Ever wonder what the other side looks like? It’s pretty too
Bisous bisous -A la prochaine

 

 

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