Several years ago I discovered this exceptional inn by chance one cool, rainy April day near Cognac. My husband, Peter, and I were heading toward Spain from Paris. We decided to take a detour toward Bordeaux in the intriguing wine region in southwest France.
Our rental car’s tiny back seat was nearly full of Paris flea market finds for my California antique shop. The plan was to stop in Cognac, and visit the chateau warehouses for a tour and some sips of the region’s famous cognac.
I agree with Victor Hugo – Cognac is “The drink of the gods.” We took the tour at Hennessy and learned that cognac is more beautiful to drink than to make. The fumes released from the black fungus discolor the buildings and leave a dank, sweetness in the air. Except for the ugly gray buildings, Cognac looks like an interesting town to revisit.
For this reason, or another, Peter did not feel well. We decided to skip the park and museum and head toward a popular and busy hotel. I had chosen a place known for its decadent dining, white pigeon, warm oysters in cream sauce, goose liver and with pear wine, and French beef soaked with cognac and spices. Peter, now looking pale green on a pink cheek day was no longer in the mood. I opened my old Frommer’s bible and found an interesting write up for Le Moulin du Maine. Originally a flour mill it is now part of a small group of hotels known for tranquility called Relais du Silence. It sounded like the ideal inn for rest and recovery.
I loved the entrance into the property – 80 acres of fields, gardens and creeks. The manager understood our situation and gave us a large room with two beds and a peaceful garden view from the terrace. The room was beautifully appointed with l8Th century French antiques.
After tucking my patient into bed I went in search of some broth and crackers. The gracious chef gave me both without charge. As I waited I noticed the most splendid bar and restaurant.
While Peter slept, I took a French bubble bath in the big tub, total luxury while sipping a glass of local cognac.
Later I dined on some of the best food I found in all of France. The French know how to make a lady dining alone feel comfortable and pampered. I will always remember that delectable dinner discovered by chance. My generous terrine of foie gras was spiked with cognac, the fillet of beef cooked perfectly with port wine.
To my regret Peter recovered and we headed on to Spain. I could have stayed in the tranquility of the Realais du Silence for weeks. In fact, I am heading back to make sure I was not dreaming.
This year Maralyn and I dined like queens in the beautiful city of Lyon while attending the Bocuse d’Or. Thanks to our dear friend, Herve Laurent, French Mater Chef, we sampled some of the finest food in the world.
The husband is gone, I no longer live in California. The antique shop is sold, along with most of the Paris flea finds I dragged back. I kept one French lace apron and an inspiring picture of old Bordeaux wine that hangs in my kitchen. Yet, I need no reminders of my favorite inn and restaurant in all of Europe, Le Moulin du Maine-Brun.