“Looking for trouble” on President’s Day weekend in Robert-Espagne, France… part four

We missed the chance to try another restaurant on Saturday for dinner because we were both full from lunch.  Also, the dogs were howling when we got back to the rental house.  They don’t usually howl, but I was afraid they might annoy someone.  Bill was also going through, obsessively cleaning everything.

Anyway, we had a quiet dinner in the house.  Bill found a rotisserie chicken at the same market where he found the detergent for my sister.  We enjoyed lots of wine, some music, and a lively discussion.  After we finished talking and drinking, we hit the sack…

On Sunday morning, Alexandre came over with his father to do some yard work.  It was kind of novel to see them out there working, since yard work is forbidden on Sundays in most parts of Germany.  Bill walked the dogs and they had a run in with a huge bay draft horse.  I saw the horse being led down the street after Bill and the dogs saw him.  He said the dogs went nuts and the locals were refreshingly cool about it.  He got no dirty looks from anyone.  It’s like the French know that dogs will bark sometimes.  That’s what dogs do.

When he came back from walking the dogs, Bill talked to Alexandre, and they bonded over their mutual “soldier in Iraq” experiences.  I always enjoy hearing Bill’s stories about talking to soldiers who serve other countries.  I think they’re more alike than they are different.  He says he’s bonded with guys from Poland, the Netherlands, Romania, Greece, and places all over Africa.  Of course, he’s also bonded with German soldiers and now, a French soldier.  I think the experience may be universal in some ways.  Bill asked Alexandre if he minded if the dogs stayed alone in the house.  It was fine, so we decided to go to a little town called Couvrot to see if we could try some champagne.  I had seen it advertised on a French tourism Web site.

Couvrot is actually in the Champagne region.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there from Robert-Espagne.  Bill and I had plenty of time to talk, as well as notice the Yellow Vests having a barbecue on a median.

I don’t actually know a whole lot about the Yellow Vest movement, other than what I’ve seen in the news and heard from Bill.  What I have heard is that they represent people from rural parts of France who feel unfairly taxed to bankroll the rich.  They’ve been obstructing traffic with their protests, but on Sunday, they appeared to be grilling meat at a turnpike.

We reached Couvrot at about 1:45.  The vintner would not be open until 2:00pm and I was hungry, so we went looking for a restaurant with little success.  Couvrot is an even sleepier town than St. Dizier is.  But then we came upon a bigger town called Vitry-le-François, which we would have easily found if we’d just turned south instead of west.  It was a much more interesting town than St. Dizier and, bonus, we didn’t have to pay for parking there.

This is where we had lunch… Le Maxime Brasserie.  We decided to eat there because they don’t “pause” at 2:00pm.

This was the very convivial bar area.  I was enjoying the 80s era pop music from America and France.

But I was hungry and a little depressed, so I ordered some champagne… and Bill had a beer.  Our very cute and young waitress spoke no English, so we took a guess with the menu, which was posted on blackboards around the restaurant.


Bill had an entrecote with steak fries and gravy.


I had a surprisingly good fish burger.  It was kind of like fish n’ chips on a very fresh bun, with a fun relish and sauce.  The chips were especially good.  It hit the spot, along with the champagne, which did a lot to improve my mood.


And then we had poached pears with chocolate sauce and whipped cream… I had originally tried to order raspberry tiramisu, but the waitress missed my request.  This isn’t the first time this has happened in France, but I didn’t mind having poached pears.  I can get tiramisu anywhere.

There was also a “tiny” carnival going on.  There was one ride and two booths.  But the weather was so nice, it looked like people were enjoying themselves.

I loved this cathedral, COLLÉGIALE NOTRE DAME DE VITRY-LE-FRANÇOIS… the largest classic church of the Marne.


And these gates were situated at points around the city.  It really was an attractive town.  We may have to come back and explore it some more.

After lunch, we went back to Couvrot and drove into the open driveway at the Bourcier Winery.  It was about 3:30pm.  We were a bit confused when we drove in, since it was hard to tell where we should go.  It appeared to be a very small vintner specializing in champagne, but there was no obvious shop.  Instead, it appeared to be and actually was someone’s home with a cave in the basement.  A pleasant lady came out to greet us, but she spoke no English.  Still, she was game to show us her bubblies, and she did have some literature in English.

The inside of the cave.  I think they offer tours when the tourist season is nigh.   

We tried two champagnes.  This one was a rose, which was very good.

We also had a white…

We left with six bottles– three rose and three white.  I love my bubbly, so this is a good thing.

A parting shot as we left the winery.  There was a lone gelding standing in the paddock.  I would have liked to have said hi to him.  I could tell he was very relaxed.  If you’ve spent any time around male horses, you could probably tell, too.  😉

We drove back through the abbey to get back to the house.  I wished we had another day to explore it.  It looked like a lovely place to take walks and enjoy the peace of nature.

This tunnel is located very close to the house where we were staying.  I think it’s cool looking.


I must admit, champagne is a mood booster.  I was feeling a lot better when we got back to the house, even though we had to drive back today.  It wasn’t enough time.  I’d like to go back to Robert-Espagne when the weather is a little bit warmer.


“Looking for trouble” on President’s Day weekend in Robert-Espagne, France… part three

We decided to venture into nearby St. Dizier to see if we could find a nice place for lunch.  St. Dizier is a small commune with about 26,000 residents, located not far from where we were staying.  It has sort of a grimy look to it and, if I’m honest, isn’t a very exciting place.  However, we did manage to find a great lunch spot.  We were lucky we got there right at noon, too, since almost every table in the place was reserved!

The restaurant we chose was called Le Gourmet du Jard.  Besides traditional French dishes, it offers pizzas and “plats du jour”.  I was glad to find it, because we had looked at a menu at another place and I said, “That looks too French for me.”  The menu was loaded with fois gras, escargots, mushrooms, and andouillette.  Bill had a bad experience with andouillette in Burgundy, although I know many people love to eat it.  Le Gourmet du Jard had more things on the menu that I recognized and knew I’d want to eat.

Outside of the restaurant.


We shared our table with a French couple.  Yes, we were the only Americans in the place, and no one spoke English.  Still, I managed to order a lovely salmon and cod en croute.  Bill had a salad with shrimp, smoked salmon, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts, among other things.

We shared a half bottle of red wine…

The place is obviously still decorated for Valentine’s Day.


I had a lovely salmon and cod dish, enrobed en croute (in pastry), with mixed vegetables, rice, a potato, and a savory sauce.  It was very good, and I was relieved that there was nothing originating from intestines on my plate.

Bill had a Salad Pacifique, which was quite a production with shrimp, smoked salmon, and a variety of fresh vegetables.  He said it didn’t really stay with him, although it tasted great.  We got bread and a snack mix made of crackers and peanuts, too.  This salad also was part of a three course meal that was available for a reasonable price.  This restaurant had a number of such three and four course deals going.  I didn’t want that much food, but if I had been hungrier and more daring, I might have tried one.


For dessert, I had a huge cup of chocolate mousse!

Bill had the tart of the day, which was cherry.  It was excellent!


Le Gourmet du Jard was staffed by a group of hardworking teenagers.  The dining room was small, but busy.  They did a great job of making sure everyone was happy.  Service was friendly and professional.  We’d go back.

After lunch, we walked around the town and I took a few photos, before we had to head out to take care of a special errand for my sister.  Here are a few photos of St. Dizier, in all its glory.

I liked this statue, too.

The cathedral was kind of interesting.  It looked sort of “mod”.

This ad with the piglet caught my eye…  especially since it mentions Vegas.

Yeah, there isn’t a whole lot to this town.  It was sort of sleepy.  But the weather was so pretty that if we’d wanted to, we could have gotten a table on the square and people watched for awhile.

We decided to leave and hit the grocery store.  My sister, Becky, had asked me to find her French laundry detergent called Mir.  That chore actually took some time, since the first store we went to was closed and the second one, a Lidl, didn’t have what we needed.

No Mir in the laundry aisle…

But we did find booze.  Actually, the Lidl was stocked with all kinds of weird stuff.  They had things like gifts, tights, clothing items, and toys, but the selection of things like food or detergent was pretty slim…

And worst of all, they had no public restroom.

Yes, there was beer and we brought some back with us.

This abbey– Abbaye Trois Fontaines— is very close to where our rental house was.

Bill eventually dropped me off and went to a larger store, where he did manage to find the Mir for Becky.  It will get mailed to her at some point.

I PM’d this photo to my sister and she was very happy.  I may have to try it myself, to see why it excites her so much…  Interestingly enough, it looks like it’s made by a German company.