We now have two long days of travel ahead of us as we traverse France again, this time in a north-westerly direction. Our friendly Google maps estimates the distance at 1100km and about 11 hours worth of travel, but as we plan to take mostly scenic roads we think it will be a tad more.
We start with a perfect sunny day to farewell Provence, we are on our way to Nantes to visit Nicolas and his family. It is now a tradition that when we come to France we make sure we stop in on our special friend, who started as an exchange student back in 1995. Nicolas is quite the foodie and similar to us has a good sized sweet tooth. When we ask if he would like something from Provence, he mentions “calisson”. We have to resort to some info searching to find out that this is a specialty of Provence, a special sweet made in bight size pieces from almond meal and fruits made in a distinct diamond shape. The father of all callisons happens to be based in Aix-en-Provence and André finds his main shop is just off the road we are taking.
We arrive and to our great relief there is a sign at the entrance stating that despite renovation works they are open.
We get to try some to check what all the fuss is about and we conquer they are yummy. Mon. Roy René has shops all around France , including Paris as well as New York and Florida. It melts in your mouth and we get some traditional ones as well as a sampler parcel of different other flavours.
The countryside is quite different but very beautiful in the late spring greens.
The character of the buildings changes and there is a lot more Roman influence. The type of rock being used for the buildings is also different, chateaux are still perched on hills but looking more austere.
We are now in the department of Ardèche. We have seen our last glimpse of the river Rhône that we have followed in the west near Bordeaux, in Geneva and now leaving Provence. One of the small towns called Alba-la Romaine is a vibrant community and has a large archeological site over which there is a large museum.
As we head for our first nights stop we leave the volcanic mountains behind of Dôme and enter large agricultural fields in the Haute Loire.
As we arrive late in Issoire we choose the Ibis on the edge of town, a very clean, modern budget hotel that just fits us and our bag:) in the room, the great thing though is that it lies on the edge of a large park with a small central lake. We get a great walk in the evening and first thing in the morning, it is close to a Salon de Thé where I pick up fresh croissants and coffees and we settle on a nice shady bench in the park for breakfast, birds chirping, locals either running with their dogs or fishing. A good start to the long day.
We have found a really nice place to stay in on the outskirts of town in Nantes, but they can only take us for Sunday and not Saturday, it seems hard to find an apartment that fits our last day demands just for Saturday so we settle on an Air B&B place a bit further out of town. We keep on not getting confirmation as we get closer and closer to needing to decide which fork in the road we take, so we cancel our request and bingo our Sunday night place has now an opening for Saturday too, it was meant to be. As we arrive late in the evening we are really happy, gorgeous spot, beautiful new renovation in an old house and we get a recommendation for what turns out to be our best meal in France so far!! “Le Pré Gourmande” is awesome.