Tuesday, June 8 – Dammarie les Lys: We woke up this morning to a very bad omen: dark overcast and gentle, steady rain. I say bad because we didn’t have our first day of full sun until more than a week out of Paris and it’s a real bear to put up with constant rain. A wonderful breakfast, highlighted by our host’s collection of homemade jams:
We drove off in the rain and it took us only a few minutes to reach the ancient Abbaye of Fontenay (founded in 1118 by St Bernard), the first Cistercian monastery to be founded from the original Citeaux. We’d been here before but think that, along with Vaux-le-Vicomte, it’s one of the two best less-known sites in France. Part of the secret of its fabulous condition is that it’s been privately owned since 1905 when the restorations began (although almost everything is original). Here’s the church seen behind the cloister:
and the magnificent roof of the second-floor dormitory:
When we left the abbey, in the constant rain we decided to head for Melun to see Vaux-le-Vicomte. This was a little shortsighted as we had been to V-le-V two years ago in the evening to see the chateau by candlelight and didn’t need to see the inside again. We needed to see the gardens . . . in the sunlight!
Very shortly, it was lunchtime and we could see that we were going to have to accept a meal at a fast food chain. We were astonished to see a stream of cars entering a “Courtepaille” unit (this is just at 12:30p, the official lunchtime rush hour). So we joined them and found a very cleverly designed restaurant with an open wood grill:
and a decent (and reasonably priced) mass-market menu. We had a “steak a la hampe” (because Deb wanted to find out what it was) and tartare.
Of course, there were the usual American condiments on every table!
When we arrived, it was still raining but we hoped for a better day tomorrow. Then the tourist office in Melun told us that V-le-V is closed on Wednesdays, killing that plan. (We heartily dislike Melun: it’s a lawless, industrial city (much like Naples). To prove it’s incompetence: none of the three people staffing the tourist office spoke English!) The two chambre d’hote in town were full, so we headed out of town to the west where we found a Campanile hotel, a more-or-less French version of a Motel 6 with pretensions. Actually, although the rooms were very small, the amenities were fine. It was still raining steadily so we decided to eat the things we’d bought during our daily shopping: Bayonne ham, our many cheeses including a camembert washed in calvados, and cold beer.