Epic Drive 2017 Days 3 & 4: Cliffs, Grottos, Hairpins, & the End

By Karen

Hotels reviewed in this article: Hotel Serge Vieira, Le Vieux Logis, & Château de Mirambeau

Day 3

Breakfast at Hotel Serge Vieira was fit for a King. We had a private room for the 6 of us overlooking the valley. The coffee was perfect regardless how it was ordered : expresso, latte, macchiato, …. The array of juices were all freshly squeezed. The pastries were so fresh that they were still warm from the oven. The selection of cheeses was nearly as good as the cheese cart rolled out last night. The platter of cold meats & smoked fish was something from a top boucherie. The jams were homemade and the butter locally sourced. This was just the beginning. The waiter then offered various hot dishes from omelets to quiches, eggs any style, local bacon, & sausages. It was by far the best breakfast any of us had ever experienced.

We were in no rush to leave. We all enjoyed another exquisite coffee and discussed the day’s route and alternative side trips.

Hotel Serge Vieira was top notch at every level: Food, Wine, Service, Contemporary design, the grounds, the Owners and Staff. It was hard to leave, but we will definitely be back.

Hotel Serge Vieira
15110, Chaudes-Aigues
Tel. : +33 4 71 20 73 85
Karenable rating: 🍾🍾🍾🍾🍾

We decided to take the long, scenic drive along the designated Michelin “green” roads from Chaudes-Aigues to Tremolat with a stop at St. Cirq Lapopie (officially France’s most beautiful village). After ‘hot wiring’ the F40 again we were off.

SSO was in heaven. I have to say, I loved the drive (as a passenger that is). It was stunning. The route took us along windy back roads with hair-pin corners that nearly stopped my heart at times. The F40 on these roads is a testament to SSO’s driving skills. It was like a great cardio work-out for him with arms and legs constantly in motion. Both the gearbox and steering rack got very through workouts. There turbos were also whistling and popping constantly. Other parts of the drive were more tranquil as we drove along the river on one side and grotto’s on the other.

Nobody was hungry after that breakfast, so we carried on to St. Cirq Lapopie. Even from a distance, you could see how beautiful this hillside village was. We walked up to the village along a cobble-stone path with flowers everywhere. There were many quaint little shops, restaurants, and boutique hotels. It was a sunny & hot day, since we skipped lunch, we all indulged in some homemade ice-cream. I am sure the cows in France only eat the finest grass as it was so creamy and delicious.

I was excited about returning to Relais & Chateaux’s Le Vieux Logis. It used to be one of my favorite little hotel gems and we have returned to it multiple times over the past decade. We have always enjoyed it for the creative menus, and the lunches and dinners served under the manicured arbor trees in the inner courtyard. The grounds were always impeccably kept and the outdoor pool clean and inviting. The rooms were filled with antique French furniture with matching bedspreads, cushions and curtains made from stunning fabrics. Fresh flowers were everywhere, inside and out.

But as we pulled up, something was different. The hedges were not manicured, the lawns had not been mowed in a while, the paint was peeling away from the building’s side. They did not come out to meet and greet us as usual. Not great signs.

I don’t know if the ownership changed, but Le Vieux Logis was looking and feeling very “Vieux” (old) and might I add run down outside and in. On a positive note, the food was still good but no longer great. I will not elaborate further on our experience there other than to say, we will not return.

Le Vieux Logis
24510 Tremolat, France
Tel.: +33 5 53 22 80 06
Fax.: +33 5 53 22 84 89
Karenable rating: 🍾🍾


Day 4

The drive from Tremolat to Bordeaux was unmemorable. Interminitent rain and more traffic than we needed made it a bit of a slog. Rain and traffic are not the F40s friend. Once we got to Bordeaux it took about 20 minutes of driving around before we were finally able to locate enough parking spaces for the group. We then walked around the town, didn’t buy to much wine, had lunch before heading back to the cars to drive to our destination for the night.

Château de Mirambeau
1 Avenue des Comtes Duchatel
17150 Mirambeau
Tel. : +33 5 46 04 91 20
Fax : +33 5 46 04 26 72
Karenable rating: 🍾🍾🍾🍾🍾

I had heard about the Château de Mirambeau for years and always wanted to stay there. With this trip ending near Bordeaux, I finally had my chance. As we drove up the long drive to the château the tension mounted inside me, hoping not to be disappointed like I was with Le Vieux Logis. With only a glimpse of the hotel, I instantly felt relieved, this place was spectacular.

The property was perfectly landscaped with gorgeous flowers growing everywhere. We stepped inside to the elegant reception and barely noticed our bags had been removed from the front of the F40 and wisked away by the porters. We were escorted into the receiving room, offered champagne, and an array of afternoon cnapes. As we settled in the guys reverted to martinis, with this trips creative twist, a fresh oyster to replace the olive. Despite the bartenders initial confused look, he was quite happy to to keep us all well hydrated.

While the guys were enjoyed the vodka soaked oysters, I ventured out to tour the grounds. This is a property that is just beautiful. The pool and the gardens were equally inviting as was the elegant terrace with individual umbrellas hovering over each table. As I walked a little further along the path, the grounds kept provide one pleasant surprise after another. I soon discovered the Spa which was as spectular outside as it was inside. It even had its own outdoor relaxing area and pool. I could easily spend the better part of the summer here. I wish we had more than one night and I did let SSO know that we would be coming back.

I then returned to the receiving room. Our bags had already been taken to our rooms and they were ready to escort us. I had an idea of the guest room grandeur from the website but believe me, the photos do not do justice to them. I had to check out the others’ rooms just to see if they were all as spectacular. They were, this place is truly special.

I was excited about dinner. The reviews were almost too good to be true, equisitly presented food with favors that were delicate & profound. As we entered the Dining Room, it was stunning, even the chairs were special. Fresh flowers on every table, the linen was starched and hung regally, the porcelain and the crystal was the finest. The menu was impressive. I could not decide as everything sounded wonderful. Another glass of champagne was ordered as I poured over the decision. In the end, it really didn’t matter what you ordered, it was all spectacular. The presentation was so beautiful you almost did not want to eat it. This set in motion a debate, which was the best restaurant, Serge Vieira or Château de Mirambeau ? In the end, we agreed they were both spectacular but different. The night was not over….yet. There was an incredible Cognac Bar that we discovered just beside restaurant. SSO and I had an early start the next day as we had 550 miles to cover so we only stayed for one drink. The rest of the gang … well who knows. They were not leaving until later and we didn’t run into them at breakfast the next morning.

The drive back north was tough. The rain started as we were pulling out of the Chateaux’s driveway and by the time we hit the highway it was a downpour. Putting new rubber on the F40 right before this trip really paid off now. While visibility was poor at best and you could see the water streaming across the highway, the F40 stayed well planted. In these conditions, SSO basically just sits in his lane, maintains a large gap to other traffic, and treats the accelerator like it is made of egg shells. As long as you stay off the turbos, the F40 is not that bad in the wet. After about 4 hours, the skys cleared, more rapid progress commensed and a milestone was reached. The odometer on the F40 hit 50,000 km.
We spent our last night in France at a fairly forgettable hotel near Calais. It was another early start the next day to make our train. The rest of the journey went smoothly and before we knew it we were dropping the F40 back off at its “car hotel”.

What a a sensational week with dear family and friends. I only wished we could have stayed longer. We will return, SSO promised!

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May 2018

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