I keep saying that I like the countryside of France better than Paris. Nothing against Paris, but the country is so relaxed and friendly and restaurants and hotels are particularly pleasant. But not always, as we learned in Bourges.

On a friend's recommendation we made a special trip to have dinner at l'Abbaye Saint Ambroix, a well regarded restaurant in the restored ruins of an old church. The food was good and the adjoining hotel was fine and I can definitely recommend it to any travellers in the area. But the whole evening felt a bit off. The music was loud and grating. Our drinks were wrong (really, does "mojito" sound at all like "amaretto"?). The food was rushed. Good butter but no butter knives made for awkwardness. The staff noisly started clearing the unused tables before the guests were done. Etc, etc. I'm being picky, but Ken and I enjoy a good restaurant experience so much that we've become aware of when it's just not quite right. Either the Hotel Mercure chain buying the hotel has removed whatever owner took personal pride in the place or else Wednesday night is his night off. Either way it lacked the personal hospitality that can make French places so wonderful. Now I appreciate that personal service all the more.

All that being said, Bourges is a lovely town. It's about 200km south of Paris, midway between the Loire and Burgundy, an old Roman town that was a wealthy power in the 17th century. It's still a lively and healthy city. Too many modern buildings to be entirely beautiful, but the old city center is nice and the impressive cathedral has some excellent 13th century stained glass. And we found an excellent lunch at Le Bourbonnoux with the personal service and comfort we enjoy so much.

  2006-11-24 08:27 Z